Books and Music at the Heart of Independent Publishing

We have £100 of Faber Books featuring Jarvis Cocker, Bonnie Prince Billy, Nicky Wire and Beck Hansen up for grabs.faber-social-books_web-graphic

The prize also includes a pair of tickets to the brilliant Festival Number 6 this September with the Manic Street Preachers and My Bloody Valentine.

For the chance to win, simply enter your details in the boxes below:

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The competition closes on midnight on 15 August 2013. Winners will be picked at random and contacted by email. By entering this competition we’ll also add your name to our Faber Social mailing list but we promise not to bombard you with messages.

This month, Faber publishes a new edition of Simon Reynolds’s classic history of rave music and dance culture, Energy Flash, containing a substantial new section on developments such as dubstep and the explosion of EDM in the States. Simon has put together a Spotify playlist, for those seeking a soundtrack while they read. In the following extract, he describes at first-hand the game-changing Castlemorton free festival of 1992.

It’s 11 p.m. on a Saturday night, 23 May 1992. We’re cruising along a country lane somewhere in the English West Country, when the abnormally – one might even say suspiciously – heavy traffic comes to a halt. Someone up ahead has stopped to take a leak. Suddenly, from almost every car, boys emerge to follow suit. It’s an image I’ll never forget: irradiated in the gleam of a hundred headlights, innumerable arcs of urine spraying into the hedgerow, as far as the eye can see.

An hour earlier we’d been hurtling down the motorway, en route to my first Spiral Tribe outdoor rave. The Spirals are part of the crossover between the rave scene and the ‘crusty’ subculture – crusties being squat-dwelling anarcho-hippy-punk types named after their matted dreadlocks and post-apocalyptic garb. At the bottom of the crusty spectrum are destitute idlers who panhandle for a living; at the top end are more enterprising types who organize illegal parties, deal drugs or make and sell artefacts and clothes.

My friends have Tribal connections, and one of the clan’s DJs has cadged a ride. He tells us about ‘doets’, a new drug in circulation, which he says is a super-potent cocktail of speed, LSD, E and ketamine that propels the user on a thirty-hour trip with ‘amazing visuals, man!’ Then he plays a tape of Spiral Tribe’s debut EP. The killer track, ‘Doet’, is a juggernaut of noise kick-started by a nursery rhyme – ‘If you’re at a rave and you can’t score an E / you must be / buzzin’ / on acid’ – and the rabble-rousing exhortation ‘Rush your fucking bollocks off!!!’ This is Spiral Tribe’s slogan of the summer. The insolent, uncouth voice on ‘Doet’ belongs to MC Scallywag, whose mischievous rewrite of The Kinks’ ‘You Really Got Me’ (‘Ecstasy, it’s really got me now . . . got me so I don’t know what I’m doing’) is the hook in Xenophobia’s ‘Rush in the House’, another of that summer’s ’ardkore anthems.

Gradually, we realize we are no longer alone; our car has become part of a convoy, and the breathless anticipation, the sense of strength-in-numbers grows until almost unbearable, as does the fear that the police will thwart the rave. Our destination is Castlemorton Common in Worcestershire, not far from the border with Wales. This year it is the site for the Avon Free Festival, one of the dozen or more summer festivals attended by ‘New Age travellers’ – basically nomadic crusties.

Travelling as a lifestyle began in the early seventies, as convoys of hippies spent the summer wandering from site to site on the free-festival circuit, which included the Rainbow Festival, Cantlin Stone, Ribblehead, Inglestone Common, Rough Tor, Magic Mushroom and Cinsbury Ring Free. Gradually, these raggle-taggle remnants of the original counter-culture built up a neo-medieval economy based around crafts, alternative medicine and entertainment: jugglers, acrobats, healers, food vendors, candle makers, clothes sellers, tattooists, piercers, jewellers and drug pedlars. The New Age traveller first burst into public consciousness as a modern ‘folk-devil’ in June 1985, thanks to the Battle of the Beanfield. Police diverted the convoy en route to the Stonehenge Free Festival (the traditional site for Summer Solstice celebrations) and went on the rampage, trashing vehicles and clubbing men and women alike. The then Home Secretary Douglas Hurd referred to the travellers as ‘medieval brigands’, while Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declared, ‘I am only too pleased to make life as difficult as possible for these hippy convoys.’ Despite persecution from the authorities, the travelling movement not only survived, it grew. As squatting became a less viable option and the government mounted a clampdown on welfare claimants, many urban crusties tired of the squalor of settled life and took to the roving lifestyle. By the end of the eighties, some estimates put the number of travellers at 40,000.

