Sunday, 19 August 2012

Love Will Tear Us Apart (1976-1980)

This is the first of five posts on the history of Manchester between 1976 and 1996. Each four year period will be covered by a song from the NME's top 10(/100) tracks of the last 60 years: 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' (1976-1980), 'Blue Monday' (1980-1984), 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out' (1984-1988), 'She Bangs the Drums' (1988-1992) and 'Wonderwall' (1992-1996).

The Sex Pistols’ first gig in Manchester (at the Lesser Free Trade Hall on 4th June 1976) has been described as ‘the gig that changed the world’ and regularly features on lists of the most important gigs ever. It can be seen as the spark that set a fire burning which lasted for 20 years and inspired a city’s regeneration – 20 years before the IRA bombed the Arndale Centre. Amongst the list of those who were there (and the bands they would go on to form) are Howard Devoto (Buzzcocks/Magazine), Pete Shelley (Buzzcocks), Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook (Joy Division/New Order), Morrissey (The Smiths) and Mark E. Smith (The Fall). Tony Wilson (a local TV presenter who went on to help form Factory Records) also claims to have been there. The second gig (at the same venue on 20th July) was arguably more important in terms of the Manchester scene, with local support acts Slaughter and the Dogs (from Wythenshawe) and Buzzcocks (now based in Lower Broughton). Buzzcocks were rewarded for organising the two gigs with a slot supporting the Sex Pistols and the Clash at an important punk gig in London, Screen on the Green on 29th August. Wilson invited the Sex Pistols to appear on his Granada music show So It Goes, where they performed ‘Anarchy in the UK,’ (broadcast on 4th September).

On 1st December, the Sex Pistols caused a national uproar when they appeared on Bill Grundy’s Today programme (broadcast in London). Grundy baited them with the line, ‘Go on – say something offensive.’ To which they replied, ‘You dirty bastard ... you fucking rotter!’ Under the headline ‘The Filth and the Fury,’ the next day’s Daily Mirror summed up the sense of outrage with its story of a lorry driver who had been so incensed that he’d put his foot through his colour TV screen. Dates on the Pistols’ ‘Anarchy in the UK’ tour (with support from the Clash and Johnny Thunders) were cancelled as a result. Manchester was one of the few cities to host them, with two dates at the Electric Circus in Collyhurst on 9th December (with Buzzcocks) and on 19th December. Shortly afterwards, Buzzcocks released their debut EP ‘Spiral Scratch,’ produced by Martin Hannett. With its ascending riff and two-note guitar solo, the lead track ‘Boredom’ (modern-sounding at the time) has gone down as a classic in the punk genre. Released on manager Richard Boon’s New Hormones label on 29th January 1977, it was also one of the very first independent releases – providing inspiration for London’s Rough Trade, Edinburgh’s Fast Product and eventually Manchester’s Factory Records.

It would be misleading to suggest that the Sex Pistols were the most important thing in British music in the winter of 1976-77 (when the IMF loan crisis gave an idea of the problems the British economy was facing). David Bowie’s Low was released on 14th January 1977 and featured the track ‘Warszawa’ which inspired Sumner and Hook (who’d met Ian Curtis at one of the Sex Pistols’ gigs at the Electric Circus in December) to name their new band Warsaw. Martin Hannett is often credited with creating the slower, spacier Joy Division sound that they would go on to develop but even a cursory listen to ‘Warszawa’ shows the influence Bowie had from the beginning. The cover of the album Low (pictured) has also been cited as the inspiration for an emerging hairstyle, i.e. the wedge (or 'flick'). On 2nd March 1977, European Cup hopefuls Liverpool travelled to Saint Etienne, where their fans are said to have started the football terrace ‘casual’ culture by looting expensive designer sportswear to take back home. According to a note by Kevin Cummins on the Manchester District Music Archive, David Bowie appeared onstage with Iggy Pop at the Manchester Apollo the next day (although footage on YouTube of the same gig is dated October 1977 – likely the date when it appeared on So It Goes, in which case this gig may have taken place on 25th September).

