THIS SEARING LIGHT, THE SUN AND EVERYTHING ELSE

I’m the proud owner of a substantial number of books which, as a result of my sad inability to throw anything away, are taking up an increasing amount of space in Villain Towers to the disgust of Rachel whose efforts to modernise and improve its interiors are constantly thwarted by my storage requirements.

The vast majority of the books are music and sports related, consisting in the main of biographies in some shape or form. Among these are something in the region of 20 books related to Factory Records/Joy Division/New Order/The Hacienda, with the latest two additions coming via Christmas presents, one of which was the wonderfully entertaining first volume of autobiography by Stephen Morris, whose often self-deprecating effort far surpasses those of his bandmates Hooky and Barney, as much for the fact that he doesn’t use the book to rant about old grievances – but given that Record Play Pause only goes up to the formation of New Order, it may well be that a further and much anticipated volume will go down that path.

The other new book was This Searing Light, The Sun and Everything Else: Joy Division – The Oral History , whose author is Jon Savage.

The book was published in April 2019 and received great reviews, but I refrained from buying it at the time as I thought it would be more or less a cut’n’paste effort consisting of a re-hash of the tales told elsewhere in books by so other authors over the years. It was only when I pulled out the author’s Unknown Pleasures review from 1979 as part of the Festive Period series (click here) did I realise that here was someone who really did get to the heart and soul of the band and was probably the most qualified to do justice to the task, and so it was put on Santa’s list.

The book duly arrived on 25 December and I began to read it that evening, on the basis that it would be an easy enough book to dip in and out of while also turning my attention to some of the other books that had ended up under the tree. I spent hours engrossed in its contents and ended up not going to bed until some ungodly hour which set the tone for a stupid sleep pattern right through until my return to work on 6 January. As soon as I woke up, my nose was back in between its wonderful looking hardback cover and plans to watch or do other things were put on hold as what I was devouring and enjoying immensely was the definitive story of Joy Division that hasn’t been bettered.

For the most part, there was very little I didn’t already know – but the new snippets of information were invaluable and, in one particular case, a real game-changer in terms of how I’ve always thought about things over the past almost 40 years since Ian Curtis took his life. The author lets others do the talking, and offers a mixture of new interviews with those still living as well as dipping into archives to enable the voices of people such as Tony Wilson, Martin Hannett and Rob Gretton to be heard. It’s very clear that the questions Jon Savage has posed to everyone while carrying out the work involved to piece the book together were far from run-of-the-mill, and there’s a sense that everyone responding has been able to be wholly open and transparent about things, secure that what they say will be written down and then put in print, even if it those words are at odds with one of the other contributors or indeed are different from what has been said by them before.

One of the most fascinating things about this book is that it gives much more space to Peter Saville and Annik Honore than any previous publications, enabling them to fill in some gaps and to also offer up a sense of what really went on when so many others, over the years, have mythologised many of the events and happenings.

There’s also some incredibly reflective words throughout from the late Tony Wilson, many of which feel as if they were provided in what must have been one of the last of the detailed interviews he gave before his death. It is entirely fitting that the book is dedicated to Wilson, a lifelong hero of mine and my memory of the one time we met and spoke briefly for all of 45 seconds will never leave me; worth mentioning also that the book’s seemingly strange title is taken directly from one of the quotes he provided to the author.

This Searing Light also benefits from being exactly what it says on the cover. There’s just a few reflections into the early lives and upbringings of everyone in the band and it comes to a halt just after Ian Curtis’s funeral, with no mention of what was still to come for Factory or the emergence of New Order. It is the story of a band whose fans at the time could never ever have imagined the impact they would make or the legacy they would provide, so much so that more than 40 years on, there is still much to be fascinated by.

One thing it did remind me of was just how young and largely inexperienced the other band members were at the time. The infamous Stiff/Chiswick challenge took place on 14 April 1978….all four members were 20-22 years old. They had yet to have Gretton, Wilson or Hannett come into their lives to help shape things. Just two years and one month later, it was all over.

So much transpired between April 78 and May 80 that even now it feels overwhelming, so it must have been nigh on impossible to deal with first-hand.

The book also provides a stark reminder that Joy Division, being on a largely unheralded and small label in Manchester, didn’t ever really find too much fame, until they were no more, beyond the pages of the music papers. The biggest shows they ever played was as the support act on a UK tour by Buzzcocks and nobody was getting rich from any of it, with life seeming to be not far off a hand-to-mouth existence for the most part. There was little glamour and a lot of hard slogging.

The onset of the singer’s epilepsy does seem to have been beyond the belief and understanding of all concerned – including the university-educated Wilson – and it wasn’t helped by the fact that the treatment on offer from the medical professions seems to have been haphazard and involved a lot of guesswork – it certainly got me re-assessing my own long-held views that if the others around him had been more understanding or proactive back in the day, then the suicide could have been prevented.

mp3 : Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart

18 May 2020 will mark the 40th anniversary of the suicide, and will be a time when you’ll be sure to read many tributes, words and reflections across all forms of media. I’m willing to bet that none of them will better what Jon Savage has delivered across these 326 pages.

JC

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS (16/22)

Album : Unknown Pleasure – Joy Division
Review : Melody Maker, 21 July 1979
Author : Jon Savage

“To talk of life today is like talking of rope in the house of a hanged man.” Where will it end?

The point is so obvious. It’s been made time and time again. So often that it’s a truism, if not a cliche. Cry wolf, yet again. At the time of writing, our very own mode of (Western,advanced, techno-) capitalism is slipping down the slope to it’s terminal phase: critical mass. Things fall apart. The cracks get wider: more paper is used, with increasing ingenuity, to cover them. Madness implodes, as people are slowly crushed, or, perhaps worse, help in crushing others. The abyss beckons: nevertheless, a febrile momentum keeps the train on the tracks. The question that lies behind the analysis (should, of course, you agree) is what action can anyone take?

One particular and vigorous product of capitalism’s excess has been pop music, not so much because of the form’s intrinsic merit (if any) but because, for many, bar football, it’s the only arena going in this country, at least. So vigorous because so much has to be channeled into so small a space: rebellion, creation, dance, sex energy, and this space, small as it is, is a market ruled by commerce, and excess of money. It’s as much as anyone can do, it seems, to accept the process andcarefully construct their theatre for performance and sale in halls in the flesh, in rooms and on radios (if you’re very lucky) in the plastic. The limits imposed especially as far as effective action goes) by this iron cycle of creation to consumption are as hard to break as they are suffocating.

“Trying to find a clue/trying to find a way/trying to get out!” “Unknown Pleasures” is a brave bulletin, a danceable dream; brilliantly, a record of place. Of one particular city, Manchester: your reviewer might very well be biased (after all, he lives there) but it is contended that “Unknown Pleasures,” in defining reaction and adjustment to place so accurately, makes the specific general, the particular a paradigm.

“To the centre of the city in the night waiting for you…” Joy Division‘s spatial, circular themes and Martin Hannett‘s shiny, waking-dream production gloss are one perfect reflection of Manchester’s dark spaces and empty places: endless sodium lights and hidden semis seen from a speeding car, vacant industrial sites – the endless detritus of the 19th century – seen gaping like rotten teeth from an orange bus. Hulme seen from the fifth floor on a threatening, rainy day… This is not, specifically, to glamourise; it could be anywhere. Manchester, as a (if not the) city of the Industrial Revolution, happens only to be a more obvious example of decay and malaise.