At the 1990 Glastonbury rock festival, crusties and hippies danced to house and techno sound systems like Club Dog and Tonka, while outside the festival bounds there was confrontation as travellers (who’d hitherto been let in for free) railed against the high ticket price and demanded a free camp site. 1990 also saw ravers – sick of commercialized, rip-off raves – turning up at the free festivals, where techno was gradually eclipsing the hippies’ previous staple (cosmic trance-rock of the Hawkwind/Here and Now/Magic Mushroom Band stripe). Sound-system collectives, like Nottingham’s DiY, formed and started to throw free parties at abandoned airfields or on hilltops, drawing a mixed crowd of urban ravers and crusty road warriors.

Spiral Tribe started hooking up with the travellers in the summer of 1991, and rapidly became prime movers on the scene, luring thousands of urban ravers to party at disused airfields and abandoned quarries; often, the events coincided with traditional free festivals. Gradually, the Spirals – alongside similar sound-system outfits like Bedlam, Circus Warp, Techno Travellers, Armageddon, Adrenalin and Circus Normal – fermented a peculiar symbiosis between the straight rave scene and the anarcho-hippy nomads: the ’ardkore weekenders brought an infusion of money generated by working in the straight world; the travellers provided an environment for freaking out. There were tensions, initially: some older travellers, used to folk and acid rock, disliked the harsh new techno soundtrack. Inevitably, there was mutual suspicion based on differences of lifestyles, look and outlook: the travellers with their dreadlocks and shaved patches of scalp, hessian jackets, camouflage fatigues, DM boots and ring piercings galore; the fashion-conscious middle-class ravers; the baggy-trouser-and-T-shirted ’ardkore proles. But as they discovered common ground in drugs, dance and the desire to have a wild time dirt-cheap, travellers and ravers formed what cultural critic Lawrence Grossberg calls an ‘affective alliance’: the affect, in this instance, being an exhilarating feeling of freedom, combined with the belief that freedom ain’t really free if you have to pay for it.

Little do we know it as we wind along the West Country lanes, but Castlemorton is set to be the high-water mark and absolute climax of this crusty–raver alliance. Previous Spiral-instigated parties have drawn crowds in the region of five or six thousand. But arriving at the darkened Common, it quickly becomes apparent that the event has escalated beyond all expectations. Thanks to Bank Holiday Monday’s prolongation of the weekend, and exceptionally fine weather, Castlemorton is well on its way to becoming the biggest illegal rave in history. Estimates vary from twenty thousand to forty thousand present.

Our first surprise is the absence of a large-scale police presence. We encounter only a pair of genial constables, who direct us to a safer parking space, lest ‘all your paint gets scraped off by one of the big buses’. The midsummer night scene is somewhere between a medieval encampment and a Third World shanty town. The lanes are choked with caravans, buses, ex-military transports, gaudily painted horse-drawn vehicles and hundreds of cars (in the near pitch-black, I keep gouging my hips on jutting wing mirrors). The fields are jammed with a higgledy-piggledy throng of tents, pavilions and eerie-looking fluorescent sculptures (the work of Sam Hegarty, resident artist for the Circus Irritant sound system).

The Third World/medieval vibe is exacerbated by the bazaar atmosphere. Pedlars hawk their illicit wares, hollering ‘get your acid!’ or ‘hash cookies for sale’, propositioning us with wraps of speed, magic-mushroom pies and innumerable brands of Ecstasy. The most medieval aspect of all, we discover later, is the total absence of sanitation. Venturing out onto the camp’s perimeter, we quickly learn to tread gingerly, in order to avoid the excrement amid the bracken and the toilet paper hanging from gorse bushes. A big placard commands ‘Bury Your Shit’, but unlike the seasoned travellers, urban ravers haven’t come armed with spades.