On Saturday 21st May 1977, Manchester United prevented Liverpool from winning an unprecedented ‘treble’ (League, FA Cup, European Cup) by beating them 2-1 in the FA Cup Final with goals from Stuart Pearson and Jimmy Greenhof. The next day, the Ramones played at the Electric Circus, supported by Talking Heads. The day after that, on Monday 23rd May, the Fall played their first gig at the North West Arts basement on Kings Street. On Friday 27th May, the Sex Pistols released ‘God Save the Queen,’ which reached number 2. A week after the Ramones’ gig, on Sunday 29th May, Buzzcocks played at the Electric Circus, supported by John Cooper Clarke and Warsaw, who were also playing their first gig. The last nights at the Electric Circus, Manchester’s main punk venue, on 1st and 2nd October featured a number of local bands, including Buzzcocks, the Fall, Warsaw, Slaughter and the Dogs, John Cooper Clarke and Magazine.

Shortly after ‘Spiral Scratch’ (which went on to be incredibly successful for an independent release), Buzzcocks’ singer Howard Devoto left the band, releasing a statement on 21st February 1977: ‘I don’t like most of this new wave music. I don’t like music. I don’t like movements. Despite all that – things have to be said. But I am not confident of Buzzcocks’ intention to get out of the dry land of new waveness to a place from which these things could be said. What was once unheathily fresh is now a clean old hat.’ Pete Shelley took over lead vocal duties and Buzzcocks signed to United Artists, releasing their first post-Devoto single ‘Orgasm Addict’ on 4th Novemeber (or 8th October according to various sources), possibly their best ever track although it failed to chart. The cover (pictured) was designed by Linder Sterling, an art student at Manchester Polytechnic who shared a house with Howard Devoto on Lower Broughton Road (two doors down from Pete Shelley). On 20th January 1978, Magazine released their debut single ‘Shot By Both Sides’ on Virgin. It reached number 41 and marked the beginning of post-punk.

The last episode of So It Goes had been broadcast on 11th December 1977, leaving its presenter Tony Wilson disconnected from the local music scene. On 24th January 1978, he decided to form a partnership with Alan Erasmus to manage the band which would eventually become known as the Durutti Column (named after a 1968 Situationist cartoon strip about an anarchist regiment in the Spanish Civil War), a vehicle for talented guitarist Vini Reilly. The following day Warsaw played their first gig under a new name, Joy Division, at Pips on Fennel Street (behind the Cathedral). Shortly afterwards, on 27th January, Granada TV’s World in Action featured an interview with the Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher in which she claimed that ‘people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture.’ The remarks fuelled an on-going debate about multiculturalism and immigration, with the National Front hoping to gain votes in the coming general election.

On 9th February 1978, Manchester United broke the British transfer record to sign Scottish defender Gordon McQueen from Leeds United for £495,000. On his arrival at the club, McQueen stated that ‘99% of players want to play for Manchester United and the rest are liars.’ Although Liverpool were the most successful club in English football with ten league titles, Manchester United were still the biggest with an average home attendance of 53,710 in the 1976-77 season. Liverpool were second with 47,221 and Manchester City third with 40,058 (although this was after a relatively succesful season in which they challenged for the title).

On 10th April 1978, World in Action began their programme, titled ‘There’s No Place Like Hulme’ with the words, ‘It is not necessary to go as far as South Africa to observe the reality of second-class citizenship. Deprived families are to be seen herded together in every major British city. Manchester’s Hulme bears all the sociological characteristics of a Bantustan reservation.’ The programme described how the futuristic Le Corbusier-inspired vision of Streets in the Sky had failed residents of post-slum clearances inner-city Manchester, with a particular focus on the Hulme Crescents – yet to gain its more bohemian character of the late 1980s.

