Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Factory Records: never dull

The interesting thing about the career of Joy Division/New Order, as reflected in the excellent Factory Records documentary on BBC Four, is the extent to which they seem to have been allowed to do whatever they wanted to do, regardless of the consequences. Far from having their fate decided by "the suits" (who have actually been extinct as a music business type since the late 70s but still live on in the fantasies of young men in indie bands) their willful side was actively encouraged by those around them in management and at Factory. They were allowed to remain in Manchester, allowed to put out records that didn't have their name on them, allowed to perform live on TOTP (their record went down) and allowed to watch lots of their money disappear into the Hacienda and thence down an adjacent drain. They had vigorous arguments about all these issues but usually the Mad Option prevailed, presumably because nobody was really prepared to lie down in front of the Folly Train and risk the accusation of being dull.
One of the most telling moments comes in the interview with Tony Wilson, who was dishing out the sideswipes like a man who knew exactly how ill he was, when he recalls Ian Curtis's girlfriend telling him how worried she was about him.
"He means it," she said.
"No, it's just Art," replied Tony.
Not long afterwards Curtis was dead. The remaining members of the band are candid about how surprised they were. It was only then that they listened to his lyrics.


  1. Since we're talking about that very good documentary on BBC4 (home of very good documentaries), it was interesting that all of the stills of Joy Division were taken by Mancunian photographer Kevin Cummins. In all the fuss about Control, the Anton Corbijn film, we're in danger of losing sight of Kevin's part in the band's visual story. Sure, Corbijn took some key snaps of them (the London Underground one, for starters) and shot Love Will Tear Us Apart, but it was Kevin who did the lion's share of documenting Curtis and co - as confirmed by those haunting and timelessly familiar pics used to illustrate the BBC4 doc. I rather suspect Kevin's already thrown a hissy fit or two in private at the current takeover (you know what creative folk are like), but he's also probably too dignified to go public and reclaim his share of the glory. So I'm doing it for him.

    I really enjoyed Andrew Harrison's piece on Control in Word, but where was the mention of 24 Hour Party People? I'd love to know where Corbijn stood on the "other" portrayal of the Curtis story.

  2. Kevin Cummings has already had his slightly ratty say in the Observer(?) a few weeks ago, he basically slagged off the new film. i must admit I thought his work should have been mentioned more, I simplistically assumed ALL Joy Division/New Order pics where by him anyway. Good doc though.

  3. Kevin C's side of the story from Observer.,,2146781,00.html

  4. Thanks for the link. I will read it now, and I may take back what I wrote earlier!