Howard Devoto: Devoto Companion 2xCD 
DISC 1 | Solo Endeavors
- Magazine: Model Worker [live Urgh!]
- Bernard Szanjer: Without Leaving
- Bernard Szanjer: Deal Of the Century
- Bernard Szanjer: The Convention
- Devoto: Rainy Season [7”]
- Devoto: Rainforest [var. N16]
- Devoto: Cold Imagination [ext.]
- Devoto: Cold Imagination [BBC]
- Devoto: Topless [BBC]
- Devoto: Some Will Pay [BBC]
- This Mortal Coil: Holocaust
DISC 2 | Luxuria Rarities
- She’s Your Lover Now [#1]
- She’s Your Lover Now [#2]
- Public Highway [short cut]
- Sickly Thug & I
- Luxuria [the wilderness mix]
- The Beast Box Is Dreaming [7”]
- Useless Love
- Jezebel [7”]
- Smoking Mirror [inst.]
- Sickly Thug & I [live]
- Luxuria [live]
This REVO edition had been buzzing around my head for almost the entire decade of the naughties. It was by that time that I had begun getting serious about compiling these discs that encompass the tracks that featured Howard Devoto that were non-lp and were not the Magazine rarities and B-sides that had already seen issue on the various Magazine CD reissues. This caveat allowed for the appearance of that band performing “Model Worker” live from the Urgh! A Music War soundtrack, which was otherwise lost in the mists of time; the sole Magazine track that is not accounted for on any of the fine Magazine discs available during the last nearly 20 years.
After Magazine fissured and ruptured in 1981 following the release of “Magic, Murder & The Weather,” Devoto laid low for two years. He finally emerged in 1983 with vocals and lyrics for three songs on avant gardist Bernard Szanjer’s “Brute Reason” album for Island Records. The trio of songs there were as inscrutable as anything he’d ever recorded with what can only be called his poetry and delivery riding on top of what sounds like Europrog not a million miles away from the sound that Eno achieved on “Another Green World;” specifically the tracks with Percy Jones on bass. I’d been searching for an affordable copy of that album for years before I finally found one that was right for my budget.
Following that uncommercial dalliance, Devoto appeared later that year with perhaps his most approachable project yet, his solo album “Jerky Versions Of The Dream.” Beneath the perfection of the Malcolm Garrett/Peter Saville cover (the former classmates had also collaborated on the Duran Duran single “My Own Way” and their collective magum opus, OMD’s “Dazzle Ships.”), the familiar names of Dave Formula, Laura Teresa and Barry Adamson turn up as Devoto delivered one of his finest singles in the evocative ”Rainy Season.” It was represented here by the 7” edit and the B-side to both the 7 and 12 inch single, “Rainforest (Variation N16).” The second single from the album was “Cold Imagination.” This track was the first of Devoto’s A-sides to ever be remixed for 12 inch.
Though I had earlier purchased all necessary Devoto solo singles for all variants of the tracks included here, 2007 brought with it the DLX RM of “Jerky Versions Of The Dream” and its rather complete selection of the single sides as well as the unreleased Peel Sessions. Needless to say, This was the source for tracks five through ten.
The year of 1984 brought only a single Devoto track, his cover version of Alex Chilton’s “Holocaust” on the first This Mortal Coil album, “It’ll End In Tears.” It’s interesting to hear Devoto couched in the “4AD sound” of post-new wave chamber music they proffered. Perhaps the biggest influence of this project on Howard’s career moving forward was his use of ex-23 Envelope designer Chris Bigg to design the covers of all of his subsequent releases by his group Luxuria. A gulf of three years followed the TMC project before the latter-day group emerged on Beggars Banquet records in 1987.
To comprise Luxuria, Devoto paired up with one Norman Fisher-Jones, a.k.a. Noko, who gave life to most of the music on their two albums. Their debut single, “Redneck” came in a stunning embossed paperboard sleeve with only the band’s and label’s name actually printed in ink on the cover. The album track, with its guitar solo of absolute perfection was unmolested for the 12” single, but the B-sides were two differing (hot) takes of Dylan’s “She’s Your Lover Now” placed back to back to get the blood stirred.
The final single from the album was “Public Highway.” The 12” featured a crisp 7” remix on the A-side with the B-side “Sickly Thug & I” also on offer. The disc’s flipside was an AA-Side; a fantastic extended remix of the track “Luxuria (The Wilderness Mix)” from the debut album. This certainly stands as Devoto’s finest remixed moment. He’s been one to shy away from the format, perhaps rightly so; but no one would look askance at the great mix that appeared here. The epic qualities of the track were certainly enhanced by the effort.
