Jon Savage’s 1980-1982-The Art Of Things To Come.

Label: Ace Records.

Format: CD.

In November 2015, Jon Savage’s critically acclaimed book 1966: The Year the Decade Exploded was released. The book told the story of what was one of the most important and influential years in the history of popular music. However, this was just part of the story.

To coincide with the release of the book, Ace Records released Jon Savage: 1966-The Year The Decade Exploded. This two CD set was released to plaudits and praise, and turned out to be the first instalment in a year-by-year series which has documented the music scene worldwide.

The latest instalment in the series is Jon Savage’s 1980-1982-The Art Of Things To Come. It’s another two CD set that features thirty-seven tracks. This is a truly eclectic selection of music. There’s everything from disco, rap and rock to b-boy, electro, indie, new wave, pop, post-punk and synth pop. Among the artists that feature are The Cars, Echo and The Bunnymen, Donna Summer, Grace Jones, Simple Minds, Was (Not Was), Orange Juice, The Human League, The Associates, Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, plus the Pretenders. Singles rub shoulders with B-Sides, album tracks, hidden gems and a selection of 12” mixes. This is a first for the series.

These 12” singles include some that Jon Savage played in his DJ sets at the time. Between 1980 and 1982 he was living in Manchester and working at Granada TV with the late Tony Wilson, the man behind Factory Records. However, this was only his “daytime” job.

Then at night, Jon Savage DJ-ed at Joy Division and later, New Order gigs. During his DJ sets he was spinning the extended mixes on 12” singles. Some were six or seven minutes long. This was a far cry from the three minute pop songs from 1966. However, as Jon Savage’s 1980-1982-The Art Of Things To Come chronicles, music was changing and changing fast.

Disc One.

Opening disc one is Underground by American punk group The Bizarros. The track featured on the B-Side of their 1980 limited edition single, The Cube. It was released by the French label Sordide Sentimental. It’s an underrated track from the five piece from Akron, Ohio, who combine new wave with a hint of their punk roots.

Another B-Side is Candy-O by The Cars. It was the title track from their sophomore album which was released in 1980. The same year, the track also featured on the B-Side of Double Life in America and then It’s All I Can Do in Britain. The song features the group seamlessly fusing post-punk, rock and synth wave, something they managed to successfully master.

In 1980, Donna Summer returned with her fourth album Bad Girls.  This double album was released on the Casablanca label and was produced by Giorgio Moroder. One of the highlights was the mesmeric dancefloor filler Our Love.  The version included on the compilation is the 12” version which was a favourite of many DJs, including Jon Savage.

Having released a triumvirate of disco albums on Island Records, musical chameleon Grace Jones decided to reinvent herself in 1980. Accompanied by Sly and Robbie she covered the Pretenders’ Private Life. However, tucked away on the B-Side was a compelling post punk cover of Joy Division’s She’s Lost Control. The onetime disco diva transforms the track and makes it her own with a vocal that’s a mixture of frustration and despair.

Glasgow’s Simple Minds released their third album Empires and Dance in 1980. Without doubt, the highlight of the album is I Travel a timeless example of synth disco.

A Certain Ratio released their third single Flight on Factory in 1980. It was produced by the late Martin Hannett. The version on the compilation is the 12” version which is just over six minutes long. This slice of space funk helped introduce the group to a wider audience.

Wheel Me Out was released by Was (Not Was) as their debut single in 1980. On the B-Side was Hello Operator…I Mean Dad…I Mean Police…I Can’t Even Remember Who I Am. It’s a genre-melting track that’s a tantalising taste of what was to come from this groundbreaking group. Elements of electronica, jazz, funk and even avant-garde melt into one on this hidden gem.

The Psychedelic Furs reimagined and reinvented Mack The Knife in 1981, on the B-Side of the original version of Pretty In Pink. It’s dark, dramatic and edgy and features a snarling, sneering vocal, growling guitars and a wailing saxophone. They playing a leading role on a captivating cover that’s far removed from Bobby Darin’s definitive version that quite rightly, is regarded as a classic.

