BBC4 Documentary: Factory - Manchester from Joy Division to Happy Mondays
August 1, 2009 1:04 AM   Subscribe

'This is the story of how Factory pioneered Briton's independent pop culture, imagined a new Manchester, and blew a shedload of money:

Factory - Manchester from Joy Division to Happy Mondays'
posted by item (33 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

I don't want to say too much, don't want to spoil it. I'll just say one word: 'Icarus'. If you get it, great. If you don't, that's fine too. But you should probably read more.
posted by vertigo25 at 2:26 AM on August 1, 2009 [5 favorites]

I love this story and cannot hear it told too many times.
posted by tellurian at 2:30 AM on August 1, 2009

If you read the the previous thread that Item links to, you can read that mefi's own Miguel Cardoso was there. His name is credited on this Durutti Column album too.
posted by vacapinta at 2:45 AM on August 1, 2009

Important lesson learned: if you want to buy a yacht, it's not necessary to buy the showroom first.
posted by jdfan at 3:08 AM on August 1, 2009

Stroszek is the singularly most depressing film I have ever seen.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:45 AM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Curse you Item, I just spent 1 1/2 hours watching TV on the internet. Brilliant. The Curtis footage is hypnotic. A fantastic documentary 'having it large at the weekend'. As an aside, John Robb so needs to be on Must Share Hair.
posted by tellurian at 4:14 AM on August 1, 2009

"Very strong language from the start" the BBC voice proudly announces.

Very true.

Very strong music, too.

From people strong enough to show their weakness, apparent even in a paradox as weak as this one.

The funny thing is (laughter and anger were Factory's constant hum) New Order, though it's heresy to say so, became even better than Joy Division ever was.

Except "Atmosphere" and "Transmission", perhaps.

Or "Decades".

Or "She's Lost Control".

I blame Ian Curtis - I think I'll resent what he did till the day I die.

I put a photograph of him on the first book I published, in 1982.

And I truly loved Tony Wilson. I still do.

And I still haven't worked it out.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:01 AM on August 1, 2009 [15 favorites]

Basta with the whole Madchester thing. You can only watch 24 Hour Party People so many times before you realize that it's nothing but a well-told story about every post-industrial city.
posted by jsavimbi at 7:17 AM on August 1, 2009

it's nothing but a well-told story about every post-industrial city.

Hey, I love the Iron City Houserockers as much as anybody, but I'm not sure they measure up to Joy Division.
posted by stargell at 7:44 AM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have this doc recorded from when it was on first. It's beyond good. Part of a graphic design course I did involved giving a presentation about a great graphic designer so as a 40 yr old Brit expat I got to basically do Peter Saville and throw in the whole Factory story to a class full of 20 year old New Yorkers. The whole thing kind of made me explode with whatever the emotion is called that describes explaining how something contributed to who I am at the most fundamental level. Those strange and beautiful Factory record sleeves in that grotty little record stall in the market hall in my backward little home town were all the promises of the future incarnate to a 10 year old me.
posted by merocet at 9:36 AM on August 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

Thanks; I've seen this four times now and I never tire of it.
posted by hot soup girl at 11:59 AM on August 1, 2009

Don't miss this, the Factory discography, probably the best discography site on the Internet. Been around forever too, I can remember looking through it well over 10 years ago. It even includes the wacky non-music stuff they gave catalog numbers to, like Linder's menstrual egg timer, Martin Hannett's royalties lawsuit, and Rob Gretton's dentist bill (don't ask me).
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:21 PM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

To clarify, the "menstrual egg timer" was an abacus with the last row made out of bits of used feminine products. It was made by Linder, singer for the band Ludus, who was heavily involved in the Manchester scene. She played the "girl from the chainstore" in the video for the Buzzcocks song of the same name, and designed sleeves for them. There's also persistent rumors that she was romantically involved with a pre-fame Morrissey, and remains one of his closest friends and has taken many photos of him which were used for his single sleeves.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:32 PM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Video isn't loading for me.

Is it OK if I stick with Fugazi?
posted by bardic at 2:31 PM on August 1, 2009

This is just so, so good; thank you. I've seen a few seconds, and I'm already so excited I could burst.

jsavimbi: Basta with the whole Madchester thing. You can only watch 24 Hour Party People so many times before you realize that it's nothing but a well-told story about every post-industrial city.

That's the most ridiculously trite thing I've ever heard. I mean this in all respect, but if you think that 24 Hour Party People is all there is to Madchester - or indeed that Madchester is all there is to the Manchester scene - then you're fucking wrong, and should be sat down in a record shop for the next four days listening to old vinyl as penance.

