From Joy Division to Joy Division in 26 years: A personal history of New Order gigs.
In April 1980 I went to my 2nd ever live gig – Joy Division at the Derby Hall in Bury. It was a month before my 15th Birthday and I was obsessed with them. Peter Hook lived next door to my mate Burgy (they could hear him practicing his bass through the walls) and my mate Terry knew Hookeys brother, who’d told us stories of folding all the covers for ‘An ideal for living’ EP on the kitchen table (I’ve still got my copy). We instinctively knew they were special. They were our band.
The gig itself was shambollic. Minny Pops and Section 25 had opened and Joy Division came on without Ian Curtis. He appeared a few tunes in, did a couple of songs and stumbled off again. At this point some kids got up (they were in the year below us at school!) and took over singing Digital “Day in, Day out” at which point the bottle throwing started and the gig descended into a violent battlefield.
Three days later they were playing at the Factory in Hulme but we didn’t bother going as we’d seen them so recently. A month later Curtis was dead. I found out when John Peel announced it on his evening radio show and played ‘New Dawn Fades‘ from Unknown Pleasures. That track still makes my blood run cold.
When the surviving members carried on (with the help of Gillian) as New Order, I was overjoyed. It was the right thing to do. The first gig I saw them at was the COMANCHE students union in Manchester (6th Feb 1981) an incredibly charged evening. They did a short set of 8 new songs (4 we’d heard on a recent Peel session) and they were off – no encores in those days of course. No names on the sleeves. No singles or B-sides on the LPs. Glorious! They were the band I wanted to be in.
By now, the rest of the world was catching up. ‘Love will tear us apart’, when finally released, even made the top 20 (Simon Bates played it at the wrong speed on the top 20 show – a 7″ that played at 33 – good old Factory!) & New Orders debut 45 ‘Ceremony’ (a Joy Division song) sneaked into the top 40.
At the end of 1981 they played at the Ritz in Manchester, a very different evening from trhe last gig. The place was packed, hot and sweaty. We managed to get to the front and 2 hours after the support had gone off……..we were still waiting! When they finally came on they looked pissed as rats. Bernard even dropped his microphone, as if to add insult to injury, onto my mate Deweys head!
A couple of weeks later, my cousin Dig and I were walking through the Arndale in town and recognized the lead singer of the support band ‘Beach Red’ selling lottery tickets in a booth and we went over for a chat. “You were miles better than the band before you” (Stockholm Monsters) “I thought we were miles better than the band after us!”
The next gig (June 82) was at the newly opened FAC51:The Hacienda. You had to be a member to get into the Hacienda and New Order played as a recruitment drive. The deal was, become a member and get a free New Order ticket. I had to lie about my age to get one and was member number 151. I loved the Hacienda. It was in the days when it was empty unless there was a gig on. It was a converted warehouse and bands sounded like…..well…like they were playing in a warehouse. That didn’t matter if you were up at the front, which we always were.
Dewey and I next saw them at FUTURAMA 4 (Sept 82) a wonderful event featuring Factory stable mates ‘Durutti Column’ and other Manchester favourites of ours ‘Dislocation Dance’. Youths new band ‘Brilliant’, ‘Blancmange’ (the first electronic duo to cover an ABBA song), ‘Dalek I Love You’ and ‘Icicle Works’ also played.
As the music in the Hacienda became more Chicago house-ified, so New Orders music moved away from their indie roots. I remember hearing ‘Blue Monday’ for the first time (well, it was actually the B-side ‘The Beach’). Tony Wilson was being interviewed by Mark Radcliffe on Piccadilly radio and played it as a forthcoming single. I taped it and played it to my mate Terry down the phone “Guess who this is” “Dunno” “New Order!” “You’re joking!” “They’ve been in the Hacienda too much!”. Dance music was not on the agenda for skinny indie kids back then. Dance music was what Shalamar did – not what we were supposed to be into!
In Jan 83 I had a ticket for the next Hacienda gig, but couldn’t go because I had Chicken Pox. Make sure your kids get it when they’re young, it’s an awful, painful thing to have as an adult and you miss New Order gigs! I later obtained a bootleg recording of the gig, which sounded great (new stuff was off the soon to be released ‘Power Corruption and Lies’) – but this was little consolation. Terry and I also missed their July 83 gig at FAC51 as we were on holiday in Newquay with our mate Dave Gorman (“Hard Man Dave Gorman” that is – number 46).
The Tube came to the Hacienda in January 84 and we were there. The coolest part of FAC51 was always the cocktail bar (The Gay Traitor). It was celebs only that night. Our mate Werty worked behind the bar there and could be seen throughout the programme making drinks and washing glasses in his red cowboy shirt. Luckily none of the benefit agency were watching as he was on the dole at the time!** Madonna was there miming and dancing to ‘Holiday’. She was supposed to be doing a full set in the evening but cancelled because she was too tired. There was a factory all stars set with Barny + co. leading members of ACR and 52nd Street. Terrys ginger mane and burgy reaching out to me and Dewey could be seen….