The next Luxuria Album evidenced the return on Dave Formula to the mix. Not only did he play but he was also listed as co-producer for the “Beast Box” album. The title cut, “The Beast Box Is Dreaming” was the leadoff single and the B-side “Useless Love” is of note in addition to the brutal (2:43) edit of the A-side on the CD single. Luxuria’s final single, “Jezebel,” the venerable Wayne Shanklin chestnut, appears with several B-sides in addition to its 7” edit on CD single. An instrumental version of the track “Smoking Mirror” from the “Beast Box” album appears as well as two live tracks recorded at Leicester Polytechnic on March 8, 1988.
Following these releases that failed to set the world on fire, or at least put a few Pounds in Devoto’s bank account, he made the pragmatic decision to eschew performing music as a means of support and got a real job. From 1991 to 2008, he worked as an archivist in a photo studio; pausing only to record the excellent Shelley-Devoto album “Buzzkunst” with his erstwhile Buzzcocks bandmate Pete Shelley in 2001. That release allegedly has a few rarities surrounding it but even in the world of the internet, not only have I not found these recordings for sale, but I have yet to see confirmation of their existence on anything but a Buzzcocks fan site.
One of the dangers of laboriously compiling projects like this one is that after years of hunting down the record, laboriously remastering from the vinyl and carefully designing the whole package, the real marketplace sometimes catches up with my aspirations. Two years following this CD package, Cherry Red went forward and re-issued “Unanswerable Lust” and “Beast Box” in a definitive DLX RM which also sported a third disc of the full Leicester Poly gig from 1988. Insult to injury? I only found out about the third disc in what I thought was a two disc package minutes ago, when researching this post. I should buy that for disc three, otherwise I may lose my Devoto stripes. Embarrassing! Of course in 2008, the decision was made to reactivate Magazine, but even that chapter in the Howard Devoto story has become a receding speck in the rear view mirror of the Monkmobile®. Where and when he’ll surface again is a cause for speculation, but until then, we’ll always have “Devoto Companion.”
– 30 –
WANT, NEED, GOT TO HAVE…. Jerky Versions Of The Dream is a stunning album. The two Luxuria albums were oases in the quicksands of Modern Rock in the late 80s. Buzzkunsts is just a wonderful melange of Motorik beats, Art Rock flippancy and anti-Britpop glory.
I’ve never listened to the 12″ mix of Luxuria, but will now! There’s no one like Devoto, where he’s involved sheer brilliance usually follows.
Back in maybe 1990 I went along to a signing event organised for the publishing of his book of lyrics. Criminally I seemed to be the only person attending…how could that be? Crazy. It was a bit awkward as a result! I’m sure I mumbled some inanities, but hey that’s what can happen in those situations, still, I got my book and a vinyl copy of Correct Use signed.
SimonH – Wow! You went to a signing of “It Only Looks As If It Hurts” and we’re the only one there??!! Insane! Where was Momus when you needed him? I remember seeing that book once, in Murmur Records. I should have bought it on principle, but I passed as every Devoto CD had the lyrics printed within. I could have sold that book for a tidy amount when things were tight.
I know, mad. It was in a chain book store, I’d been excited for weeks since seeing it advertised. So unless the crowd has already breezed through I was the only one in Bristol who was bothered, strange! I think at that point he was suffering from a disinterested UK public sadly, the Luxuria gig I attended a couple of years earlier was only moderately attended and was downsized venue wise.
SimonH – It’s crazy that work like Luxuria fell on deaf ears at the time. At least you had the opportunity! Living in Florida at the time, I can safely say that Devoto never set foot on my state’s soil. A friend [Mr. Kane] at least saw Magazine in Los Angeles, back in the day.
I’m sure Devoto found that amusing SimonH, although I can understand your slight feeling of awkwardness! I came across ‘Unanswerable Lust’ a couple of years after its release, on a cassette originally as I remember, having up to that point been unaware of Devoto’s post Magazine/solo work. I think it’s excellent, same goes for ‘Beast Box’, both of which I own now. I never got to see Magazine back in the day, so was over the moon when they returned in 2009, even more so with the release of ‘No Thyself’. Obviously McGeoch’s shoes were impossible to fill, but Noko managed admirably and actually made his own mark on some of those old songs. He is brilliant on the recent LP too I think.