I've never even been to that city, but I dream of going. Yes, you know about New Order and Joy Division already; you've probably heard about the Happy Mondays as well since you've seen the movie. All great groups. You may even have heard of The Fall, a band led by the man who is probably the Bob Dylan of the punker generation in a certain sort of way. Even the breadth between the genius of The Fall and the brilliance of Joy Division at there 1979 live best (see here) ought to be able to convince you that Manchester is an extraordinary town for music; but if it's not, here, read this paragraph and write a few of these names down.

Inspiral Carpets, Stone Roses, Buzzcocks, 10cc, 808 State, Autechre, A Certain Ratio, The Bee Gees (!), Van Der Graaf Generator, The Chemical Brothers, Oasis (...), The Smiths, Badly Drawn Boy, Future Sound of London, Magazine, The Charlatans, The Chameleons, The Verve (...), Herman's Hermits (!), Northside, Mock Turtles

British Invasion, Northern Soul, Prog Rock, Disco, Punk, New Wave, Rave, Indie Rock.

No other place in England has produced as many great bands in the last forty years as Manchester; and that's saying a whole lot.
posted by koeselitz at 8:48 PM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

The funny thing is [...]New Order, though it's heresy to say so, became even better than Joy Division ever was.
It's not heresy, it's stoopidly wrong unless by "even better" you mean far more commercial.
In that case let's say Madonna is even better than Joni Mitchell.

Please provide a list of all the New Order songs that are better than Joy Division's.

Withstanding the test of time - a litmus test for greatness.
I listened to both. I still listen to Joy Division regularly - I haven't played a New Order track in over 15 years.
posted by hooptycritter at 5:49 AM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

The funny thing is [...]New Order, though it's heresy to say so, became even better than Joy Division ever was.
It's not heresy, it's stoopidly wrong unless by "even better" you mean far more commercial.
In that case let's say Madonna is even better than Joni Mitchell.

Please provide a list of all the New Order songs that are better than Joy Division's.

Um, before you get all up in his grill like that, you should probably know that he was there and actually knew a lot of the people involved. He was actually the reason Durutti Column's "Amigos Em Portugal" got made, for his Factory satellite label in Portugal. So he's not just like, some schlub with an opinion.

I on the other hand am some schlub with an opinion, and yes, New Order actually were (I won't say "are" since despite the fact that they still claim to exist, for all intents and purposes they're defunct) in many ways better than Joy Division. Joy Division was around for like 3 years and made 2 LPs (while the group existed, not counting "Still"). Yes, those were two of the best records ever and they accomplished a lot in that short time, but still. So just on breadth of their body of work, New Order come out ahead.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:56 AM on August 2, 2009

The problem, of course, is that different tunes withstand the test of time for different people. The last time I listened to New Order was...maybe last month? The last time I listened to Joy Division was when I saw 24 Hour Party People a few years ago, and that was just by virtue of watching the movie. Actually voluntarily listening to Joy Division, probably back in the late 80's or early 90's.

Which is to say that arguing that one band being better than another is intelligently right or stoopidly wrong is, in itself, stoopidly wrong. Certain people just like certain bands more than other people like said bands.
posted by Bugbread at 12:08 PM on August 2, 2009

oh Decemberboy - just keep the douchey incoherent comments flowing - consistency is an art.
I was asking for a list of new Order songs that are better than Joy Division's - You failed to provide that - No surprise b/c everything you post is some non sequitor that leads back to your supreme poobah ness. Rawk on.
Mental illness is sad.
posted by hooptycritter at 3:49 PM on August 2, 2009

[Apologigies I mistook you for another "...boy"]
So just on breadth of their body of work, New Order come out ahead.

By your reasoning Barbara Cartland kicks ass all over Homer.
I humbly disagree. Far be it from me to want to get all up in Ms. Cartland's grill.
btw, I love Einsturzende and have seen them many times.
posted by hooptycritter at 4:07 PM on August 2, 2009

I am a huge fan of both groups.

hoopty: the part you're missing is that Barbara Cartland isn't 75% of Homer. If she were, she might be able to produce enough standout works over time to outnumber Homer's ouvre. As it stands, your request is unreasonable. I can name 10 great New Order songs that are better than the 10 worst Joy Division songs. Would that satisfy you? No, because your opinion is different than mine. While I wasn't there, I grew up listening to Joy Division and then New Order. It is my opinion that New Order became a greater band than Joy Division. The great unknown is how great would Joy Division have become if Ian hadn't killed himself.
posted by jwest at 5:01 PM on August 2, 2009

2 few things that are critically missing from New Order:
Ian Curits's lyrics
Martin Hannett's production
w/o these you are comparing apples to kumquats.

