Joy Division breaks new ground

IMG_2646ab1930h bbc radio nottm john holmes MMEBBC Radio Nottingham, John Holmes show, 13 Aug 2017
You can hear the show by selecting the following link.
Told a number of stories and covered a range of issues, mainly prompted by 8 tracks.
“Catch Us if you can”. “You’re Wondering Now”. “Ceremony”“Hot Love”. “Girl Afraid”. “Making Plans for Nigel”“Lovers Town Revisited”. “Things can only get better”.
It must have seemed a bit strange to be asserting how lively ska was and then not being able to use the live version of “You’re Wondering Now” –  the point will have been lost.  (Describing The Smiths as a “fresh of breath air” may also have confused.)
A heavy emphasis on being Lord Mayor, when it would have been a challenge to find 8 pieces of music that fitted a civic role.
Instead, the playing of Joy Division on the Sunday morning show seemed remarkable – note, I’d had to bring in my own CD for the right track to be played.
I’ve had a couple of nice comments, but to a correspondent who thought I’d been brave in my selection, it has to be pointed out that I didn’t find an appropriate Fall track (partly, they’re frequently lomg and partly cos none of them particularly stood out regarding stages in my life).

Track 8: “Things can only get better”, D:Ream

Famous for being the New Labour campaign tune for 1997, and marking the end of 18 wasted years – all that North Sea oil, and what did we do with it?
My personal pleasure was buying the CD with 6 different versions (I’d bought 4 track editions of Happy Mondays songs before) and playing it time and again on the train down to London.

“Things can only get better”, D:Ream did not win us the General Election as some have claimed, but as an anthem, it captured the feeling for 1997.
For some it captured the election night – although we in Nottingham were still in the count until 6:30 in the morning.
We did go on and we got a lot done, although it ran out of steam with the bankers’ betrayal and with Gordon Brown.

The song has also become – with the rise of Professor Brian Cox – a reminder of my physics degree which I approached as a way of getting a degree without the fullest appreciation of the value of the subject; a mild regret.  The TV documentaries have become much better and some of the books have been excellent.
Track 7: Billy Bragg

Track 7: “Lovers Town Revisited”, Billy Bragg

“Fighting on the dance floor happens anyway …”
If there’s a shadow over life for boys and young men, it’s violence.  Something that went away when you were perceived to be too old.
Useless and the uselessness is captured by

“Lovers Town Revisited”, Billy Bragg.
Words that are meant to be heard, in a short and sharp format.
“Sometimes [he’s] makes me stop and think.”
Like The Smiths, Billy writes songs that tell more realistic stories of love and life.
More political songs too – from a more traditional labour movement perspective.
Pleased to meet him recently at the Rough Trade shop in Hockley (on the day of the Pentrich revolution 200th anniversary march) when he was pushing his book on skiffle.

Track 6: The Smiths

Track 6: “Girl Afraid”, The Smiths

“… you and me,
“we can ride on a star
“If you stay with me, girl
“We can rule the world”
Take that.  Dross.  Implerialistic dross.


The Smiths were such a breath of fresh air when they arrived in 1983.  Big fans of pop, but discerning.  Morrissey well read (see the “England is mine” movie); Johnny Marr highly-skilled on guitar.  Deliberating choosing a plain name for their band.
For the BBC Radio Nottm show wanting to know about songs that change your lives, “Rubber Ring” even has the lyric.  But the track I’ve chosen is –

“Girl Afraid”, The Smiths.
Nice jangling; and just listen to the lyrics.
And value difference.

Track 5: Joy Division.

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 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.

Track 2: “Hot Love”, T Rex

Year 5, 1971, a new suitcase portable record player, and I’d like to say I was buying cool stuff.
Instead, it was “Poppa Joe” by The Sweet and strangely, “Without You” by Nillson – not even sure now why that happened.
The pop charts were so exciting then.  Sharing our knowledge of the acts. Learning who had reached what spot.  Buying those lyrics magazines.  Going to our first village hall discos.
So what has stuck?

“Hot Love”, T Rex
Seventies.  Glam Rock.   As the Slade bass player said, “that special bass lilt.”
And keeps coming up – played when I went on Radio Nottm for Lord Mayor’s Parade day.
Too young to have seen then of course, unlike my mate Penny Griggs.
Was a surprise to me though when working for British Rail, having been asked to design and deliver a software distribution system that would react to receiving the equivalent of a “telegram”, that my managers had never heard of “Telegram Sam”.