That Joy Division’s vision is so accurate is a matter of accident as much as of design: “Unknown Pleasures,” which together with recent gigs captures the group at some kind of peak, is a more precise, mature version of the confused anger and dark premonitions to be found (in their incarnation as Warsaw) on the skimpy “Electric Circus” blue thing, the inchoate “Ideal For Living” EP, and their unreleased LP from last year. As rarely happens, the timing is just right.

The song titles read as an opaque manifesto; “Disorder,” “Day Of The Lords,” “Candidate,” “Insight,” “New Dawn Fades” – to recite the first, aptly named, “Outside”. Loosely, they restate outsider themes (from Celine on in): the preoccupations and reactions of individuals caught in a trap they dimly perceive – anger, paranoia, alienation, feelings of thwarted power, and so on. Hardly pretty, but compulsive.

Again, these themes have been stated so often as to be cliches: what gives Joy Division their edge is the consistency of their vision – translated into crude musical terms, the taut danceability of their faster songs, and the dreamlike spell of their slower explorations. Both rely on the tense, careful counterpoint of bass (Peter Hook), drums (Stephen Morris) and guitar (Bernard Dickin): Ian Curtis‘ expressive, confused vocals croon deeply over recurring musical patterns which themselves mock any idea of escape.

LIve, he appears possessed by demons, dancing spastically and with lightning speed, unwinding and winding as the rigid metal music folds and unfolds over him. Recording, as ever, demands a different context: Hannett imposes a colder, more controlled hysteria together with an ebb and flow – songs merge in and out with one another in a brittle, metallic atmosphere. The album begins unequivocally with “Disorder”: “I’ve been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand”; the track races briskly, with ominous organ swirls – at the end, Curtis intones “Feeling feeling feeling” in the exact tone of someone who’s not sure he has any left.

Two slower songs follow, both based on massively accented drumming and rumbling bass – in their slow, relentless sucking tension, they pursue confusion to a dreamlike state: “Day Of The Lords” is built around a wrenching chorus of “Where will it end?” while the even sparser “Candidate” fleshes out the bare rhythm section with chance guitar ambience. In a story of failed connection and obscure madness, Curtis intones: “I tried to get to you” – ending with the pertinent “It’s just second nature/It’s what we’ve been shown/We’re living by your rules/That’s all that we’ve known.”

The album’s two aces are “Insight” and “She’s Lost Control”; here, finally, Gary Glitter meets the Velvet Underground. Both rely on rock-hard echoed drumming and bass recorded well up to take the melody – the guitar provides textural icing and thrust over the top.

The former leads out of “Candidate” with a suitable hesitation: whirring Leslie ambience leads to a door slamming, then a slow bass/drum fade into the song. The attractive, bouncing melody belies the lyrics: “But I don’t care anymore/I’ve lost the will to want more” – at the end Curtis croons, his voice treated, ghostly: “I’m not afraid anymore” to drown in a flurry of electronic noise from the synthesised snare.

“She’s Lost Control”, remixed to emphasise guitar and percussion, is a possible hit single: it’s certainly the obvious track for radio play. Deep and dark vocals ride over an irresistible, circular backing that threatens to break loose but never does: the tension ends in a crescendo of synthesised noise.

On the “Inside,” three faster tracks follow – mutated heavy pop, all built around punishing rhythms and riffs it’d be tempting to call metal, except control is everywhere. “Shadowplay” is a metallic travelogue – the city at night – with Curtis fleeing internal demons; the following couple, “Interzone” and “Wilderness,” wind the mesh even tighter.

“Wilderness” externalises things into Lovecraftian fantasy,all echoed drumming and sickening guitar slides, while “Interzone” moves through a clipped, perfect introduction to guitar shrills and “Murder Mystery” mumbles: “Down the dark street the houses look the same trying to find a way trying to find a clue trying to get out! Light shine like a neon tune no time to lose no place to stop no place to go…”

Both sides, finally, end with tracks – “New Dawn Fades” and “I Remember Nothing” – so slow and atmospheric that alienation becomes a waking dream upon which nothing impinges: “Me in my own world…”

Leaving the 20th Century is difficult; most people prefer to go back and nostalgise, Oh Boy. Joy Division at least set a course in the present with contrails for the future – perhaps you can’t ask for much more. Indeed, “Unknown Pleasures” may very well be one of the best  white, english, debut LPs of the year.

Problems remain; in recording place so accurately, Joy Division are vulnerable to any success the album may bring – once the delicate relationship with the environment is altered or tampered with, they may never produce anything as good again. And, ultimately, in their desperation and confusion about decay, there’s somewhere a premise that what has decayed is more valuable than what is to follow. The strengths of the album, however, belie this.

Perhaps it’s time we all started facing the future. How soon will it end?

mp3 : Joy Division – Disorder
mp3 : Joy Division – Shadowplay

JC adds : No matter how you look at it, this is an extraordinary review.  It opens with a quote from Raoul Vaneigem, a Belgian writer closely associated with the Situationist movement, that refers to suicide by hanging, the ultimate fate of Ian Curtis less than a year later. It also quotes the lyrics extensively, hinting at the troubled mind of the songwriter, and yet in the period after his death his bandmates would state constantly that they weren’t aware of what exactly was being sung, that they paid no attention and as such weren’t aware of the mental state of their friend. It does beg a few questions, not least whether any of the musicians of Joy Division actually read the album reviews…..

It’s now more than 40 years since the release of Unknown Pleasures and it still gets millions of words devoted to it on a yearly basis as fans, old and new, try to make sense of it all.  I don’t think, however, anyone has ever written anything as chilling as ‘Joy Division are vulnerable to any success the album may bring’.

 

 

LWTUA

Hard to believe, but I’ve never had a post dedicated to Love Will Tear Us Apart. Plenty of Joy Division stuff, including an ICA in which the song was featured, but never any sort of in-depth look or attempt at discussion.

Let’s get some of the basic facts out-of-the-way.

The song was written around August 1979 and was quickly included in the band’s live sets. It was recorded on 26 November 1979 for a session for the John Peel Show on BBC Radio 1 which was broadcast on 10 December 2017. The producer was Tony Wilson…..but not the bloke who ran Factory Records….this particular Tony Wilson was almost part of the furniture at the BBC, heavily involved in all sorts of radio sessions and live events from the 60s to the 90s.

mp3 : Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart (Peel Session)

The band would make its first effort to record the song on 8 January 1980, with the location being Pennine Studios, in Oldham, a town some 7 miles north-east of Manchester, with a view to it being a stand-alone single. Indeed, the intended b-side, These Days, was also recorded that same day.

mp3 : Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart (Pennine version)
mp3 : Joy Division – These Days

Martin Hannett was on production duties that day, and while the recording was in the vein of how the band had been performing the song in the live sets, the perfectionist in him meant he was far from satisfied with the outcome. As it turned out, Ian Curtis too was unhappy with the recording and was quick to agree that everyone should reconvene and try again.

This time, in March 1980, they booked into one of Hannett’s favoured locations, the increasingly popular and sophisticated Strawberry Studios in Stockport, a place into which successful chart act 10cc had heavily invested in the hope and with the aim of providing a top studio in the Greater Manchester area so that they, and other local bands, wouldn’t have to head to London to work. It was a long and trying session as evidenced by drummer Stephen Morris being awakened by a 4am telephone call to his home with Hannett on the other end of the line demanding he drive back to Stockport as a fresh input on the snare drum was required.

mp3 : Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart

Everyone declared themselves happy with this version and plans were put in place for it to be released in June 1980 in advance of the release of the band’s second album. Peter Savile was again engaged to come up with appropriate artwork, with his brief in keeping with previous Joy Division 45s to have different sleeves for the 7” and 12” versions, although the contents on vinyl would be the same, with the two tracks recorded at Pennine to be the b-side and the Strawberry version being the a-side. The 12” version would not be differently mixed or extended in any shape or form.

