The England’s Dreaming Tapes – Book
by Jon Savage
University of Minnesota Press
From 1988 – 1989 Jon Savage conducted countless hours of interviews with many of the key players from the original UK punk rock scene that revolved around the Sex Pistols. He also extended that group of subjects to include a few from New York such as members of the New York Dolls. These interviews went into his 1991 book, England’s Dreaming. There was so much good stuff that ended up on the cutting room floor after that book that Jon went back to those tapes and transcribed them again and compiled them into this book, The England’s Dreaming Tapes.
The book is split up into distinct sections and presented chronologically starting with the shop on King’s Road that became Sex and was the central hub that the UK punk scene grew around. Each chapter starts with a brief history on the person being interviewed and then goes right into the questions. It is written in question/answer style and the answers are very lengthy and detailed. Many of the same questions are asked to many of the characters involved and it was really interesting to hear how so many people had a different take on the same story about things that happened back then.
From there the sections include such subjects as: New York City, The Sex Pistols, the management, the City, Suburbs, and then out to the surrounding areas. Everyone from members of the Sex Pistols, their management, photographers, roadies, press, artists, to The Damned, Buzzcocks, Magazine, Slits, and countless others were interviewed and you get to read their fascinating recollections all in one handy place. The interviews are really interesting and educational and by the time you finish each one you have a greater understanding about things that happened back then and what the subject is like.
While the central focus of the book is the Sex Pistols, it does delve into the bands that spawned around them too and you get a pretty good feel for the big picture. Speaking of the Sex Pistols, you will in fact learn even more about the Sex Pistols and their mystique than even a well-schooled hardcore fan already knows. After finishing this book, you almost feel like you were there and if not, you certainly feel like you were in the room with the people speaking which is a testament to how good the interviews are.
The book is a perfect-bound paperback that weighs in at an intimidating 744 pages. There is a lot to read in this book and it has absolutely no photos aside from that on the cover. It will keep you busy and entertained for hours on end and as thick and heavy as it was, it didn’t ever feel like a long book. This thing is as thick as an encyclopedia and has as much information as one, but is far more interesting to read. I often had trouble putting it down, which led to me being late for a number of things due to the long stretches of time I’d sit reading the book.
Anyone who has an interest in music history, especially that of punk rock will find this book well worth the price of ownership and well worth the time it takes to read it from cover to cover. Anyone who is a big fan of the Sex Pistols and that whole early punk rock scene owes it to themselves to pick this up especially and this book is highly recommended.