Archive for the ‘factory records’ Tag

Tower of Power (Day 89)

Tidied up my model chapter, With a Little Help from My Friend, added the intro and the piece between Chapters 1 and 2 and then sent it to two people for some fresh-eyed feedback. The first tentative steps into the public domain! No. 1 copy went to my Other Half and the second to a friend, Farrah, whose opinion I really respect but who I feel sufficiently safe with.

Then I went for a run back to Sandymount Strand where a Godsky was illuminating the beach.

Sandymount Strand morning sunrise Dublin Ireland

A good breakfast back at Bewley’s, a quick catch-up with an old friend of mine on his way back from an interview for production design on a horror movie, and then a great chat with TV producer Steve Lock who hails from my NW London neck of the woods but has ended up in Greystones, along the coast South of Sandymount and Dun Laoghaire (I’m always impressed with myself that I can actually spell that name). Steve helped me a few weeks back with the Tony Wilson/Music chapter, Chapter 2) by being interviewed about his time working with Tony at Granada. He kindly brought along today the Factory Christmas card for 1988 consisting of a flick-book animation from a New Order video and his FAC51 card for the Hacienda.

Factory records Christmas card 1988 and Hacienda membership card

Steve dropped me off at Sandycove Point where I went to visit the Martello Tower where Ulysses begins. First a scene on the roof of the tower, looking across the bay to Howth Head where the book ends, the story physically embracing Joyce’s native city; then the characters descend and head over the lane to the Forty Foot, a rocky outcrop just opposite the Tower from which people have been swimming in the Irish Sea of Dublin Bay all year round for some 250 years. There was an auld fella swimming just round the corner this very afternoon – January 15th, full on winter, albeit a beautiful sunlit afternoon.

The Forty Foot where Buck Mulligan swims

The Forty Foot where Buck Mulligan swims

I didn’t get any other writing done today, too busy immersing myself in a perfect yellowy afternoon, which will charge the creative batteries if nothing else. I’ll get onto the synopsis document I need to produce tomorrow. In the meantime, here are some images from the Sandycove adventure…

Martello Tower at Sandymount Dublin from Ulysses by James Joyce

The Martello Tower getting a bit of a spruce-up

The Forty Foot Dublin Bay Sandycove

The view to Howth Head

The Tower and the Forty Foot

The Tower and the Forty Foot

The Forty Foot Sandycove

The Forty Foot togs sign

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Bench Press (Day 70)

A day when real life intruded quite a lot. I had to go to an appointment in town in the morning then to the localest Apple Store to figure out what’s up with our home network as the various devices fight among themselves. That’s how I found myself writing the end of the first pass at the Music chapter in Brent Cross shopping centre, sitting beside a friendly aul fella who wanted to talk about his scout troop and buying gifts for his teenage grand-children. Such are my powers of concentration (developed when working as a newly minted freelancer out of my baby son’s bedroom) that I had the conversation in true About Time fashion and made steady progress on Chapter 2 (I’m not writing them in order I hasten to add). [I watched About Time last weekend and much though I liked the underlying sentiment, it made me really angry in its bad middle-classness and nauseous complacency, I’m now tipped over the edge and loathe Richard Curtis’s ‘film-making’ – if I can gather the energy I’ll write a few lines some time about the Daily Telegraph of writer/directors.]

hampstead garden suburb institute lutyens

Meanwhile, back in another manifestation of bad middle-classness, I enjoyed walking through suburbia in the golden winter sun, struck how even the urban shit-hole (shit in its overwhelming mediocrity, not even shit enough to be engaging shit) that is Brent Cross/Golders Green/North Circularland can be lifted by Nature’s lighting. Enjoying the warmth on the back of my neck I headed up to Lutyens’ Institute, nearby in Hampstead Garden Suburb to get some more keyboard-tapping in. The late afternoon sunshine was beautiful and tranquil and I made more good progress, writing about the history and revival of Manchester from the early 80s onwards with help from Factory.

