Cover Versions, Gone but not forgotten, Peel Sessions

Turn The Heater On

You know that timeless footage of Joy Division in their rehearsal space, when they play Love Will Tear Us Apart; Ian Curtis with the Vox Phantom Teardrop worn almost at his Adam’s apple, Bernard channeling his inner Kraftwerk, Hooky, low-slung and serious and Stephen, tongue out in maximum concentration over his hi-hats? ‘Course you do.

It was filmed in TJ Davidson’s rehearsal rooms, a converted Victorian mill on Little Peter Street, the third point of a triangle that’s formed if you draw lines between the rehearsal space and Salford and Prestwich. Like the mystical, musical ley lines that so hypnotised Bill Drummond just over the Pennines in Liverpool, you might come to the conclusion that there’s something in that cosmic hippy shit after all.  Between them, Salford, Prestwich and those rehearsal rooms on Little Peter Street have been responsible for creating some of the best music we will ever hear. But you knew that already.

British singer Ian Curtis and guitarist Bernard Sumner of post punk band, Joy Division, at TJ Davidson’s rehearsal room, Little Peter Street, Manchester, August 19, 1979. photographer: Kevin Cummins

That room didn’t half look cold though. Long, bare floorboards, damp red brick walls and a worryingly bowed ceiling, it looks a less than inspiring place. It’s got a certain feel to it, of that there’s no doubt, but I’d imagine it might take many a band a good wee while to warm up to room temperature and start producing the goods in there. Maybe, now I think about it, that’s why Ian’s hand is permanently frozen in that G chord position while he wears the guitar.

The others gamely play on, heating the blood and warming the heart, despite the subject matter in the song. While a youthful Morris lays down his signature sound with all the mechanical precision of an industrial revolution stamping machine, Hooky’s bass reflects the damp sheen from the walls, a nice metaphor for the icy keyboard lines glistening over the top. Suffering for their art, Joy Division created a piece of music that will still resonate 100 years from now.

A couple of years later, when Joy Division had become New Order, the band found themselves recording a Peel Session. In tribute to their late vocalist, the band chose to play a cover of Keith Hudson‘s Turn The Heater On. While Ian Curtis was said to be a huge fan of the roots reggae track, I like to think that the others perhaps thought back to those freezing days at TJ Davidson’s and, with a nod and a wink, set about recording their own version.

New Order Turn The Heater On (Peel Session 1st June 1982)

I’d no idea until much later on that the track was a cover version.

It fits that early New Order aesthetic perfectly, coming as it does midway between the glacial thaw of Movement and the spring bloom of Power, Corruption and Lies. Sad, far-away vocals, sparse, polyrhythmic drums and a mesmeric chicka-chicka head-nodding dubby exterior, what’s, as they say, not to like? The icing on the cake is the addition of the mournful melodica, gasping and wheezing the long notes, the saddest traffic jam you’ve ever heard, burrowing its way into your brain before taking up camp long after the track has spun to its conclusion. Is that why they call it an earworm?

As it turns out, if you leave the melodica aside (something Bernard had difficulty doing in 1982), New Order’s version is fairly faithful to the original.

Keith HudsonTurn The Heater On

Recorded in 1975, Turn The Heater On is classic reggae; clipped guitars, thundering bass and squeaky organ vamps, topped of by a gently soulful vocal. I’ve a feeling too that while New Order might have been requesting that you do indeed turn the heater on, Keith Hudson may have been requesting a blast of heat from a different source. Perhaps not though.

It’s a great track, one I’m grateful to New Order for pointing me in the direction of. Played back to back with New Order’s reverential cover, they make for great late autumn/early winter listening. Turn the heater on, indeed.

3 thoughts on “Turn The Heater On”

  1. This has always been my all-time favourite New Order track and one of my favourite-ever tracks by anyone ever since I picked up ‘Peel Sessions’ as a musically-lovestruck teenager and heard it wafting through the gloom of the room I was tied to.

    I love absolutely everything about it – the sad, wistful, shivery, silvery synth glowing ghostily towards the outer limits of the mix, that perfectly-scratchy, scrawny, cheap-as-chips, chicka-chicka Vox Phantom Teardrop guitar bringing the dub, the astonishing electro pulses bubbling up every now and then and splattering away towards the close, the beautiful reverb-drenched atmospherics that sound like doors slamming in a faraway galaxy, Barney’s lost-boy vocals, Hooky’s meaty bass rumbling like a diesel engine…I could go on.

    Never a single, never a B-side, never played live, never even an album track per se – an (almost) lost song tossed off for a long-ago Peel Session. And the band’s only cover. And yet for me it’s my favourite thing they ever did or surely will ever do (the light having long since the building. If not The Light…fnar fnar, Hooky wha’).

    The original Keith Hudson version I knew, and it’s great (and apparently it was Ian C’s favourite song, one he heard during the heavy ska/dub reggae phase he went through according to Debbie’s book). But New Order’s version takes it into another, even better dimension imo. One that I can never listen to without thinking of Ian C (and Debbie and Natalie as it happens). There’s a beautiful, barren sadness about it that is so so far from the glitz and gloss of the fame train, and all the better for it.

    Before I toddle off, props Mista Callista for another razor-sharp piece of writing. You always zone in on the things I already treasure (except for the times you shine a light upon something I need in my life but didn’t know existed).

    Ta! x

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