If you remember I am not the person on the doc that made this reckless statement that New Order is better than Joy Division - an unfair assessment from the start b/c of Curtis's suicide.
"I'm not the kind that needs to tell you/ Just what you want me to.."
posted by hooptycritter at 3:58 AM on August 3, 2009

im trying to download this but i cant seem to do it - can anyone help ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:52 PM on August 3, 2009

sgt.serenity - If you're on a mac you can use TubeTV.
posted by tellurian at 6:38 PM on August 3, 2009

I spent three-quarters of Sunday watching the video and then reading old Wikipedia links, then I downloaded 24HPP because I hadn't seen it and wasn't sure if it would be any good, watched it around 3 in the morning, slept, woke up and had a beautiful Monday.

So, thanks.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:13 AM on August 4, 2009

sgt.serenity: im trying to download this but i cant seem to do it - can anyone help ?

tellurian: sgt.serenity - If you're on a mac you can use TubeTV.

...and if you're not, you can go to the link in the post and use Firefox + FlashGot. This worked for me, anyway, and that way I was able to download the embedded video without going anywhere else. (Fantastically useful extension, that.)
posted by koeselitz at 10:07 AM on August 4, 2009

Okay, sgt serenity—forget FlashGot and TubeTV and other flash video conversion utilities; this is worth seeing in an actual video format, not just .flv or converted .flv.

So grab this nice big (739 MB) copy of this great documentary from these RapidShare links that I found. [ 1 ~ 2 ~ 3 ~ 4 ] All the links are around 190 MB each, so it takes a little while to download the whole thing, but you don't want to watch a fuzzy embedded rendering of a grainy flash copy of a worn VHS transfer of an ancient lo-fi recording of Joy Division, now do you? Watch it like yer supposed to. It's worth it.
posted by koeselitz at 1:34 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

hooptycritter: 2 few things that are critically missing from New Order:
Ian Curits's lyrics
Martin Hannett's production
w/o these you are comparing apples to kumquats.

Okay, this is wrong on several levels. Not, of course, on the level of Ian's lyrics, which I don't believe anyone means to slight; really, knowing Miguel Cardoso even as little as I do, I know he reveres Ian more than most Joy Division fans I know. I think it's fair to compare New Order and Joy Division as bands leaving aside Ian Curtis entirely; I only say that because Ian was such a presence, such a tremendous artist, thinker, and human being that there really is no comparison between him and anyone else; he stands alone.

I believe that's what Miguel meant: that, as a band, New Order improved, and they covered new ground and explored new territory that they hadn't in Joy Division. And, pardon me for saying so, but as reckless as it might have seemed to say that New Order got to a point where they were better than Joy Division might have been, putting New Order parallel to Madonna is high-level ridiculousness. There was plenty of late-80s/early-90s shite that New Order produced, but they were fantastic for a long, long time, and the created some of the most beautiful and awesome music of that decade. Seriously: this very morning, I was listening to ‘Temptation’ (the good one—the 7" version; there's another, the 12" version, that's not quite as perfect) on my way to a meeting and it smacked my like a ton of bricks how beautiful this was, just how ecstatic—that it's a ceremony, a sacred rite of spiritual exaltation…they carried on this tradition, they never forgot Ian (even when they lost their true spark) and they sought to honor him through the same rituals, the same holy musics. Really and truly, how can you not like ‘Temptation?’ I know you may have heard it a billion times, I know you might think it's just trite pop, but I abjure you to give it another go and let it open up for you.

Anyhow, you're also simply factually wrong. Martin Hannett did produce New Order; he produced their first album, the vastly underrated (although more subtle) Movement, in 1981.

The boys from New Order have always said that Martin took Ian's death harder than any of them—drug benders, crazy ramblings, lawsuits, etc—and while I believe them that he wouldn't talk about it, you can just palpably tell on this record. It's…well, it's so empty, so sad, and you can tell that that's not largely coming from Peter, Bernard or Stephen; it's coming from Martin. It's in the production, it's in how the thing is laid to tape;. There is a bold, brash refusal to give up, an insistence on a new beginning which you can hear in the first REM-esque chords of the first track, ‘Dreams Never End,’ the track on the record which most foreshadows the directions which New Order would later take; but that forward-looking courage which is what I love so much about New Order, that stand that says ‘we will not stop just because everything has been ripped from us,’ is at times during this record at real tension with the production, the hollowness that often invades the beginnings and endings, the empty spaces within the songs.

