You’ve Got Style You’ve Got Class But Most Of All You’ve Got Love Technique

A New Order postscript- I meant to post this during last week’s extravaganza and forgot so it’s here as an extra. When Run 2 was released a buffed up version of Run (from Technique) was put out as a single in August 1989. The b-side was this, MTO (Made To Order apparently). The 12″ was limited to 20, 000 copies (’19, 000 in the Greater Manchester area and 1000 for everyone else’ was someone’s comment at the time but I don’t know if there is any truth in this). Peter Saville designed a very fetching sleeve inspired by washing powder packaging.

The band’s engineer throughout much of the 80s was Michael Johnson and according to Hooky he put together this track/medley from bits lying around in the studio, largely constructed around Bernard’s ‘you’ve got love technique’ vocal from Fine Time but also parts of  what sounds like Vanishing Point’s drum track. MTO was then remixed by Mike ‘Hitman’ Wilson. The 7″ version is the best- a kick drum, some acid squiggles, a rubbery synth bassline and that vocal line. The longer Minus Mix uses some different vocal parts but loses the nice acidic squiggles for some more clattering drums. Neither is going to be on your Best Of playlist or cd but for some reason I’m quite fond of MTO.

MTO

MTO (Minus Mix)

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I Used To Think About You Night And Day

Technique is my favourite New Order album. Released in January 1989 I was 18 years old and I bought it the day it came out and then played it endlessly. I had a poster of the beautiful Peter Saville cover, fly-poster size, abut 6′ by 5′, on my wall for ages. Technique is the sound of summer, nine songs infused with the spirit of sunshine, warm seas, blue skies and summer holidays but shot through with a sense of sadness and loss.

The single that preceded it was Fine Time and it opens Technique. New Order had gone to record the album in Ibiza, at Hooky’s insistence, and spent three months there (‘an expensive way to have a holiday’ Tony Wilson). The story has it that they recorded a few drum tracks and a guitar solo and that most of the work recording it was done at Real World in Bath. This was down to two things- firstly, the studio was shit. Secondly the group and entourage were easily distracted by what Ibiza had to offer. So while the album wasn’t really recorded in Ibiza (‘about 20% done there’ according to Barney) it is inspired by the adventures the group had in Ibiza’s nightclubs, on Ibiza’s drugs, with Ibiza’s people (and the Happy Mondays who turned up to join in the fun). Fine Time is a full on electronic dance record, inspired by a tune Barney heard in Amnesia but couldn’t remember the day after. A throbbing sequenced bassline, bleeps and staccato stabs, and that ‘sexy’, slowed down vocal. This Top Of The Pops performance is legendary, as Barney introduced the viewers to the Bez dance. Playing live too.

Fine Time came out on 7″, 12″ and a remix 12″ with this version by Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley complete with sheep noises and the full Barry White vocal ‘You got style, you got class, but most of all… you got love technique’.

Fine Time (Steve Silk Hurley Mix)

Fine Time is a blast, a proper dance record. The rest of the album is eight slices of perfect Mancunian dance pop, effortlessly combining acoustic guitars, real drums, drum machines, some of Hooky’s most melodic bass runs, gorgeous synth lines, frazzled guitar solos and Barney’s best vocals. Lyrically the songs were all Bernard’s work and most seem to reflect on love and life gone wrong and the lessons learned. To pick four examples from four different songs relatively randomly…

‘My life ain’t no holiday
I’ve been to the point of no return’

‘It takes years to find the nerve
To be apart from what you’ve done
To find the truth inside yourself
And not depend on anyone’

‘I spent a lifetime working on you
And you won’t even talk to me’

‘I’m not some kind of foolish lover
I couldn’t take this from no other
You’re not being cool with me
Cause I always know that you’ll come back to me’

Run (which was also a single, released in a slightly remixed form by Scott Litt as Run 2) is allegedly about Factory and Tony Wilson and the Hacienda’s financial problems. John Denver sued the band because of similarities between Run and his Leaving On A Jet Plane. I struggle to hear the similarities but I wasn’t the judge and Denver was awarded a writing credit for the song.

I can’t choose between any of the songs on Technique- some are more guitar based, some more singalong, some more dancey, some all out pop, but all hit that sweet spot musically, vocally, lyrically and spiritually. Recently Vanishing Point and Mr Disco have been the ones really doing it for me. Mr Disco has a stuttering keyboard part and then guitar/bass backing. The drum machine sends this squarely to the open air dancefloors of Ibiza’s clubs. Bernard sings of ‘the holiday we spent together, lives with me now and forever’ and the gorgeous hook ‘I can’t find my piece of mind, because I think about you all of the time’. After the chorus there are crashing synth stabs and instrumental breaks, a synth clarinet maybe, and then verse and chorus again. The dropout at 2.39 with synth bass and drum machine is heart-stopping. Then there are more wonderful synths before the chorus comes back a minute later and a whispered bit leading towards the pile up at the end and the sound of hitting all the keys on the synth at once. One of their very best.