On 14th April, Tony Wilson went to Rafters on Oxford Street to watch the Stiff Records Test (Chiswick Challenge) ‘Battle of the Bands,’ where he was harangued by Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis for not putting them on TV. Forced to play a late set (at 2:30am) and wound-up as a result, the band gave an impressive performance, with DJ Rob Gretton offering to manage them the next day (although Wilson’s account has them as Gretton’s band already). On Monday 8th May, Magazine played at the Ritz, supported by John Cooper Clarke and local band the Nosebleeds. Paul Morley reviewed the gig for the NME, saying that Nosebleeds had re-surfaced ‘boasting A Front Man With Charisma, always an advantage.’ That frontman was Stephen Patrick Morrissey, a New York Dolls fan from Stretford who had made a name for himself by writing letters to the NME and other music magazines and who would go on to become one of the iconic British frontman of the 1980s.

On 19th May 1978, the Durutti Column and Jilted John performed at the first Factory night at the Russell Club in Hulme (also advertised as Moss Side). The poster for the event was designed by Peter Saville, another art student from Manchester Polytechnic, and given the label Fac 1. Although it arrived late, the poster’s iconic use of an industrial safety sign (featuring a man with his fingers in his ears and the words ‘Use Hearing Protection’) and the minimalist yellow, black and white colour scheme provided a striking visual representation of the new Factory brand [and would later be used as the inspiration for the interior of the Hacienda nightclub]. The five partners in what would become the Factory Records project were now in place: Wilson and Erasmus (running the Factory night at the Russell Club); Hannett (the producer); Gretton (the Joy Division manager) and Saville (the designer). On 30th May, the Fall recorded their first of many John Peel Sessions for Radio 1, which began with ‘Futures and Pasts.’ Nottingham Forest won the league and Liverpool retained the European Cup but Manchester United remained the biggest club in England in 1977-78, with an average attendance of 51,860 – ahead of Liverpool (45,546), Manchester City (41,687) and Everton (39,513).

On 3rd June 1978, Joy Division released their debut EP ‘An Ideal for Living’ which is remembered as much for its cover-picture of a Hitler Youth banging a drum as a punkier sound than the one the band would later come to be associated with. On 7th June(?), 36-year-old Alex Ferguson was given his big break when he became manager of Aberdeen. On Thursday 13th July, Buzzcocks were amongst several bands who performed to a crowd of around 35,000 at a Rock Against Racism concert in Alexandra Park, Moss Side, the end-point of an Anti-Nazi League march from Strangeways Prison (on the other side of the city centre). The event co-incided with a by-election in Moss Side which was being contested by the National Front. Their candidate Herbert Andrew received only 623 votes (2.3%). Interestingly Vanessa Redgrave, who’d given a highly politicised acceptance speech at the Oscars three months earlier, stood for the Workers’ Revolutionary Party (presumably as a paper candidate). She received 394 votes (1.46%). On Friday 21st July, Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto were re-united as Buzzcocks and Magazine both performed at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, two years after they’d helped organise the seminal Sex Pistols gig at the same venue. The next day, Tony Wilson hosted a New Wave night at the Deeply Vale free music festival near Heywood, which featured the Fall and the Durutti Column. On Thursday 27th July, Granada screened B’dum B’dum, a documentary about Buzzcocks and Magazine, presented by Tony Wilson.

On 11th August 1978, the Fall released their debut EP ‘Bingo-Master’s Break-Out!’ which contained the track Psycho Mafia. In the same month, the Conservative party unveiled their legendary Saatchi & Saatchi-designed poster campaign, featuring a snaking dole queue above the words ‘Labour isn’t working (Britain’s better off with the Tories).’ On 31st August (21st September according to John Robb), Patti Smith played at the Apollo and 19-year-old aspiring frontman Stephen Patrick Morrissey met 15-year-old aspiring guitarist Johnny Marr for the first time (although it would be a while before they got together to form the Smiths). On 8th September, Buzzcocks released their most successful single ‘Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)’ which reached number 12. On 20th September, Joy Division performed ‘Shadowplay’ on Granada Reports, their first TV appearance.

