Savoy Records
The Waste Land

Read by PJ Proby


Savoy Modernist Records



The Waste Land

  1 The Waste Land

I—The Burial of the Dead
II—A Game of Chess
III—The Fire Sermon
IV—Death by Water
V—What the Thunder Said

Total time: 24.53

Recorded and mixed at The Cutting Rooms, Manchester.

Engineered by Stephen Boyce-Buckley.

Post-production and mastering at the Ebony Tower, Manchester.

Eliot advice and CD design by John Coulthart (after Piet Mondrian).

Production by Britton/Butterworth.

Full colour insert.

• See the Orders page for CD purchase details.


Booklet text:

Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli affina

Quando fiam utichelidon

O swallow swallow

Weialala leia

Wallala leialala

Tainted label
'April is the cruellest month...'

Savoy shows once again its unparalleled eclecticism in the miscegenation of the artistic and the populist as the Bard of the Bank meets the Voice of the Swamp. Eliot's work of 1922 is the great monument of poetic Modernism, here given rich and varied life by Proby's vocalisations. As with the Lord Horror reading (the dark mirror of this disc), PJ demonstrates that, where an actor might be more 'proper' in his overall presentation, a lifetime spent singing rock'n'roll gives the performance a presence which would otherwise be totally lacking. Here too is the opportunity to witness more of Proby's unique characterisations, especially in the pub conversation at the close of 'A Game of Chess'. Anyone balking at the American accent should remember that Eliot was, like PJ, an American by birth, living in England. This recording should not be confused with the version of The Waste Land on the flip of Heroes. This is the complete, and immeasurably superior, work.

'Hurry up please it's time...'

Jim at 60

Jim Proby at 60, 1998. Photo by our good friend Ron Tennant.



"Is it strange that Savoy has released this CD of rock's lost wild man reading TS Eliot's Modernist landmark? Is this pranksterism on their part or a more serious venture? Well, it's Savoy we're talking about so who the heck knows? Stick the disc in and it becomes obvious... who better than Savoy to treat Eliot's vision of human spiritual devolution to an update? However, whereas Eliot would seem to perceive some (slim) potential for redemption in his work, Savoy sees the world as irretrievably lost. This is hardly odd, given the locus of much of their output being WW2—Eliot could have no notion of the theatrical unhumanness WW2 would eventually bring about. David Britton has made a living from eviscerating it, bathing in its every screaming shattered shard. Eliot bewildered us with a groundbreaking slew of mythical references, Britton batters us with a postmodern Burroughsian barrage of intertextual insanity. The Waste Land is a disciplined studied work (especially after Ezra Pound edited it), no stream of noodling consciousness; likewise, Lord Horror et al are packed with carefully considered extremity. There is thought and intelligence behind them, not just silly teenage shock-your-mum aimlessness. After all, rock stars invoking the Dark Lord look pretty hopeless when stacked up against Kristallnacht, the Pogroms and Auschwitz. It takes WORK to artistically depict the blackened soul of humanity—mooning at an MP doesn't really cut it in quite the same way. Proby's rasping vocal presence moves the poem from a bewildered UK Prufrock sensibility into Yankee trash dementia. Perhaps America has at this time the most to learn from Eliot? New Roman Empire and all that? PJ is quite controlled here, which is to say: objectively, not much. His drawl doesn't always add to matters -though it's always great to listen to—but Eliot's use of repetition does spring to life by being recited. The intonation is not always random. It goes wild for the hysterical endnote of 'A Game of Chess' but quietens the Hell down for the funeral obit of 'The Fire Sermon'. What next? A 20 CD box set of Ulysses, read by Roky Erickson I dare say."

ANTON BLACK, Headpress


"(Proby's) qualifications for the job are impeccable: the wasted man guides his listeners through the wasted land. These are the fragments which, once sampled, will ensure his ruin."


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