Before they recorded their classic 1983 album Power Corruption & Lies, New Order made an extended trip to New York and absorbed some of the city’s more upbeat sounds into their own morose and world-weary music. Latin salsa, 12” remix culture and the electronic beats they heard in nightclubs like Danceteria and the Roxy were obvious inspirations for the music they would soon come to make.
But at the time this was videotaped—live at the Ukrainian National Home in New York’s East Village on November 18, 1981—New Order were still largely Joy Division minus Ian Curtis, a post punk band, not the electronic dance quartet they would soon become. It’s a fascinating document of the group during what is perhaps the least documented era of their long career. As I would personally chose Movement over anything else in their catalog, this was a real treat to watch.
Low lights, the intense musicians saying almost nothing to the audience, a concert held in a hot sweaty dance hall—there’s an extremely underground quality to this show.
Standing around the Ukrainian National Home on Manhattan’s lower Second Avenue puts me in a sour mood. This is a prestigious gig in an odd venue, and the audience, like the hall, is truly pretentious in its self-conscious unpretentiousness. The place is full of the cream of New York’s pseudo-Continentals, the transparent and ridiculous ‘80’s would-be bohemians with their long dark coats, scarves and faces. Unfortunately, very much the crowd you would expect for New Order. The evening’s whole mood has been strongly anti-rock, so it’s refreshing and pleasantly surprising when New Order’s set begins brightly, with real strength and power.
“Truly pretentious in its self-conscious unpretentiousness”?
Perhaps I’m a little late to the party with this one—so if you’ve already heard it keep on scrolling. Two days ago, the BBC released a cover version of New Order’s “Blue Monday” done in a 1930s style. The cover was done in celebration of the March 7, 1983 release of the song. This version of “Blue Monday,” performed by Orkestra Obsolete, used only instruments that were actually available in the 1930s, such as the theremin, musical saw, prepared piano and more. It’s actually a pretty good cover and works great, in my opinion.
For more information about the project go to the BBC Arts site.
Bernard Sumner talked about the ad in a 1999 Q&A with fans. One Peter Rees of Shrewsbury asked what the lyrics were supposed to have been, and Barney did his best to remember:
“How does it feel/When you’re drinking in the sun? Something something/Sunkist is the one/How does it feel/When you’re drinking in the sun/All you’ve got to believe/Is Sunkist is the one.” I didn’t write them. We got offered £100,000 to do it. I kept laughing when I was singing it, so Hooky got a piece of card and wrote “£100,000” on it, held it up, and I sang it perfectly. But then Rob Gretton turned up and he put the kibosh on it. There’s a remix of Blue Monday by Steve “Silk” Hurley and it’s got the Sunkist lyrics on it.
Is it true that the band did a commercial for Sunkist?
“They asked us to try it. So we tried it and it sounded so bad that we couldn’t let them have it. They originally told us they wanted to use ‘Blue Monday’ and we thought, ‘Fine. Great.’ So then they said, ‘Right, when are you gonna do this voice over?’ Voice over? We tried singing the changed lyrics and we started rolling around on the floor. They were offering us a fortune, but the cringe part of it was too heavy.”
What were the changed lyrics?
“Sunkist is the one,” Hook says through clenched teeth. “Oh, never mind.”
If not for Galaxie 500’s version of “Ceremony,” I probably wouldn’t like that song all that much.
OK, so while the commenters busy themselves sharpening their claws and crayons to inform me that I’m an idiot who knows nothing of music and should immediately be fired, let’s talk about the song. “Ceremony” was an ill-starred entry into the later Joy Division catalog. No proper studio recording was ever made, so the version most fans know best is the live version on the posthumous JD release Still, from which about half the vocals are AWOL. A different version, culled from a rehearsal tape, appeared on the boxed set Heart & Soul. The vocals are all present, but are largely unintelligible, and there’d never be another chance to get it right, as the group’s singer Ian Curtis took his own life days after that tape was made. I’ve heard that another live version exists, a crummy bootleg of a soundcheck, but I’m aware of no extant version with Curtis’ vocals clear and complete. (If I’m wrong on that, for the love of all that matters in this shitsack world, post a link, PLEASE.)
Joy Division, ”Ceremony,” version from Still
Joy Division, ”Ceremony,” version from Heart and Soul
The lineup that the Tibet House US put together for the 24th Annual Tibet House US Benefit Concert at Carnegie Hall two nights ago was the kind of collection of noteworthy musical talents that was guaranteed to make a certain kind of discerning fan of rock music quiver with excitement. The program promised the following enticements:
Matt Berning, Aaron Dessner, & Bryce Dessner of The National
Bernard Sumner, Phil Cunningham, & Tom Chapman of New Order
Patti Smith and her Band
With an invocation and closing by
Monks from the Drepung Gomang Monasteries
The evening would prove to have an impressive number of impromptu guests and collaborations not depicted here, including the surprise appearance of Sufjan Stevens, who sat in with The National; Nico Muhly playing together with Philip Glass; and a special gesture of tribute to recently departed Lou Reed from Patti Smith, who covered Reed’s classic “Perfect Day.”
