Riff Trade #2July 9, 2012
Or, There’s Always Been A Dance Element To Our Music. Post Stone Roses, everyone in 1990 had sacked their rock drummer, got themselves a loose-limbed octopus who could replicate Clyde Stubblefield‘s funkier moments from James Brown’s Greatest Hits and began making records that folk in outdated quiffs could sorta shuffle around to in a faux-druggy state. I know, because I was one of those shuffling folk with outdated quiff. Two months later and it had been fashioned into a Paul McCartney ’65 classic, but when the first strains of the Paris Angels or Northside or Flowered Up began to appear in the gaps between The Cramps and Smiths records at The Attic in Irvine, it was quiffs everywhere for as far as the eye could see. You’ll know this already, but Northside et al weren’t the first bands to shout accusingly at the drummer, “Less thunk, more funk!” There are plenty of examples of when ‘rock’ bands go ‘dance’.
Back when Joy Division were unsigned and known as Warsaw, RCA gave them some money to record a demo. Celebrated local Northern Soul DJ Richard Searling convinced the band they should record a version of Nolan Porter‘s Keep On Keepin’ On. Porter’s record was a staple of the northern soul scene, a gigantic record with a jagged, juddering riff that could’ve come straight off The Stooges first LP. It still sounds urgent, fresh and NOW!, even more so today. Jessie J and David Guetta at T In The Park?!? Fuck right off! Sorry. I digress. Warsaw, keen to impress RCA and gain a record deal went so far as to record a version of Keep On Keepin’ On, but as Bernard Sumner ruefully reflected, “they tried to make Ian Curtis sound like James Brown.” Given that this wasn’t quite the sound these intense young men were looking for, their recording was aborted, never to see the light of day. However…
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Sumner turned the riff inside out, played it 10 times faster than Nolan Porter and presented his band with a new tune. Using the RCA money, they cut Interzone. Listen to both tunes then spot the similarities. They’re all there. Warsaw’s take on the gigantic, jagged, juddering riff is even more Stooges-like, the perfect foil for the Ian Curtis body pop. Nothing at all like the Nolan Porter record, it was unsurprising that RCA didn’t like it. Which as it turned out, was good news for Tony Wilson, Factory Records and for all of us.
Joy Divison – Interzone (Unknown Pleasures LP version)
David Bowie – Warszawa (the glacial track that in 1977 christened Ian Curtis’ band with no name)