There really are moments on Movement which are ‘worse’ (if you catch my meaning) to me than anything on Unknown Pleasures; like Martin Hannett, who had spent all of these years creating a sonic landscape around what he'd thought was Ian Curtis' dark, brooding art, suddenly felt the trap-door fall and came to the shuddering realization that it hadn't been an act—it hadn't been art—he'd really meant it. So suddenly, listening to Movement, you notice by way of hindsight that there was a kind of delight that Hannett had taken in all of the dark touches on Unknown Pleasures, a secret gleeful evil wink. You notice that because suddenly you realize that the joy that he'd had in it—yes (and I don't think this was a coincidence) the unknown pleasures that had resided in Joy Division's art, had disappeared. It was empty. As bright and defiant as ‘Dreams Never End’ may be, the looming empty, flaccid sadness of Hannett's recordings of ‘Truth’ and ‘The Him’ is so stark and empty of pride, of self, of that subtle and masked delight he took in recording Joy Division that I find Movement to be a much more depressing record than anything Joy Division ever put together, and not in a good way. Ian Curtis was a genius because he could turn his pain, his anguish, his sorrow and his depression into something worth taking a kind of delight in, a sacred and precious thing he could hold in his cupped hands even as dark and void as it was. Martin Hannett was not that kind of genius; and even if he had been, it's much harder to watch this happen to someone else—or, even worse, to realize that you'd been watching it happen to someone else without even knowing it. To me, Movement is the document of Martin Hannett's suffering in the face of Ian Curtis' death. And I'm certain that that's why, as Bernard Sumner says in the linked film above, they all looked at each other one day and resolved to learn how to produce themselves, since they knew that Martin wouldn't be around to do it for them for very much longer.

But, really, I want to say another thing about Joy Division and Martin Hannett: as visionary as he was, and as interesting as his recordings were, he wasn't a member of the band; and there were always times when his production changed their music in ways they weren't wholly happy with. This must have been especially true of poor Stephen Morris, one of the greatest drummers of the punk and postpunk era, who had to watch his brilliant drum lines buried under layer upon layer of dubbing and sound effect-laden fuzzed-out silence. The story that he tells in the documentary above is one I hadn't heard, but which fits Martin perfectly, in all his genius and all his vengeful wrath: that he liked to piss off drummers as much as possible, really ragging on them and doing as much as possible to ruin their lives, just before a session because he had this idea that they'd play harder if they were pissed off.

I know that Unknown Pleasures is a brilliant achievement, and it will always hold a place in my heart exactly as it is—but the band can be forgiven for believing that it didn't really contain the definitive versions of their songs. Really, if you have not, you need to listen to a few of the more than 130 other (mostly live) recordings that were made of them during Joy Division's brief time together; they were a fantastic and tremendous live band, and, it should be said, often very, very different from what one might expect after hearing their Martin Hannett-produced records. Martin Hannett's vision of them didn't really include the frenetic overtones of songs like ‘Digital’ or ‘She's Lost Control’ or the precise, driving rhythms of ‘Disorder.’ Please, do yourself a favor and find a copy of the Live in Paris at Les Bains Douches bootleg that was finally released commercially a few years ago; it's a revelation, astounding in its force and its raw fury. That's the side of Joy Division that we largely didn't get to see.

Oh, and by the way: you should go over to this blog. They seem to have dozens upon dozens of Joy Division (and early New Order!) bootlegs available for download; I think you'll like it.
posted by koeselitz at 2:51 PM on August 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

Does anybody read the comments down here?
posted by koeselitz at 2:53 PM on August 4, 2009

posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:57 PM on August 4, 2009

Hey, C_D!

Wasn't 24HPP great? Inspiring without being sappy or ridiculous, just like a film about Mancunians ought to be?
posted by koeselitz at 6:57 PM on August 4, 2009

thanks very much for that - extremely helpful - i've only got college wifi access so i'm not online so much but when i am its pretty fast : )
posted by sgt.serenity at 12:18 PM on August 5, 2009

Glad to help! I actually found it via that awesome, awesome, AWESOME Joy Division + New Order blog I stumbled on that I'd linked in my last comment. They have a number of great documentaries about the band and the period. I'm serious, I've been downloading like a monster these last few days because of that incredible blog.
posted by koeselitz at 10:34 AM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

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