Boom

Boom! Two booms today- I can’t remember exactly why either of these songs came into my head recently or if one sparked the other but I thought it seemed like a decent idea for a post.

Happy Mondays released Wrote For Luck in October 1988, a record around which an entire scene could be/was built, a riot of guitars and dance beats with Shaun Ryder’s surrealist swirl of words reaching a peak. The first 12″ release of Wrote For Luck with the famous Central Station sleeve had a B-side called Boom, a three minute extra that didn’t make the cut for Bummed. Boom opens with heavily reverbed drums and then that queasy musical stew the Mondays created in 1988, keyboards and guitars and bass all fighting over the same ground, the instruments all over each other searching for space. Shaun delivers more wisdom from the microphone, tales of cabbies and drugs and living in a box with cardboard socks. I don’t know if Martin Hannett produced Boom. He produced Bummed and this song sounds like it comes from the same place (a studio in Driffield, East Yorkshire with mixing done at Strawberry in Stockport).

Boom

In 1991 The Grid released a 12″ called Boom, progressive house, pianos, synth stabs and bleeps, thunderous bass and chunky drums heading for deep space. The single came with several mixes. The one here is the 707 mix, presumably named after the drum machine which powers it. Not much to say about this slice of Richard Norris and Dave Ball music other than it is very good indeed.

Boom (707 Mix)

As a postscript- and this only occurred to me while writing this post- in the same year the two came together, Happy Mondays remixed by The Grid, two tracks from their Pills ‘N’ Thrills And Bellyaches album. It was a 12″ I didn’t get at the time- you couldn’t buy everything could you? I don’t own either of the remixes on CD or mp3 either so it’s Youtube only. One of The Grid remixes was of Bob’s Yer Uncle, Shaun’s dirty talking sex song (a song incidentally that Tony Wilson selected to be played at his funeral which must have caused a few sniggers). The other remix was of Loose Fit, a low slung, smokey vibe of a song with a snakey guitar line and Shaun muttering and growling about a loose fit being his way of life. The Gulf War features too- ‘gonna buy an air force base, gonna wipe out your race’. The Grid’s Loose Fix remix isn’t hugely different for the first few minutes, reworking the drumbeat and stretching everything out, gradually departing at the half way mark and going off into the distance slowly and hazily.

 

I’ve Never Met Anyone Quite Like You Before

On visiting the above building, phare de la Coubre (a lighthouse on the Atlantic coast of France near Royan) I walked along a path looking at the floor and was stuck by these adjoining pieces of gravel.

They reminded me of Peter Saville’s sleeve for New Order’s 1981 masterpiece Temptation.

You may say, as a friend has suggested on social media, that my interest in New Order ‘may have spilled into less than healthy territory’ but in response I say ‘yeah but it does look a bit like the Temptation sleeve’.
Temptation was the moment New Order escaped the shadow of Joy Division- previous single Everything’s Gone Green was a quantum leap into dance music with some dub production techniques (learnt from Hannett, now abandoned as they produced themselves) but it still had Joy Division’s DNA running through it. Temptation was brighter, the synths right at the fore, Hooky’s bassline and Bernard’s choppy disco guitar leading the charge along with the ‘ooh ooh ooh ooh’ vocal intro. It is also the first New Order song that is distinctly New Order lyrically, a step away from the portentous, Ian Curtis indebted lyrics of the band’s songs up to that point. It’s fair to say that Temptation’s lyrics Curtis couldn’t have written anything like Temptation- it’s got a lightness, an optimism and a simplicity he wouldn’t have come up with.
Hooky talks about the famous ‘eyes drop’ in his autobiography, a moment guaranteed to stop hearts and turn gigs. In some ways it could be their greatest song and their greatest single- I know some people think it is. It certainly pointed to the road ahead and the way out of the abyss. They’ve recorded and released it in various versions. The original 12″ from 1981 is still the go to version for me, miles better than the 1987 re-recording for Substance (which has its merits but feels smoothed out).
They re-did it in 1998, flushed by getting back together. The ’98 version came out on the extra disc on the Retro box set. It’s a decent updating of the song, modernised without losing the ramshackle charm of the original, with Bernard’s guitar’s well up in the mix and his voice clearly more used to singing than he was in the early 80s. By this point the song had found a new life in the scene in Trainspotting where Renton withdrawals and Kelly McDonald sings to him in a cold turkey dream at the end of his bed. ‘Oh you’ve got green eyes, oh you’ve blue eyes, oh you’ve got grey eyes’

Sketches

Vini Reilly’s music as The Durutti Column is among the most special of all that makes up my record/CD/mp3 collection and there’s always more to discover, both in albums I already own and in the parts of his vast back catalogue that I haven’t uncovered yet. In January 1980 Factory released the first Durutti Column album- The Return Of The Durutti Column- a record made up of guitar parts Vini recorded, with bass and drums on some provided by Pete Crooks and Toby Toman, and then knocked into shape by Martin Hannett. Hannett played around with several new toys not least his AMS digital delay unit. The opening song on the record fades in with birdsong (in fact sounds created by Hannett using echo and delay) and as an intro to Durutti Column Sketch For Summer is all anyone needs- a beautiful, simple, almost mystical piece of music.