Closing disc one is the 12-inch version of Home Is the  Where The Heart Is by Public Image Ltd. It was the B-Side of the single Flowers Of Romance which was released in 1981. However, the track originally featured on the group’s 1979 sophomore albumMetal Box. It was hailed as  a groundbreaking and influential album. On what was their fifth single, the group combine dub, experimental, post-punk and psychedelia as they continued to push musical boundaries.

Disc Two.

Orange Juice open disc two with Poor Old Soul Part 2. It was the B-Side of the Glasgow-based group’s final single for Postcard Records. Released in 1981 there’s a degree of cynicism and anger in Edwyn Collins’ vocal. Later, his vocal becomes a chant as he almost sneers: “no more rock ’n’ roll for you.” The single marked the end of an era. Next stop for However the group was Polydor where they enjoyed a degree of commercial success and released a quartet of albums.

In March 1981, The Cure released their fifth single Primary on the Fiction label. Unlike so much of their music, the lyrics are much more upbeat and uplifting. They’re delivered by the inimitable Robert Smith while the bass guitars also play a leading role in the sound of success of the single. It’s 12” version which is included on the compilation and this is the first time it’s ever been reissued.

Having added vocalists Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall to their lineup The Human League released The Sound Of The Crowd on Virgin, in April 1981. This was a gamechanger for the Sheffield-based band. It showcased a much more poppy sound that featured hooks a plenty. The single introduced them to a much wider audience and reached number twelve in the UK.

When New Order released Everything’s Gone Green on Factory Benelux, in September 1981, the track had been heavily influenced by electro disco. At the time, it was popular across much of continental Europe. However, it was in Berlin where Bernard Summer first heard the music that would influence him and the group. On this 12” single that was only released in Europe, the new group replicate the pounding, pulsating beat of Giorgio Moroder and add a series of joyous whoops and hollers. The result is a track far removed from what Joy Division had been making and marked the start of a new and successful chapter for Mancunian musical pioneers.

Swiss duo Yello wrote, recorded and produced Bostich, which was released as a 12” single in September 1981. It was their sophomore single and the one that gave them their breakthrough. It’s best described as a mesmeric and hypnotic industrial dance track that on its release, became a favourite of DJs and dancers.

Soft Cell released Bedsitter on the Some Bizarre label in October 1981. It’s the 12” version of this catchy and cinematic slice of electro disco that’s preferred.

Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five is another groundbreaking track. This is the 12” version. When the single was released in October 1981 it was an early example of rap, that also showcased what was possible with sampling. The group knit together samples from several familiar tracks which play their part in this genre classic.

Closing disc two and Jon Savage’s 1980-1982-The Art Of Things To Come was My City Was Gone by the Pretenders. It featured on the B-Side of group’s classic single Back On The Chain Gang. The poignant lyrics were written by Chrissie Hynde who sings about returning home to Akron, Ohio, to discover that the city she remembered, knew and loved was very different and didn’t exist anymore. This hidden gem of a song shows another side to the group.

Jon Savage’s 1980-1982-The Art Of Things To Come features thirty-seven tracks on the two discs. It’s a truly eclectic selection of tracks that’s a tantalising taste of the music being released during this three year period. There’s everything from Afro-futurism, disco, dub and electro to post-punk and rap. That’s not forgetting b-boy, electro disco, funk, indie, industrial dance, jazz, new wave, pop, punk, space funk and synth pop on this selection of singles, B-Sides and  for the first time in the series, 12” versions of tracks. There’s many familiar faces on the compilation and they rub shoulders with what will be new names for some people. However, they’re responsible for some of the hidden gems on the compilation.

Just like previous instalments in this year-by-year series, Jon Savage’s 1980-1982-The Art Of Things To Come is a lovingly curated compilation. During this period the compiler was at the heart of the Manchester music scene, andspent his evenings DJ-ing at Joy Division and New Order gigs. His love of the music shines through as he tells the story behind the music in his extensive and informative liner notes. Along with the music they’ll bring memories flooding back for music fans who remember and love the music released between 1980 and 1982, which was an exciting time and so much groundbreaking music was being made that would go on to influence future generation of musicians. A tantalising taste of that music can be found on Jon Savage’s 1980-1982-The Art Of Things To Come.

Jon Savage’s 1980-1982-The Art Of Things To Come.

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