Mr Disco

As a bonus, here’s the sublime Vanishing Point played live on Channel 4’s Big World Cafe

and Round And Round from the same show…

So there you have it, a magnificent album containing none of the songs they’re best known for, a number one hit on the UK album charts, a record that is getting on for thirty years old and, I’m afraid, the last time they were truly great. After this they splintered into the various side projects, came back together for the World In Motion single, splintered again, re-united to make an album in a doomed attempt to save Factory from bankrupcy and then split again and then there’s all of that leading up to the very bitter position they’re in today. I’ve read all three of Hooky’s books and very entertaining they are too. I’ve read Bernard’s book. I’ve read other books about Factory and New Order. I’ve read countless articles about them and interviews with them. And what have I learned? That they made some my favourite records and that in the end, despite the fact that the story of New Order, the mythology, is hugely important, what really matters is the tunes.

I’ve Been Waiting To Hear Your Voice For Too Long Now

By 1985 New Order were well into their stride, the faltering, unsure, step-by-step progress of the early years well in the past. 1983’s album Power, Corruption And Lies more or less invented electronic indie and contained at least two career high points (Age Of Consent and Your Silent Face) as well as the blueprint for Blue Monday. The run of singles from 1982 to 1985 takes in Temptation, Blue Monday, Confusion, the peerless Thieves Like Us plus its B-side Lonesome Tonight. Then they put out another album, recorded in 1984 and released in May ’85- Lowlife.

Lowlife only has eight songs on it but almost every one is a winner, disco and rock seamlessly intertwined. The sound combines full on synths and sequencers with Hooky’s distorted bass providing the rock ballast. Stephen’s drumming, with plenty of digital delay, is crisp and loud. The guitars are trebly and choppy, like Velvets era Lou Reed on acid. Lowlife is the first New Order album to contain singles and the first to feature band photographs on the cover (which Peter Saville then obscured by wrapping in tracing paper). From opener the Salford country & western of Love Vigilantes with Barney’s enigmatic Vietnam War lyric to the magnificent closer Face Up this is a record I never get bored of. Face Up is huge, a glorious synth and bass intro, sampled choral voices, synth drum pads and then … whoosh, we bounce along in NO disco heaven. The lyrics contain the usual mix of clunkers and the perfect skewering of life (see ‘your hair was blonde, your eyes were blue, guess what I’m gonna do to you’ and ‘we were young and we were pure and life was just an open door’). Up until 1989 the lyrics were usually a group effort. For Technique Barney took over lyrics and vocals completely, something else Hooky rues as a nail in the coffin.

Sub-culture is here too, another disco-rock peak, Barney’s vocals sounding like a guide vocal that he never bothered to redo (and all the better for it). That one fingered synth intro, followed by the drum machine and then the dark lyrics about walking in the park late at night and shafting on your own. Sub-culture is a close cousin of The Perfect Kiss and builds similarly, synth drums and bass riffs piling on top of each other. It was later released as a single in remixed form (by John Robie, an inferior version really with backing vox and synth stabs. Peter Saville was so disappointed he refused to design a sleeve for it). Hooky points to Robie’s influence as being one of the turning points that ruined the group. Before Robie they didn’t write songs following any rules- after Robie Bernard insisted on all the songs being in his key and eventually they became verse-chorus- middle eight formulaic. But let’s leave the blame game aside and stick to the songs. Elegia is their intense instrumental tribute to their former, deceased frontman. I posted the unedited fifteen minute version last autumn and if you haven’t heard it you should seek it out. The Perfect Kiss is inserted as track two, a peak among peaks (although it’s an edited version on Lowlife. You need the full-on 12″ version, a single for which the 12″ format might have been invented). The Perfect Kiss has peaks and troughs, bass playing that is something else entirely, and several climaxes. This Time Of Night and Sooner Than You Think are both good album tracks. If pushed I could live without Sooner…. I suppose. But today’s song is this one, closing side one, Sunrise. Possibly the rockiest song on Lowlife it opens with descending synth chords before being joined by a superb bass riff -then the whole band join in, pronto. The guitars rattle, bottle tops on the strings to get a Morricone sound and Bernard’s vocal is straining, at the top of his register. The synths continue to wash away. The guitar, bass and drums drive away. At the end Bernard thrashes the toggle switch on his guitar. Done.