Tony Wilson (yes, THAT one and not the bloke from the Beeb) loved what he was hearing and felt the band had come up with a song that was capable of crossing over into daytime radio and persuaded them that a first ever promo video should be made. Filming took place on 25 April 1980 at the TJ Davidson studio in Manchester, an old haunt of the band from the pre-Factory days.

It’s worth mentioning that while the video has Ian Curtis playing guitar, and indeed while he did strum some chords when it was aired live, the part in the studio was played entirely by Bernard Sumner.

Less than a month later, on 18 May 1980, Ian Curtis committed suicide. What no-one outside of those closest to the band knew was that he’d previously attempted to take his life shortly after the Strawberry Studios session and in advance of the shooting of the promo video.

It’s been well documented that none of his band mates or those at Factory at the time equated the mental state of Ian Curtis with the songs he was writing and recording. Nor did they give any consideration to deviating from the timetable agreed for the issuing of the single and subsequent album. Nor did they think that the coincidental art work was in any way controversial or problematic, and to be fair nobody else said much at the time either:-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Will Tear Us Apart reached the shops in mid-June, entering into the charts on Sunday 29 June where it enjoyed a 16-week stay. Yes, some of the initial sales might have been driven by the suicide but the fact it climbed all the way to #13 proved that the man in charge of the label had been right all along and that it was a bona-fide radio friendly pop song.

Next year will see the 40th anniversary of the song. Unlike many from the era, it hasn’t dated in the slightest which would indicate that Hannett got the recording spot on. The opening chords have made it instantly recognisable to generation after generation of music fans which would indicate that it is a real earworm of a tune. It has been covered in many different guises over the years, many of the versions being ghastly to the point of unlistenable. It has received the ultimate popular recognition with the tune later being adopted by football fans at Manchester United with a lyric adjustment to pay homage to Ryan Giggs, one of the most famous players in their long and illustrious history.

It constantly appears in polls – NME in 2002 proclaimed it the best single of all time, while two years later Rolling Stone magazine had it as #179 in a list of the ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time’ which is some achievement for a track that wasn’t widely known or available in the USA until many years after its initial release.

Other musicians have lavished praise on it , none more so than Neil Tennant of the Pet Shops Boys – a man who has forgotten more about great pop music than many of the rest of us will ever know – who is on record as saying Love Will Tear Us Apart is his favourite ever pop song.

Me? I bought it immediately on its release, just a few days after my 17th Birthday. Loved it then, but didn’t think it was as good a record as Transmission. Nowadays, I can’t compare the two songs as they are so different sounding despite being released less than nine months apart.

Love Will Tear Us Apart is a song of great mystery, capable of so many interpretations. It sounds like no other Joy Division song. It is an upbeat and danceable number completely at odds with its lyric in which the protagonist is despairing of what life has become. Life with his loved one has gone sour – routine is biting hard, ambitions are running low, the atmosphere in the bedroom is icy cold and the complete breakdown in communication has led to a lack of respect on both sides. It really doesn’t get much more brutal and depressing than that does it?

The subsequent books and films have led to an acceptance that the song was an effort to provide an apology and explanation to Deborah Curtis over Ian’s affair with Annik Honore. But it could just as easily be interpreted as being for Annik as a way of Ian explaining that he was unable to completely give up on his wife and young daughter.

It’s also been held up as the song which drove the singer completely over the edge given its desperate nature. Again, this isn’t the recollection of those who were closest to him at the time and Ian seemed more troubled by his epilepsy than by his complicated love life.

One thing it most certainly can’t be labelled is ‘cult classic’ – it is far too well-known for that to be the case. It’s impossible to say with any certainty whether the subsequent chart success, with Ian Curtis remaining alive, would have led Joy Division to make more pop-orientated records or whether they would have retreated back into a shell to churn out the gothic and doomy anthems which found favour with the overcoat brigade. Love Will Tear Us Apart stands alone in the band’s canon, justifiably capable of being proclaimed as one of the most important and influential songs in musical history.

Who’s with me on this one?

JC

THE GREAT TRANSITION…A THREE PART MINI-SERIES (3)

A GUEST SERIES by DAVE GLICKMANN

PART 3

The final part of our series on the Joy Division/New Order transition will tell the story of the, previously mentioned, Western Works session.

As I said in Part 1, I would be stealing quite liberally from the previous work of Analog Loyalist (A.L.); that is even more so the case here. For those interested in exploring A.L.’s work further, let me refer you to two older blogs – New Order Archive and The Power Of Independent Trucking. Regrettably, his work with the Recycle Project no longer resides on the web, though perhaps you might be able to rescue some of it with the Wayback Machine.

A.L., himself, did the mastering of the tracks from the tape reel pictured above, first in 2009, and then again in 2012. Here is his version of the story:

As Joy Division, they were close with Sheffield’s Cabaret Voltaire, having shared several gigs and compilation records with the Cabs. At some point, JD was going to work with the Cabs in the Cabs’ own Western Works Studio in Sheffield, but this opportunity had not yet come to pass at the time of Ian’s death.

Suddenly with no lead singer and a wide-open new beginning, the survivors (now known as New Order) took the Cabs up on their offer and decamped to Western Works on 7 September 1980, just two days after their third gig post-Ian. Safely away from the spotlight, and with no Martin Hannett to impose his will on the session, the band laid down several tracks with the Cabs’ Chris Watson engineering.

These tracks show the band’s emotions – both musical and lyrical – laid out to bare themselves to the world. Hesitant yet brave, restrained yet oddly forward-looking, New Order find themselves seeking the path at this very early stage – a path that would not be truly explored publicly for at least another 12 months – that would lead them out of the Joy Division shadow into completely new realms of song craft.

This material has been circulating amongst New Order fans since the early 1980s but never before heard by the general public in this release-ready quality.

Kind souls, who wish to remain anonymous rescued this material from a 1/4″ reel of tape that was up for auction on eBay, advertised as something else, and it was only in the reel transfer that it was discovered what this reel actually contained. It’s been theorized that if this is not the master reel itself from the studio mixdown sessions, it’s at the very least a direct, professional copy of it.

The reel was advertised as being rescued in a Chorlton charity shop, and was described as containing “unreleased” Joy Division mixes, specifically “She’s Lost Control” and “Atmosphere”. Alas, neither are unreleased mixes – the reel contained test pressing vinyl captures of the FACUS2 “She’s Lost Control” b/w “Atmosphere” 12″ single, and a transfer of the Sordide Sentimental 7″ “Atmosphere”, presumably for comparison sake. Nothing JD on the reel was unreleased, and in fact both were of fairly poor quality for a vinyl transfer to reel. Not listed on the reel, and not mentioned in the auction description, was the New Order material.

So what New Order material was on the reel?

1. Dreams Never End (mix 1)
2. Dreams Never End (mix 2)
3. Homage
4. Ceremony
5. Truth
6. Are You Ready Are You Ready Are You Ready For This?

We’ve already taken a look at Homage and Ceremony in previous installments of this series. A.L. will take you through the rest:

New Order – Dreams Never End (Western Works mix 1)
New Order – Dreams Never End (Western Works mix 2)

First we have two different mixes – but the same base recording – of “Dreams Never End”. The first version is the common version that had already circulated – albeit in much poorer quality – amongst the fans. The second version, however, is a heretofore-unknown alternate mix featuring much louder guitars than the original take – but besides that, it’s identical to the first take. Both takes slower than the version eventually recorded for the debut LP in 1981, this track even more so sounds like bassist (and singer on this track) Peter Hook’s own little memorial to Ian. “A long farewell to your love and soul” indeed.

