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

18th May 1980

Ian Curtis died forty years ago today. The details are public knowledge- found by his wife in his kitchen in Macclesfield, a cord around his neck tied to the clothes drying rack,  Iggy’s The Idiot on the turntable, a Werner Herzog film the last thing he watched.

The Ian Curtis death cult is a bizarre thing. You can find it easily on the internet, people from all over the world who have taken on the view first expressed by Paul Morley at the time, that ‘he died for you’, that he was too pure a soul for this world. Anton Corbijn’s 2007 film Control, made with the full co- operation of family and bandmates, has fed into this myth- beautiful, romantic, poetic, doomed Ian. It’s a stunning bit of filmmaking and the performances are sincere and sympathetic. I’m not sure though that it’s healthy to portray suicide this way. It’s pretty clear that Ian’s suicide has had a huge impact on those he left behind. His widow Deborah couldn’t stand to listen to New Order between Ceremony and True Faith. His daughter Natalie grew up without knowing her father. Bernard has said the suicide has affected him ever since. Hooky has often referred to the shadow Ian’s death has cast. This isn’t the ‘romantic’ side of suicide. It’s people left behind not knowing why he did it and the guilt that they could have done more to prevent it. The Joy Division industry and the endless Unknown Pleasures merchandising is a spin off that I don’t think anyone on the evening of 18th May 1980 would have seen coming.

Joy Division Oven Gloves (Peel Session)

The Joy Division publishing industry has given us the autobiographies of the main players- Bernard Sumner, Deborah Curtis, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris. So many other people around the band have also now passed away- Rob Gretton, Martin Hannett, Tony Wilson- who would surely have written their versions had they lived. Wilson wrote the book version of Twenty Four Hour Party People which also covered the events.

All of which sometimes overshadows the sheer dark brilliance of Joy Division and their music, a band who were more than just Ian Curtis and three mates despite what Hannett said about them being ‘a genius and three Man United fans’. Ian’s untutored voice, Bernard’s rhythm guitar, Hooky’s melodic bass and Steve’s lead drumming, perfectly balanced, each contributing 25% to the whole and Hannett’s production giving them that extra quality, the dark stardust. The fact that Ian’s death is now forty years old underlines just how young everyone involved was and maybe how difficult it was in 1980 for anyone around to have been able to do anything to stop him as his marriage collapsed, his illness got worse and his medication exacerbated his problems, and the US tour loomed. Recent gigs had been chaotic as he had seizures on stage. Mental health services in 1980 were not like they are today. Young men didn’t talk about these things. They didn’t even take his lyrics at face value despite Closer reading like a forty minute suicide note.

R.I.P. Ian. Remember him, listen to the music, dance to the radio but let’s not fall into the trap of the romantic suicide. It’s a dead end with no way out for those left behind.

This is a dub cover version of their most famous song by a New York group called Jah Divison. This isn’t a novelty cover by any means.

Dub Will Tear Us Apart

This is She’s Lost Control, live on Something Else in 1979, the real thing, northern post- punk, a reflection of the post- industrial city they were formed in and formed by, what Wilson called ‘the last true story in rock ‘n’ roll’.

 

Isolation Mix Five

Five weeks into these isolation mixes already- doesn’t time fly when you’re socially restricted? There is a higher BPM count on this mix but also some folky darkness and post punk dread from Nick Drake and A Certain Ratio respectively, some dance grooves from Ellis Island Sound and Scott Fraser, the ultra Balearic vibes of Richard Norris’ Time And Space Machine remix of A Mountain Of One, some 1990 class from World Unite when Creation Records went all E’d up and dancey, Andrew Weatherall remixing Moby and Wayne Coyne in epic style, half of The Clash with Frank Ocean and Diplo plus the West Los Angeles Childrens’ Choir (brought to you in association with Converse) from 2014 and a very long Seahawks remix of Tim Burgess, some headspinning ambient noise set against Harry Dean Stanton’s monologue from Paris, Texas. ‘Yep, I know that feeling’.

