04 Jun Lunch With the Wild Frontiers by Phill Savidge review â B…
Phill Savidge was co-founder of Savage and Best, a PR firm credited with shaping Britpop and taking indie music out of the music papers and into the tabloids. Blur and Oasis aside, it represented the main players of the era including Suede, Pulp, Elastica, the Verve and the Auteurs. Britpop memoirs like Savidgeâs are wistful celebrations of a time before digital technology put paid to the record industry and the music press; Camden, the sceneâs epicentre, as much of a lost dominion as the Carnaby Street of the 60s. Lunch With is his account of the halcyon days when the liquid lunch and three-day benders were part of the job.
Britpop was a cultural moment informed by 60s nostalgia and this tenor defines much of his story. Evoking a swinging London film such as Smashing Time, Savidge paints a picture of himself as a Midlands record shop ingenue hightailing it to the big smoke on a whim. He effortlessly falls into PR after drunkenly typing a press release for his own band, and this sense of classless social mobility and wide-eyed innocence runs throughout the book. In its good-natured account of a time when everything seemed up for grabs, it resembles Stoned, Andrew Loog Oldhamâs chronicle of his early 60s heyday. The subtitle promises A History of Britpop and Excess in 13Â½ Chapters, but itâs essentially a love letter to a line of work that now appears quaint in a world of data harvesting and viral marketing.
Savidge presents himself as a young turk creating an adjunct career to rock stars of an equivalent age, and he clearly relishes the process of turning people into legends. His career begins with making up stories about minor acts for Â£50 a week and quickly escalates to the point where his promotion of Suede is so successful that itâs easier to weigh the bandâs press cuttings than count them. The promise of PR as rockânâroll becomes a reality, with Savage and Best gaining endless plaudits and having as good a time as their clients.
In the post-Britpop years, Savidge moves away from indie music, promoting superclubs, exclusive restaurants, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Bollywood composer AR Rahman and Dave Stewart. He moves in circles full of opulence and excess, but the grubby charm of the Britpop era has gone. The story becomes less about creative coups and more about done deals with the already famous. For Savidge, the death knell comes backstage at a Suede gig in 2002. Rounded upon by someone he assumes is a young music journalist, Savidge answers a series of box-ticking questions only to discover the writer is from a marketing agency employed to determine whether or not the band should be covered by the NME.
Lunch With depicts PR as a nebulous long-gone profession, a realm of schmoozers and hustlers, stunts and fabrications, a lifetime away from the current culture of paid-up social media influencers. As such, itâs a useful slice of pop history with enough anecdotes to reel in 90s nostalgists wistful for the years when we ânever had it so largeâ.
â¢ Lunch With the Wild Frontiers by Phill Savidge is published by Jawbone Press (Â£14.95). To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over Â£15, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of Â£1.99