I finished off at home once the sun came down, a bitty but not unproductive day. The peripatetic writing is definitely a kick.

hampstead garden suburb institute lutyens

High Land, High Road (Day 64)

Roddy-Frame with Gibson 295 Scotty Moore 1953 guitar

Last night Roddy Frame of Aztec Camera played the whole of their 1983 debut LP High Land, Hard Rain at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. At one point he mentioned their break-through gig in Paisley when they opened for Teardrop Explodes. The reference point was that it was the day Ian Curtis’ death was announced. He made it clear that across three decades it remains a landmark moment in the youth and musical lives of a generation.

Doubling up to six decades and we get who stole the show to some extent last night. Frame’s yellow-gold 1953 Gibson 295 ‘Scotty Moore’ guitar. I don’t know anything about guitars but I do know it sounded sweet and distinctive (worthy of the Scotty Moore name) and it looked beautiful to boot. The last time I wrote about a particular guitar in Simple Pleasures pt 4 (back in 2010), The Man with the Boo Guitar,  it was Boo Hewerdine’s guitar and the maker, Alister Atkin down in Canterbury, kindly got in touch via comments.

Anyway, Day 64 was immersed once Moore in the world of Ian Curtis, Tony Wilson, Factory Records and Joy Division, key inspirers of the likes of young Roddy Frame, a 15 year old in an East Kilbride bedroom, intent on mixing the Manchester sound with The Clash and Wes Montgomery to come up with a fresh new vibe, which he brought down to London half-way through creating High Land (named after a street in Acton) to a soul-mate of Factory in the shape of Rough Trade records.

In terms of writing process I felt at a fork on this chapter in that I could continue going with the flow of my thoughts and store of research-based memories which is free-wheelin’ but risks losing control, or work my way now steadily through the research notes and integrate them into the emerging structure (which is largely how the Paul Arden chapter was written and yielded a perfectly good structure in the end). I decided to take the High Road of the free-flow and trust its own building logic and form will take it in a course which ultimately works.

1953 Gibson ES 295

1953 Gibson ES 295

Myth Makers (Day 62)

boris-vallejo-thor confronts giant

Had a child off sick from school so found myself reading Norse myths with him, taking advantage of his recent interest in Thor comics. It was interesting to read that in Norse mythology there are three categories of people: Leaders, Makers and Doers.

Spent much of the rest of the morning preparing for some making by watching a BBC4 documentary on Factory Records, centred on one of Tony Wilson’s last extended interviews.

Then back to transferring notes from books into my draft Music chapter which is an arduous, slow task, often threatened by impatience to just dive in and write. I finished the process in the evening beside the local swimming pool where said sick child ploughed up and down the lanes as his illness declined with distance from the school bell.

But that leaves me with a clear, full-on writing day for Day 63 to get the build-up out of my system…

Hedley Lamarr: My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought, cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.

Taggart: Goddarnit, Mr. Lamarr, you use your tongue prettier than a twenty dollar whore!

Little Myth Thunshine (Day 58)

tony wilson joy division blood contract

Day got off to a slow start with domestic stuff intruding. The upside was a good chat over lunch at our local favourite with Enfant Terrible No. 1. Putting me in a relaxed frame of mind to kick off the Actual Writing of the Music chapter along the lines that came to me walking down to lunch. I’d been struggling to find the emblematic scene (with which each chapter opens) for Tony Wilson. What finally came to mind was the legendary writing contract in blood scene immortalised in 24 Hour Party People (brought to you by the FineFolk at FilmFour) when Wilson and Joy Division formalise their relationship in a pub one afternoon. I came up with the notion of writing the scene in 3 takes. 1 as captured in the movie. 2 and 3 as told elsewhere by Tony Wilson. Each varies in detail and substance thus capturing the mythologising, self-mythologising and post-rationalisation integral to Wilson and his story. I read it back to Enfant Terrible No. 1 and he liked it.

