Savage was a high-profile writer during the glory days of British punk and wrote articles on all the major punk acts. He wrote and published a fanzine called London's Outrage in 1976, and in 1977 began working as a journalist for Sounds, which was, at that time, one of the UK's three major music papers, along with the New Musical Express and Melody Maker. Savage interviewed punk, new wave and electronic music artists for Sounds. At that time, he also wrote for the West Coast fanzines Search and Destroy, Bomp! and Slash.
In 1979 he moved to Melody Maker, and a year later to the newly founded pop culture magazine The Face. Throughout the decade, Savage wrote for The Observer and the New Statesman, providing high-brow commentary on popular culture.
In 1991, Savage designed a record sleeve for the then little-known Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers. The single was called "Feminine Is Beautiful".
England's Dreaming, published by Faber and Faber in 1991, was lauded as the definitive history of punk music, and remains the single most comprehensive analysis of the phenomenon. It was used as the basis for a television programme, Punk and the Pistols, shown on BBC2 in 1995, and an updated edition in 2001 featured a new introduction which made mention of the Pistols' 1996 reunion and the release of the 2000 Pistols documentary film, The Filth and The Fury. A companion piece, The England's Dreaming Tapes, was published in 2009.
Savage continues to write on punk and other genres in a variety of publications, most notably Mojo magazine and The Observer Music Monthly. He wrote the introduction to Mitch Ikeda's Forever Delayed (2002), an official photobook of the Manic Street Preachers.
Savage has appeared in the documentaries Live Forever and NewOrderStory.
Several compilation CDs based on his track lists have also been released, including England's Dreaming (2004) and Meridian 1970 (2005), the latter of which puts forward the argument that 1970 was a high-point for popular music, contrary to critical opinion. He curated the compilation Queer Noises 1961–1978 (2006), a collection of largely overlooked pop songs from that period that carried overt or coded gay messages. His most recent compilations have included the now deleted "Fame", Jon Savage's Secret History Of Post-Punk 78-81 on Caroline True Records. His latest curated release on the same label is "Perfect Motion" Jon Savage's Secret History Of Second Wave Psychedelia 1988-1993. Also a limited double-vinyl release, this collection posited late Eighties/early Nineties "Baggy" music as a slight return to the ethos of 60's psychedelia.
Savage's book, Teenage: The Prehistory of Youth Culture, was published in 2007. It is a history of the concept of teenagers, which begins in the 1870s and ends in 1945. Teenage aims to tell the story of youth culture's prehistory, and dates the advent of today's form of "teenagers" to 1945. The book was adapted into a film by Matt Wolf.
In 2015, Savage published "1966" recalling the popular music and cultural turmoil of that year.England's Dreaming (Trikont 2004)
Meridian 1970 (Forever Heavenly 2005)
Queer Noises – From the Closet to the Charts (Trikont 2006)
The Shadows of Love – Intense Tamla 1966–1968 (Commercial Marketing 2006)
Dreams come true – Classic wave electro 1982–87 (Domino Records 2008)
Teenage – the invention of youth 1911–1945 (Trikont 2009)
Fame – Jon Savage's Secret History of Post Punk 1978–81 (Caroline True Records 2012)