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England's Dreaming: The "Sex Pistols" and Punk Rock Paperback – 4 Jun 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; 2nd Revised edition edition (4 Jun. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571207448
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571207442
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 3.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,351,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"'A monumental survey of punk... a good claim to be the definitive work on the definitive work on the subject.' The Times"

Book Description

England's Dreaming: The Sex Pistols and Punk Rock, by Jon Savage, is the ultimate book on punk. This updated edition includes an introduction focusing on the legacy of punk twenty-five years on, an account of the Sex Pistols 1996 reunion, and a comprehensively updated discography. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Steve Hudson on 7 July 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is a comprehensive account of the birth and slow death of 'punk' - whatever that means. To many, it means either bands of Sham 69-style Rottenalike bawlers and sneerers, or mohicaned tourist magnets in Central London. To Jon Savage, punk means primarily the early dynamic, revolutionary style and music of the Sex Pistols and their fellow travellers, during their brief flowering.

This is a weighty book, physically (c. 600 pages) and textually. Savage isn't a writer who knowingly under-intellectuallises his subject, and this book treats the subject with high seriousness. That it still emerges as a pacy and exciting read is tribute to Savage's passion and stylish writing.

The book charts the antecedants of punk, in the music of the early 1970s, and in the association of Malcolm Maclaren and Vivienne Westwood, punk's strange parents. It describes the rapid rise to fame of the Sex Pistols and the rise of the British punk rock movement, and its messy and depressing fall into cliche and exploitation.

Savage's take seem to be that 'punk' can be split into two eras - the imaginative early fashion movement centred round the Pistols, from formation in 1975 to nationwide fame in 1977. During this period, punk attracted rebels and mavericks, and encouraged individualism and creativity. The early Pistols sound fantastic - sheer speed-fuelled outrage with a gleeful glint in its eyes.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 26 July 2001
Format: Paperback
If, like me, you missed the first wave of punk (hey, I was only born in 1973!), but fell in love with the music later, you gotta read this book.
Savage tells the tale of English punk (with some reference to what was happening in the USA, but as the title says, this is _England's_ Dreaming), starting from the backgrounds of those involved, through to the end of the 70's, after the collapse of the Sex Pistols and the death of Sid Vicious.
As you might guess from the title (which is of course from a line in the Sex Pistols' "God Save The Queen"), it is the Sex Pistols that are the primary focus of all this. But there's plenty here about The Clash, The Damned, The Buzzcocks, and plenty of less famous but essential bands, like The Slits, X-Ray Spex, Siouxsie & The Banshees, etc. And I should add that there is an extensive index with discographies of many, many groups.
I'm not sure exactly what Jon Savage was doing at this time, but he was certainly there and involved. He even appears in one of the photos in the book (police herding punks off the boat after the infamous Jubilee cruise down the Thames, if I recall rightly). His recollections and interviews are interspersed with snippets from his diary from the time. This really is a vivid account, and one that made me curse all the more loudly that I missed the action.
One warning - I thought there was far, far too much about Malcolm McLaren's pre-Pistols activities at the start of the book. This was boring. But fight through it, or skip ahead, you'll really miss out if you get bored and quit in the first couple of chapters.
Also, after reading this book, try to check out Julien Temple's film "The Filth And The Fury" - you'll see footage of a lot of the events described herein.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Peter Hurst on 18 July 2006
Format: Paperback
'England's Dreaming - Sex Pistols and Punk Rock' by Jon Savage is first and foremost a story about the formation of the Sex Pistols. The book starts with a young and ambitious Malcolm Mclaren - inspired by the Parisian student revolts of 1968 - and Vivienne Westwood who, together with Mclaren, created the 'Sex' shop which provided the backdrop to the formation of the Sex Pistols and delivered the aesthetic which symbolised and communicated most directly what punk stood for. A story which, in this case, ends in effect with the predictable demise of Sid Vicious, who in the end came to symbolise more than anything else what Punk Rock meant in the eyes of the mainstream (and to paraphrase Shakespeare) 'a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.'

The greatness of this book is that while ostensibly this is a book about the Sex Pistols (and it is) it is much more than that. As someone born in 1980 it is easy to forget that Britain in the 1970s was such a Politicised place, today apathy rules ok, but thirty years ago things were different. The Post War consensus was crumbling, the age of Thatcherism was dawning, the promise of full employment was exposed as a lie as unemployment figures grew, the once proud ruler of most of the worlds surface had to go with begging bowl to the IMF for a loan, union power was rampant, strikes ubiqutious, the far right increasingly evident and, in the words of Savage 'political and social (even behavioural) extremism seemed very attractive as a way out of this impasse.' In other words the time was ripe for Punk.

The history of the Sex Pistols in the 1970s is the history of the U.K in the 1970s, this is what Savage conveys, Punk grew in fertile soil. The word most used in this book is NIHILISM.
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