they had as much to go on as any group twenty years
later. with Joy Division, you hear a group with a great
record collection, who have great discrimination, and
whose intention was to absorb and dominate these influ-
ences, to equal and surpass. Their music has this
betranced European detachment - arted, parted, departed,
stop and started separateness, music that oozed out of the
great European cities - that they picked up from the likes
of Can and Kraftwerk. When they started to get so good,
they started to rub noises together, to blend temperatures,
to mix rude rock directness with shy nervy avantgarde indi-
recteness. They drifted even as they shifted. they gIanced
as they flashed. They floated as they attacked.
There was this sarcastic alternative American thing
about them that they nicked in their bedrooms from The
Doors, The Stooges and The Velvet Underground - the
way they used guitars as an abuse, melodies as a sign
of bitter-sweet intelligence, beat to beat up beat, the way
hate was as great a subject as love, the secrecy of
thought as sexy a subject as sex. These surly, sacrificial
Americans revealed to them the edgy. Then there was
even this deadpan sensation seeking camp outsider thing
snatched out of the studded back pocket of the smart
aplombish Eno, Roxy Music and Bowie. The sleek bleak
and S&M bruised Roxy of 'For your pleasure', the colder,
fishier, tenser Bowie of 'The man who sold the world' and
'low', the allusive Las Vagueness playfulness of Eno the
singer/songwriter. In the wet dead north west such
delec-table subversive stuff was the surreal thing: there was
a way out over the grey walls and the sharp and hostile
things of everyday.
And so all these distant decadent musicians banked up
in the lives of the four impressionable young men shared
this thing about "not belonging" and not wanting to belong
and they had this flamboyant and tenacious urge to tell
the truth about the world about them through magnificent
and liberating lies.
And so as if the world could be a better place and...
why not. And so at just the right time in this order of
things came punk rock (turning private emergencies into
public urgency) named after somebodies uncle or some-
thing (still counting), and that fitted in just right with
all that other stuff. The Sex Pistols, vomited out of the
mouths of The Stooges, harassed the group that would
be Joy Division into action, and they adapted to and pretty
soon transcended this frenzied coincidence of The Sex
Pistols, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno and the Doors. (and you
never know, Peter Hamill, Nick Drake and Black Sabbath.
And you never know, more JG Ballard, Mary Shelley and
Alber Camus. And you never know more than Franz Kafka
and Dostoevski). And so there was more to help this tran-
scendence, this disorderly magic. There was the
Manchester damp and the shadows and omens called
into dread being by the hills and moors that lurked at the
edges of their vision. It wasn't soft, where they lived. It was
stained green and unpleasant. It seemed to be at the edge
of the edge of the world. You had to dream your way out
of such a tranquillised, inert stretch of Iand/mind scape.
You had to use your imagination to believe that there was
anything else but nothing else. In these slow suburbs, your
mind would ache for release. And so would your body.
There was sexual frustration battering the air from all
directions. There was godless depthless nightclub music
desperately seducing these serious young men with
remorseless promises per minute: the adventue of art and
the chaos of the mind versus the mindless temptations of
the rhythms of the moment, and eventually as New Order
the remains of Joy Division would somehow solve this
absurd dichotomy without compromise, introducing north-
ern lights to northern darks. And so anyway, circus minded
glam pop, with all its bump and grind, something of the
comedy meat of this stuff (count the stuffing) made into
the JD pot, into this wilderness of the familiar and the
freshly compelling, this atmosphere of futuristic cataclysm.
So they hapenned.
And so they thought.
And so they had the daring of the mind.
And so they knew what they were doing.
And so they did.
And so things happened to them.
And so there was tension and a release of tension.
And so all hell let loose.