It’s not 40 years since New Order‘s debut single was released, but it is 40 years to the day since it was recorded.
It’s times like this that I wish I had kept a diary with a log of all my purchases of singles and albums, as well as the gigs I went to. I can’t recall when I bought my copy of Ceremony on 7″ vinyl, but I do know it was in the local record shop closest to my home in the east end of Glasgow. I do know for certain that I didn’t get it on the day it was released……..
I was a regular browser in Tom Russell’s Record Shop on Shettleston Road, but I was more in the habit of picking up new singles from the city centre shops, or if it happened to be a 45 in the charts, I was likely to go to the local Woolworth’s as they could be a few pence cheaper in there. I can’t ever recall seeing Ceremony anywhere until a copy found its way into the bargain bin at Tom Russell’s – even then I almost missed it as the bronze-coloured sleeve, with its difficult to read bronze coloured writing, was such that it didn’t automatically make me want to pick it up for a close glance (in my defence, at 17 years of age, all browsing was done at speed, and it was an era when I took my time over any non-picture sleeves so as to not miss out on something that I’d read about in one of the music papers that were the occasional reading material in the 6th Year common room at school.)
I’m sure it was down to 40 pence, which would have been less than half price. I took it home with no great expectations. As with the Joy Division singles of previous years, there was only the very basic and minimal details on the sleeve. The info on the label was, however, interesting, with each of FAC 33A and FAC33B being written by Joy Division which clearly meant Ian Curtis had been involved in some way. I gave FAC33A a spin……and then another and another and maybe even one more, all the while wondering why the band had gone to the bother of changing its name. Ceremony was an astonishing and moving piece of music, way better than I could ever have imagined, and it also sounded like a tribute to Ian, which is why my mind reckoned its writing had been attributed to the old band. It sounded as if it had been written as a belated follow-up to Transmission, but with the tempo slowed down, possibly from Bernard not having the vocal capabilities of his late friend.
Flipping it over (eventually) and finding that In A Lonely Place sounded like a Joy Division out-take was one of those moments that froze me. Singles, even their b-sides, aren’t supposed to be this morose and funereal, and I was sure on the second or third listen that I could make out Ian Curtis on backing vocals. It was like a song that felt it should be used in conjunction with a Ouija Board, with the refrain of ‘How I Wish You Were Here With Me Now’ being genuinely terrifying to my teenage mind and imagination. I couldn’t have given an honest answer there and then if I had been asked ‘Do you like it?’
I took it to school the next day and gave it to a close friend whose musical tastes were more or less identical to mine. He, too, was bemused by the sleeve, but I told him it would all make sense once he played it. He brought it back the next day and when we spoke about his experience, it was clear his reaction to the A-side had been similar. But when it came to the b-side, he was quick to declare it a classic that wouldn’t have been out of place on Closer, offering the opinion that it was one which had maybe been recorded by the band but left off the final running order. I think it’s fair to say that his initial view has stood the test of time.
After school, we took a bus into town and to track down another copy, finding success at Listen on Renfield Street, albeit he had to pay full price as this was a shop which had the space and capacity to store singles for extended periods of time long after their initial release. The ancient bloke behind the counter (who was likely aged about 21) also told us it was out on 12″ vinyl but that the shop was currently out of stock which led to the two of us heading round other record shops, finally coming good at 23rd Precinct on Bath Street, a location that is now home to one of the best beer and spirits shops in all of Scotland.
I’ve still got my copy of that 12″ but the 7″ was lost in the great debacle of 1986 when the midnight flit from the rented accommodation was done in such a hurry/panic that boxes of 7″ singles were stupidly left behind in a cupboard. I have, however, long since picked up a second-hand copy, from which these two bits of music have recently been ripped at 320kpbs.