Sketch For Summer

The first 2000 copies of The Return Of The Durutti Column came with a free 7″ flexi- disc containing two tracks Hannett worked on, bending Vini’s guitar and his own experimental noises into new shapes. The second track on the flexi single is this one, all drones and delay at the start, bent strings and flutter and ambient noise with Vini’s guitar eventually coming out of the murk.

The Second Aspect of The Same Thing

Bring It Home To Me

On a Factory tip recently I dug out my double disc re-issue of A Certain Ratio’s Sextet, their second album, released in 1982 and their first without Hannett at the controls. Hannett was dumped as producer by New Order, Durutti Column and then ACR too which can’t have done much for his state of mind. Sextet- so called because they’d recently become a six piece band- is full of good songs, heavy noir vibes and that Mancunian funk. The song that leapt out me was Knife Slits Water, a single from the same year and on CD 2 it’s long B-side Kether Hot Knives. I’ll save the B-side for another time.

Knife Slits Water takes the group’s dark funk, particularly foregrounding Donald Johnson’s drumming, a large dollop of echo on the kick drum creating a very futuristic dance sound, some busy bass and the distant but tough vocals of Martha Tilson, lyrics she wrote about sex and sexual politics. Tony Wilson’s vision of ACR as white boys playing funk, clad in ex-army khaki with short back and sides and whistles, is perfectly realised here. In 1981 the group had done a Peel Session- Skipscada, Day One and Knife Slits Water- and that’s the version I’m posting here. They were years ahead in ’81 and still sound like that now.

Knife Slits Water (Peel Session)

The other Factory album that I was rediscovering was Section 25’s From The Hip album, a Bernard Sumner produced 1984 lost classic and it’s single Looking From A Hilltop, one of the greatest of all Factory’s releases. But again, let’s leave that for another day. The pictures above were taken in Section 25’s hometown Blackpool on Sunday afternoon, the modernist arches of the amusements centre in brilliant Fylde coast sunshine.

This Searing Light

I have recently read Jon Savage’s book about Joy Division- This Searing Light, The Sun And Everything Else: Joy Division: The Oral History. When I first heard about it I wasn’t sure an oral history, constructed from interviews old and new, was what I wanted from a Joy Division book by Jon Savage, one of the best writers of his generation. What I wanted was Jon’s writing, his thoughts and words, his insights. But within pages of starting the book I was realised I was wrong- the selection of quotes from interviews, the perspectives of the participants and eye witnesses, is exactly the way the story of Joy Division should be told. Some of the excerpts and quotes are familiar, from the Joy Division documentary from 2007, from interviews and articles I’ve read elsewhere. Some are taken from reviews and contemporary music press accounts. Some are new. The genius of Jon’s assemblage of the quotes is in the constant forward momentum of the story, told from within the band and from outside it, and the way he manages to make time shift. Clearly we all know the ending and some of the passages are from interviews with Sumner, Hook and Morris talking now about then, but despite them having the benefit of hindsight the book has a real immediacy, as if events are unfolding in front of your eyes. The shifting focus from one person to another, with interviews conducted at different points between 1978 and 2018, is really well done. The final few chapters, hurtling into 1980 and Ian’s increasing issues with his epilepsy and the side effects of the medication, the ongoing situation with Ian, Deborah Curtis and Annik Honore and the sense within the group that they should stop and give Ian a rest- while at the same time they’re making Transmission, Atmosphere, Dead Souls, Closer and Love Will Tear Us Apart- is brilliantly portrayed, heartrendingly so as the whirlpool sucks Ian further into it, and the loss of control by all involved. If you have any interest in the Joy Division story or the music they made, I can’t recommend it enough.

Fittingly, for a group so defined by the graphic presentation of the art and the beauty of Peter Saville’s work, it is a superbly put together book too, from the shiny reflective cover with the book title in the font used for Closer and grainy band photo, to the selection of gig shots and posters. There are a pair of quotes placed at the end of two of the chapters that are genuinely breathtaking, that make you stop, turn back a few pages and read again, so that the quote comes at you once more- one is from Tony Wilson, that gives the book its title (you should buy it, read it and enjoy that moment yourself). The other is from Annik Honore where she says ‘They made [the music] very naturally… and that’s why it was so good, because they were not self-conscious about it. I think it was coming from deep within them… it was spontaneous, it was not calculated, you know, not artificial; they had the light, the spirit.’ For a group that lasted only a couple of years and wrote and recorded no more than eighty songs, that had an enormous impact on those around them and in their audience at the time- Annik’s quote goes some way toward explaining their particular brilliance.