But most exciting of all, perhaps, was Iggy Pop teaming up with three of the members of New Order (no Peter Hook, of course; Sumner was the only original member present) to play two of Joy Division’s most enduring songs, “Transmission” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” As all dedicated Joy Division fans know, when Ian Curtis hanged himself on May 18, 1980, Iggy’s 1977 album The Idiot was spinning on the turntable just a few feet away.
Perhaps you noticed a number of your friends posting—and then deleting—a “rare” cover version of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” on their Facebook walls today. The track in question was supposedly recorded by David Bowie and members of New Order.
Here’s what it said on YouTube:
A chance meeting in 1983 had David Bowie, Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook chatting away over beers in the Kings Arms in Salford. “...So we were all there just having a laugh and we joked that he should come n have a jam with us, then next minute - well, it was the next day actually, but i didn’t expect he’d definitely come by - and we were in the practice rooms and we were playing Love Will Tear Us Apart and i was like, f%$K we’re playing Love Will Tear Us Apart with David Bowie singing, this is crazy. We never released it - Bowie took a recording of it, and just layered some more vocals on for fun, sent it back to me…” - Bernard Sumner.
Was this the handiwork of Tim Heidecker?
Was Adam Buxton responsible, perhaps?
Until the perpetrator steps forward we may never know who was behind this clever prank, but Joy Division’s Peter Hook has weighed in on Twitter to say that… it’s a fake (as if that already wasn’t already totally obvious to anyone with ears, although I did appreciate the low-fi “bootleg” sound quality, which lent an air of authenticity to the proceedings. Extra points for that).
Here’s a little something you don’t see every day, a compilation of original video by bands associated with the “lesser” Factory-related record labels operating out of Brussels Belgium. It’s called Umbrellas in the Sun and consists of seldom-seen videos from more well-known Factory acts like A Certain Ratio, Durutti Column, Section 25 and even New Order, along with more more obscure groups like Crispy Ambulance, Josef K., The Names, Quando Quango and plenty of others.
The two Belgium-based labels, Factory Benelux and Disques de Crepescule, were founded by Michel Duval and Annik Honoré (if this latter name sounds familiar it should, as she was with Ian Curtis during the last years of his life), and featured music that didn’t exactly fit Factory’s profile or release schedule. Although practically anything that showed up on these labels was (at least!) kinda quirky, some of it was as good if not better than some of what was on Factory Records proper.
For instance, The Plateau Phase by Crispy Ambulance, was both too far out as well as perhaps too… proggy (?) for Factory, nevertheless it still sounds fantastic. Hell, this being the Internet, I can even pass you a toke (here’s “Travel Time” off that record):
In 2005, fellow Factory nut James Nice put out Umbrellas in the Sun on the LTM label. Here’s a chunk of that DVD featuring all sorts of exotic post-punk treats filmed between 1980 & 1985. Ah yes, another fine example of the Internet practically vomiting diamonds into our cupped hands. Feel free to slide them down your own gullet, though do be prepared for the fact that much of it will scratch and burn on the way down.
I know it’s Thursday, but every day could do with a rendition of New Order’s “Blue Monday” at some point.
As if the electro-pop classic wasn’t epic and brooding enough, here it is performed by the 60-piece Brythoniad Male Voice Choir, commissioned for the UK’s Festival Number 6.
To celebrate New Order headlining the first year of the UK’s newest festival, the Brythoniad Male Voice Choir were commissioned by Festival No.6 to record their own unique version of Blue Monday.
The 60 members of the Brythoniad Male Voice Choir, formed in 1964 in Blaenau Ffestiniog, recorded their interpretation of the seminal track in the studio, then filmed the video on location at the stunning Portmeirion, location for Festival No.6 .
Surely the most unique setting for a festival the UK has ever seen?
There is more information on Festival Number 6, headlined by New Order, Primal Scream and Spiritualized and taking place in Portmerion, Wales on the 14th, 15th and 16th of September, on the festival’s website.
You may remember a few months ago I posted about Joyce D’Vision, the world’s first drag queen tribute band to Joy Division (of which I am a member) and our adventures on UK primetime TV with the comedian Harry Hill.
Well, we have finally managed to wrangle Joyce herself into the studio to record some vocals, and the first fruits of this labor are cover versions of “She’s Lost Control” and “Isolation.” Both are iconic, classic tracks, that have been covered before (by Siobhán Fahey, Grace Jones and Wino & Conny Ochs, as featured in yesterday’s Roadburn post) but I like to think we have put our own unique spin on them.
While some people find the idea of Joyce D’Vision highly offensive, to me it’s as Northern English as Eccles cakes and Boddington’s bitter. People in Manchester have a sly, sometimes wicked sense of humor, and they are not above taking the complete mickey out of themselves and the stultifying, retro-based “Madchester” culture industry that seems to have a stranglehold on this town (check the blog Fuc251 for proof.) Unfortunately Joy Division are very much a part of this frozen-in-amber, Manchester music-heritage industry, which goes against the iconoclasm inherent in the band, and is ironic as they were sorely under-appreciated in this town when they did exist.
