Paul Temple

b y   P a u l   T e m p l e  (1992)



Left: Mr Temple

MY INITIAL ENCOUNTER WITH SAVOY was at the rump end of '86, when I made the three hundred mile trek to Yorkshire to interview the extremist PJ Proby for the Melody Maker. Although I got laid a lot, the late eighties seemed like a really bad time to be a rock journalist. I mean it was bleak, and apart from the occasional belt one got from the odd mighty hip hop track, for me, one night of reviewing the singles was comparable to a holiday in the Gulag, drinking sand. However, when I heard Proby's sublimely vivifying detonations of Heroes, The Passenger and Love Will Tear Us Apart I was stunned. It was like finding ingots in a river of pony piss.

Savoy had also just released Blue Monday by The Savoy Hitler-Youth Band, a New Order / Springsteen splice. An ultra intense electronic flash with a ragingly wild cover (a Fangoria style cut-up of James Anderton having his brains blown out with an elephant gun). I got in touch with them and they sent me a parcel including some of their rather flammable press-cuttings and a Proby version of Anarchy In The UK where poetic license goes bungee-jumping: 'I am an anarchist, I am a Nigger'. As if this were a world without consequences.

It has to be said, that when I met them, my first (and possibly a lasting) impression of Messrs Britton and Butterworth was a pair of dangerous paranoids, a duo of gibbet-hillbilly's with a great sense of intensity and a bit too much of the black stuff about them, but relationship crystallised over shared common ground, of the Iggy, Elvis, Pistols, Tarzan, Human Torch kind.

Of the two Brothers Grim, Britton struck me as more obviously Rock'n'Roll than Mike Butterworth, who had the timorous demeanour of a sordide sentimentale northern schoolmaster who'd been blackballed from a Blackburn paedophile ring. An entrenched Larry Williams fan, David Britton had a certain darkness. He was a big man with a wicked sense of humour (and an even evil-er laugh). An erudite with a blunt edge, he had an un-reconstructed Esquerita coif and wore shades all the time. I smoked a lot and having been used to the usual nervy career-minded chaffers one met in the music industry at the time, they were a marked contrast. They were like a breath of foul air.

When I actually got to interview Jim Proby I couldn't get anything out of him but weirdness. The whole scene was like a really bad out-take from a David Lynch movie. Chaperoned by his then girlfriend, who to my bewilderment kept on calling me 'Sir', and who was incidentally a three-foot-three cripple dwarf with boss-eyes, a misshapen head and very patchy hair (legend has it that Proby met her at a banquet were she popped out of a pie), P J sat in a makeshift wooden throne and was completely shit-faced drunken imperious, the only things missing were the goblet and the curly shoes. He came over as a treble-bind psychotic with a tattered and charred Elvis complex and a Will Scarlet beard.

He bullshitted, brooded, yelled and sulked, his voice teetering between Tennent's Extra Shakespearean English and Texan Foghorn Leghorn. He smelled like a warthog, like he'd soiled his Bury Market pants three days ago. It was the granddaddy wizard of gross-outs. As a professional, I tried to stay on top, but was completely surfed-under by the warp and the weave of the thing. It was incredibly funny, Proby climaxed the interview by threatening to blow his own head off with a shotgun.

