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.

We Never Compromise

Mancunian artist LoneLady has released a cover of New Order’s 1981 B-side Cries And Whispers. Her sound and aesthetic are partially rooted in those early 80s New Order records and Manchester’s spirit of those times- her last album was inspired by walking round the concrete and streetlight spaces underneath the Mancunian Way (a section of elevated motorway that skims the southern edge of the city centre). I don’t always like covers of New Order songs but this is a keeper.

The original was one of two B-sides on 1981’s Everything’s Gone Green single, a song that skipped the group forward several paces, the moment when they combined rock and dance for the first time on disc and the last time they worked with Martin Hannett. The two songs on the flipside- Cries And Whispers and Mesh- were mislabelled on the disc and then again on Substance, causing confusion for years. One listen to this song, the synth sounds at the intro, the skittering rhythm, Barney’s bleak vocal, Stephen’s metronomic drumming and the swell of keyboards towards the end, should convince anyone that New Order were a class apart from around this point onwards and for most of the 80s.

Cries And Whispers

 

The History Of All Truth

Stephen  Morris is about to put his view of life in Joy Division and New Order into the public domain to put alongside Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook’s versions (for the record Barney’s was pretty disappointing, his account of his younger life growing up in Salford was interesting but after that it became a boring read. He skipped most of the 1980s because he thought people would find him describing how they made their greatest records dull and then spent the last two chapters detailing the collapse of relations with Hooky. Hooky’s books were scurrilous, entertaining and full of the sort of details that I did want to read but his frequent references to Bernard as Twatto show how big the distance between them is and put downs of Gillian were unnecessary).

Stephen Morris’ drumming is a massive part of the sound of his two bands. His travails with Hannett while recording Unknown Pleasures are well documented but clearly paid off. His synth drums on She’s Lost Control are wonderful and the drum sound and drumming on Transmission b-side Novelty are among the best I’ve ever heard. Early New Order singles and albums are full of brilliantly recorded drum parts, as much part of the NO sound as Hooky’s bass, the homemade kit keyboards and Barney’s vocals- all of which are perfectly demonstrated on this 12″ single from April 1984, a high point for the band, the record label and the 1980s as a whole.

Thieves Like Us

As if giving their fans a magnificent standalone single wasn’t enough they coupled it with a gem of a b-side too, opening with Hooky’s brilliant bass and some spikey guitar playing from Barney and another of his fragile vocals. Then the wall of synths come in. Lonesome Tonight, with it’s pisstake title, is a masterpiece.

Lonesome Tonight

The lyrics of Lonesome Tonight are classic early New Order, that mixture of written to rhyme with personal point of view suddenly switching into something portentous- check the change here in the first verse from ‘you turned your back on me’ to two lines later ‘the history of all truth’

I walk along the street
I look into your eyes
I’m pleasant when we meet
I’m there when you go home
How many times before
Could you tell I didn’t care?
When you turned your back on me
I knew we’d get nowhere
Do you believe in youth
The history of all truth
A heart that’s left at home
Becomes a heart of stone

Stephen’s take on events should be interesting. He often comes across as the most thoughtful and considered member of the surviving members of Joy Division. He’s doing a short book tour to promote it with a Q and A session conducted by Dave Haslam starting at the Dancehouse in Manchester next Thursday and then going to Liverpool, Hebden Bridge and Newcastle (which looks a bit like a New Order world tour itinerary from 1985). Tickets for the Manchester event are here if you fancy it. See you there.

Dave Haslam is a Manchester mainstay since arriving in the city in the early 80s- DJ at the Hacienda and the Boardwalk, gig promoter, journalist and author, record label boss (Play Hard) and cultural commentator. From 1980 onwards, if something was happening in the Manchester area, the chances are he was involved or present. His latest book Sonic Youth Slept On My Floor is out now in paperback. Well worth reading if you want to peek inside Manchester’s music scene as seen and lived by Dave from 1980 to the present. Someone described it as ‘the literary equivalent of a brilliant chat with your best mate’ which is a good take on it and it’s refreshingly ant-nostalgic too.

