50

I am fifty today. When we were young, people who were fifty seemed to have reached an old age but I don’t know if I now feel as old as they seemed then. It’s just a number I suppose, and I’ve been to quite a few 50ths in the last year and none of those people seem old, but reaching the half a century mark makes it sound quite old. Lots of aspects of the world of 1970 do seem like a very long time ago. I haven’t really been much bothered about this as the months and weeks have shortened and there have been lots of other things that have been more pressing and more important but I did wake up yesterday morning thinking, ‘fuck, this is the last day of my forties. Fuck’. Any way it’s here, I am fifty.

Factory Records numerical cataloguing system is a good place to stop in today as any. FAC 49 was a single by Swamp Children, produced by Simon Topping. It’s successor, FACT 50, came out in November 1981, New Order’s first album- Movement. The sleeve is a beautiful Peter Saville design with the sideways F at the top (F for Factory) and a sideways L at the bottom (L being the Roman numeral for 50). The design was borrowed from an Italian Futurist poster by Fortunato Depero. In the US it was released in a brown and ivory sleeve.

The cassette cover, the most throwaway of format artefacts, was beautiful too. I always liked how Factory placed the barcode down the spine on their tapes. Post- modern, probably.

The album isn’t much rated by the band and they admit to being confused musically, off balance due to the loss of Ian’s presence, voice, lyrics and ear for spotting riffs. The position of being singer had been resolved to some extent although Hooky sings lead vocals on two songs. Gillian had joined enabling Bernard to sing and play guitar, something he couldn’t do simultaneously at gigs, and she’d add depth on guitar or keyboards. They also found themselves at odds with Martin Hannett, who was deeply affected by Ian’s suicide and deeply into a mess of drink and drugs. They produced themselves after Movement. There are some really good sounding guitars, bass, keys and drums on Movement but the songs on the whole don’t stick long in the memory after playing them. There are hints at their future sound and brief flashes or moments but nothing that really matches the songs released as singles and B-sides before it, Ceremony, Procession, Mesh, Cries And Whispers and Everything’s Gone Green. Except the opener, the only genuine moment of greatness on FACT 50, three minutes of post- Joy Division perfection. Bernard and Hooky’s echo- laden guitars wrap themselves around each other, up and down and in and around for the intro. Stephen comes in drums adding momentum before they all lock in and take off at 53 seconds and then it really is post- Joy Division New Order in full flight. Hooky’s vocals suit the song too, indebted to Ian but looking for a way out.

Dreams Never End