New Order – Truth (Western Works)

Steve Morris is on lead vocals for this version of “Truth” which, even at this early stage, is remarkably similar to what they’d end up doing with the track when recording it for their debut LP in 1981 (except with Bernard on vocals). I particularly like this version though, it’s much more poignant, fragile and spacious – as it should be – than the released variant.

New Order – Are You Ready Are You Ready Are You Ready For This? (Western Works)

The biggest revelation of the reel: A heretofore-unknown new New Order track, or rather, a collaboration with the Cabs and New Order, featuring none other than NO manager Rob Gretton on lead vocals! What is special about “Are You Ready…” though is that, Rob’s vocals aside, musically it shows the band taking great liberties with the established Joy Division sound – and the early New Order sound – and is very much so a signpost to the musical path the band would further explore starting with fall 1981’s “Everything’s Gone Green”.

Those who have had doubts about New Order’s involvement in the NO/Cabs jam “Are You Ready Are You Ready Are You Ready For This?” – doubt no further. A member of New Order – who was, of course, there at the time, he was in the band! – was the direct, to me, source of this information, not secondhand or third hand.

When the reel was obtained, this track was completely unknown and it was just pure speculation at the time that it was a Cabs/NO jam. I had this New Order member identify it for me – it was he who revealed its title to me – and this same member also confirmed the instrumentation:

Hooky – bass
Bernard – guitar (and “whooping” in the background)
Steve – Simmons drums, and the same Dr Rhythm drum machine used on Truth
Rob Gretton – vocals
various Cabs – sonic alterations

Many of you may already be familiar with this material, but for those of you who are not, I will wait just a minute for you to pick up your jaws off the floor.

DG

THE GREAT TRANSITION…A THREE PART MINI-SERIES (2)

A GUEST SERIES by DAVE GLICKMANN

PART 2

Continuing our exploration of the Joy Division/New Order transition, today we ask the question “What is the ultimate transitional track?”

Of course, it is hard to even know how to approach this topic without defining what we mean by this.

* Is it a Joy Division track where we can see the first signs of musical ideas that became the basis for New Order’s sound?

* Or, perhaps a New Order composition that looks back at Joy Division one more time?

* Maybe a song with its feet firmly planted in both the past and the future at the same time?

* Or, that moment where the past was fully shed and the survivors broke through completely into their new identity?

As is the custom in this series, no answers, just music.

Looking Forward

In preparing to write this post, I tried as hard as I could to convince myself that Love Will Tear Us Apart contained hints of what was to come, but, I just couldn’t get there. Sure, the music is much more upbeat and happier than the rest of the Joy Division catalog (the lyrics, not so much). Perhaps it points in a direction that the band might have explored further if Ian hadn’t died. However, at least to me, that direction is not towards the sound that New Order ultimately explored.

On the other hand, there is this little ditty that was buried on the b-side of the free Komakino flexi-disc.

Joy Division – As You Said

Here are the thoughts of 50 Pound Note from The Recycle Project:

To me, As You Said is a clear “eff off” to the deniers who say Joy Division would never have gotten into all that synthy disco bullshit. The signs were there.

Looking Back

Naturally, the two songs we looked at last time,  the Joy Division compositions released as the first New Order single, are candidates for this category. This seems particularly true of In A Lonely Place which strikes me as a Joy Division track through and through. Of course, Part 1 already explored this territory in great detail. So, instead, let’s take a look at something much more obscure.

At the Western Works session (yes, I still promise that we will get to the Western Works story before we are done), Bernard tried out his homage to Ian. At least, that’s how I read lyrics like “This is the only time that I; Thought I had seen the signs; Well, I did… I’ll never know.” It sure sounds like a Joy Division composition to me. Given its raw, emotional content, perhaps it is none too surprising that this song was not pursued further by the band.

New Order – Homage (Western Works)

A.L. was kind enough to transcribe the lyrics while remastering the session in 2012:

This smile the unborn child reaction’s taken, forsaken
These scenes pervaded me in a way that
People seldom see

This is the only time that I thought I had
Seen the signs and I wait, I’ll never know

In this room
The blind pass through
In this room
I think of you
In this room

In this room

Darkness will vanish soon
I awake, always in this room
All days will fall and rise
Helplessly, I watch these figures cry

This sense of needless rejection
Always the sense of reason
Carelessly lead me astray

In this room
The blind pass through
In this room
I think of you
In this room
Father, please don’t forsake me now
In this room
Father, please don’t forsake me now
In this room

People always ask for dreams
Revelation in a dream

A life that is so scared

This is the only time that I
Thought I had seen the signs
Well, I did… I’ll never know

Standing In The Middle

It is hardly a controversial view to suggest that New Order’s debut album, Movement, was a transitional work, standing squarely between Joy Division and the New Order that was to come. It’s clear that they were moving forward, albeit not very far.

Peter Hook’s view of the album is both insightful and entertaining:

We were confused musically … Our songwriting wasn’t coming together. I don’t know how we pulled out of that one. I actually liked Movement, but I know why nobody else likes it. It was good for the first two-and-a-half minutes, then it dipped.

While Movement wasn’t a critical success, I can certainly admit to enjoying it both then and now. Of course, it doesn’t hold a candle to PC&L, but I’m still willing to give it a spin on occasion. In any case, for our purposes today, any song off the album will demonstrate this idea of standing between the past and the future. How about this one?

New Order – ICB

Breaking Through

Although they are, in general, better than the album material, the other two singles from the Movement period – Procession and Everything’s Gone Green – along with the two b-sides, strike me as being cut from largely the same cloth, another small step forward perhaps. So I conclude, rather unoriginally, that New Order’s breakthrough moment came with the next single, Temptation. JC says as much in his November 12th post without saying it at all.

While one of my goals in this series has been to avoid posting tracks that were already shared during the singles review, in this case, it simply is not possible. So, here’s a repeat of the original 12” version. Why that one? Because, as everyone knows, it is the longest and the best!

New Order – Temptation (12” version)

Oh, and just because you asked, I have steel blue (or are they grey) eyes.

DG

THE GREAT TRANSITION…A THREE PART MINI-SERIES (1)

A GUEST SERIES by DAVE GLICKMANN

PART 1

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.

Joy Division – Ceremony (High Hall, Birmingham 2 May 1980)

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:

Joy Division – Ceremony (rehearsal tape)

Joy Division – In A Lonely Place (RSD 12” take)

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….)

Joy Division – In A Lonely Place (“Heart And Soul” full take, stereo)

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.

New Order – Ceremony (Western Works)

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.

New Order – In A Lonely Place (12” mix without thunderclap)

For the record, the official 7” edit is an early fade of this non-thunderclap mix.

DG

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #160 : JOY DIVISION

There’s a while bundle of ICAs in the pipeline, many of them from guest contributors.  I’m going to ration them to one per week for the time being so that they all get a decent amount of space and time to be absorbed.  I’ve also penned some myself and I’ll fit these in around everyone else’s….please keep them coming as they have become the mainstay of this blog.

It’s been a while, but I reckoned it was about time I took on another nigh-on impossible task.  If I said that I first thought about this last summer, you can hopefully get some idea of how often I’ve put down two sides of an ICA that I considered not only to be derivative but also the perfect running order….. only to change my mind.

