Gone but not forgotten

Music, eh? Bloody Hell.

There you are on the commute home, not really aware that you’ve somehow arrived at Kilwinning town centre…..red light, clutch in, brake, drop the gears, stop….when True Faith pops up on the radio and you find yourself in tears, a trickle at first then quickly a torrent, willing the pedestrians to not look in your direction as they busy themselves across the zebra crossing. It’s the bang and crash of the intro, where the mind’s eye replays those two clowns who slap one another silly in the video that triggers it. I feel so extraordinary, sings Barney. I feel overwhelmed. I drive home in a daze. Music is a powerful thing.

I had Power, Corruption and Lies playing earlier, New Order‘s essential second album, and such is the way it’s wrapped up in epoch and emotion, I listened to the entirety of it whilst thinking about two pals who are no longer here. From different social circles, Mark and Derek‘s paths crossed on the odd occasion, and while they’d have a pint and a catch up if we somehow found ourselves part of the same group in the pub, they weren’t friends in the real sense of the word. I’d grown up with Mark from the age of 3 or 4 and in later years we’d sit together watching the football at Kilmarnock. He moved with his work to London around the time I started mastering the plank of wood I had the cheek to call an electric guitar, and by the time I’d started playing in bands, I’d met Derek. For reasons I’m not entirely sure of, my football world has never really collided with my music world.

New OrderAge Of Consent

I remember Mark buying the album on cassette from John Menzies on the strength of the fact it was the parent album to Blue Monday, a record that was on perma-spin on every record player in our world. He was a bit put out because the band, not for the last time, had left the big hit off of the album.

As it played for the first time, the two of us listened and reacted with differing views. Despite the opening rush of Age Of Consent, all signature Hook bassline, keyboard swells and asthmatic lead guitar, Mark found it an underwhelming listen.

Listening earlier on today I was thinking about this, remembering him perched on the edge of his bed, his autograph of Killie’s John Bourke stuck to the headboard but curled at the corners where the Sellotape had stopped, me on an ancient Star Wars bean bag, both of us with eyes to the floor in studied concentration as Age Of Consent rattled out of the speakers that were attached to his midi hi-fi. By the second verse I was converted. Mark less so.

You’re hard to please,” I told him. “This is magic!” I distinctly remember the screwed-up ‘but it’s not Blue Monday‘ face he offered by way of reply. He liked second track We All Stand even less. “Barney can’t sing,” he pointed out, stating the obvious. “If this was a record I’d have lifted the needle by now.”

As the tape made its way to the end of the first side, Mark began flicking through his records with a face only someone who thinks they’ve wasted their last £3.99 can make. Alighting on his chosen mood lightener, You’ve Got The Power by Win signalled the end of our New Order listening session. Had he flipped the tape over there and then I like to think he’d have been stopped in his tracks by the beauty of Your Silent Face but it wasn’t to be.

New OrderYour Silent Face

 

I’m not sure he ever got to the second side, to be honest. He loved New Order though, did Mark, but he was always more of a True Faith kinda guy.

Derek, on the other hand, loved Age Of Consent. It was, as he was quick to offer, should you bring it up, the first track from the first New Order album where they broke free of the straightjacket they’d cul-de-sac’d themselves into for Movement, the first truly great New Order record, the album where New Order discovered who they really were and unwittingly invented what would come to be termed (ugh) indie dance.

When Age Of Consent was playing earlier, my first thought wasn’t of Mark’s bedroom in 1986 but of Kilmarnock’s Shabby Road rehearsal rooms in 1991. Our band rehearsed there and on the odd occasion when we were waiting for everyone to arrive, Derek would jump on the drums and offer up the only thing he could just about play, a stiff-limbed and stilted grinned thrashing beat, coloured by 100 mile an hour hi-hat action, denim jackets and wild, untamed shoulder-length hair.

As it dawned quite spectacularly on me for the first time today, he was (almost) playing the frantic hi-hat ‘n snare combination from Age Of Consent. He’d get 25 seconds or so in before he’d start losing time or drop a stick (or both), but how I’ve never noticed it until now, I’ll never know. It’s playing as I write, and I’m suddenly right back there in that room, peeking out from under my collapsed quiff/beginnings of a bowl cut (this was, after all, post-Smiths and peak-Roses) grappling with my shitty guitar tuner, getting ready for the only night of the week that truly mattered. Honestly, Del, we might’ve taken the piss, but you weren’t that bad at it after all.

As for Your Silent Face, that was played recently at Derek’s funeral. Melancholic, uplifting, stately and imperial, it’ll never be bettered. It’s such a powerful record and I’m not ashamed to say my chest caves in and I collapse a little whenever I hear it. I love that music as powerful and meaningful as this can catch you unexpectedly as you shift through the gears on the bike or wrestle with a burst bin bag or search in vain for Lazy Garlic in Morrison’s, but when it gets you, it’s got you. To paraphrase Alex Ferguson, music, eh? Bloody hell.

6 thoughts on “Music, eh? Bloody Hell.”

  1. Absolutely loved this instalment Craig. It gets right to the heart of all that is truly special and momentous about this shiny, ugly, glitter-eyed, big-assed beautiful beast called Pop music. And there are few better examples of it than 1983-era New Order, when their pop smarts were pedalling furiously in tandem with their visionary inventiveness, and their voracious appetites for all manner of twisted things were perfectly tempered by the late, great Rob Gretton (only after reading Barney’s brilliant book Chapter and Verse did I fully realise just how instrumental Gretton was in steering the good ship NO along the most wonderfully-awkward, commercially-harebrained path possible – a knack they have sadly squandered since his untimely passing).

    Something else I loved about this piece is how you’ve refracted the greatness of New Order/Power, Corruption and Lies/True Faith/Blue Monday through the hearts and minds (and ears) of your teenage experiences with your pals, giving us lot a fly-on-the-wall insight into what it was like to hear those dazzling discs in real time, at the time of release. I love that. Instead of some know-all journo hack recycling quotes and copying and pasting a load of yawnology, you say far more and say it far more eloquently in a disarmingly-simple and more effective (and very touching) way. And it’s beautifully bookended by the Fergie quote that sums up precisely why we care.

    Extra props are in order for the moving and courageous opening paragraph. As Jenny Seagrove intoned at the beginning of NewOrderStory (the 1993 career-spanning docu/videography that was where my love for NO really began), “Because sometimes you have to laugh. Because sometimes you have to cry”.

  2. I listen to the album on a daily basis. Through the rabbit hole that is YouTube, I found this. Thought I knew a fair bit about NO, but picked up a few things here.

  3. Hey Mista Callsta! As always, top notch on the ball Geezer. I enjoy ALL of Plain Or Pan, but every now and then you get a bullseye and I have to read it/listen a few times, cos you’ve nailed it so well. ‘Age Of Consent’ was “the best single they never released”. “Your Silent Face”, a classic oft over looked. Both been played/enjoyed/requested at SongsYaBass over time. BTW, for something a bit more recent, check out “Nothing But A Fool” from 2015’s Music Complete album, superb. Keep On Keeping On fella.

  4. It gets tougher and tougher revisiting the music of our youth, as so closely associated with people who may no longer with us. I usually hold it together at funerals until they play the chosen piece of music – gets me every time.

    Great piece of writing as ever.

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