Then I headed off with Femme Fatale No. 1 to see David and Tom Kelley, founders of IDEO, discuss their new co-written book Creative Confidence at the new Royal Academy buildings beside Burlington Arcade (the old Museum of Mankind, formerly part of the University of London which a distant relative of mine was involved in establishing, a factoid that emerged during a bout of family history research earlier this year). Tom kindly offered to write a blurb for the book (subject to his liking it of course).

Tony Wilson and Steve Coogan

Deep Joy (Day 55)

record cover Joy Division Unknown Pleasures Peter Saville tattoo

New week, new chapter. After a lot of focus on the Literature/Ginsberg chapter last week, I felt the need to strike out into new territory so dived into the 24 Hour Party world of Tony Wilson and Factory Records. Where myth begins and reality ends needs a good deal of attention, and in clarifying that I hope to reaffirm that for all the ‘prat’s, ‘cunt’s, ‘wanker’s that were lobbed his way, his enthusiasm, energy and commitment to the music, creativity and city were a significant contribution. I put together the chapter outline around the principle of Being Your True Self whether that’s as an individual creative, a city or an emerging talent from the regions.

Tidying up loose ends from last week I spend some time corresponding with some friends of Ginsberg in New York and his very helpful estate. I rounded off the emailing session by venturing into new realms and contacting a music impresario from Northern Ireland whom I want to interview for this new chapter. All being well, an interviews trip to Belfast will be needed next month.

At lunchtime I sat down to watch Grant Gee’s (no relation) film about Joy Division to get me in the mood. I had a chat with Grant in a lift last week in Copenhagen where he was pitching a film about Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk. He’s also made a documentary about WG Sebald which I’d love to catch (I couldn’t make the screening they did in Aldeburgh on its release much though I would have loved to – Rings of Saturn sits on the Shelf of Honour). I hope to catch up with Grant in the next few weeks at his South coast base (when I’ll also visit Oisin Lunny, who I had the pleasure of meeting on the Subterranean Homesick Blues morning). So the film got me suitably fired up, reminding me of the one time I saw Joy Division live at the Lyceum (a few hundred yards from the Subterranean Homesick Blues cul de sac).

So I got back to the typewriter-substitute, whacked on Atmosphere, and began sketching out the new chapter. One thing I learnt during the afternoon that I hadn’t known was that the band themselves found the source image for the cover of Unknown Pleasures and gave it to Pete Saville to work with. They got it from the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy of all places. It now deserves a place in the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Creative Alchemy.

Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy source image for Unknown Pleasures Peter Saville

 

record cover Joy Division Unknown Pleasures Peter Saville

50 people who buggered up Britain (and 25 who saved it)

A free hairstyle

A free hairstyle

An up-tight hairdo

An up-tight hairdo

Having given the Daily Mail a hard time recently with my Fear & Death analysis of its content and my highlighting how at odds it was with its own readership over The Sex Education Show / Sexperience, I’ve decided to take some inspiration from the rotten rag in the form of its political sketchwriter and theatre critic Quentin Letts and his new book Fifty People Who Buggered Up Britain. I haven’t actually read it but I have read a review which got me thinking about my own list – I’ve only just started really and could definitely use some help so feel free to join in. The timeframe is the last 5 decades. I thought I’d also counter Mail miserableness by adding a list of 20 inspirational figures in Britain from those same 50 years who helped counter-balance the malign influences. I’m hoping to have the full 50 (+ 20) in place by the New Year so do chuck some ideas into the pot… [names added post 2008 have the date added in square brackets]

Buggered up Britain:

1 Ashley Cole – stands out as the most unpleasant character in the Premiership and that’s no easy feat

2 Rupert Murdoch – brought vulgar anti-culture and arrogant anti-democracy to the country in equal measure – I vowed many years ago to throw a big party the day he shuffles off his awful coil and you’re all invited

3 Viscount Rothermere, co-founder of the Daily Mail which published his editorial on 15th January 1934 entitled ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts!’