In the end, I thought the best way to approach it was to imagine that I had been tasked with curating an album that was to be played to music fans who were receiving their first introduction to Joy Division. It still saw six takes discarded before I decidied that take seven had to be submitted on the basis that the project was about to run out of time and money. Here goes:-

FEEL IT CLOSING IN : A JOY DIVISION ICA

SIDE A

1. Digital

The earliest song to feature in the ICA and the one which provides its title. This was the band’s debut for a new Manchester-based record label, featuring as one of four acts on A Factory Sample alongside Cabaret Voltaire, The Durutti Column and John Dowie. (It’s just struck me that I’ve been lucky enough to see all four of these acts perform in the live setting).

We should all be honest and accept that the four earlier songs on An Ideal For Living don’t cut the mustard, being not much above demo quality.  As such, Digital is the band’s calling card. It was the first time the four musicians had worked closely with producer Martin Hannett and the outcome was something that blended old style punk – have a listen to the guitar solo which is more than a nodding tribute to early Buzzcocks – with a cold, hypnotic almost artificial sound that was unlike anything any of us had much experience of in the late 70s. And, of course, there’s that voice.

2. Transmission

A guest posting from Dave Glickmann in August 2017 described Transmission as the first true kickass JD track; my own thoughts were articulated at length when I placed it at #6 on my 45 45s at 45 rundown – Hooky’s basslines grab you in, Stephen’s drumming sets a beat that makes you want to jump out of your seat while Barney’s guitar work reminds you of the punk ethos when anyone could pick up an instrument and play. But it’s THAT voice that makes the song so very special. It’s the sound of someone reaching deep inside his own soul and then straining it through every nerve in his body before hitting the listener in the chest with its power and authority. And just as you think he can hit you no more, he screams…..

‘And we can Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaance’

I did. As did many others.

3. Atmosphere

It’s not all about dancing mind you. A song I didn’t own for a long while after it had been released. It sort of beggars belief that something this immense, epic and masterful was intended to be restricted to a limited edition 45 available only in France. The death of Ian Curtis changed everything for his band mates and his record label, and while the decision to reissue Atmosphere was an early signal that the rules had changed, it never displayed any facets of a cynical cash-in. This was a song that deserved to be widely heard, and in the pre-internet age, the only way that could be achieved was via radio or in your own bedroom on a turntable or cassette player. Tony Wilson et al did us all a huge favour, even more so in 1988 when it was re-released again to promote a singles compilation, when acclaimed photographer Anton Corjbin was commissioned to direct a promotional video which itself set in train the idea of a film bio to be shot in a similarly monochrome style.

4. Dead Souls

The Sound of Being OK team are running a delightful series looking at some of the best b-sides of all time with Joy Division featuring as a result of me penning something for them about These Days, the flip side of Love Will Tear Us Apart. I’d have been equally happy to warble on about Dead Souls, the b-side of the original French release of Atmosphere, which, incidentally was limited to just 1578 copies and is worth an absolute fortune these days (pun intended).

I can’t ever recall hearing Dead Souls, which had been recorded at the tail end of 1979, until the release of the double-album Still in October 1981. Even then, it was only thanks to a friend putting the song on a cassette tape for me as I couldn’t afford to buy the new record; besides, it consisted mainly of what was a fairly substandard live performance which one listen was felt to be enough. It would take until 1997 before I really for the opportunity to appreciate the song when I was able to splash out on the 4-CD box set Heart and Soul.

The song obtained a certain amount of notoriety, stemming in part from its title (which like many JD songs isn’t part of the actual lyric) and that many fans, in the wake of the death of Ian Curtis, interpreted the chorus as alluding to suicidal thoughts. I’ve never bought into that. This is one of those songs, stuck on a b-side, that was completely overshadowed by the a-side which is a damn shame as it has proved to be one of their most enduring songs in which the trio playing the instruments got to sound as powerful and terrifying as the vocal delivery.

5. Isolation

A tune that wouldn’t sound out-of-place in the early catalogue of New Order, this is part of the evidence I’ll present to argue against anyone who says that Ian Curtis would have been dismayed and appalled by the music his mates would go onto make in their next band. It is impossible to second-guess what might have happened hadn’t he taken his life. The subsequent tour of America may have exposed him to new sights, sounds and experiences that would have been reflected in his writing, or it might well have been that the strains of such hard work would have really exposed his physical and mental wellbeing to the extent that he would no longer want to be part of a band. Nobody can say with any sort of certainty.

Isolation gives a hint of where the music could have gone…..as equally do the songs I’ll come to on Side B of this ICA….that the remaining three members went increasingly down the synths and electronica route indicates to me that Ian would likely have gone along with them.

SIDE B

1. Disorder

The tempo and rhythm of the opening track on Unknown Pleasures always reminds me of Transmission. Most labels would probably have pushed for this to be considered as a single to be lifted from the album but Factory weren’t that business orientated. It’s long been recognised that She’s Lost Control is a song that reflects on epilepsy but there’s been less acknowledgement that Disorder, and in particular its second verse, has the singer trying to articulate the things that are going wrong with him:-

It’s getting faster, moving faster now
It’s getting out of hand
On the tenth floor, down the back stairs
It’s a no man’s land
Lights are flashing, cars are crashing
Getting frequent now
I’ve got the spirit, lose the feeling
Let it out somehow.

The thing is, nobody outside of the tight confines of the band knew of his condition and the lyric only really began to make sense much later on.

2. Love Will Tear Us Apart

Millions of words have been written about LWTUA and I don’t have anything new or fresh to add. One thing that does stand out for me, however, is that despite it being by far and away the most popular and most aired of their songs, I never ever get tired of hearing it. Oh, and I’m pleased that a promo video was shot for it as it did provide some high-quality footage of the band before it became tragically too late.

3. Shadowplay

This is the song which most likely introduced the band to a wider audience of Mancunians and other residents of north-west England (aka Granadaland) given it was performed on their debut TV appearance in September 1978 when Tony Wilson, at long last after much badgering from Ian Curtis and Rob Gretton, gave them a slot on Granada Reports, the regional evening news programme on which he was a presenter (as well as mover and shaker when it came to the musical segments). It’s a brooding, dark, claustrophobic number that has always seemed to me to be of the ‘It’s Grim Up North’ genre that so many of the 70s/80s bands from that part of the map which incorporates Liverpool to Leeds via all points, would prove so adept and capable of churning out with what seemed like little effort but much aplomb.

4. The Eternal
5. Decades

I’ve said before that ICAs can seem like an impossible task. I’ve spent weeks trying to pull this one off and I’m not 100% convinced that I’ve succeeded. It’s impossible to think about Joy Division without thinking about the tragic circumstances they had to deal with.

Closer was a really tough listen to begin with and its final two tracks in particular. The tunes were of a funereal pace and the words felt as if they were from someone on the edge of the despair. As has been said so many times since, how could anyone not have spotted that the lyricist was in a bad way and in a shockingly bad place. I was 17 years of age and to be honest, I wanted my music, as much as possible to be vibrant, uplifting and occasionally danceable. Joy Division had already generated a few moments like that and it was those types of songs that were on heavy rotation, Side 2 of Closer was a tough, and at times impossible, listen.  But then I got older and life threw a few more experiences at me. My musical tastes matured and The Eternal and Decades, were no longer impenetrable.

Oh, and the reason I have them together, just as they are on the parent LP, is that I cannot bring myself to separate them. I don’t know how many compilation cassettes, CDs or digital lists that I’ve compiled for folk over the years – I suspect it runs into four-figures – but I have never included either of these on any of them. They simply have to be listened to back-to-back.

I’d like to dedicated this ICA to Jacques the Kipper. Nothing to do with him being a particularly big fan of Joy Division (although he is….but he prefers to look forward than back). It’s more that I feel this could form the soundtrack to our friendship these past near 30 years. He’s always been there, in the words of Rev Al Green, whether times have been good or bad, happy or sad. Cheers mate.

