Brief break from the gig list-athon for this, which was a special moment for me in the mid 80’s. After being into Adam & The Ants, The Police, Madness, The Specials etc from when I was aged 11 I never actually fully liked music that much. In all truth if I was watching Tiswas and a band came on i’d generally sigh from boredom and switch over to Swap Shop. A stance that would change aided largely by one group.
On a Saturday looking wishfully in Dixons, the electrical store in Birmingham City Centre my Nan took me by complete surprise and bought me my first stereo tape recorder / radio – it wasn’t even my birthday or anything, a magical surprise, thanks Nan, you take care up there. The very same day when I got home New Order were broadcast live on the BBC. Almost certainly fate. It was about 4pm on a Saturday afternoon and was for a telethon kind of thing (this was quite new at the time, pre Comic Relief, Live Aid, etc). I had noticed and purchased Blue Monday – but what was about to unfold was one hell of a wake up to music call for me.
The presenters were keen to point out that the TV Broadcast was being also played live on Radio One in stereo. With my new stereo system and New Order about to come on I knew exactly what I had to do. Impulse. I cracked open my BASF blank C90 tapes and recored the show whilst watching it on TV (no video player in my household in 1984 – we weren’t millionaires).
The live version of “In A Lonely Place” was like the band closing the door on Joy Division right there and then. This song still had the mood of Joy Division but clearly Bernard Sumner was a very different front man to Ian Curtis. I noticed “Gay Sperm” written in paint on one of the amps and can remember quite clearly thinking it had the same amount of letters per word as New Order. Dark dark humour. New Order captivated me even though at the time I’d only heard Blue Monday by them and zero Joy Division at all.
The sound that New Order were to craft fully for themselves is well represented on “The Age Of Consent”. It sounds nothing like Joy Division and is – if you listen to it – quite hard to pigeon hole. It’s not Punk. It’s not New Wave. It’s clearly not New Romantic. It’s New Order! After an awkward (but still well worth a listen debut LP – Movement) the band found their feet with “Power, Corruption & Lies”. An album many would call their best.
New Order do have many great tracks and you’d be hard pushed to find anyone that really thinks “Blue Monday” is not their masterpiece. It’s so good but actually I do not listen to it much at all these days – I should remedy that. Back in the mid 80’s though i’d play it (and the B Side instrumental version “The Beach”) literally to death. I could run the entire song through my head at school whilst daydreaming in a Friday afternoon Maths lesson. I have regretfully sold off most of my vinyl record collection but as I type this my 12 Inch of Blue Monday is less than 2 feet away from me. It’s a gateway record I would never part with.
Being the first time i’d ever seen the band play live (on television that is) I was stunned at how badly they appeared to be playing it. Was Bernard Sumner taking the piss or did he actually sing that bad. Was he being ironic? The track I knew every beat to was being massacred infront of my eyes by the band that wrote it. Then it struck me – that this was just brilliant. This wasn’t Top Of The Pops and there were no overdubs or polishing. This was how they actually sounded and in a punk kind of way – they clearly didn’t care. They do not play the track at any of their gigs and here it had that struggling charm that The Pogues have. Think of the actual 12 Inch Studio Record then watch this video and then think it’s incredible any band can actually play “Blue Monday”.
After watching this broadcast and listening to the C90 tape many, many times I then got heavily into music after checking out all of Joy Division and New Order’s releases. I would buy a twelve inch or album from New Order or Joy Division every week with my pocket money, it was all that really mattered to me for a while. Every record expanded my love for music, imagine hearing Transmission by Joy Division for the first time, no wonder I was spellbound. I was glad someone had uploaded the telethon footage to YouTube as i’d not seen the performance since 1984 and now it’s a time capsule of New Order at a pivotal point in their career. It was some kinda fate. Perfect imperfection…