Tracklist:

Nick Drake: ‘Cello Song

A Certain Ratio: Winter Hill

Ellis Island Sound: Intro, Airborne, Travelling (Scott Fraser Remix)

A Mountain Of One: Ride (The Time And Space Machine Remix)

World Unite: World Unite

Moby Ft. Wayne Coyne: Another Perfect Life (Andrew Weatherall Remix)

Frank Ocean, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Diplo: Hero

Tim Burgess: A Gain// Stoned Alone Again Or (Seahawks Remix) v Harry Dean Stanton, Nastassja Kinski and Ry Cooder: I Knew These Two People, Paris Texas soundtrack

Isolation Mix Four

A bit of a change again for this week’s hour long isolation mix, this time a trip into more psychedelic and psyche areas, some guitars, a couple of cover versions, some remixes and a re-edit of an 80s alt- classic with an eye, a third eye maybe, on the cosmic and the blissed out. One of the segues is a little bit clumsy but I can live with it. I’ve had to move the host over to Mixcloud as I’d used up all my available space at Soundcloud without going to the paid for service.

Tracklist-
The Durutti Column: Otis

Wixel: Expressway To Yr Skull (Long Champs Bonus Beats)

Moon Duo: Stars Are The Light

Curses: This Is The Day

Le Volume Courbe: Rusty

Sonic Boom/ Spectrum: True Love Will Find You In The End

Mogwai: Party In The Dark

The Liminanas: The Gift (Anton Mix)

Goldfrapp v Spiritualized: Monster Love

Julian Cope: Heed Of Penetration and the City Dweller Head Remix by Hugo Nicholson

Edit Service 8 by It’s A Fine Line: The Story Of The Blues (Talkin’ Blues)

The Early Years: Complicity

 

Isolation Mix One

‘Don’t create congestion in commonly used space’, a poster from the Soviet Union, 1950s.

I thought I’d do something new today and maybe make it a regular feature. Everyone and their dog is transmitting DJ sets at the moment. One thing we’ve all got lots of is time. So in the moments between phoning in to long video conferences, teaching online lessons, wiling away hours absentmindedly surfing the internet and social media, spending time with my family and getting my state sanctioned daily exercise allowance I’ve also put together the first Bagging Area mix, fifty four minutes of music that I’ve called Isolation Mix 1.

It’s actually Isolation Mix 1.1, the first one wasn’t quite right and I removed a couple of tracks and replaced them with some other ones. It’s a mix of old and new, largely ambient and instrumental, a bit of dub and dub techno in there and appearances from Rutger Hauer and a retired French footballer.

Daniel Avery and Alessandro Cortini: Illusion of Time v Eric Cantona ‘As Flies To Wanton Boys…’
Four Tet: Teenage Birdsong
Durutti Column: The Second Aspect Of The Same Thing
Richard Norris: Shorelines
Sabres Of Paradise: Jacob Street 7am
A Winged Victory For The Sullen: Keep It Dark, Deutschland
Vangelis: Tears In Rain
The Orb: The Weekend It Rained Forever (Oseberg Buddha Mix (The Ravens Have Left The Tower))
Dub Trees: King Of The Faeries (Avengers Outer Space Chug Dub)
Two Lone Swordsmen: As Worldly Pleasures Waves Goodbye…

Twenty One

Today is our eldest’s 21st birthday. Isaac was born on 23rd November 1998 and, as some of you will know, from that point on has had a complicated and difficult time. Diagnosed with a serious, life limiting condition at eight months, multiple operations, deafness, physical and learning disabilities, all compounded by meningitis at ten years old (a result of the refusal of his immune system to grow back following two bone marrow transplants in 2000). Along the way he has refused to stop or slow down and brought joy and laughter to almost everyone he meets- questioning them about the motorways they use, the day their bins go out, the tram or train stations they use and the supermarkets they shop at. He is now in his second year at college and loves it (his college in Salford integrate the young adults with additional needs with the mainstream students on one campus). He goes out with his adult social services group, a service that has somehow survived repeated cuts by the Tory government and council over the last ten years. Things have been on a fairly even keel in recent years but you can’t ever really take things for granted with him (his immune system is still shot to pieces) so twenty one is an achievement, a marker, especially for a young man who more than once while in hospital wasn’t expected to survive the night. Happy birthday Isaac.

