Ceremony

On July 19th 1986 New Order headlined a show at GMEX (formerly Manchester’s Central railway station, for much of the 70s and early 80s a derelict carpark. We used to park there when shopping in town and my Mum and Dad got all of us kids back in the car on one occasion and drove off, leaving one of my brothers standing forlornly where the car had been, aged only three or four. Don’t worry- they realised before leaving the carpark). The show was the highlight of the Festival of the Tenth Summer,a Factory organised event celebrating ten years since punk and the show at the Lesser Free Trade Hall where the Sex Pistols set into motion everything that has happened to Manchester since. The Lesser Free Trade Hall, also the venue where Bob Dylan was accused of being Judas, is now a swish hotel. The Festival of the Tenth Summer had its own Factory catalogue number (FAC 151) and had nine other events including a fashion show, a book, a Peter Saville installation, an exhibition of Kevin Cummins photographs and so on. Very Factory. Support for New Order at the gig included The Smiths (billed as co-headliners), The Fall, A Certain Ratio, Cabaret Voltaire, OMD, John Cale, John Cooper Clarke and Buzzcocks. Not a bad line up really.

During their set New Order were joined on stage by Ian McCulloch who sang Ceremony with them. This clip shows that meeting, the only drawback being it’s less than a minute long.

There’s an audio only version of the whole song here. Ian sings in a register closer to Ian Curtis’ and certainly gives it his best shot. The bit where Hooky joins Mac at the mic is great.

Ceremony was Ian Curtis’ last song, intended for Joy Division but recorded and released as the first New Order record. The first two New Order records actually- it was released in March 1981 by the three piece New Order and produced by Martin Hannett. It was then re-released in September 1981 in a newer, slightly longer version with Gillian Gilbert on board and with a different Saville sleeve. If you want to get really trainspottery about it, the run out groove on the first version says ‘watching love grow forever’, while on the second version it has ‘this is why events unnerve me’.

New Order and Echo And The Bunnymen toured the USA together along with Public Image Ltd throughout 1987, billed as The Monsters Of Alternative Rock. The Melody Maker reported from it as the picture up top shows. According to Lydon’s autobiography ‘Bernard Sumner was having problems emotionally and looked a bit the worse for wear’ and describes him being tied to a trolley to sing at one gig as he was unable to stand. ‘Nice fella’ though says Lydon. Bernard’s favourite tipple was ‘a pint of headache’ (Pernod and blackcurrant).

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This Is Why Events Unnerve Me

New Order used to have a perfectly preserved back catalogue and legacy. They’ve pissed on it a bit in recent years- dodgy albums, collaborations with Scissor Sisters, bitter feuding between Bernard and Hooky, silliness, too many compilations and remixes. I don’t resent them the right to continue to play and tour (I’ve been to see them several times since the early 2000s and loved them every time). It’s just that the icy majesty they used to have has been tarnished.

Back in 1981 they regrouped following Ian Curtis’ suicide and attempted to move on. Ceremony (Fac 33 Factory fans) was their debut single. In a lot of ways it’s really a Joy Division song. With a Peter Saville sleeve and Martin Hannett production, using Ian’s lyrics and none of the electronics or keyboards which would come to define New Order it remains a beautiful song. Deborah Curtis has said she wished they’d split for good following it’s release, adding it was True Faith before she could bear to listen to them again. Amusingly Julie Burchill reviewed the single saying the lyrics were trite when compared to Joy Division. The band had to stick the JD rehearsal version through various graphic equalisers to decipher Ian’s words. Two versions were released, one on March 1981 and one in September with Gillian Gilbert playing guitar. Ceremony is a great song, a JD/NO song. Later on the band would invent dance-rock. With Ceremony they’re still learning to become a new band, feeling their way forward, creating something to keep them moving .

Ceremony (Alternative Version)