On 16th October 1978, The Guardian described Manchester’s Arndale Centre as ‘an awful warning against thinking too big in British cities ... so castle-like in its outer strength that any passing medieval army would automatically besiege it rather than shop in it.’ The massive indoor shopping centre had been under construnction since 1971 and was opened in stages between 1975 and 1979 with a final cost of £100m. Designed by Hugh Wilson and Lewis Womerley, the architects responsible for the Hulme Crescents, it was another piece of Le Corbusier-inspired Brutalism and it dominated Manchester city centre as Britain moved towards the ‘Winter of Discontent.’ On 6th December, Manchester City recorded a famous 3-0 win against Italian giants A.C. Milan at Maine Road to win 5-2 on aggregate and progress through to the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup (where they were beaten by Borussia Monchengladbach). On 24th December, Factory Records released its first record, A Factory Sample, which contained tracks by Joy Division and the Durutti Column. On 27th December, Ian Curtis suffered an epileptic fit on the way home from a gig in London. The Joy Division singer was to appear on the front cover of the NME on 13th January 1979, after a photo session with Kevin Cummins in the snow around Manchester Cathedral.

On 10th January 1979, prime minister James Callaghan returned from a summit in the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe and gave a press conference at Heathrow Airport. Responding to claims by journalists, he said that other people around the world wouldn’t share that view that there was ‘mounting chaos’ in Britain. The next day The Sun led with the now-famous headline ‘Crisis? What crisis?’ appearing to show a prime minister who was out-of-touch. On 3rd May, Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party won the general election, with 13.7m votes (43.9%) to Labour’s 11.5m (36.9%). On the doorstep of Number 10, Thatcher quoted from the prayer of St. Francis: ‘Where there is discord, may we bring harmony.’ On 12th May, Manchester United came back from 2-0 down against Arsenal in the FA Cup Final, with late goals from Gordon McQueen (86 mins) and Sammy MacIlroy (88 mins) only for Arsenal to score the winning goal in the 89th minute. Liverpool won their 11th league title and Nottingham Forest won the European Cup. It was a good season for Ron Atkinson’s West Bromwich Albion, who finished third in the league and reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup after becoming the first team to field three black players. Manchester United were still the biggest club in England with an average home attendance of 46,430, just ahead of Liverpool (46,407). Arsenal were third (36,371) just ahead of Manchester City in fourth (36,203).

On 14th June 1979, Joy Division released Unknown Pleasures on Factory Records. Recorded at Strawberry Studios in Stockport, produced by Martin Hannett, it was a dark-sounding debut which captured the bleak moorlands of the Pennines as much as postindustrial Manchester in the late-1970s. [The album’s sleeve, designed by Peter Saville, is also noteworthy.] When the band signed to Factory, Tony Wilson is said to have carved his initials in blood on a contract which said that ‘the musicians own everything, the company owns nothing, all our groups have the right to fuck off.’ Joy Division played at Plan K in Brussels, Belgium, on 16th October. They released non-album single ‘Transmission’ in November and played at Les Bains-Douches Club in Paris, France on 18th December. A 10-date tour of Europe followed in January 1980 covering Amsterdam, Antwerp, Cologne, Rotterdam, Brussels, Eindhoven and Berlin. The experience may have contributed towards Curtis’ depression, as he tried to reconcile his life as a family man in Macclesfield with the full-on demands of playing in a different city every night.

On 18th August 1979, 22-year-old Ray Wilkins made his Manchester United debut after his £750,000 move from Chelsea in the summer (£800,000 according to some sources). The fact that he would be sold to A.C. Milan for twice that amount after five seasons with the club suggests that this was a good investment. Manchester City on the other hand weren’t finding such good value in the transfer market. The signing on 5th September of Steve Daley from Wolves for £1,427,500 (breaking the British transfer record) has been cited as the classic example of City’s mis-management under the chairmanship of Peter Swales and the management of Malcolm Allison. Under this pair, the club sold the core of the team and replaced them with expensive signings who failed to live up to any modest expectations. An episode of World in Action, aired on 28th January 1980, focused on Manchester United’s chairman of 15 years, Louis Edwards, and the payment of bribes, both in industry and in a footballing context. Edwards died of a heart attack shortly afterwards and was replaced by his son Martin on 22nd March 1980.