Sunrise

A Given End To Your Dreams

More early New Order. Movement was released in December 1981 and was by all accounts a difficult album to make. The group were unbalanced and their way of working was broken (during the Joy Division days the group would jam and Ian Curtis would spot the good bits which would then be worked into songs). No one especially wanted to sing and none of them could play and sing at the same time (this would become part of their sound in the 80s- Barney’s guitar playing filling the bits where he’s not singing and Hooky frequently carrying the melodies. Weaknesses become strengths). Movement was produced by Martin Hannett but the relationship between the group and the producer had broken down. According to Hooky ‘Hannett would lock himself in the control room, saying ‘Start playing, I’ll come out if I hear anything I like’. He never came out’. Hannett was also suing Factory at the time which can’t have helped.

Out of this came an album which sounds a bit like Joy Division but without Curtis, trying to move forward but not really managing it. The real movement would come with the singles- Everything’s Gone Green, Procession, Temptation and the second album. Having said that time has left some highlights- Doubts Even Here, The Him and ICB all have glimmers of the future and the sounds are becoming more varied. The peak is the opener, the only song on the album which is just guitar, bass and drums and the one that Hooky sings. Dreams Never End is a properly exciting song, from the intro of driving bass and guitar lines playing around each other onwards.

Dreams Never End

Peter Saville’s cover art, Italian futurism again, is beautiful.

As a bonus here’s a lost child of the New Order story. In 1982 New Order recorded a second Peel Session. Two of the songs would later appear on Power, Corruption And Lies, an album which redefined them and their music. The two other songs were a cover of Keith Hudson’s dub reggae song Turn The Heater On (an Ian Curtis favourite and recorded for him, I’ve posted it before) and Too Late.

Too Late is a moody song, synth drums, beautifully distorted bass and glacial pace, haunting and the equal of most other songs from around this time. According to Hooky when they were having a go at recording it Bernard had nipped out of the studio. The other three put some backing vocals down. When Barney returned he showed his disgust at this and walked out. It was never finished. And in Hooky’s view this was one of the starting points for Bernard grappling for control of the band. As a result of this Too Late would only ever appear as the Peel Session version.

There Is No End To This

Before my holiday I promised/threatened some New Order posts, so that’s what’s happening for the next few days I think- nuclear war and a Nazi takeover of the US notwithstanding. It is utterly appalling that the President cannot condemn actual Nazis on the streets of the a US city, murdering people. It is utterly appalling that Nazis still exist to demonstrate openly. This is the swill that comes to the fore following Trump’s election, Farage’s games, Brexit, ‘populism’ and austerity. Racists emboldened to show their faces in daylight.

Back to the music. Procession is an overlooked New Order single being neither the defiant ‘we’re alive’ rallying cry of Ceremony nor the ‘we’ve just invented dance-rock’ blast of futurism that is Everything’s Gone Green. In his book Substance- Inside New Order Hooky names Procession as one of four key songs that led the group out of Joy Division’s rock and into New Order’s electronics. During the 80s most New Order songs were written by the group jamming and then identifying the best bits and working them into a song. Procession was different, largely written by Stephen Morris (the lyrics and vocal lines plus a lot of the keyboard parts apparently). No sequencers at this point but the road to Blue Monday (and beyond) is clearly present. The 7″ single was released in September 1981, a few months before Movement. The other side is Everything’s Gone Green, a much more significant song, a huge, throbbing piece of dance-rock and a massive step forward. Procession gets overlooked. Which it shouldn’t.

Peter Saville’s sleeve came in nine different colours (for the record I own two, a blue and a green) and is based on Italian futurist designer Fortunato Depero’s work. Everything’s Gone Green would be released later in 1981 as a full length 12″ version. These songs were the last New Order songs produced by Martin Hannett. According to  Hooky, Hannett made Barney do the vocals forty three times. Hannett was bereft without Ian Curtis and had little time for the three that were left behind. In return Hook, Sumner and Morris had had enough of Hannett and his methods and habits and felt they’d learned enough to produced themselves. Procession is light and poppy, with synths to the fore, but also dense and uptight. The vocals are muffled and indistinct in places. Hooky’s bass is still very much a Joy Division bassline and Stephen Morris’s drums are as urgent and precise as ever. There are backing vocals from Gillian, a bit of light in the shade, and it all comes together with the ‘your heart beats you late at night’ vocal followed by some spindly guitar from Barney and then a sudden end before the synth outro. Compared to the largely dour Movement from later that year things are moving forward though, clearly.

Procession