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

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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

New Order split up, sort of, for the first time in the late 80s, splintering into several bands who all sounded a bit like New Order. After ten years together they needed some space from each other. Depending on who you believe a) Bernard had had enough of Hooky’s habits and wanted to make music without having to have his bass on everything b) Hooky thought Bernard was a big-headed, lead singer who was trying to take over the band to make dance records. And so began the intermittent sniping at each other which, despite a massively successful reformation in the mid-90s and again in the early 2000s, has led to New Order touring and making records without Peter Hook. And whatever he’s done and however he behaves, it doesn’t really seem like New Order without Hooky on bass.

Bernard and Johnny Marr recorded a handful of great singles- Getting Away With It and Get The Message- and their first album was a good ‘un from start to finish. Having abandoned The Smiths Bernard had to coax the best guitarist of his generation into playing the guitar at all on the debut. The rough and funky guitar break on Feel Every Beat, last song on the album, make ’em wait, is signature Marr. The song also has Barney rapping and getting away it. Just about.

Feel Every Beat (12″ mix)

Hooky formed Revenge/took Revenge. He claimed Johnny Marr had promised to work with him first and then left him in the lurch. Now, now children, play nicely. Revenge’s debut single was also good, full of sparkling guitars and NO-esque keys and singing. I don’t have it on the hard drive at the moment and can’t be arsed ripping it so it’s video only. The album had a few moments too but nothing as fresh as 7 Reasons. 7 Reasons had an opening line as arch as anything Barney could come up with… ‘It’s good to be young and gifted again, to see if it all happens twice’.

He went on to find more chart success with Monaco (with David Potts). I was less fussed about Monaco and don’t own anything by them- they sounded like a photocopy of New Order. A photocopy of a photocopy of New Order. But I don’t begrudge Hooky that. I saw Revenge playing at Cities In The Park, in Heaton Park, in 1991. They played in the middle of the afternoon and sounded like a dance Sisters Of Mercy. Electronic played later, with both Pet Shop Boys turning up. They were much, much better.

Stephen and Gillian shrugged, tutted and then got on with making music as The Other Two. Their debut was also a little slice of joy. Sounds a little dated now I think. Kylie should have covered this. It is in lots of ways a long way from Transmission.

Factory lost New Order and gained three sub-bands, none of whom (Electronic excepted occasionally) could match New Order’s record sales. Then Factory went bust, waiting and hoping for the band to put an lp out in time to save the label but ti didn’t happen. Electronic, Revenge and the Other Two had all put out their records on Factory. By the time they kissed and made up, Factory was gone.

Oh Men

Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert, the two members of New Order who don’t hate each other, have done a remix of a Tim Burgess solo song, Oh Men. Tim co-wrote the song with Kurt Wagner (Lambchop) and Peter Gordon (Love Of Life Orchestra). The Other Two remix sounds a bit late era New Order, a bit Kraftwerk. It is sprightly and out now on vinyl (along with the wonderful Peaking Lights remix and versions from Grumbling Fur and Carter Tutti). There are only 500 copies worldwide. They’ve still got some at the ever brilliant Piccadilly Records.

No-one falls out quite like Manchester bands do they? Bernard and Hooky, Morrissey and Marr, Morrissey and Rourke, Morrissey and Joyce, Ian Brown and John Squire, Ian Brown and Reni, all of Happy Mondays, Liam and Noel… I’d like to see an Mcr loathing-each-other supergroup. Put them all in a rehearsal room and see what happens.

Sixteen

At 7.37 am sixteen years ago today our first child, Isaac, was born. He had breathing difficulties from the start and spent the first two weeks of his life in hospital, two hospitals actually, in the special care baby unit and then maternity. He ended up spending a lot more time in hospital over the following years. At eight months he was diagnosed with a serious genetic disease, Hurler’s disease, following a series of problems- deafness, hernias and then hydrocephalus. Before the age of two he had several operations and two bone marrow transplants, one of which nearly did for him. He has lived with many serious health issues and some severe special needs. In 2008, due a very weakened immune system, he contracted meningitis and survived. A very long operation to straighten his back was delayed by the meningitis and then some months later done successfully. Three years ago he had a cochlear implant which has changed his life, opening up a new world of sound to him. Funnily, a lot of this stuff I’m describing here seems like a long time ago- chronologically and in other ways too.

This list of medical issues and procedures only partly defines him and us. There’s no denying it is and has been very difficult at times and that more troubles probably lie ahead. But almost everyone who meets him and gets pinned down for a chat leaves feeling happier. He knows far more people than I do. He makes friends wherever he goes. He has endless reserves and goes on where many others would just take to their beds and stay there.

So, turning sixteen today is a big deal in lots of ways.

Run Wild

Run Wild was a late addition to New Order’s 2001 comeback album Get Ready. The tune is lovely, acoustic guitars and melodica and a sweet tune. Unusually the lyrics were written by Stephen (not Bernard), written for his and Gillian’s seriously ill daughter. It’s always struck a chord with me.

In The Ghetto

This is from a charity album from a couple of years ago (1969- Key To Change, for homeless charities, all the songs being covers of songs from 1969). Bernard Sumner’s short lived Bad Lieutenant project doing Elvis’ In The Ghetto. It’s pretty faithful to the original and a song that maybe doesn’t stand much mucking about with but there’s an element of karaoke about it. Bernard sings it well and I suppose that’s the main draw- In The Ghetto being sung in a soft Mancunian voice rather than a Southern US one, and there’s a good guitar break from about 2.50 onwards.

I saw Bad Lieutenant at The Ritz. They played the first half of the set from the Bad Lieutenant lp, Stephen Morris on drums, a pair of guitarists plus Bernard’s guitar and it was all so-so. The second half was far livelier- a bunch of well chosen New Order songs, a rarely performed early Electronic album track and the Chemical Brothers/Sumner smash Out Of Control, then Love Will Tear Us Apart. Just play the hits Bernard, just play the hits. I had a ciggie outside alongside Mani who was asked by a passing gent when the Freebass album was coming out. ‘Fuck knows’ he replied. Things have shifted a bit since then for our Mani. Freebass (Hooky, Mani and Andy Rourke with an unknown singer and an ‘amusing’ name) was never going to work was it?

Snubbed Four

An ace New Order interview just after the release of Technique with a very fresh faced Bernard, a less fresh faced Hooky and Stephen. Vaguely stroppy throughout regarding Top Of The Pops, videos, the re-release of Atmosphere, marketing Ian Curtis and a certain Irish frontman…’It’s all pretty hypocritical and it’s a false ideology, I mean U2 are supposed to be Christians right and a big Christian belief is that thou shall not become a false messiah, right, and that Bongo guy, right, he’s having a good stab at it isn’t he?’