Wednesday, April 22, 2009

homage: New Order - Western Works 9/80

Today was going to feature my favorite live Joy Division tracks. But, as you should be expecting by now if you're a loyal PoIT reader, we're detouring yet again.

Why?

Because picking my favorite live JD tracks is proving harder than I thought. That and it takes a lot of time that I've not had lately. So instead, I've got a better treat for the loyalists.



As you know (or should know), Joy Division ceased as a living, breathing entity when singer Ian Curtis removed himself from existence early in the morning on May 18, 1980 - the day before the band was to fly to New York to start their first US tour. Having long had an internal pact to cease trading under the Joy Division name if any member was to leave the band (probably not expecting the harsh finality of Ian's leaving, but there you go), the band found themselves in another "having to change the name again" situation.

So after an appropriately short mourning period, the survivors regrouped and punched the big red RESET button. Finding themselves bereft of Ian-less material, they wrote a few new songs, tightened up a couple new "unrecorded" Joy Division tracks that had just been written in the weeks prior to Ian's death as "bridge" tracks, and played a few mostly-unannounced gigs in July/September 1980, prior to flying to the US for a very brief East Coast tour and recording session in late September.

As Joy Division, they were close with Sheffield's Cabaret Voltaire, having shared several gigs and compilation records with the Cabs. At some point, JD was going to work with the Cabs in the Cabs' own Western Works Studio in Sheffield, but this opportunity had not yet come to pass at the time of Ian's death.

Suddenly with no lead singer and a wide-open new beginning, the survivors (now known as New Order) took the Cabs up on their offer and decamped to Western Works on 7 September 1980, just two days after their third gig post-Ian. Safely away from the spotlight, and with no Martin Hannett to impose his will on the session, the band laid down several tracks with the Cabs' Chris Watson engineering.

(Due to a date mixup dating back to the early 1980s, this session had long been thought to have taken place in early July 1980. It was only with the release of Joy Division/New Order manager Rob Gretton's notebooks in 2008 that we learn this happened on 7 September 1980, and not July as previously thought. Which makes sense in a way, these are a lot of tracks to write from scratch in the few short weeks between Ian's death and early July.)

These tracks show the band's emotions - both musical and lyrical - laid out to bare themselves to the world. Hesitant yet brave, restrained yet oddly forward-looking, New Order find themselves seeking the path at this very early stage - a path that would not be truly explored publicly for at least another 12 months - that would lead them out of the Joy Divsion shadow into completely new realms of songcraft.

This material has been circulating amongst New Order fans since the early 1980s but never before heard by the general public in this release-ready quality.

Kind souls, who wish to remain anonymous rescued this material from a 1/4" reel of tape that was up for auction on eBay, advertised as something else, and it was only in the reel transfer that it was discovered what this reel actually contained. It's been theorized that if this is not the master reel itself from the studio mixdown sessions, it's at the very least a direct, professional copy of it. The band could release this today, as-is. So I am honored to present it here.

First we have two different mixes - but the same base recording - of "Dreams Never End". The first version is the common version that had already circulated - albeit in much poorer quality - amongst the fans. The second version, however, is a heretofore-unknown alternate mix featuring much louder guitars than the original take - but besides that, it's identical to the first take. Both takes slower than the version eventually recorded for the debut LP in 1981, this track even moreso sounds like bassist (and singer on this track) Peter Hook's own little memorial to Ian. "A long farewell to your love and soul" indeed.

Then we have the musically very JD-like "Homage", with Bernard Sumner on hesitant vocals, laying bare his emotions for all to see. It's blatantly obvious why this track didn't survive past September 1980 - all you have to do is listen to the very bare, emotional lyrics. Notably, you can understand them for the first time ever:

This smile the unborn child reaction's taken, forsaken
These scenes pervaded me in a way that
People seldom see

This is the only time that I thought I had
Seen the signs and I wait, I'll never know

In this room
The blind pass through
In this room
I think of you
In this room

In this room

Darkness will vanish soon
I awake, always in this room
All days will fall and rise
Helplessly, I watch these figures cry

This sense of needless rejection
Always the sense of reason
Carelessly lead me astray

In this room
The blind pass through
In this room
I think of you
In this room
Father, please don't forsake me now
In this room
Father, please don't forsake me now
In this room

People always ask for dreams
Revelation in a dream

A life that is so scared

This is the only time that I
Thought I had seen the signs
Well, I did... I'll never know

In this room
I think of you
In this room
I think of you
In this room
Father, please don't forsake me now
In this room
Father, please don't forsake me now
In this room
Father, please don't forsake me now

