A GUEST SERIES by DAVE GLICKMANN
As JC has recently completed his review of the New Order singles, I thought it might be an opportune time to go back to the beginning and explore the Joy Division-New Order transition period. Like my previous post on Joy Division, I’ll be stealing liberally from the work of Analog Loyalist (A.L.) from both the wonderful New Order-Joy Division Recycle project, as well as his own The Power of Independent Trucking blog.
“No band ever survives the death of their lead singer”
– Steve Coogan, as Factory Records founder Tony Wilson, in 24 Hour Party People
Of course, many bands have gone through transitions before – members have left or died and been replaced, groups have split and started new bands or gone solo (and then reformed again), bands have renamed themselves (and then reclaimed their original names years later), and on and on. Yet, to my knowledge […and here’s the point where you click on the comment link and explain to me how little I know], the Joy Division-New Order transition seems fairly unique, as suggested by the quote above, and insomuch as the former band gained such cult status and the later one had such critical/commercial success and longevity.
Any number of interesting questions have been raised about the period after Ian Curtis’ death, including:
* Had he not committed suicide, would Joy Division have reached the same level of popularity as New Order eventually achieved?
* Would Joy Division’s sound have evolved along similar lines to New Order?
* Was Barney actually the best choice as the new lead singer?
* … and many more.
In this three part series, I plan to provide answers to none of these questions. I mean, honestly, who can ever really know what happened in an alternative universe they didn’t live in. So instead, we’ll just enjoy the music.
Let’s start in the same place as JC’s series – the Ceremony single – the only two songs for which we have recordings by both bands. As such, there really isn’t any debate that both Ceremony and In A Lonely Place were Joy Division compositions, at least musically. As far as the lyrics go, well, we’ll get to that shortly.
The 1981 compilation album, Still, includes a live version of Ceremony from Joy Division’s last show at Birmingham University on May 2, 1980. Regrettably, the recording engineer failed to capture the vocals in any level of intelligibility for the first 90 seconds of the track.
There is also an audience bootleg recording of the same song from the sound check prior to the High Hall show which you can find on a ubiquitous internet video site. Not surprisingly, it suffers from all the fidelity issues inherent in the phrase “audience bootleg recording.”
Fast forwarding to 1997, the Heart And Soul box set contained two rehearsal recordings – Ceremony, from a May 14, 1980 session at Graveyard Studios, Prestwich (at least, that’s what the box says. Other sources say the recording is from T.J. Davidson’s studio in Manchester) and a partial recording of In A Lonely Place, from a cassette tape that Peter Hook “found.” The Ceremony recording showed the effects of the surviving band members’ attempts to improve the clarity of Ian’s vocals, as the lyrics were otherwise unavailable to them, while In A Lonely Place, was, of course, incomplete. These tracks represented the end of the Joy Division story regarding these two songs until, some 14 years later, something magical happened.
Here’s A.L.’s telling of the story (with some tasteful editing by me):
1997’s Heart And Soul box set featured two never-released rehearsal recordings (supposedly found on a tape by Peter Hook, whilst rummaging behind his couch or some similar story), those of “Ceremony” and an edited “In A Lonely Place”. Leaping forward 14 years, new sources were located for both Joy Division tracks, essentially from a rehearsal room recording reel-to-reel tape.
“Ceremony” from the reel was the same take as on the box set, but in a bit higher fidelity.
“In A Lonely Place” – as all serious fans know – abruptly ends at roughly 2:30 [on Heart And Soul], or shortly before Ian Curtis would begin singing the third verse. Allegedly this was the only version that existed on Hooky’s tape, so it was what got used. On the reel was more than one take of “In A Lonely Place” – the full, unedited version of the take used on the box set (which was the last one on the reel, sequentially, and therefore surmised to be the last one they recorded), and the take – the last-but-one on the reel – used by Rhino on [the 2011] Record Store Day 12″. The box set featured a collapsed-to-mono “In A Lonely Place”. “In A Lonely Place” is in full-stereo on the reel, and presented in true stereo on the Record Store Day 12″.
It was discovered that – roughly speaking – the versions on the reel had been (technoweenie talk ahead) “futzed with” by (presumably) the survivors, trying to pull out Ian’s lyrics for their own versions of the songs. The box set featured the futzed-with “Ceremony”. Without getting too detailed, “Ceremony” on the box set is a modified, compromised stereo that’s not true, while on the Record Store Day 12″ it has been restored to real, as captured by rehearsal room microphones, stereo.
A fair amount of work was needed to goose the recordings into quality listening material; mainly EQ and, surprisingly, mid/side decoding due to the supplied source coming to us mid/side encoded. A touch of gentle noise reduction, tasteful limiting, and done.
So, on Record Store Day in 2011, the following Joy Division tracks were released:
Well, sort of. Here’s an important note from A.L.:
These Joy Division recordings are not captured from vinyl, but are the exact sources given to the label for the 12″ release (compressed for Recycle, that is – the label was not provided with lossy AAC/MP3 masters!). We’ve auditioned the actual 12″ and determined that the mastering is very faithful to the source given to the label.
What has yet to be officially released is the complete, unedited, stereo version of In A Lonely Place from Heart And Soul (though, you can listen to it by clicking on the line below….)
Moving forward to the New Order period, there is a fascinating version of Ceremony that was recorded on September 7, 1980 at Cabaret Voltaire’s Western Works Studio in Sheffield (the story of the Western Works session will be covered in a later part of this series). Less than four months after Ian’s death, this take provides some interesting insight into the evolution of the song’s lyrics, as well as the band’s experiments in choosing a new lead singer.
Here’s A.L. again:
[This] is drummer Steve Morris’ turn on lead vocals with a very interesting take on “Ceremony”, one of the last two Joy Division tracks written just prior to Ian’s death. Famously having no written lyrics they could use (if Ian wrote them down, they weren’t available to the survivors at the time), New Order had to run the Joy Division rehearsal recording of this track through an equalizer to attempt to pick out Ian’s lyrics. Considering that even with modern audio software it’s nearly impossible to extract Ian’s vocals, or at least make them clearer, it’s impressive what they were able to pull out of it. Steve sings lead on the verses, with Hooky taking over a chorus as well. Interestingly enough, when the time came three weeks later to record this track “officially” in New Jersey’s Eastern Artists Recording Studio with producer Martin Hannett, the lyrics Bernard Sumner sang started off markedly different – which makes one wonder if they were rewritten by New Order.
So finally, we reach the officially released New Order Ceremony single in all of its variants, for which I will refer you to JC’s original post.
Yet even here, there is a bit more to be discovered. Through all the various releases and re-pressings of the original and re-recorded versions of Ceremony, it turns out that two different mixes of the 12” In A Lonely Place were used, one with a loud thunderclap at 0:33 and one without (there are probably other differences as well, but I’ll leave that to someone with more time and better ears). Which one you have, all depends on which version/pressing of the 12” single you purchased at the time. In his post, JC shared the thunderclap version; here’s the other one.
For the record, the official 7” edit is an early fade of this non-thunderclap mix.