Good post – enjoyed that, thanks…strangely enough it was actually Cowboys International that brought me here, to this very recent thread, which serendipitously happens from time to time! Cheers:)
mrtulip – Welcome to the comments! I can imagine each of us regressing to amoebahood in the presence of Devoto. I once was in the audience of a Fripp Q+A following a Soundscape concert, and I could not think of an intelligent and worthwhile enough question in my one and only chance to quiz the master… and I had weeks to prepare my question! Not that Headmaster Fripp would let anyone off of the hook in case of stumbling. He told the crowd ahead to ask things of him that could not be researched online up front!
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Yes, I can recall my very unwitty attempts at small talk, not good! Clearly they are seared on my brain, I won’t repeat here…
SimonH – Nor would I expect you to!
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New to Devoto devotion and in search of Szanjer tracks. Any chance of a re-up? Unfortunate those have never been re-issued on CD. Thanks!
JLA – Welcome to the comments but this is not a MP3 blog. We only discuss music here, so it was never “up” to begin with.
Thanks for such an informative and enjoyable piece :) Its thirty years since the release of ‘Beast Box’ arguably (and these things should always be up for debate) Howard Devoto’s (and Noko’s) unsung masterpiece, even more unfairly ignored now than it was then – but for those of us that are in-the-know as it were, was there ever more a complete singular piece of work that summoned all that great, quixotic, ironic ‘Howardness’ in one place? Still, probably best to leave the ‘low hanging fruit’ of Buzzers/Magazine to those with a cosy need for less of a challenge…HAIL ‘BEAST BOX’!!!
Dr. Anton Phibes – Welcome to the comments! [and give our best to Vulnavia…] Yessss. “Beast Box” was a mobius strip of Howard Devoto, that almost disappeared into a singularity. He was really focused on that one. I see affordable copies of the Japanese CD box with the video album for “Beast Box.” Was that VHS tape released in the UK?
Good evening! (or maybe good morning!) Thank you for the welcome, what a fine way of thinking re mobius strip Howard trip – I actually gave the vinyl a beastly real listening to yesterday after some while – So long infact I’d actually acquired ‘fresh ears’ and it was some experience – joyous, painful, astonishing etc – ‘It Only Looks As If It Hurts’ to paraphrase the great man and at times it really did, considering how undervalued this brilliant piece of work is – still, he won’t be the first prophet to be denied his creative due in his own land or any other – time always tells and history sorts the wheat from the musical chaff eventually ;) btw that Japanese set always seems mighty expensive! But yes, the VHS ‘Beast Box’ was released in the UK on Beggars Banquet as an individual item, as was the lyric book and lucky to have both – silly I know, but still would have liked some ‘band’ footage on the VHS album, even of the ‘mime’ variety ala ‘Redneck’ viddy but hey, that was Luxuria, always pushing their own path, so who am I to question! – speaking of which just discovered some TV live studio footage from 1990 of ‘I’ve Been Expecting You’ on youtube (had no idea it existed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBFkK8BDkqM – not seen yet as teaching Vulnavia how to wind up the clockwork wizards ;)…Have a great evening!
…btw I actually adore Magazine but if I never hear ‘Shot by Both Sides Again’ shan’t be that distraught…BUT those two LUXURIA albums…wow :))
Dr. Anton Phibes – As an American, trust me, it is impossible to get burnt out on ANY Devoto material over here! Howard Devoto is virtually unknown here.
I expect, sadly the ‘unknowing’ has been a-growing over the years as if H.D. is some Buzzcockian footnote :/ though the great man did tour quite a bit with the ‘Jerky Versions’ album and Luxuria did some fine shows in the late ’80s stateside with The Fall – theres a few live bits on youtube including a rehearsel and the audiences sound mighty receptive! Sure do envy them as the band is superb (esp. Mr. Norman Fischer-Jones)!
Dr. Anton Phibes – Are you telling me that 30 years ago, Luxuria toured America opening for The Fall??! I hope I didn’t blow off a Fall show in Orlando at the time [though I sincerely doubt that it had ever happened]. Besides in 1990 I would have been into a Fall show.
…apologies if you’ve seen this and the other videos on Mark Rowlatt’s (Luxuria drummer) youtube channel as many admiring times as I have! But maybe some casual passer-by may get an introduction :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEcNpL0GwmA
Dr. Anton Phibes – As I boycott Google products and services, I guarantee that I have not seen anything you may have included a link for. But other readers may wish to partake. I’m not a total buzzkill!
where is the link? :(
Arnoldive – Welcome to the comments! This blog is about Post-Punk/New Wave music discussion and sometimes obsessive creation of products that do not exist, [eg. “Devoto Companion”] so there never was a link. But 90% of that music is now on actual CDs so there’s that progress. [Though sadly, not “Brute Reason.”] Sometimes, the artist freely gives away downloads, and the occasional such link may find its way here, but this blog is not primarily about that.