4 Ian Paisley – spent his whole toxic life saying No!

5 Doctor Richard Beeching – killed our (relatively green) railways

6 Lord MacAlpine – the Tory treasurer whose family’s firm vandalised Battersea Powerstation, ripped its roof off in the service of…

7 Margaret Thatcher – brought so much misery into Britain in such a short time – I’ll leave this one to Elvis Costello:

I saw a newspaper picture from the political campaign
A woman was kissing a child, who was obviously in pain
She spills with compassion, as that young child’s
face in her hands she grips
Can you imagine all that greed and avarice
coming down on that child’s lips?

Well I hope I don’t die too soon
I pray the Lord my soul to save
Oh I’ll be a good boy, I’m trying so hard to behave
Because there’s one thing I know, I’d like to live
long enough to savour
That’s when they finally put you in the ground
I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.

When England was the whore of the world
Margaret was her madam
And the future looked as bright and as clear as
the black tarmacadam
Well I hope that she sleeps well at night, isn’t
haunted by every tiny detail
‘Cos when she held that lovely face in her hands
all she thought of was betrayal.

Notice the link to MacAlpine via Tarmacadam. Notice the link to Murdoch via lively celebrations of the passing of a big bugger.

8 Simon Cowell – for spreading the corrosive myth of instant fame

9 Oswald Mosley – married to one of the Mitford whores in Goebbel’s drawing room with Hitler present as one of only 6 guests – nuff said (do we detect a residual anger in my tone? give me another 50 years and I may start getting over the Nazis …but I doubt it)

10 Stock Aitken Waterman – for devaluing music, torturing us with the likes of Rick Astley and Jason Donovan

11 Howard Shipman – undermined trust in GPs and the NHS in a rather extravagant way

12 The Queen Mother – epitomised how anachronistic royalty and aristocracy are, and how unhealthy reverence of royalty can be. [This choice inspired by Adam D’s suggestion – House of Windsor]

13 Michael Gove – for not understanding the modern world and setting UK education back years when it was already well behind the curve [2016]

14 Victoria Beckham – “She succeeded in her desire to be ’more famous than Persil Automatic’ and is as about as interesting as a box of it. I think she has created such a one-dimensional aspiration for the young. Success can now be measured by vacuity and the meaningless.” [Practical Psychologist] Her husband by contrast captures some positive values such as leadership, commitment to a passion/skill-set and rehabilitation.

15 Reggie & Ronnie Kray – for the misguided hero-worship they have subsequently inspired and inspiring Guy Richie innit [courtesy of Practical Psychologist]

16 Steve McClaren – humiliated himself and England simultaneously under that umbrella with his stupid fucking biros and spiral-bound notepads. Saw him once in a hotel in Manchester (with Anthony Lilley) and there was no question who was the centre of the group… not him, but El Tel.

17 Paul Dacre – Mail supremo who reckons (vis-a-vis the Max Mosley case, son of #9 of course) distinguishing between ‘a sick Nazi orgy’ and ‘people having sex in military-style uniform’ is “almost surreally pedantic logic”

18 Melissa Jacobs – the mad bint who screwed up England’s World Cup 2018 bid for the sake of some Mail on Sunday pieces of silver [16.v.10]

19 Rebekah Wade (now Brooks, for a while at least) – sups with the devil, not with a long spoon, not even a short one, with a tongue in his mouth and up his other orifice from which much the same stuff dribbles [2010]

20 Edward VIII – a proven traitor and Nazi-sympathiser [2012]

21 George Osborne – for knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing (as well as being a hypocrite) (and for having a Patrician haircut) [2016]

22 Philip Green – the Unacceptable Face of Capitalism in every sense (have you seen those chins and haircut? there’s a limit to what  a tan can hide) [25/7/16]

23 Jeremy Corbyn – the self-righteous non-leader/stooge who destroyed the Labour Party – reminiscent of…

Roger McGough – The Leader

I wanna be the leader
I wanna be the leader
Can I be the leader?
Can I? I can?
Promise? Promise?
Yippee I’m the leader
I’m the leader

OK what shall we do?