The next track is drummer Steve Morris' turn on lead vocals with a very interesting take on "Ceremony", one of the last two Joy Division tracks written just prior to Ian's death. Famously having no written lyrics they could use (if Ian wrote them down, they weren't available to the survivors at the time), New Order had to run the Joy Division rehearsal recording of this track (which you can hear in the previous post on the blog) through an equalizer to attempt to pick out Ian's lyrics. Considering that even with modern audio software it's nearly impossible to extract Ian's vocals, or at least make them clearer, it's impressive what they were able to pull out of it. Steve sings lead on the verses, with Hooky taking over a chorus as well. Interestingly enough, when the time came three weeks later to record this track "officially" in New Jersey's Eastern Artists Recording Studio with producer Martin Hannett, the lyrics Bernard Sumner sang started off markedly different - which makes one wonder if they were rewritten by New Order.

Steve continues on with the lead vocals on "Truth" which, even at this early stage, is remarkably similar to what they'd end up doing with the track when recording it for their debut LP in 1981 (except with Bernard on vocals). I particularly like this version though, it's much more poignant, fragile and spacious - as it should be - than the released variant.

And then we have the biggest revelation of the reel: A heretofore-unknown new New Order track, or rather, a collaboration with the Cabs and New Order, featuring none other than NO manager Rob Gretton on lead vocals! This has been confirmed by a New Order member directly to your humble blogger, and furthermore, this same member revealed that it was entitled "Are You Ready Are You Ready Are You Ready For This?" and was just one of two collaborations they recorded with the Cabs, with the other (still unknown) sounding much more New Order-ry than this track. What is special about "Are You Ready" though is that, Rob's vocals aside, musically it shows the band taking great liberties with the established Joy Division sound - and the early New Order sound - and is very much so a signpost to the musical path the band would further explore starting with fall 1981's "Everything's Gone Green".

I feel this material is too important to release as MP3 so please enjoy it lossless as FLAC (two RAR files as usual).

01 Dreams Never End (mix 1, quieter guitars)
02 Dreams Never End (mix 2, louder guitars)
03 Homage
04 Ceremony
05 Truth
06 Are You Ready Are You Ready Are You Ready For This?

Files here (2012 version; see neworderarchive.blogspot.com for details.

edit: 8 May 2009 followup

enjoy!

34 comments:

  1. This is proving to be the most downloaded bit by far on the blog - please stop by, post a comment and let me know what you think!

    --Analog Loyalist

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  2. Just downloading the 2nd part. I can't wait to hear it. Thanks

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  3. I can't really express how heart-pounding it was to finally hear this in its entirety and in such a fantastic quality. Others had traded a rather dim tape of part of it with me and it was a bit grimy sounding. This just takes my breath - fantastic up.

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  4. thanks so much for putting these up, can't wait to hear it!

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  5. Many many thanks for this!

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  6. This is fantastic and thank you :)

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  7. Thanks, and especially for FLAC. MP3s just don't cut it anymore :-).

    Rather interesting to hear these, but it's not something I would pay money for, although it would be better than regurgitating the stuff that's been on the various New Order compilations.

    Ceremony sounds weird, with Curtis' voice mixed in.

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  8. Thanks for all the comments, all... Appreciate it!

    obs: No Ian Curtis vocals here, this was recorded after "the death". It's actually Hooky on backing vocals, and occasionally Steve double-tracked as well.

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  9. Thanks so much for posting this! Incredible! I have a scratchy, muffled copy somewhere on cassette that runs too fast. This is a revelation.

    "Are you ready?" (which I wondered might be a Crispy Ambulance cover before I heard it - now it sounds to me like they are jamming on a riff from CV's RED MECCA) is wild.

    I can't seem to extract part II - it's saying "bad block" - any ideas?

    Thanks!

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  10. all: try extracting part1 first after downloading both parts. it WILL extract, if you extract part 1 first, the whole deal will extract.

    retrospective foresight: try re-downloading and re-extracting as above.

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  11. Now it says part II is invalid. Weird! I was able to extract part I at least.

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  12. Amazing! Thank you so much to everyone involved! I cannot believe these turned up in such amazing quality and condition, especially the extra goodies! I love hearing Steven on lead vocals, thanks!

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  13. Thank you, thank you! This is fantastic stuff.

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  14. Am I on crack? The part II doesn't seem to work for me... BOO.... But it's probably my fault, and part one is so awesome I thank you forever.

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  15. Well what can I say, a 'thank you' seems hardly enough!
    Regards/
    PS I hope that you don't mind that I am going to pinch some of yr words and link here at my blog. If this is not OK please let me know.

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  16. Words cannot express my gratitude for this wonderful recording...it is truly priceless. THANK YOU!!!

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  17. Hang on - it's not letting me download Part II.