You Took My Time And You Took My Money

New Order in the summer of 1987. I was seventeen and was listening to the True Faith single repeatedly that summer, thirty two years ago (Substance, the singles compilation came out in August 1987 too). The band played True Faith on Top Of The Pops and it rose into the top five the week after. They played live, as this clip shows, broadcast recently on BBC4’s re-runs of Top Of The Pops. The re-runs are deep into 1987- and it has to be said it was a year of largely terrible music on the nation’s favourite chart run down show- most of the episodes can skipped through in minutes with your finger on the fast forward button on the remote control. The week New Order appeared they shared the BBC canteen and dressing rooms with Sinitta and Spagna. This version is, as you’d expect, less sleek and produced than the Stephen Hague single with Hooky’s clanging bass more prominent (glorious as the single is) and has a truncated guitar break. I’ve posted this clip before but watching them the other night I thought it was worth doing again. True Faith is a song I don’t get bored of.

True Faith is a New Order tour de force, a single aimed at selling copies in large quantities- earworm keyboards and boom- bash metronomic drumming providing the rush, a song pitched in a sweet spot between pop, indie and dance. Hooky complains in his autobiography Substance that they’d left nowhere for his bass playing in the mix (but he found his way in) and that the only shot of him in the video is his left foot. Bernard was talked into changing a lyric to ensure radio play (altering ‘now that we’ve grown up together/now they’re taking drugs with me’ to ‘now that we’ve grown up together/ we’re not afraid of what we see’). The song feels like a group effort whatever everyone’s actual contributions were. I think I read somewhere that Deborah Curtis, Ian’s widow, said she couldn’t listen to New Order after Ceremony, it was too much following Ian’s death, but with True Faith she could listen to them again and enjoy it- which tells you something about the way the song was received and something about the distance travelled from 1980 and Closer to 1987 and True Faith. I love it- partly because at seventeen years old you’re so susceptible to these things and partly because it is in some way definitive New Order. It would make it onto any New Order compilation I’d put together.

Peter Saville created a beautiful sleeve, the falling leaf painted gold against the blue background, the leaf idea coming to him as he sat in his car and one fell onto his windscreen. The single was followed by a remix 12″ with an alternative Saville sleeve, a remixed version of the song, a different mix of 1963 and also this Shep Pettibone dub.

True Dub

New Order toured in 1987 too, at home and through the USA (the US leg being the scene of much Hook and Sumner debauchery). The graphic on the tour t-shirt below is very 1987.

Last year Denise Johnson, backing singing extraordinaire, released her own, more emotional reading of the song, done acoustically.

 

Videograms

Unless he sneaks something out between today and New Year’s Eve this looks like being the final Andrew Weatherall remix and release of 2018, a seven minute re-working of Scottish post-punkers The Twilight Sad. Weatherall adds that metronomic drum machine and sends the whole thing  through an FX box called ‘Early/Mid 80s New Order’. A friend aptly described this as Widescreen Goth. I just hope there will be a proper 12″ release because it’s a fine example of the art of the remix (you can buy it as a download but somehow that’s not quite enough).

While we’re talking about New Order the two warring parties of the group have managed to put together plans for a deluxe version of Movement (out next year, currently being advertised at upwards of £100. No, I won’t be buying it). Movement was New Order’s painful first album, recorded in the wake of Ian Curtis’ suicide with Martin Hannett not necessarily always making things easier but making them sound better, and the three surviving members plus Gillian Gilbert trying to work out how to not sound like Joy Division. Bernard famously can’t stand it and while some might agree it’s not their best work it also has plenty going for it, some wonderful interplay between the fantastic sounding guitars, bass and drums not least.

The double cd is packaged in a nice box, with the original album on vinyl with the 12″ singles from the subsequent months of 1980 and into 1981- both versions of Ceremony, Everything’s Gone Green and Temptation- and a DVD. I have all the vinyl and don’t need to buy it again. The cd (which if available separately I would shell out for) has all the extras- the Western Works demos, the Cargo demos (both of which give an idea of how Movement would have sounded without Hannett) and some other bits and bobs. The DVD has the live performances- Hurrah’s in New York in 1980 and at the Peppermint Lounge, same city, 1981 (one or both possibly attended by friend and reader Echorich, maybe he’ll confirm in the comments) and two TV appearances (Celebration at Granada Studios and At The Riverside from BBC2).

The Western Works demos have been available for some time as a bootleg and online. Western Works was a studio in Sheffield, home to Cabaret Voltaire. On September 7th 1980 New Order spent the night there recording songs for what would become Movement with all three surviving members taking turns singing (Hooky on Dreams Never End, Bernard on Homage and Stephen on Ceremony and Truth). It’s an interesting artefact, a group trying to work out how to make it work and fairly easy to find online but here’s the then slower version of what would become the album’s opener.

