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Guest Blog Post – Kevin Cummins & Peter Hook by Nigel Barlow

February 25, 2012

Every now and again, we like to include a guest blog, and this time it’s turn of Nigel Barlow, who attended the recent event with Kevin Cummins and Peter Hook at The Manchester Photographic Gallery. Exemplar:Joy Division is the current exhibition at the gallery. It’s been such a successful exhibition that its run has been extended to the end of March, so if you’ve not had a chance to visit yet, you’ve still got time…

Joy Division : Kevin Cummins

Joy Division : Kevin Cummins

Things could have been so very different if it hadn’t snowed in Manchester that winter…

It was standing room only on Thursday evening (23rd February) at the Northern Quarter’s Manchester Photographic Gallery with former Joy Division and New Order bass player Peter Hook,  in conversation with photographer Kevin Cummins, who took some of the most iconic black and white photographs of Joy Division in the winter of 1979, and which are currently featured in the exhibition at the gallery on Tariff Street.

The photographs were taken on a Saturday in the snow. Cummins should never really have taken them because he was supposed to have been at Maine Road – but City’s FA Cup tie against Rotherham had been postponed because of the weather. So, the shoot went ahead instead.

Originally the band had wanted to be photographed waiting in a bus queue, and outside Manchester Cathedral, but the shoot gravitated towards the now famous shot in Hulme.

Kevin Sampson, chairing the debate, asked what gives a band an aura, reminding the audience that both Kraftwerk and David Bowie were pioneers in creating an aura. Peter Hook replied, by saying that choosing the group name had been one of the most difficult things to do. Warsaw was the first name of the band, but Slaves in Bondage was another name that was considered. In fact, the band originally came up with Stiff Kittens before honouring the said David Bowie, and his album “Low”, with the name Warsaw.

The name eventually settled on, Joy Division, was a folly of youth, said Hook, but would it have been the same if they had stuck with the original name. Referring to another Manchester band, The Buzzcocks, Hook commented – “They were middle class and arty whereas we were a band of working class piss heads.”

Sampson asked when did they know that Joy Division was going to special? Hook replied that today, with the X factor generation, they want everything straight away, but they had to learn from slogging up and down the motorway in a van. He remembered one gig in particular when the band launched into playing Transmission. The crowd stopped and started to listen. That was the moment.

The album Unknown Pleasures changed the way that the band was regarded. From being a good, live band, the producer Martin Hannett turned Joy Division into one of the great iconic bands. Unfortunately, according to Hook,  Martin’s increasing drug addiction turned him into “a monster” and when the band most needed him on their next recording session, “it became painful to work with him.” Hannett wanted to walk away from Factory & buy a mobile recording studio. However, Tony Wilson wanted to buy a club – The Hacienda. Martin thought it a bad idea and left Factory never to return. His great legacy for Hook though, was to teach him how to turn up the volume on his bass guitar.

Inevitably the conversation came around to Ian Curtis – how conscious were the band of his deterioration? Looking back, said Hook, they didn’t dwell on the lyrics, they dwelt on the man and he always told us he was fantastic. He was, said Hook, his own worst enemy, in that he wanted more for the group than any other member. His last memory of Curtis was of driving him home in a Mk 10 Jaguar – “We were both bouncing up and down on the seats excited about going to America. The next morning he killed himself.”

Hook pondered on  the question that always gets asked so much –  if Ian had lived, would he have gone along with the electronic changes of  New Order? “The music was changing, Closer was all ready showing the move to that 80s sound,  but as to whether he would have sung World in Motion, probably not,” said Peter.

Finally the elephant in the room.

New Order will be playing the end of Olympics show. But without Peter. Hook feels that the existing members going off and using the name, without even letting him know, means that he will probably never get over it…

Joy Division : Kevin Cummins

Joy Division : Kevin Cummins

Words, with thanks to NIGEL BARLOW. Images, with thanks to KEVIN CUMMINS.

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