Their next Manchester appearance was in April 85 at Salford University with a new band ‘Happy Mondays’ supporting them. I recognized the lead singer as the bloke I’d been dancing next to at an ACR FAC51 gig – not many people danced in those days so you would tend to remember them.
It was the Mondays in support again at the end of the year (3/12/85), this time back at the Hacienda there was nothing quite like that place, with a stylish designer Sopporo in your hand (usually filled up with cheap lager after the first one) playing ‘battle tank’ upstairs before moshing at the front (not sure what we called it in those days but it wasn’t moshing) to Hookey waving his low slung bass dangerously close to us at the front.
In March 86 we had a boys trip out to see them at the Spectrum Arena in Warrington (where the Snooker world championship used to come from), coach laid on and everything from Piccadilly records. This was when ‘Brotherhood’ was about to be released more anthemic choruses with dodgy verses.but you never really noticed the lyrics when everything else was spot on.
June 86 was the 10th anniversary of Punk coming to Manchester when the Buzzcocks put on the Sex Pistols at the Free Trade Hall (see the 24Hr party People film for details). Factory Records organised a week of celebrations under the banner ‘The Festival of the 10th Summer’ culminating in an all day, all star gig at GMEX the old central station (Deweys favourite building).
The Smiths played at the half way stage and were bloody fantastic. The set they played was pretty much the one from their ‘Rank’ live LP – the inside gatefold sleeve of which features a photo from that day. They were such a hard act to follow that the rest of the day was a bit flat. New Order closed the day with a set that included Ian McCulloch singing ‘Ceremony’ – he was probably the only person in the building who didnt know the words!
I moved to London in Sept 86 and immersed myself in its gig culture – something to go to every night of the week! Factory put on a day festival at Finsbury Park in June 87 featuring New Order as headline with ACR, The Railway Children (Brighter was such a wonderful single) and Happy Mondays. It was in a huge tent and not actually in the open air, but my memory is a bit fuddled on this one. I remember they did ‘Blue Monday’ – the first time I’d seen them do it live (apart from the awful Top of the pops performance that is).
Later the same month, it was off to Glastonbury where they played a headlining set at the Festival “Have you noticed how all our songs have big endings” says Barny after a synth storm at the end of one track “Big endings, small dicks!”
And then……nothing! After seeing them 11 times in 7 years, they fell off the gig radar, and the Album radar after ‘Technique’ – infighting, drugs, egos…..who knows. The next big Factory event I went to was ‘Cities in the park’ – 2 days of Factories finest, but no New Order.
‘Electronic’ played and whilst I still like their first album (give ‘Some distant memory’ another spin and see what I mean) the 2nd LP has one killer track ‘Forbidden City’ but the rest isn’t great – to have Johnny Marr there & not let him rip with a guitar was criminal.
New Order then rallied again to make ‘Republic’. I was in the states as part of a year out travelling at the time. My now sister-in-law Mitsu sent me a tape of it. Putting the tape in the hire car deck I was feeling a little nervous…..Can they still do it? – what if it’s shit??. I hit the play button……the opening guitar riff and synth, pause, repeated and……BASS LINE…..OH YESSSSSSSSSSS (Derek Guiler stylee). That drive from San Diego to the Grand Canyon I won’t forget.
Then came the rip-off remixes CD (who on earth thinks any of the Blue Monday remixes are better than the original? If you do – You’re sick, you need help!) This was the first time I’d not bought a New Order LP. Was my love for them was on the wain?
Another long absence and to be honest, I’d lost interest and didn’t need to see them anymore. A bit like when the Bunnymen had a long silence after ‘Ocean Rain’ – never the same afterwards. Rave reviews of their guitar friendly, Gillian-less come back stadium concerts in the press didnt get me off my arse to get a ticket. They’d managed once again to pull the rabbit from the bag with a blinding single ‘Crystal’ but I still felt no compulsion to buy the product.
Glastonbury 2005 saw them grace the pyramid stage again and as I was there, it would’ve been rude not to show up. They started really well and I got quite giddy with nostalgia until the inevitable “This is our new single” – Cue: audible groans all round and people started drifting off. They were good, but not that good.
Hookey was quoted as saying “we’ve never had to split up cos we’ve never made a bad album” hmmmm………The Sirens Call…….could be time for your P45s boys…….
At the recent Manchester Vs Cancer gig (Jan 2006) they announced that they were doing a set of Joy Division songs – something I think they first did for John Peel Day. I had mixed feelings about it but hearing those songs live again…….Joy joy joy!
A 26 year journey…………..where will it end?
Anyone know where I can get some Joy Division oven gloves??
Bob the Chiropodist (Jan 2006)
**Andrij informs me that he was not repeat NOT on the dole, but on a Government Sponsored Training Scheme…..sorry sorry sorry……