Welcome back, folks. This week is going to be a lot of fun and a change of pace from the last few weeks. This week, we’re looking at two rarities from New Order.
I discovered New Order back in the mid-80s, with the release of True Faith and its inclusion in the “Bright Lights, Big City” soundtrack. I was familiar with most popular music at the time, but this song sounded so different from the sound ecosystem to which I had grown accustomed. It immediately intrigued me; it sounded so foreign and impenetrable. I started slowly picking up the band’s music, trying to decode it. I didn’t entirely get it, but I sure as hell loved it, and that’s all that really mattered.
So that’s a close to 20-year love affair with the band. I guess everyone goes through a New Order phase, but it turned out to be something other than a phase for me, and that’s okay. Anyway, with that in mind, imagine my excitement when I first discovered a cassette of the long-out-of-print Peel Sessions album at a thrift store in Rockville, MD and, this past Saturday, found a vinyl bootleg of the first New Order sessions. As soon as I saw the demos, I knew what had to happen: this post.
The first offering, as I said, is a vinyl bootleg of New Order’s Western Works sessions. That’s July 9th 1980 on the cover, not September 7th, but it’s a moot point as both dates are incorrect – this actually took place on July 7th, 1980. For those who aren’t familiar with New Order, they began life as legendary post-punk band Joy Division, which continued right up until the lead singer, Ian Curtis, committed suicide on May 18th, 1980. The band wanted to carry on, but agreed that it would be wrong to continue as Joy Division. They had an early identity crisis, though: who would be the singer? What would the direction of the band sound like? This collection is a great historical snapshot of that time.
The first demo track, Dreams Never End, sung by Peter Hook (told you they were trying to figure out the face of the band), has no less than two separate mixes on this album – I prefer Mix 2 – and a separate, more evolved version below in the Peel Sessions tape. While Ceremony is the most obvious bridge between Joy Division and what would become “real” New Order, I feel Dreams Never End shows the real evolution of the band during those six months.
The second track, Homage, is the only song on this set featuring Bernard Sumner, who would later become the band’s singer. Ironic, then, that the only song with the final lead singer never saw the light of day past these demos and a handful of live performances. It’s a brooder that has more in common with the Cure than what the band would later become.
The third track is Ceremony, probably the best-known early New Order song and a remnant from the Joy Division past. Like I said, it’s the clearest bridge between the two. What’s interesting is that this version features drummer Steven Morris; the final version featured Sumner.
The fourth track is Truth, which survives almost intact from the demo session to the Peel session, but features a different singer. Both versions sound more like Joy Division outtakes rather than New Order, but this would end up on New Order’s debut album.
The fifth track is Are You Ready, a track recorded with the members of Cabaret Voltaire and featuring their manager on lead vocals. It’s the real oddball of the set and threw me off when I first heard it.
All in all, it’s a weird little slice of history that’s worth hearing if you have even an inkling of interest in the band or that period. I recommend checking it out.
- Year: 1980
- Label: N/A
- Found: Frederick, MD
- Filesize: 48MB
- Dreams Never End (Mix 1)
- Are You Ready?
- Dreams Never End (Mix 2)
Get the whole thing here
Now, let’s talk about The Peel Sessions.
The Peel Sessions were issued by Strange Fruit records in 1990 and comprised of two separate sessions with John Peel, the first in January 1981 (Tracks 1-4), just six months after the Western Works session, and the second in June of 1982 (Tracks 5-8). By this point, Gillian Gilbert had joined the group and the band had started to take a decidedly more electronic path. The addition of the synthesizers is both very pronounced and, to my ears, welcome.
The 1981 session is of the most interest, as you can hear the band’s sound beginning to gel as compared to the relatively sloppy demo session. All of the tracks in the 1981 session would appear on Movement, and while the arrangements and production are noticeably different, many of them still sound unfinished on Movement.
The 1982 session is a bit more polished, with the synthesizers taking more center stage. It features a few tracks that would appear on 1983’s “Power, Corruption, and Lies” (generally cited as the real beginning for the band), including “We All Stand” and “5 8 6”. The other two tracks never appeared in any other format, so they’re something of a treat.
- Year: 1990
- Label: Strange Fruit
- Found: Rockville, MD
- Notes: This is two sets of recordings. Tracks 1-4 are from an early 1981 Peel Session. Tracks 5-10 are from June 1982.
- Filesize: 69MB
- Dreams Never End
- Turn the Heater On
- We All Stand
- Too Late
Get tracks 1-4 here.
Get tracks 5-8 here.