In 1978, before Factory existed, Joy Division got some studio time from RCA (who had an office in Manchester at the time). The session didn’t go very well and they almost walked out. It was suggested that they record a cover of version of N.F. Porter’s northern soul classic Keep On Keeping On. Hooky says they could never do covers, they never turned out well, they couldn’t work out the parts, but in this case they kept the guitar riff which became Interzone. It would be one of the ten songs that became Unknown Pleasures, recorded in Stockport’s Strawberry Studios with Martin Hannett in 1979. Hooky and Bernard hated Unknown Pleasures. Hannett took away their aggressive, punky live sound and made it something else, something with space and atmosphere and a doomy sense of things going wrong. Everyone else loved it. The rest, as they always say, is history.

Keep On Keeping On

Interzone

Ceremony

I’d forgotten until I posted Galaxie 500 last week that they did a cover of Ceremony, a B-side on the 12″ of Blue Thunder.

Ceremony

Galaxie 500 slow it down and make it a bit looser than the original. Dean Wareham’s guitar playing is stellar, just enough distortion and fuzz and the drums are less mechanical than Stephen Morris’ and avoid the tom toms completely.  It’s a slow burn affair, less quiet-loud-quiet than New Order’s versions of the song.

Ceremony was one of the last songs written by Joy Division and then New Order’s first single- it was released in two different versions in 1981, the first recorded in January and then re-recorded in September when Gillian Gilbert had joined the band, and then issued with two different Peter Saville sleeve designs but both versions were numbered FAC 33. Subsequent pressings saw either version put into either sleeve which seems typically Factory- an obsession with detail coupled with can’t be arsed. Famously when they came to record the song they couldn’t find Ian Curtis’ handwritten lyrics and had to work them out from the demo version, recorded onto cassette- some of Ian’s vocals were unclear and they had to put the tape through a graphic equaliser. Even then Bernard was guessing at some of the lines.

Ceremony

In June 1983 New Order played Chicago’s Cabaret Metro, a semi-legendary gig due to the heat knocking the power out and the synths and sequencers malfunctioning. Towards the end of the set they played Ceremony, rawer, faster and more ferocious. On fire in fact, as Galaxie 500 called their album.

San Pedro

Rikki Turner, former Paris Angel, ex-New Southern Elektrik and The Hurt, is a restless soul who just keeps moving- when one project ends another begins. His latest group is San Pedro Collective, named after the town in California that was home to Rikki’s favourite writer Charles Bukowski (and also home to Bagging Area favourites Minutemen). San Pedro are preparing for a release in July, an e.p. called The Demon Sessions, which will include this song (appearing here in a brief snippet and remixed by The Winachi Tribe).

The Things You See is a collaboration between Rikki and Suddi Raval, with a thundering acid house bassline, plenty of late night, dancefloor vibes and a sultry vocal from Millie MacBean. Also involved are Simon Wolstencroft (ex- Fall drummer), Antnee Egerton of The Winachi Tribe and Manc poet Karl Hildebrandt. The e.p. will feature the original mix of The Things You See and two further songs, San Pedro and A View From The Drowning Pool- the latter is a moody, electronic beast, bleeps and sirens over an 808 and Rikki’s street poetics, spoken word vocal.

Suddi Raval was one half of Together who made two records I hold dear. The first was 1990 rave anthem Hardcore Uproar, piano house, a Star Wars sample and the crowd sounds from a rave in a warehouse at the Sett End in Blackburn.

The second was an unfinished remix Together did of Durutti Column’s Contra-Indications. In 1990 Vini Reilly was experimenting with samplers and drum machines and his Obey The Time album chimed perfectly with the times. Together’s remix was unfinished due to the tragic death of Suddi’s partner in Together, Jon Donaghy, in a road accident in Ibiza. I’ve been coming back to The Together Mix for almost thirty years now and always get chills when I play it. Despite being unfinished Tony Wilson declared it magnificent and released it as a single anyway.

The Together Mix

Rikki’s former bands have all released songs that I’ve raved about here. In 2016 The Hurt released Berlin, a moody Scott Walker via Bowie, collar turned up against the falling Manchester rain.

Paris Angels were from Guide Bridge, near Ashton under Lyne, east of Manchester. Their first single is a legendary slice of 1990 Manchester, a marriage of acid house bass, jangly guitar lines and rattling machine drum with Rikki and Jane Gill’s dual vocals. I once bumped into Jane at the Boardwalk- literally- and she told me to fuck off. Which was probably fair enough- I wasn’t looking where I was going.

Perfume (All On You)

Perfume came out on indie label Sheer Joy and widely played and praised. They followed it with two 12″ singles- Scope and I Understand- before signing to Virgin (who re-released Perfume) and then put out an album called Sundew. Virgin was sold to EMI and a cull saw various bands removed from the label, Paris Angels among them (and PiL too). Which shows what major record labels know.