The Durutti Column’s debut album The Return of the Durutti Column was released on Factory in January 1980, with its infamous sandpaper sleeve and the excellent 'Sketch For Summer' as its opening track (produced by Martin Hannett). On 1st February, the Clash recorded ‘Bankrobber’ at Pluto Studios in Manchester city centre, with a 16-year-old Ian Brown in attendance. Joy Division recorded the tracks for their second album Closer in March 1980 with Martin Hannett at Britannia Row Studios in London. They also recorded their next non-album single ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart,’ which was released in April. has John Cooper Clarke’s fourth album Snap, Crackle & Bop reaching number 29 in April. The album contains the tracks ‘Evidently Chickentown,’ which later appeared on an episode of the Sopranos, and 'Beasley Street' (again produced by Martin Hannett).

On 8th April, Joy Division decided to go ahead with a gig at the Derby Hall in Bury, shortly after Ian Curtis had attempted to commit suicide. The singer wasn’t feeling well enough to perform a whole set, so the band replaced him with Alan Hempstall (Crispy Ambulance) and Simon Topping (A Certain Ratio) without telling the audience. When Curtis returned backstage after just two songs, someone threw a bottle at the band and Rob Gretton jumped into the crowd, causing a mini-riot. Mark Burgess from the Chameleons blames local Perry Boys for the incident, saying that these were fans of the band disappointed at not seeing Curtis perform the full set. Several gigs had to be cancelled but the band did record the promotional video for the song ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart.’ On 2nd May, Joy Division played at High Hall, Birmingham University, their last gig before a break and a planned tour of the USA. On 18th May, Ian Curtis was found dead at his home in Macclesfield, aged just 23. He had been suffering from epilepsy and depression. As news of his suicide came out, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ climbed to number 13 in the charts, the band’s most successful single so far.

Liverpool won their 12th league title and Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest retained the European Cup, as Manchester United finished 2nd and Manchester City finished 17th. Once again, the top three clubs in terms of average home attendance were Manchester United (51,608), Liverpool (44,586) and Manchester City (35,272). Meanwhile in Scotland, Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen won the Scottish Premier Division, breaking a Celtic/Rangers 15-year monopoly. During the four-year period (1976-80), Liverpool had won the league three times and Nottingham Forest had won it once. Liverpool and Nottingham Forest had both won the European Cup twice. Manchester United were easily the best-supported club in England, with average home attendances of 53,000; 51,000; 46,000 and 51,500. Manchester City might be considered the third biggest club in England at the time (after United and Liverpool), with averages of 40,000; 41,500; 36,000 and 35,000. For two of the three biggest clubs in England, United and City weren’t having much success. United won the FA Cup in 1977 and were runners-up in 1979. City reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup in 1979. United finished with league positions of 6th, 10th, 9th and 2nd; City with positions of 2nd, 4th, 15th and 17th. Clearly City were entering into an uncertain period, reflected by the fall in their average attendance figures and league finishes after 1978. For a club of United’s size and history however, second-place in the league wasn’t good enough and manager Dave Sexton wouldn’t be given much more time to turn things around.

1 comment:

  1. Very enjoyable. The crescents (or the bull rings as we called them) in Hulme that you mentioned were a hotbed of music in the early 80's too. I remember walking round from the Grants Arms pub up Royce road and there would be different sounds of bands rehearsing every 25 yards. A practising Simply Red used to blare out of a first flat on Charles Barry Crescent. The flats were uninhabitable but for a young person mooching about, it was a blessed place to be