JC

PS : The teams for edition two of the ICA World Cup, due to take place in 2020, are beginning to shape up very nicely!

PPS : Sad man that I am, I’ve already thought of a similar type of competition, but with a twist, for 2019.  Let’s just say, it will be a collegiate effort – all will be revealed in the very fullness of time.

OCD EPs : #6 : JOY DIVISION

A GUEST POSTING from DAVE GLICKMAN

OCD EP #6 – Joy Division

Quite honestly, I hardly feel worthy writing about a band so seminal to the post-punk movement that I generally prefer to sit in silent reverence and awe. Fortunately, thanks to the wonderful New Order/Joy Division Recycle project of several years back it has all been written before (almost certainly more accurately than I would be able to muster). And since, the Recycle site has long since been deleted, I feel no shame in reposting their words.

When it comes to assembling a Joy Division OCD EP, the exercise is really not more difficult than asking, “Was it compiled on Heart and Soul?” Here are four that were not, with notes from the Recycle team.

Side One

1. Digital (Genetic Demo)

[This] is a diligent – and FAST – run through for (and produced by) Martin Rushent, part of a series of demos recorded at Eden Studios, London on 4 March 1979 for Genetic Records. Oddly enough the only track from these sessions not to be released on Heart and Soul, I find this take – while pedestrian – as gravitating as the Hannett recording. Slightly cleaned up from a low-generation cassette copy, [this track was] originally sourced in the early 1980s from an unnamed band member.

2. Atrocity Exhibition (Piccadilly Radio session)

[This] track was recorded on 3 June 1979 at Pennine Sound Studios, Oldham for Piccadilly Radio, produced by Stuart James. It is unknown if this session was ever actually broadcast. Four other tracks from this session (These Days, Candidate, The Only Mistake, Chance (Atmosphere)) were released on the Heart and Soul box set, but this track was held off. [Previously] available [only] on noisy bootleg releases, this particular version was sourced from the private collection of a longtime friend of the band, who received it from an unnamed band member in the early 1980s.

Side Two

3. Transmission (Central Sound Rough Mix)

4. Novelty (Central Sound Rough Mix)

The first true kickass JD track, Transmission and its sibling Novelty were recorded twice by Martin Hannett. The first attempt is captured here in never-before-heard quality. These were recorded in July 1979 at Manchester’s Central Sound Studios, and as the title implies, are presented here as “rough mix” versions. As far as we know these are the only versions that ever made it out from the masters. Two other tracks recorded at the same session, Dead Souls and Something Must Break, are on the Heart And Soul box set – though in lesser fidelity. [These tracks were] sourced from a recently-surfaced (Ed. note: at the time of the Recycle project) extremely low generation “rough mix” tape, from an unnamed band associate or member.

That’s it for bands in my library that warrant the OCD EP treatment, so unless any other readers want to pick up the gauntlet or until the “I’ve got to have everything they ever recorded” bug bites me again, it is time to say goodbye to this series.

DG

JC adds……but what a way to bow out!!!  I’m hoping Dave will come back again soon with more ideas.

 

CHARGED PARTICLES…..HERE’S JONNY!!!!!! (1)

A NEW GUEST SERIES FROM JONNY THE FRIENDLY LAWYER

CHARGED PARTICLES

I don’t have a music blog of my own but I gather I have something in common with JC and the regular contributors that do: Like you lot I was always the guy people asked to make mix tapes (and, later, playlists) for parties, trips, birthdays, etc.

One of the categories that people liked very much was called Charged Particles. These consisted of songs with one word titles ending with ION. That was the only thing they had in common. Turns out there are tons of them; I’ve got nearly 200 in my iTunes library and they always seem to combine interestingly. I mentioned doing something with the list when I met JC in Manchester and he said, ‘Ask me, I won’t say no, how could I?’

My thinking was that he could plug in a charged particle post when he was away or busy or couldn’t be bothered that day to put up a new one. The posts would be short and sweet and let the music do the talking. JC liked the idea okay and correctly guessed the songs I had in mine for the first one.

And here it is. Remember the only guideline is a single word ending in ion. Can it end in ‘ionS’? No, so no ‘Complications’ by Killing Joke. Does it count if you cram a bunch of words together like ‘StationtoStation’? Nope. How about if the word is preceded or followed by a phrase in parentheses? No, not that either. (Unless I feel like it.) Hyphens? Sure, why not.

Right, here we go: Today’s charged particles are by Manchester’s best or second best band, depending on your preference, in honor of the town where I got to meet the Vinyl Villain, at last:

Joy Division: Transmission
Joy Division: Auto-suggestion
Joy Division: Isolation
Joy Division: Incubation

JTFL

FORGIVE THE SELF-INDULGENCE TODAY

I found a copy of a posting from 2007 that even today, nearly ten years on, I’m quite proud of. The old blog was less than a year old and having just found my feet and gaining the confidence to post every day, I then found myself in Toronto for a five-month spell that prevented me blogging every day ( mainly a combination of pressure of work and not having access to the thousands of mp3 files I had lovingly created); but the time in Canada brought other great opportunities my way that more than made up for it.  Such as being among the first to see a stunning movie that I reviewed at the time.  From 9 September 2007….

This past week and a bit saw Mrs Villain join me for a short stay in Toronto. It was her first ever visit to the city, and we did loads of touristy things including going along to something that was part at the recently opened Toronto International Film Festival 2007.

We were lucky enough to get two tickets for Control. We had hoped to get to the first showing at 9.45pm on a Friday evening, but the tickets were impossible to obtain. But we had the consolation of getting to the second and final showing, albeit at the ungodly hour of 9am on a Saturday morning.

First surprise was that we were far from alone. The cinema was almost full to capacity with maybe the best part of 1,000 folk inside. Second surprise that it was not an audience entirely made up of music fans – just behind us we heard one exchange along the lines of “Was this guy Curtis some sort of cult figure?”. The third surprise was a brief personal appearance by Anton Corbijn, who expressed his delight that so many people would come along so early in the morning to watch a black and white feature by a first-time film director.

The effort of getting out of bed at such an ungodly hour on a weekend was more than worth it. Control is an exceptional piece of work. I’ve long been a fan of Corbijn’s photographs and videos, so I had a fair idea that it would look good. What I wasn’t prepared for was the level of performances from just about everyone in the film.

The part of Ian Curtis is played by the relatively little-known Sam Riley, and he does an unbelievable job. The more famous Samanatha Morton is outstanding as Deborah Curtis, especially in the second half of the movie as she begins to come to terms with how her husband is treating her.

The other young actors who play the members of the band – James Anthony Pearson (Bernard Sumner), Harry Treadaway (Steven Morris) and Joe Anderson (Peter Hook) are just about perfect, and not just because the roles called on them to play live. Bernard in particular comes across perfectly as the wide-eyed little-boy not quite believing that he’s making it as a musician.

While the overall mood of the film is, as you would expect sombre, the script is packed with some fantastic one-liners, some of which are delivered by Hooky, but most of whom belong to Rob Gretton who is played by another relatively unknown actor, Toby Kebbel.

If I have one gripe, it was that I wasn’t initially convinced by Craig Parkinson as Tony Wilson – most probably because I found myself comparing it to the way that Steve Coogan portrayed him in 24 Hour Party People – but I did find myself loosening up a bit as the movie progressed and appreciating his performance.

And there will be some people – there always are – who will be apoplectic with rage that the film has not stuck 100% to the facts. For example, Tony Wilson introducing them on So It Goes on Granada TV. In real life, Joy Division performed Shadowplay, but the film has them playing Transmission.