24 Nicola Sturgeon – the epitome of Bad Faith

25 Boris & Dave : I’m taking the liberty of yoking them together in a double act by way of some small revenge: they deserve each other. Boris Johnson – for proving to be the bumbling idiot he always looked (despite an at times charming surface) & David Cameron – for sacrificing the United Kingdom (a rather good union at the end of the day) on the pyre of the EU Referendum for the sake of some of his Tories, the self-same Tories who undermined the crucial Voting Reform Referendum during the 2010 Coalition.

Counterbalanced the buggers:

1 David Hockney – picked up where Picasso left off

2 Bob Marley – brought some Jamaican colour to the grey London of 77

3 Joe Strummer – with The Clash helped British musicians discover the honest energy of DIY

4 Tommy Cooper – just makes me laugh (could equally have been Eric Morecambe in this slot)

5 Francis Bacon – one of the two greats of 20th century art (alongside Picasso)

6 Hannah Billig, the Angel of Cable Street – too busy looking after people to collect her MBE (she asked them to post it)

7 John Peel [courtesy of Adam D “…fades in quietly” ]

8 Tony Hart: “We’re sorry we can’t return your pictures” [courtesy of Adam D] what nobler calling than bringing art and inspiration to children

9 Tony Wilson – for bringing together shining talent in a bold, rounded way – Martin Hannett, Pete Saville, Ian Curtis et al – and showing how to champion your hometown

10 James Bond – [courtesy of Practical Psychologist, in his words…] “overcame the stereotype of the sexually repressed Brit who liked a cold shower before having his bare bottom spanked by a tart” – those Pan edition covers certainly captured my young imagination

11 Michael Young – for the Open University and other progressive policy [courtesy of Practical Psychologist and in memory of Naomi Sargant, first Head of Education at Channel 4, appointed by Jeremy Isaacs in a more adventurous, imaginative age]

12 John Betjeman [courtesy of Practical Psychologist, in his words…] “he saw what we were doing to our land and tried to stop it”

13 Joe Orton – for reviving the Comedy of Manners and finding humour in the black stuff

14 Lennon & McCartney – for taking pop music up a gear or three. PP’s view below: “we led the world in something for the first time in a long time”

15 Geoff Hurst – for scoring that goal

16 Jonny Wilkinson – for scoring that try and creating a Perfect Moment

17 Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger – for bringing Technicolor British Romanticism to the big screen

18 Rabbi Hugo Gryn – for his efforts in uniting the faiths and demonstrating how to survive to do good, a true Mensch

19 Steve Redgrave – for being a model of commitment, plus his work on dyslexia & education

20 Humph (Humphrey Lyttelton) – for combining the quintessence of Englishness with jazz

21 Peter Gabriel – a multifaceted, visionary musician who is a great collaborator [1/3/16]

22 Danny Boyle – created something of once-in-a-lifetime specialness in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, making us reflect in a fresh way on what Britishness actually is [2012]

23 David Bowie – kept things fresh for a long time [2016]

24 John Martyn – brought true soul to Britain, the world is a much lesser place without him [2016]

25 Nicholas Winton – who saved 669 children from the Nazis (including Alf Dubs who is trying to follow his example these days) and kept pretty quiet about it most of his life, finally receiving full recognition in the late 80s

 

Bubbling under:

Tony Benn – doing his best to show what politicians could be like {courtesy of Scanner, Adam D and Overthewire} [I’m not sure about this one, keep wavering]

LIST UPDATED AND COMPLETED 22/1/17

Known Pleasures

Control

Walked down the road last night to the Phoenix Cinema to a preview screening of Anton Corbijn’s new film Control about Ian Curtis and Joy Division. Corbijn came to England from the backwaters of the Netherlands in the late 70s as a photographer and spent his first 14 days here tracking down the band Joy Division to take their picture. He went on to direct videos for them and others of that generation like U2. He re-mortgaged his house to finance this film so it’s a real labour of love from a person with a first-hand perspective of the characters and events.

