Elegia

A bonus post for Saturday night, just because. Lots of people I know are off to Castlefield tonight to watch New Order. I hope they have a great time. I’m not going (wife is away overnight so I’m here with the kids) and I’m not getting into the whole debate I’ve spent some time having with different people about the current incarnation of the group.

In 1985 New Order released Lowlife, one of their many, many 80s peaks. On it, opening side two, was an instrumental called Elegia, a tribute to Ian Curtis. The verison on the album was under five minutes. When the Retro boxed set came out in 2002 the bonus fifth disc contained the full length seventeen minute version. It is very beautiful and very long. And here it is…

Elegia (Full length version)

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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).

To The Centre Of The City

Thirty five years ago today Ian Curtis brought his life to an abrupt and premature end. Ian’s suicide brought Joy Division to an end as well, though they found a way out eventually.

In 1978 Joy Division played live on Granada Reports, after Ian harangued Tony Wilson in a nightclub. This was Wilson’s response, their first TV appearance. The editor’s decision to superimpose footage of cars rushing along the Mancunian Way was inspired. In his autobiography Hooky recalls that each band member was given £2.50 by Rob Gretton to buy a new shirt for the occasion. Hooky also recalls being pissed off that Wilson said in his intro that the guitarist (Bernard) was from Salford (‘a important difference’) when he was a Salfordian as well and still lived there. It’s the little things that stick in the memory.

Disorder

That’s enough with the Johnny stuff for now.

I’ve been listening to Joy Division recently, not just the singles but Unknown Pleasures and Closer. I find I have to be in the right place, to be receptive, to listen to them. Closer especially. It’s difficult to listen to Closer and not dwell on the fact that, particularly with the lyrics, the man singing the songs killed himself in the few months between finishing recording it and it being released.

Both albums are masterpieces musically, a band punching its way out of punk, with the assistance and oversight of production genius Martin Hannett. But specifically I’ve been listening to Peter Hook’s basslines, which are in a class of their own. Entirely self-taught, he wrote more killer basslines than the rest of the post-punk bassists combined. Hooky borrowed and stole and then made something new. His look was cribbed from Paul Simonon’s extra long strap and his sound from seeing The Stranglers and then buying the same amp set up as Jean Jacques Burnel. The playing developed from his and Bernard’s discovery of how to play together. Unable to hear himself above Bernard’s riffing in the early days with poor equipment, he played the higher notes and gained a completely distinctive style. I think it also came from being self-taught and not having served any kind of apprenticeship in standard blues-rock bands. There are no walking basslines, no follow-the-guitarist-just-playing-the root-notes stuff. The basslines in many Joy Division songs are the songs, the lead instrument, the melody.

Digital is a thrilling descending and ascending three note riff. Isolation has a fast two note riff with two alternating high and low ones after the main phrase, set against Bernard’s toy synth and goes straight to heart of it, Closer’s most instant song. The bass notes to Disorder, the opener on Unknown Pleasures, set the tone of the whole record. Shadowplay’s bass riff is genuinely threatening, tense, menacing. A Means To An End is repetitive, circling heavy-disco before it grinds to an unsettling halt. Peter Hook- I salute you.

Disorder

Missing

Vini Reilly has had a rough time recently with health issues and major financial problems. One of his Durutti Column masterpieces LC is currently being re-released with twenty odd extra songs. LC is an lp I already own twice, once on vinyl and once in a 90s re-release version on cd. I don’t think I’ll buy it for a third time but if anyone from the Manchester scene deserves some cash to go with the talent it’s Vini, so maybe we should put our hands in our pockets. This song was written for the missing boy, Ian Curtis. New Order, ACR, Durutti Column and Tony Wilson were all around a pool somewhere in the US in the early 80s and Vini said to Tony ‘You know who’s missing don’t you?’ As well as Vini’s beautiful guitar this song features some very fragile Vini Reilly vocals..

The Missing Boy

LC stands for Lotta Continua- the struggle goes on.

>Don’t Walk Away

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Technova’s electronic cover version of Joy Division’s Atmosphere, finding light amongst Joy Division’s shade. This is a really good cover, with moments of beauty- lovely synths (showing the direction Bernard Sumner was already heading in 1980), dancey drums, squidgy bass and a blissed out, treated vocal replacing Ian Curtis’ sombre baritone. Assuming this Technova is the same Technova who were on Weatherall’s Emission Audio Output record label in the mid 90s, then this is the work of David Harrow, who also records as James Hardway. Weatherall and Harrow also recorded together as a fictional female techno artist Deanne Day (D and A, geddit) and Blood Sugar.

16 Atmosphere.wma

Joy Division ‘Digital’

Today, the 18th of May, is the 30th anniversary of the death of Ian Curtis. I’m sure I won’t be the only blogger to mark this occasion. Ian Curtis hung himself the day before my 10th birthday, not that I knew that at the time, but ever since I became aware of them (several of their songs on a mixtape back in the mid 1980s, thanks D.J.) I’ve always remembered the date. Joy Division have become one of the most talked about, written about, filmed and interviewed bands in recent years. The late, great Anthony H. Wilson called them ‘the last true story in rock ‘n’ roll’, which is a good line, but I’m not going to debate whether it’s true or not. They are what they were- the young men, the weight on the shoulders. Which is a good, doomy line, but Bernard, Steven and Hooky all dispute it, saying that though the music was serious being in the band was a good laugh, and conversely in New Order it was the other way round.

This song, Digital, was recorded in the band’s first session with the equally late and great Martin Hannett and was their first release, on the A Factory Sample e.p. It was also, in one of those slightly spooky coincidences, the last song they ever performed at a gig at Birmingham University on May the 2nd 1980. 16 days later Ian died. New Order would carry on, taking the title of this song and running with it.

4shared.com – music and mp3 sharing – download 01 Digital.wma