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.
The recording of the concert was to be the second half of a double album of collected songs
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”.
, 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.
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.
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.
A useful article and video from the Guardian on a discovery which gives us our best hope of how to see into the early creation of the universe and maybe explain where it all came from and how.
Oh, and someone from Birmingham University’s School of Physics and Astronomy was part of the team that first measured gravitational waves.