Music Reissues Weekly: 1977-1979 by Jon Savage
Again Jon Savage 1977-1979 – Symbols Clash Everywhere collects “Voices”, the B-side of “Hong Kong Garden” and Confrontation of two to seven Producer Joe Gibbs’ single “Prophesy Reveal”, a version of “Two Sevens Clash” voiced by Marvin Pitterson in his alter ego DJ Bo Jangles: “maybe you can understand that this year 1977 nah is going to dread yah well.” which seems to be clarified.
If seen in a reductive way, Symbols that clash everywhere covers a timeline where punk fomented post-punk and was followed by fragmentations into oi, anarcho-punk, Two-Tone, mod, seeds of goth and so on. This, however, is not the narrative here. Standard linear progressions received are not taken into account.
The spirit of the title is reflected in this sequence of songs from 1977: “Magic Fly” by Space, “The Modern Dance” by Pere Ubu, “Day by Day” by Generation X. Or those from 1979: “Are ‘Friends’ Electric? From Tubeway Army? “All Night Party” by A Certain Ratio, “Pakmoväst” by Telex. The symbols clash in a different way, with stylistic variance integral to the 46 tracks spread over the two CDs. In this reading, 1977, 1978 and 1979 could never be reduced to punk, post-punk, etc.
In his introductory essay for the backing book (there’s also a gripping track-by-track commentary), compiler Jon Savage says “the track selection is a reflection of what I was listening to during that time, rather than of what I’d like to be seen to have listened to. This means there’s very little disco, very little classic new wave, but a cross-fertilization of punk, post-punk, electro, dub, Euro disco and unique pieces – like “Dontsplitit” or the Subway Sect Lines “White Night” – which reveal a turbulent and very creative musical period that reflects a divided and increasingly harsh outside world. was the end of the 70s: symbols clashed everywhere.
He’s also outspoken about his change of perspective, role and status over the years. “During this time, my situation changed: I stopped being a consumer and became a participant. Join Sounds as a regular freelance contributor in April 1977, I had access to free records, guest lists for concerts, and writer’s privileges on weeklies. “
After creating the fanzine London indignation, Savage began contributing to the musical weekly Sounds. He switched to competing paper Melody maker in October 1978. Over time he wrote the book England’s Dreaming: Sex Pistols and Punk Rock, published in 1991. After the 2007 book Teenager: The creation of youth: 1875-1945, 1966: The year of the decade explosion appeared in 2015. There is more of course but Symbols that clash everywhere links with the first and third books. And despite the date range of what is collected, it is the 1966 book rather than England’s dream which provides the basis from which Symbols that clash everywhere is built. England’s dream is integrated into the superstructure. (in the photo on the left, Jon Savage is going to see Blondie in May 1977. Photo by Derek Jarman)
Indeed, a form of feedback loop has developed. Following the publication of 1966 book, a complementary double CD with the same title has been released. There were more collections, spanning 1965 to 1976. Symbols that clash everywhere – the seventh in the series – follows a set covering 1972 to 1976.
This new compilation therefore differs from its predecessors as it is a personal soundtrack addressing the period when Savage became a professional musician – when punk helped give him a platform. However, as is the case with this tracklist, it doesn’t stick to what comes out of the pipe. In 1977 and 1978 articles on Magazine, X-Ray Spex and other vital emergencies were supplemented by articles on Nico’s Marble Index and the elevators to the 13th floor. The past had a contemporary resonance and could be as alive as, say, The Damned, Ultravox !, The Revolutionaries, Subway Sect, The B-52’s, The Lines, Devo or The Pop Group, all of which crop up on Symbols that clash everywhere.
Basically, these are individual paths rather than fragmentation. Not a cover-up that then embraced orthodoxies: either old, contemporary and instantly entrenched, or newly shaped. In this reading, “True Confessions” by The Undertones or “Emergency” by 999 are as inquisitive as “Moving Away From the Pulsebeat” by Buzzcocks or “Being Boiled” by The Human League.
The last track is the ever-beautiful “Spacer” by Sheila & B Devotion. Speaking of which, Savage notes, “It’s an upbeat and oddly resonant record that points the way to one of the dominant sounds of the early 1980s – the cross between rock and disco.” Sheila knew all about the continual evolution of pop. After emerging in France in 1962 as a powerful pop star, she never stopped. “Spacer” was another of his milestones. Here, we give him a new thrill by being preceded by Australian psych-garage rockers The Lipstick Killers and The Slits.
In the fundamental worldview for Symbols that clash everywhere, disparate perspectives could happily coexist. But as the 1980s set in, the barriers between pop-cultural silos became less and less porous. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal, for example, existed in its own world. There were also new goals: proper pop status was okay again. With the new pop that emerged in 1981 (Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet) and 1982 (ABC, Culture Club), there was less room for a happy coexistence.
Therefore, one gets the impression that Jon Savage 1977-1979 – Symbols Clash Everywhere will become the end point of what started with 1966: The year of the decade explosion. If this is wrong, a collection from 1980 to 1982 could be very interesting.