Geevee's Reviews > England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond

England's Dreaming by Jon Savage
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's review
Jul 11, 14

it was amazing
bookshelves: british-history, london, music
Recommended for: People who want to read and enjoy the real story of the Sex Pistols
Read from June 13 to July 06, 2012 — I own a copy , read count: one

This an insightful record of the Sex Pistols' formation and their short and frantic career that helped change British music and challenged on aBritish society on a number of levels.

The author has given readers a very well written account with many good, and for me unseen, photos. It provides social, economic and music/fashion background from the 1950s through to the explosion of Punk on both sides of the Atlantic (including some interesting info on France).

On reading this I was reminded at how the group were barred from almost every town in the country: councils and other venue owners sitting and passing bans with the police being called to stop gigs or ensure entry was refused. It is why there are few people (before 1996)in the UK who can really say they saw the Pistols play with audiences of just 20, 40 or just a couple of hundred, and many of those were regulars and later became band members in groups or personalties in music and the media.

The sale of the their records was also banned - I recall how difficult it was to buy the single God Save the Queen and the album Never Mind the Bollocks - and the charts were fixed to ensure they did not reach number one; lucky old Rod Stewart stayed a couple more weeks thanks to the Pistols. It is hard to believe today that a "pop" group could be so hated, reviled and indeed feared and yet they were and it scared people witless.
Of course Punk and the Pistols didn't do anything to lessen the bile and angst with violence accompanying gigs and wearing emblems such as the Swastika guaranteed to light fires under many a person.

The Sex Pistols' greatly helped (it is too strong to say they alone) changed how music was played and written, how bands were signed and promoted, how records were sold and marketed, how music was read about and how fans treated their idols and their movement including its involvement in politics.

The machinations at record companies and the frankly mad, bad and downright chaotic behaviours of Malcolm Mclaren are fascinating and well told. How the band interacted (or not) with their manager and each other and well as with others within the Punk movement and without is also interesting.

The US tour is another interesting chapter and the author's treatment of Sid Vicious's demise and death is told with clarity and sympathy, and include comment from Sid's mother.

One of the book's strengths aside from the author's ability and first hand connections to Punk, are the interviews and comments from key characters that helps provides a fascinating insight into what became the Sex Pistols and the movement/fashion/music called Punk: Maclaren, Lydon, Cook, Jones, Matlock, Strummer, Jones, Siouxsie, Devoto, Shelley, Sylvain Sylvain, Richard Hell, Capt Sensible, Adam Ant, Jordan, Viv Albertine et al they're all there, as are many people who were involved in managing the group.

The author's politics comes through at times a little more than is required, but that is a minor point. He perhaps over blows Punks significance to the UK at large but only then when you consider my comments above, and that the Pistols remain a focal point in music and media whenever the 1970s is discussed then he may be justified.

Highly recommended to anyone who likes the music or wants to know more about a strand of music and fashion that changed music, the industry, society and the people involved.

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06/13/2012 page 54
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Hayes (new)

Hayes Not my kind of music at all--I love jazz, R&B, and classical--but your review is great.

I also confess a love for Gilbert and Sullivan, not at all compatible with the Sex Pistols!

Geevee Thanks Hayes - I like most stuff with the exception of Opera, although it wasn't the done thing to admit liking anything else when I was a kid and of course horizons and tastes change as one gets older :)

message 3: by Tasha (new)

Tasha I'm going to track this one down. Great review, GeeVee. I was a HUGE fan and look forward to reading some behind the scenes stuff.

Geevee Tasha I know you'll like this and you'll be humming tracks as you read...or at least I did.

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