Track 5: “Ceremony”, Joy Division

Something of a surprise that a band attracting national attention was playing at High Hall, a hall of residence at the University of Birmingham – but a very welcome one.
A fan through listening to John Peel, I’d seen them supporting the Buzzcocks six months or so previous.
I’d gone in my usual blue Littlewoods shirt (never one for fashion), and starting swaying to the very first song – “Ceremony“.  You just got into the groove and started dancing.  I’d even hung around towards the back so I’d got space to move.
There was a bit of a commotion when the lead singer appeared to have collapsed but he came back on.
Not long after, Buzzcocks did a BBC Radio 1 live concert and my mate looked at each other slightly confused when Pete Shelley said “this one’s for Ian Curtis who died last night”.
It wasn’t until almost a week later that an NME poster made it clear to us that he was the Joy Division lead singer.  And it’s kinda how we were – you liked the music, and didn’t worry about the individuals artists; against strut. But once we knew who he was – horrible shock.
This was to be the celebrity death that had the most impact on me, and of course the story has become very well known with 2 movies (a lot of “Control” was filmed in Nottingham and Mapperley Hills) and lots of documentaries, and even one of a series of 4 posters celebrating the event – the actual poster for the night got the date wrong and black biro was used to fill in the errant number “2”.

The recording of the concert was to be the second half of a double album of collected songs, despite one of the mikes not recording the first part of the vocals of “Ceremony” at a proper level.  (I was there, but I can’t hear myself …)
Even so, it’s my favourite version, of my favourite Joy Division song.

Track 5: “Ceremony”, Joy Division, from Still album, live recording from May 2nd, 1980 at Birmingham University.

Previous track – “Making plans for Nigel”, XTC.

Track 4: “Making Plans for Nigel”, XTC

The first gig at university, and that surprise that people thought it was so important to shout out the names of those favourite tracks, in case the band didn’t play them.
The concert hall at the Guild of Students was a nice size, and it was a pleasure to see XTC, part of the new wave, were the first headline act I was gonna see.

“Making Plans for Nigel”, XTC seemed profound then, but perhaps less so now, especially since we’ve lost British Steel, and the confidence we had to really run the country.
The song has many hooks, and the first of them is the drums. So distinctive.
And the song has cropped up in the most surprising of places.
In the crumbling streets of Havana, Cuba, we’d found a decent restaurant, save for the 2 men and a woman touring the tables singing a song at each – and expecting a tip.  And we so didn’t want to stop and listen to “Guantanamera” being sung for us, but we were the last table and the meal was a tad compromised cos we knew they were gonna reach us and we were gonna say No.  We said No, and then felt guilty as they graciously accepted our decline and moved away to the ’50s juke box, where they dropped a big old Cuban coin in the machine and those drums came out, moe powerful and engaging than ever before.

Track 3: “You’re Wondering Now”, The Specials

Again at a Salop home game, and a mate explains to me how ska was being re-worked as “The Prince” comes over the tannoy, and you’re getting ready for university, and after all the music the West Midlands has had (Slade, Black Sabbath, er, Judas Priest, ELO) it seemed yet another vindication for choosing Birmingham University.
And yeah, the region comes up with UB40, Selector and The Specials.

Yet as outside the mainstream as it sounded then, it an’t now – BBC tv’s “Death in Paradise” has even embraced “Wondering Now” made popular by The Specials.
I particularly like the Colchester Institute live performance “You’re wondering now”, Specials, broadcast by the BBC.
Can’t see it on radio, but the fashion, dancing and the performance is great, if let down by the “alright”s at the end.

30th anniversary of the near European nuclear war

A nuclear war nearly triggered by accident.
I guess somehow it is presumed we lost the campaign over nuclear weapons cos we didn’t get unilateral nuclear disarmament. Good therefore to be reminded about the good we did and that we did change the thinking; people came to see the damage a nuclear war would do and to realise how close we came; and changed course. 20131108-124113.jpg
I’m reminded about events 30 years ago by my Birmingham colleague, Andrew Lydon, whose put out a collection of letters he wrote at the time.
Andrew writes –
30 years ago today the Soviet military put nuclear bombers on alert in Eastern Europe in preparation for attacks in Britain and Germany where they thought NATO was preparing an attack on them.
This was the worst moment in a dangerous Autumn, where I have since been pointing out, would have been a lot more dangerous but for the large peace movement in Britain and Germany that would have given Moscow partial reassurance that an attack on them could not go too far down the road without protest here exposing it or even stopping it.
Some letters I wrote to the press about the role of CND and the 1980s western European peace movement, when details of how close we came to nuclear disaster came out in 1990s. The Soviets had really come to believe they were going to be attacked. And came very close to reacting. If Moscow had not been so confident of the oppositon to a nuclear war being launched on them from here, there would probably have been events that no one could have remained unaware of.

Thirty Years On

The revelations with the release of government papers for 1982 have done more to vindicate Labour’s view of the world then.
– It turns out ideas to dismantle the welfare state were considered in 1982 at cabinet level.
– It turns out Thatcher was indeed ready to negotiate over the Falklands, having overseen a gov’t that ignored signals that the withdrawal of the Endurance would invite an invasion by Argentina.
– It turns out that the American President did indeed let an Astrologist guide him in foreign affairs using astrology, albeit the advisor was his wife.
Say it again – astrology in The White House!
How on earth did the idea of a loony left stick, given the idiots in charge!

Pleasant opportunity today to meet colleagues from Birmingham thirty years ago, where we pushed, for want of a better word, a Tribunite programme for the country.

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MME, Greg and Martin.
And were we really so wrong about the city of London and the financial sector, an alternative econmic strategy, more housing … ?
“Longest suicide note in history” was a witty put down from the time, but many of the ideas of the time carried more weight after the 2007 financial crisis.

Of course we’ve moved on, with 1 New Labour and an OBE in the photo.

And some of the campaigning techniques developed in Birmingham have been applied to effect in Nottingham.

We’d met up at Adil’s, the first Balti establishment in Britain, which Greg had been frequenting since 1977 (five years before Wikipedia’s assessment of when it all began). The Wikipedia entry has now been corrected –