And that’s where we come in. It’s all in the best possible taste, darling, with hints of Vic & Bob, The League of Gentlemen, Kenny Everett and Frank Sidebottom (a legendary Manc comic who famously covered “Love Will Tear Us Apart” on a Casio). We’re not doing this because we hate Joy Division, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Joy Division have helped us get through as much teen angst as the next wrist cutter, but the band’s hallowed status doesn’t mean they are above a bit of fun poking. Every religion needs its satirists. Because let’s face it, if what we’re doing is somehow ruining your teen dreams or memories of a JD goth paradise, then those dreams and memories were not very solid in the first place.
I am well aware of Ian Curtis’ mental health problems (duh!) and I’m 100% convinced he had that same sly, piss-taking, Manc sense of humor as everyone else who grew up within the city’s grey-and-redbrick confines. I think he would have had a giggle or two at a bearded drag queen singing his songs.
Joyce D’Vision with Harry Hill on the set of TV Burp
But more to the actual point, I wonder what Peter Hook thinks?
If you’re not aware, original JD/New Order bassist Hook has formed a new band with jobbing Manchester musicians called The Light, whose purpose is to cover the work of Joy Division. He’s the only original member, and now the band are embarking on a tour playing “Unknown Pleasures” in full.
Originally Hooky himself was on vocal duties, but after he shamefully forgot the words at an infamous Manchester show a couple of years ago, he has brought in Rowetta (ex-Happy Mondays and Britain’s Got Talent) to sing instead. Not to mention some of his celebrity-fan pals when they have the chance - The Light have performed JD tracks with Billy Corgan, Moby and Perry Farrell on vocals, among others. They sing from a lyrics book open at the front of the stage.
So is what we are doing with Joyce D’Vision really any worse than what Peter Hook is doing with The Light? In a sense, both are karaoke, but only one has an actual on-stage lyrics sheet. And it’s not the band with the drag queens. Which of the two acts, Joyce D’Vision or The Light, are going to do more to shatter your teen-goth memories of Joy Division?
I don’t doubt that The Light has got something to do with New Order reforming recently without Hook and his iconic bass sound, a massive “fuck you” statement in his general direction. A lot of people in Manchester are happy they did this, but there’s also many people wondering if New Order can properly function without Hook on bass. I’m not sure, but either way, I do wonder now what Barney and Steve (original JD members, remember) and Gillian (a HUGE drag inspiration for our band) make of Joyce D’Vision?
Time will tell. For now, here are our first two tracks:
The Tube was an early-to-mid 80s British “yoof” TV program covering music and fashion, hosted by Jools Holland and Paula Yates. This special report comes from sometime around 1983 (the date is unspecified but we know that Klaus Nomi has already died) when Holland and guest presenter Leslie Ash take a trip around New York’s most happening night spots. That includes the Paradise Garage, Danceteria, The Roxy and even a brief, passing glimpse of CBGBs.
If you can ignore the cheesy presenting style (“Wow! Clubs in New York stay open until FOUR o’clock!”, “I hear this club has a “happening” sound system.” etc) there are some great interviews here, as well as some priceless footage inside the clubs mentioned. So we get the likes of Arthur Baker talking about producing New Order, Nona Hendryx and Quando Quango performing live, Afrika Bambaataa on the turntables at The Roxy, The Peech Boys backstage at the Paradise Garage, and Ruth Polsky and Rudolph of Danceteria talking about their good friend, the recently deceased Klaus Nomi:
Taken from the upcoming New Order/Joy Division greatest hits album “Total,” this rocky track has been played on Irish radio and since found its way onto the web. This brings up two questions in my mind - how can this be described as a “leak” if it has been played (presumably officially) on the radio? And why the hell do these two different bands need a combined “best of”?
Don’t test the Jolly Boys: l-r Derrick “Johnny” Henry, Albert Minott, Joseph “Powder” Bennett
Bernard & boys, they’ve got yr techno right here. Gravelly-voiced Jamaican singer Albert Minott and his majority-septuagenarian group the Jolly Boys have eaten rock ‘n’ roll and new wave for lunch.
For over 55 years, the Jolly Boys have played a style of music called mento, which—much like Trinidadian calypso—dates back to the late-19th century, before ska, reggae and dancehall became Jamaica’s predominant styles. As with most things Jamaican, mento is simultaneously soulful, sweet and rugged.
Minott and his crew—including original members Joseph “Powder” Bennett on maracas, Derrick “Johnny” Henry on marumba box, Allan Swymmer on percussion, and Egbert Watson on banjo—have just released an album of covers called Great Expectations, produced by Jon Baker and Dale Virgo.
Tracks include versions of Iggy Pop’s “Passengers” and “Nightclubbing”, the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” and the Rolling Stones’ “You Can Always Get What You Want.”
After the jump: the Boys’ take on Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”…