    All was going fine, and then my connection was cut unexpectedly, and when I tried to get the file again, I keep getting returned to the opening page at mediafire, and instructed "Click here to start download" - except now the window never opens!

    Help me, somebody help me!

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  18. That's a really great download. I got to know Joy Division 'cause a friend of mine asked me to watch Control with her... it touched me deeply and suddenly I couldn't stop listening to JD. This movie opened like a little window into Ian's feelings... now that I want to continue my experience by listening to New Order, I get these recordings. I am very eager to listen to them so thank you very, very much.

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  19. Thank you - I love this early raw sound of NO

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  20. Thanks for providing the downloads - it's fantastic to see that there are still some rarieties out there that are showing up.

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  21. Simply stunning - to hear these tracks and in this quality after all these years, and to get the aadditional info ref Chris Watson!

    Does anyone have a pic of Western Works? I think the building (arch entrance may now be demolished?)


    Andrew

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  22. Thank you very much for this offer, I only had a LQ mp3 bunch of it, now I will be able to hear it in its full glory!

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  23. I traveled to Manchester and Stockport in May of 1990 - the 10th aniversary of Ian's death for at least a look at this tape. I hijacked Peter Hook at Dry in Manchester as he opened it, child in arms, at 11 am one morning. Going there on a tip, I almost fainted when the bass master himself showed up to open the place. With the thought' "I traveled from the US for this, let's do this," I began to get my nerve up to start asking questions. This was a many purpose trip - one to write a screenplay about Joy Division, two to get some photos of 'times gone by' and three to investigate the geography of other bands I loved. I started asking him questions about everything JD/NO, one of them being about the Western Works Tapes, as I had known about them since purchasing a 45 of the session at Bleeker Bob's in NYC years earlier. Hooky hinted at their existence at the studio itself. I found my way to Strawberry Studios, but never got close to Western Works. Ironically, 1 year later I lived in East Orange, NJ a block away from EARS where Ceremony (original track) was recorded. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the tapes. 1980- 1982 was my favorite time in N.O. history, and Movement is still one of my favorites by them, even if they hate it. BTW, on that same trip, I met Debbie and Natalie, as well as Steven and Gillian, and Tony Wilson. It was amazing how accessible they were to all who inquired and how friendly they were once they got to know that you weren't an axe murderer.

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  24. First Magazine reform and now I finally get to hear the legendary Western Works session; 2009 is turning out to be a memorable year. I consider myself a fan of JD/NO (saw JD twice and NO about a dozen times) but don't mix in the sort of circles that would allow me to have access to this material so I'm very grateful indeed to have to opportunity via this website.

    All those rumours about Steven being the best vocalist in the group turn out not to be true - Barney was the correct choice, even if he wouldn't survive one round of X Factor.

    Homage is a revelation, "In This Room" is a great hook and they should have worked it up for Movement, but maybe the lyrics were just too personal.

    Are You Ready sound very Cabs to me; the bass is very Mallinder and the guitar very Richard Kirk so I'd be surprised if they didn't actually play on the track as well as do the "treatments".

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  25. Many many thanks for all your work in bringing this amazing document to light! Just discovered your blog--am listening to "Truth" right now. Love this period of NO and Factory--what a revelation to hear these sessions! Amazing--Hook's bass on this version of "Truth" sounds so great!

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  26. "I got to know Joy Division 'cause a friend of mine asked me to watch Control with her"

    Now that is a friend indeed.

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  27. Thanks for this rare bit of historical Cabaret Voltaire! I can't stomach the poppy post-punk mentality of JD or NO at all, but I really enjoyed the last track on this cassette. Thanks so much for this great demo!

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  28. Thanks for sharing! i like homage i´ve never heard it before.

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  29. Unfortunately: "Error: No servers are currently available with the requested data on them."

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  30. Many many thanks for all your work in bringing this amazing article to us! Just discovered your blog and now consider myself a fan. What an experience to hear this! Keep up the very good work, and again: thank you!

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  31. Something has just come to mind. Back in the day I had a N.O. bootleg cassette with a track called "Haystack" with vocals by Kevin Hewick. Can anybody remind me of the history of this track. I think it was just a one off.

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    1. @Spencer Kurash.

      Think this will tell you everything you need to know about Haystack:

      http://floorboards.blog.co.uk/2010/02/27/kevin-hewick-new-order-haystack-8084024/

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  32. Something has just come to mind. Back in the day I had a N.O. bootleg cassette with a track called "Haystack" with vocals by Kevin Hewick. Can anybody remind me of the history of this track. I think it was just a one off.

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  33. man, i loved your text - i know you weren't there, but it's like you were. it really gave me the creeps, in a good way, i'm even more enthusiastic to listen to this document. congratulations!

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