I only twigged recently that this event was also on the 23rd November, nine years earlier. The legendary night in 1989 when Top Of The Pops was gatecrashed by Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses. At the time in ’89 I remember sitting in my student house, finger poised over the record button on the rented VHS machine. Happy Mondays came on first, miming Hallelujah, the lead song off the Madchester Rave On e.p. Hallelujah on the 12″ is a colossal, six minute piece of grinding Mancunian funk, produced by Martin Hannett pumped full of pills the Mondays gave him, not the kind of song to make the nation’s favourite chart show. The 7″ featured a Steve Lillywhite mix (The MacColl Mix) slightly smoothed out with Kirsty on backing vox. It still sounds like a groovy, out of sync, unholy racket, Shaun William Ryder wanting to ‘lie down beside yer, fill yer full of junk’.

Kirsty joined the band for the TV appearance, dressed down in double denim and trainers. The Mondays had been to Amsterdam before the show for some ‘shopping’ and were all Armani-d up. As the cameras began to roll Shaun asked the nearby cameraman ‘does me knob look massive in these strides?’ Bez apparently remembers nothing of the day at all.

The Stone Roses appeared shortly after having ridden into the top ten with a double A-side, Fool’s Gold and What the World Is Waiting For. The forty date spring tour and debut album saw them grow and grow, bringing more  and more fans on board, hair was lengthening and trousers widening. Fool’s Gold was a step on completely from the album, nine minutes fifty three seconds of liquid, ominous funk, John Squire’s guitar circling round and round, helicopter noises and wah wah bedlam, Reni and Mani were locked in tight. Over the top Ian Brown whispers about greed, the hills and the Marquis de Sade.

Thirty years ago today and still sharper than the rest.

All At Once

I passed up the opportunity recently to push my thumb on on a piece of clickbait I saw on my phone entitled ‘are Oasis the best ever band from Manchester?’ ‘Don’t be ridiculous’ I thought, ‘of course they aren’t. In fact Oasis aren’t even the best band Burnage’.

The honour ‘best ever band from Burnage’ lies with Stockholm Monsters, a little known band who formed in 1980, signed to Factory and released several wonderful records before splitting up in 1987. Their debut, 1981’s Fairy Tales single, was produced by Martin Hannett. Wilson loved them for a while before the Happy Mondays replaced them in his affections. Peter Hook took them under his wing and produced their 1984 album Alma Mater. Their sound is very mid 80s indie- jagged, trebly guitars, cheap keyboards, the occasional trumpet and a non- singer on vocals (I mean this as a compliment. Non- singers on vocals are often my favourite singers).  In 1984 they put this single out (and in typical Factory/ 80s indie style the B-side called National Pastime is just as good- I posted it in January 2018).

All At Once

Later on they worked drum machines and New Order’s Emulator into their sound and in the face of press and record buying public indifference bid farewell with a single called Partyline, a song that starts off wonky and unsure of itself, sparse bassline and swells of one fingered keyboards before it explodes into melody in the chorus. This performance on Granada TV is low key but entrancing, a glimpse of band who should be far better known than they are.

Partyline was their parting shot, a 1987 single on Factory (FAC 146 fact fans). It was produced by Hooky under the Be Music guise that members of New Order used for production work. There’s plenty of reverb on the drums, too much probably heard now in 2019, and the instruments seem to be in competition with each other, overloaded and fighting for space, it’s all very busy and singer Tony France is straining at the top of his register. But I love it, it’s flawed but somehow perfect, and it’s got a spark, a spirit and a heart that you can look for in any of the Oasis albums from [insert date here] onward and won’t find.

Partyline (Partylive Mix)

Burnage, for those who don’t know, is a suburb of south Manchester, bisected by a dual carriageway called Kingsway. I grew up in Withington, its neighbouring suburb a short walk west. As well as Stockholm Monsters and the Gallaghers Burnage was/is home to loads of people I went to school with, former Manchester United captain and Busby Babe Roger Byrne (who died in the muinich air disaster in 1958), actor David Threlfall and Dave Rowbotham, a former member of Durutti Column and The Invisible Girls (sadly murdered in 1991).