There’s also a number of occasions when the need to have the movie go along at a decent pace means some things appear just a bit too melodramatic – for instance, the inspiration for the lyrics behind She’s Lost Control.

I understand that Control will be coming out in the UK early in October. I also expect that not everyone will greet it with universal approval. For instance, Kevin Cummins, another photographer who worked with the band has said “The film lacks humour. It would appear that Corbijn has bought into the mythology surrounding the band…the crypto-fascist young men in their grey overcoats from the grim north of England. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

I think that’s a bit harsh, but then again it is a fact that in just under two hours, there’s no evidence of the light-hearted side of Ian Curtis (such as the well-documented high-jinks the band got up to when they undertook a tour as support to Buzzcocks).

There will be others who just don’t get it. There’s one scathing review kicking around on the web from the Reuters Hollywood Correspondent who saw the movie at Cannes back in May. He didn’t like Control because it doesn’t live up to the 1960s black and white movies set in Northern England that often starred Albert Finney or Tom Courtenay (and which were so beloved by Morrissey).

It’s a dreadful and lazy comparison to make- the films of the 60s were based on fictional novels whereas Control is of course based on real-life events – the only thing they have in common is that they are black and white films.

It is my view that Control falls into the category of ‘must-see’, especially if you are a fan of Anton Corbijn, Joy Division, Ian Curtis or indeed Samantha Morton.

Incidentally, I’m not ashamed to admit that I was in floods of tears at the end of the movie – as was Mrs V. Yes, we both knew how it was all going to end, but that didn’t stop the intensity of the performances from the two lead roles having a huge effect on us. We weren’t the only ones sobbing and sniffing away in Toronto. So take along your hankies….

song : Joy Division – Passover

2017 update

By now, I’m guessing all of you with any interest in the band or film-making will have seen Control.  I think my initial review, written and published the following morning after its second screeing at the 2007 festival has stood up well.

JC

AS OPENING TRACKS ON DEBUT LPs GO……

Joy-Division-Unknown-Pleasures-328894

……this is hard to beat.

I’ve been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand
Could these sensations make me feel the pleasures of a normal man?
These sensations barely interest me for another day
I’ve got the spirit, lose the feeling, take the shock away.

It’s getting faster, moving faster now, its getting out of hand
On the tenth floor, down the back stairs, its a no mans land
Lights are flashing, cars are crashing, getting frequent now
I’ve got the spirit, lose the feeling, let it out somehow.

What means to you, what means to me, and we will meet again
I’m watching you, I’m watching her, I’ll take no pity from you friends
Who is right, who can tell, and who gives a damn right now
Until the spirit new sensation takes hold, then you know
Until the spirit new sensation takes hold, then you know
Until the spirit new sensation takes hold, then you know.

I’ve got the spirit, but lose the feeling
I’ve got the spirit, but lose the feeling
Feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling.

mp3 : Joy Division – Disorder

That is all.

NINE YEARS AGO

1081403094_32ed30417c

I was living and working in Toronto. Jacques the Kipper sent me a text in case I didn’t get the news. I posted this on the blog.

DEATH OF A SALESMAN

I was saddened by the news of the death of Tony Wilson.

I’ve no doubt you’ll find some heartfelt tributes on loads of blogs, as well as a few less than kind remarks as there are many who thought the man was a twat. And let’s face it, he sometimes thought he was as well.

I’m not from Manchester, and perhaps not best placed to offer an opinion. But I’ll contend that Tony Wilson did as much as anyone in the latter part of the 20th Century to raise the profile of the city he’s most associated with. He helped transform it into a city where those of us who didn’t live there were jealous of those lucky enough to do so.

I only met him once. He came to Glasgow for a book reading of 24 Hour Party People, and it turned into a fabulous couple of hours. He was regally entertaining, with more than a hint of self-parody about his persona. Along with Bill Drummond, he was the one guy in the music industry that I would love to have been able to go down the pub with.

The world is a slightly poorer place without him being around. I hope the city gives him a great send-off.

song : Care – Sad Day For England

song : Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart (Pennine Version)

2016 Addendum….

The city did give him a great send-off and they’ve never forgotten him.  Here’s one of the most extraordinary and memorable things I’ve ever had the privilege of watching and listening to.

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (6)

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON TUESDAY 10 JUNE 2008

(and again on 1 November 2013)

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Joy Division, as a band, caused me huge problems. There I was, 16 years of age raving about them in the 5th Year Common Room when somebody threw an article from a music paper that declared the band and their followers to be Nazi/Fascists. How could this be so?

At that age, I wasn’t clever enough to argue my case….I just took it on the chin, and stopped admitting that I love the band. The records were hidden away in the style that other teenagers would hide porno mags – out of sight and only brought out when it was safe to do so. They were certainly never around when any mates came by.

Then one day, Ian Curtis hanged himself. The music papers were full of it. At school, it was suddenly OK to talk about the band again – they were now a chart success thanks to the posthumous release of Love Will Tear Us Apart.

Everyone rushed out and bought that single and then the LP Closer.

‘No wonder he killed himself if that’s the sort of music he was writing’ was the common consensus of the playground cognoscenti.

At the time I kind of believed it myself as nobody at that time, even within the confines of the group, really understood just how tortured he was trying to juggle his life, wife, child, mistress, illness and his music. I had the albums – and they were really dark and sometimes difficult to listen to. They were certainly no good for putting on at parties and hoping to ‘get off’ with a female classmate.

But everyone I knew adored LWTUA….it was something you could dance to. It was pop…it passed over quickly when you just absorbed its catchy chorus.

Was I the only one who realised that it was about pain and misery? The sort of pain and misery that hit you when, after spending what seemed like hours (but was probably only 10 minutes) trying to connect with the girl of your dreams at a party, only to later see her that evening ‘get off’ with someone else and then the news spread on Monday that she and the boy were ‘an item.’

Why didn’t I make a move?? Why didn’t I try to talk to her a bit about Joy Division and the other great records that no-one knew about – songs which were just so unlike anything else in yours or anybody’s record collection. Why hadn’t I made myself seem interesting???

LWTUA has always been a song to remind me of ‘what might have been’….

If I hadn’t been so quick to bow to peer pressure and ‘disown’ the band in public, would I have become the cool kid in class? Probably not…

If Ian Curtis had known how big this song was going to be, would he have taken his own life?? Sadly, I think he would have….

If this song hadn’t made so much money, what would have happened to Tony Wilson and Factory Records??? They probably wouldn’t have been solvent in 1982…

If Ian Curtis hadn’t written LWTUA, would some other tortured soul have come along a few years later and said the same thing??? Now that is a question of conjecture…..but I actually think someone would have. Who??? I have no idea….but someone, somewhere in time would have….David Gedge?

And yet….despite all of this, I still don’t think LWTUA is the best single that Barney, Hooky, Ian and Stephen (not forgetting Martin) released on an unsuspecting public. That honour belongs to this bit of plastic:-

mp3 : Joy Division – Transmission
mp3 : Joy Division – Novelty

Hooky’s basslines grab you in, Stephen’s drumming sets a beat that makes you want to jump out of your seat while Barney’s guitar work reminds you of the punk ethos when anyone could pick up an instrument and play.

But it’s THAT voice that sets this track apart. It’s the sound of someone reaching deep inside his own soul and then straining it through every nerve in his body before hitting the listener hard in the chest with its power and authority. And just as you think he can hit you no more he screams…

‘And We Can Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaance’.

I did. As did many others.

Things were never the same ever again.