I later got involved with some of their recordings, Proby's 'Irish' sessions that spawned the wonderful Bobby Sands where Jim simultaneously fist fucks the Queen, The Pope, and The Very Reverend Ian Paisley in a back alley in the Falls Road, and The Old Fenian Gun, a record steeped in a nasty kind of traditionalist folky Straw Dogs violence. Proby's depressing potcheen monotone drawl over that dirge-y Black Sabbath riff sounds incredibly menacing. I seem to recall Jim being so pissed when he recorded this that he found it impossible to enunciate the word 'Fenian,' he kept saying 'Finnegan, Finnegan'. It was a waking nightmare. I also dragged my sampler up to Manchester to record Hardcore: M97002 which begins with a curse, carries on with a curse for 15 minutes or so and ends with a blessing. 'There ain't no such thing as rape, when you're wearing a Superman cape', with NO DEAD daubed in black. 'Hardcore' delineates the attitude, 'M97002'—Britton's Home Office sanctioned moniker while in residence at Strangeways Prison sometime before its 'open' status. I stayed up one snowy evening with a yak-skinmoon-booted Jim Proby and his trusty bin-bag full of Special Brews for this. Yeah, we wrote this thing in a cottage on the moors just north of Manchester, where according to Britton, on a clear day you can see Myra and Ian forever. The Beastie Boys were big at that time, Proby thought they were puffs (this was around the time he said in a live radio interview, that his ambition was 'to walk into a record store and buy a record that had not been made by a homosexual'), the intention was to write a rap record, in the style of Marley Marl or The Skinny Boys' gargantuan 'Rip The Cut'. The samples went in, the beats were laid down, but what came out of the other end was so unholy, one was prompted to say 12 hail Mary's and run for sanctuary. Proby raps 'Evil, be thou my good', to vicious effect. 'I am the man with the 12 inch gun' he pronounces, despite rumours that his rockin' root withered away long ago after a bout of teenage syphilis. When this record was released it caused a hail of shite to descend from the sky, as it featured the legend 'guest vocal: Madonna' on the cover. The tabloids went wild, the fat bitch threatened to sue and the record was banned everywhere. One music paper awarded it single of the week status and dubbed it the last rock record ever made. I also wrote Reverbstorm.

Over the years, the Savoy story has continued to uncoil like a CV from hell. It's as if their survival has depended on having the shadow of the guillotine striping their necks. Round about '89, they had their shop raided and were seriously busted for Britton's published-and-damned epic novel Lord Horror, a book so magnitudinously base but simultaneously complex in its unscramble-able use of legitimate and supposedly illegitimate symbolism, that not one lit. crit. would dare read or review it, for fear of having their brains fried and their fingers burnt. Richard Williams of the TLS sent a slip back bearing the legend—'I don't know who you are or what you want, but please, please, leave me alone'. Colin Wilson gave it a thumbs up at a safe distance, and Michael Moorcock made an all-important gesture of total commitment by standing up for it in court, on an anti-censorship kick. The case is subjudice and the author could still be gaoled. The novel, a kind of Jerry Lee Lewis goes to Auschwitz via art reference-valley, had a remixed hanged Irish Nazi, William Joyce a.k.a. Lord Haw-Haw as its centre of gravity and gratuitously took in an array of other historical minions and connections who were suitably cut-up and fucked up rough (and not before time either): Richard Wagner; a very thinly disguised ex-Manchester Police Chief James Anderton; spliced in with the other Irish Joyce (also a James). An amoral beastie, the book is a daffodil-crunching cementmixed Europeana, a rumbling orgy of vile affections, Jewslaying, intellectual head-fuck and bleak Mancunian hysteria/nostalgia. The court case has now dragged on for years. Mike Butterworth is still on the run from the Greater Manchester Police, and as far as I know is still wearing a disguise every time he emerges from his secret lair to buy his soya milk (he is ironically enough a vegan and the son of a Quaker). Constantly attacked for being anti-Semitic, Britton once rebuffed this to one newspaper by hoisting the black flag and citing his Jewish origins. Savoy were also sued for depicting the character Garfield in 'a gross sexual act' in their comic Meng & Ecker. Savoy's relationship with the world, or non-relationship, depending on how you look at it, is just one huge dialogue of deep conflict, it's reflected in all their records, books and comics and the screaming hail of noxious feedback that ensues when their product reaches it's target seems to serve the same function as oxygen for them. Their whole history has been steeped in paranoia, cacophony, sleaze, negativity and vast amounts of horrible-ness which has sometimes had the effect of genius.

Well what next? Unless Britton is convicted (he was; four months in prison), it'll be business as usual I suppose. Proby is still waving guns around in pubs and announcing his death, and despite heart and liver problems flatly refuses the coroner's slab. The only real casualty has been Martin, Savoy's anti-PR officer who sadly died this Spring after jumping in front of a train. His death-obsessed and long toxic amphetamine-messed brain could take no more. But as everybody at Savoy should have known by now, this is not a world without consequences.

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