Dreams Never End Mix One

A Double

In past years on music blogs October 25th was Keeping It Peel Day (October 25th being the day he died in 2004), a day to celebrate the life and music of the man. I remember this largely because October 25th is also my wife’s birthday.

This photograph/meme was doing the rounds a couple of weeks ago and I love it. In the spirit of the meme and for Keeping It Peel Day- Peel supported and loved both bands- I offer you a Joy Division song recorded by New Order in 1998 for a Peel Session.

Isolation

Isolation contains one of Ian Curtis’ most distressing lyrics. The second verse has for a long time seemed to me like where he knew he was moving towards the place he ended up in on 18th May 1980.

‘Mother I tried please believe me,
I’m doing the best that I can.
I’m ashamed of the things I’ve been put through,
I’m ashamed of the person I am’

Musically Isolation is immense, Stephen’s urgent electronic drums, Hooky’s driving bass and Bernard’s keyboards which bring a bit of light into the shade. The second half of the song receives a real shot of adrenaline when the ‘real’ kit and hi-hat come in, propelling it onward. On Closer, Joy Division’s second album, it is a breath of fresh air, a few minutes of aural relief following the claustrophobic, intense and unsettling opener Atrocity Exhibition. If you can ignore the content of the lyrics. The New Order version above is well worth your time, an update and upgrade, a merged musical version of Ally Sheedy and Molly Ringwald, both black and pink.

And happy birthday to Mrs Swiss (Lou), a fan of The Breakfast Club and Molly Ringwald’s dancing.

Hooky’s Technique

Peter Hook And The Light at The Albert Hall on Saturday night was a tale of three sets and a gig of two halves. Advertised as coming on stage at 8pm and opening with a short set of Joy Division songs the place was filled to burst downstairs from the way Hooky and the band took the stage. The Joy Division set was short and sweet, Hooky’s voice more than doing justice to the songs and he didn’t pull his punches. They started with Atmosphere and then played She’s Lost Control and gave us a marvellous, growly rendition of Heart And Soul. A spirited run through Love Will Tear Us Apart closed this section, the audience joining in and taking over on the chorus.

Peter Hook clearly loves doing this, he’s a part of the fabric of this place, a quarter of it’s most musically adventurous group, a huge contributor to the story of Manchester since 1977. Between 1978 and 1989 his band travelled further, and through more difficult situations, than most groups do. He’s got a band that can play the songs well and the audience love him. The breakdown in relations between him  and his former band mates is just part of the story now. The benefit for us is we get to see the songs played by one of the people that wrote them in smallish, atmospheric venues.

Off for ten minutes and then reappearing for part two the drum machine kicks into life and we’re into Fine Time. From that point on the whole place is jumping as a thousand middle aged New Order fans live out what is one of New Order’s peaks and their last truly great record, 1989’s Technique. It’s not quite a smooth and sleek as the album, which is to be expected- live music should carry a rougher edge, and Hooky’s voice isn’t always in exactly the right key being a very different instrument from Barney’s. But there’s so much to enjoy here as Technique gets played in order- All The Way, Love Less and Round And Round flying by, summoning up the summer of 89, a summer the vast majority of the audience lived through. The Spanish disco stylings of Mr Disco are sublime, filled here with the attack of two guitars, at times two basses, full drums, drum machine, samples. Vanishing Point- one of the best New Order songs not not have been a single lifts the roof of this old Methodist chapel further. Dream Attack. Boom.

Then a strange thing happens. They retire briefly and come back to play 1993’s Republic, every song, in order. You can’t go wrong with Regret and the three that follow are all decent New Order songs- World, Ruined In A Day and a pumped up Spooky. But after that the crowd visibly and audibly slumps and all that energy evaporates as Peter persists in the purity of finishing side 1 and then giving us all of side 2. I kind of admire the purity angle but Republic was a record made at gun point, trying to bring some cash in for an ailing record label. No one seems to have enjoyed making it or the circumstances surrounding it. Some of the songs I haven’t heard for a quarter of a century and I’ll be honest I didn’t recognise them and couldn’t name them- Liar, Chemical, Times Change, Special and Avalanche apparently.

So it’s a relief when it’s over and the eruption of enthusiasm and the fervour that greets the encore sends everyone home happy, delighted, singing in the streets outside. World In Motion, not everyone’s cup of tea, but it gets the crowd singing along and then three complete crowdpleasers- Blue Monday, Temptation and True Faith. Temptation is especially well received, a song we’ve all danced to, loved to, lived to for decades. We’ve all sung ‘I never seen anyone quite like you before’ and meant it.

Mr Disco