READ IT IN BOOKS : TONY WILSON

index

(A RE-POST FROM OCTOBER 2009)

For more years than I care to remember, I always said that my ideal night out would be to sit down in a pub alongside Bill Drummond and Tony Wilson and just enjoy the conversation that would inevitably flow. Yes, it was all a pipe dream, and indeed it was something that, if it had been allowed to happen, would in all likelihood have been a bit of a disaster given the psychological make-up of my two heroes. I’m not sure if they would in fact have got on or whether the first barbed comment from one of them would have had the other storm off in a huff (possibly after a punch or two had been thrown).

But I just have a feeling that these two geniuses, who I think were among the most urbane, witty, talented, opinionated and intelligent people on the planet, would have just kept up a non-stop discussion in an entertaining and enlightening way on just about any subject under the sun or moon. And to have been in their collective company would have been a privilege as well as enormous fun.

But of course the premature death of Tony Wilson back in 2007 put paid to that ever happening, but even now, two years on from that very sad day, I’m still fascinated by the life and times of both men. And while Bill can continue to amuse and delight me with books like 17, it’s now down to others to keep Tony’s flame burning brightly.

The latest bit of work to do just that is You’re Entitled To An Opinion, which has been penned by David Nolan, a music journalist whose past works include Confused, a terrifically enlightening and enjoyable bio of Bernard Sumner which revealed in a far from sordid way, lots of things about the singer that helped fans get a better insight on what it was that drove him on. That particular book was an excellent example of a rock biography, clearly written by someone who was an admirer but who wasn’t afraid of offering a critical comment when the music or other aspects of the subject’s life deserved it.

I’m delighted to say that David Nolan has done an equally superb job with his look at Tony Wilson, and You’re Entitled To An Opinion is a tremendous read with all sorts of facts and information that were new to me, particularly the early chapters on his upbringing, and the later chapters that deal with the last few months of Tony’s life as he battled a particularly violent form of cancer.

What we get isn’t just a re-hash of Tony Wilson, the music mogul who arguably did as much as anyone else to raise the profile of Manchester over the last quarter of the 20th Century and help with its regeneration as a modern, vibrant city far removed from the greyness and grime that was the legacy of its industrial past. There’s loads in this book about Anthony Wilson (or sometimes Anthony H Wilson) the journalist/reporter who many of his contemporaries reckon could have been a giant in that field if he hadn’t been so distracted by his love of music and the lifestyle of musicians. There’s also substantial details about his family/private life which prove to essential in helping readers understand some of Tony’s behaviour over the years, and in particular his ‘devil may care’ approach to business.

But of course the centrepiece of the book is The Factory Years, from the founding of a club, to the forming of a label, to the forming of THE club, to it all crashing down around their ears and the subsequent small re-launches in the 21st century.

The author has spoken to dozens of people who knew or worked with Tony Wilson, and not all them are always complimentary. But this doesn’t mean David Nolan has given us a book with all sorts of spite directed at the man who himself accepted most seemed to know him as ‘Wanker Wilson’. I lost count of the times where a narrative would end with something along the lines of ‘But that was just typical of Tony’ which should give you all an idea that this was a man it was near impossible to hate. But there are one or two life-long enemies out there who do get their say….as with all good bios, the reader is then free to make up their own mind.

Some of the anecdotes are less than serious – such as the time Tony was dispatched to Liverpool to cover a story and how his worst fears of his car getting stolen were eventually realised in a way that was both funny and imaginative on the part of the thieves. Others are moving, including Tony’s battle for the right sort of medical treatment for his illness. Others debunk some of the myths and/or legends that have grown up around Tony Wilson, without belittling his many achievements for instance – the facts surrounding the Sir Keith Joseph/Mad Monk interview are laid out and while not as outrageous as the scenario painted in the film/book 24 Hour Party People, it still shows Tony at his mischievous but self-destructing best.

You’re Entitled To An Opinion is a book that will be appreciated and enjoyed by anyone who has ever had any interest in any facet of Factory Records, Granada TV or indeed the city of Manchester itself.

And here’s the last song ever played at the Hacienda (not that anyone knew it at the time):-

mp3 : Sneaker Pimps – Post Modern Sleaze

And this post wouldn’t be complete without these bands….

mp3 : Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart (Pennine Version)
mp3 : New Order – Confusion (Rough Mix)

Both taken from 12″ singles that have followed me wherever I’ve lived over the past near 30 years…..

MY ALL TIME TOP TEN SINGLES : TRANSMISSION by JOY DIVISION

R-11541-1233423319

Joy Division, as a band, caused me huge problems. There I was, 16 years of age raving about them in the 5th Year Common Room when somebody threw an article from a music paper that declared the band and their followers to be Nazi/Fascists. How could this be so?

At that age, I wasn’t clever enough to argue my case….I just took it on the chin, and stopped admitting that I love the band. The records were hidden away in the style that other teenagers would hide porno mags – out of sight and only brought out when it was safe to do so. They were certainly never around when any mates came by.

Then one day, Ian Curtis hanged himself. The music papers were full of it. At school, it was suddenly OK to talk about the band again – they were now a chart success thanks to the posthumous release of Love Will Tear Us Apart.

Everyone rushed out and bought that single and then the LP Closer.

‘No wonder he killed himself if that’s the sort of music he was writing’ was the common consensus of the playground cognoscenti.

At the time I kind of believed it myself as nobody at that time, even within the confines of the group, really understood just how tortured he was trying to juggle his life, wife, child, mistress, illness and his music. I had the albums – and they were really dark and sometimes difficult to listen to. They were certainly no good for putting on at parties and hoping to ‘get off’ with a female classmate.

But everyone I knew adored LWTUA….it was something you could dance to. It was pop…it passed over quickly when you just absorbed its catchy chorus.

Was I the only one who realised that it was about pain and misery? The sort of pain and misery that hit you when, after spending what seemed like hours (but was probably only 10 minutes) trying to connect with the girl of your dreams at a party, only to later see her that evening ‘get off’ with someone else and then the news spread on Monday that she and the boy were ‘an item.’

Why didn’t I make a move?? Why didn’t I try to talk to her a bit about Joy Division and the other great records that no-one knew about – songs which were just so unlike anything else in yours or anybody’s record collection. Why hadn’t I made myself seem interesting???

LWTUA has always been a song to remind me of ‘what might have been’….

If I hadn’t been so quick to bow to peer pressure and ‘disown’ the band in public, would I have become the cool kid in class? Probably not…

If Ian Curtis had known how big this song was going to be, would he have taken his own life?? Sadly, I think he would have….

If this song hadn’t made so much money, what would have happened to Tony Wilson and Factory Records??? They probably wouldn’t have been solvent in 1982…

If Ian Curtis hadn’t written LWTUA, would some other tortured soul have come along a few years later and said the same thing??? Now that is a question of conjecture…..but I actually think someone would have. Who??? I have no idea….but someone, somewhere in time would have….David Gedge?

And yet….despite all of this, I still don’t think LWTUA is the best single that Barney, Hooky, Ian and Stephen (not forgetting Martin) released on an unsuspecting public. That honour belongs to this bit of plastic:-

mp3 : Joy Division – Transmission
mp3 : Joy Division – Novelty

Hooky’s basslines grab you in, Stephen’s drumming sets a beat that makes you want to jump out of your seat while Barney’s guitar work reminds you of the punk ethos when anyone could pick up an instrument and play.

But it’s THAT voice that sets this track apart. It’s the sound of someone reaching deep inside his own soul and then straining it through every nerve in his body before hitting the listener hard in the chest with its power and authority. And just as you think he can hit you no more he screams…

‘And We Can Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaance’.

I did. As did many others.

Things were never the same ever again.