One of the characters showed up after the screening for a Q&A chaired by journalist and producer Paul Morley (who also has a first-hand perspective of the post-punk scene in Manchester – including having stood Joy Division up for an early recording session) – the character in question was the bassist Pete Hook.

Unlike today, as Hooky explained, not much of that classic era was recorded for posterity. People didn’t have the cash to film stuff so there’s hardly any footage from the early years after Warsaw evolved into Joy Division or when Joy Division disappeared off the scene for a while for a Robert Johnson-like moment and reappeared transformed with magical qualities.

The band didn’t even have the facilities to record the songs they composed in a matter of hours at Wednesday (2 hours) and Sunday (3 hours) rehearsals. Those great songs only existed in the heads of those four individuals until they got into the studio together, where laying them down was to a large degree an act of memory.

Morley pointed out the key role played by legendary producer Martin Hannett – not just in adding depth to the music but recording it in a timeless way so that Unknown Pleasures shows none of the aging signs of many other records of that era.

The scene that best captured the brilliance of Joy Division for me was the recording of Isolation with Hannett sitting at the mixing desk, fag in mouth and mad hair a go go, with Curtis behind him, alone in the glass booth, singing with sweet intensity.

I also liked the sequence where Curtis crosses the line from his epileptic dancing – which I saw for myself at the Lyceum in London when Joy Division supported fellow Mancs the Buzzcocks in around 1978/9, frankly an embarrassing spectacle at the time – from his epileptic dancing into an on-stage seizure as if brought on by his own intensity.

I know to use the word ‘seizure’ not ‘fit’ because I made a film for the British Epilepsy Association at a location in the very same high street as the Phoenix – entitled The Right Stuff. It was a drama and I had to accurately recreate a seizure with an actress from Byker Grove (who strangely enough I later came across working at the ticket office of the Phoenix when her thesp work was thin on the ground). My title graphics – like Corbijn’s – took their cue from the idea of electrical disruption.

In the same high street I bought, only last year, the copy of Atmosphere whose Pete Saville designed cover Hooky signed for me last night.

When asked which scene was most poignant for him Pete Hook said it was the one in the pub after Ian’s wake – he said it was the most true-to-life scene in the film. All the friends sitting around the table in shock, sorrow, anger and a discordant medley of emotions was very resonant for me too as it had strong echoes of the pub me, Stuart, Carol and co. visited in Southgate after the funeral of our friend Steve. Should we have spotted something? How come he was so up on the phone just hours before, making plans for the not too distant future? Hooky said: We should have known, just looking at the lyrics alone – but you choose not to, don’t you?

Now I’m a huge fan of Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People and, for all the love that’s gone into this and the very impressive performances (the cast play many of the tracks), it’s not in the same class. This is mainly down to the script which hardly has a scene longer than a half-dozen lines of dialogue, which precludes it having much depth. The romance between Ian and Annik, for example, hasn’t much fire – although I liked the detail that when Debbie Curtis finds her rival’s phone number it’s scribbled on the gatefold sleeve of Siouxsie and the Banshee’s Join Hands. Icon is the great track on that top record and the Icon award is what Pete had just picked up at the Diesel music or some such awards before this cinema session. In the audience had been Debbie Curtis, Paddy Considine (24 Hour Party People), Sam Riley (Control) and various other real and fictitious characters from the Joy Division story. According to Hooky, something of a headfuck (he’s a Shameless curser). But a reflection of the dynamic where a largely unrecorded-at-the-time story is gradually pieced together as people work out what went down, an amalgamation of individual perspectives. Pete mentioned how interesting he’d found it watching the recent Joy Division documentary as he heard Bernard and Steve’s interviews – they’d never spoken toegther in that way. It was clear from the emotion in the auditorium last night that Ian’s suicide cast a long shadow.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Steve Simmons, with whom I shared some great adventures

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