After stumbling through the chock-a-block murk for what feels like a small eternity, we finally make it to Spiral Tribe’s own enclosure, a Wild West-style wagon circle of vans and trucks circumscribing a grassy dancefloor. While the event is free, in accordance with the Spiral credo ‘no money, no ego’, ravers are invited to give donations in order to keep ‘the gennies’ (electricity generators) running. Inside the circle, the scene is like a pagan gathering. With their amazing, undulating dance moves, it seems like the crowd has evolved into a single, pulsating organism. Faces are contorted by expressions midway between orgasm and sobbing. ‘Lost the plot, we’ve lost the plot,’ hollers one MC. ‘Off my fuckin’ tree.’ It’s time for us to get ‘on the vibe’, as the Spirals put it, and we quickly score some Tangerine Sunsets at £15 a shot, sold out of the back of a van.

Later, another Spiral MC, crop-headed Simone, hollers ‘Let’s lose it, together,’ then chants the chorus of another track from the forthcoming Spiral Tribe EP, which quotes the lament of a nineteenth- century American-Indian chieftain. ‘I am a savage, and I can’t understand / How the beauty of the Earth can be sold back to man,’ toasts Simone. Dancing with the stars overhead, it’s hard not to succumb to the back-to-Nature romanticism. It’s all part of Spiral Tribe’s eco-mystical creed, which is crystallized in the buzzword ‘terra-technic’: using technology to unlock the primal energy of Mother Earth. (It’s also a pun on the Technics SL1200 Mk2 turntable favoured by DJs.) Tonight, the subsonic bass-throb of their sound system certainly feels like it’s forging a connection between my bowels and the Earth’s core. Years later, Spiral DJ Aztek described the terra-technic rush in Eternity magazine: ‘the sensation is like being earthed and receiving some sort of energy signal’. (Of course, this might have something to do with his professed intake of around eight or nine Ecstasy tablets per weekend at that time!)

Around 4.30 a.m., the grey pre-dawn light uncovers a scene weirdly poised between idyllic and apocalyptic. The breathtaking Malvern Hills, shrouded with mist, are a sight for sore eyes. But at the Malverns’ feet, the festival site is an eyesore. Shagged-out dancers huddle around small bonfires to ward off the clammy, creeping damp. Undernourished travellers’ dogs roam freely. Bedraggled figures wander around scavenging for cigarette butts to make joints; others panhandle for money to buy more E.

The consensus is that the Tangerine Sunsets are a disappointment. But a spare Rhubarb and Custard left over from a previous rave is shared, and that’s all it takes to push us over the edge. On my weakened, sleep-deprived system and empty stomach, the effect is almost instantaneous: I’ve got that walking-on-air, helium-for-blood feeling. Even though the music sounds harsh and distorted because it’s overdriven at top volume through an inadequate PA, I’m swept up in a frenzy of belligerent euphoria. A friend tells me later I’ve actually been growling!

One image sums up Castlemorton for me. A beautiful, androgynous girl – short black bob, virulent red lipstick, Ray-Ban sunglasses, burgundy short-sleeve top – is dancing on top of a van. Her fingers stab and slice, carving cryptograms in the dawn air, and her mouth is puckered in a pout of indescribable, sublime impudence. She’s totally, fiercely on the vibe, living in the moment, loving it.

By ten in the morning, the sun’s breaking through, the temperature’s rising, and our rush has dwindled to a buzzy lassitude. We sprawl on the grass. A photographer friend-of-a-friend, supposedly here to document history-in-the-making, has been dozing for five hours; he wakes, mutters ‘Wicked sleep!’ and we piss ourselves laughing. All around, the exposed flesh of slumped, catatonic bodies is visibly blistering in the baking heat. A couple of well-trained four-year-old crusty-kids are wandering around selling outrageously overpriced packets of Rizla rolling papers to desperate ravers, and Spiral personnel are collecting the first night’s rubbish in bin liners. Overhead a police helicopter patrols intermittently (later, a crusty will fire a flare-gun at it, much to the public’s outrage). By noon, shattered, we decide it’s time to go home. Bidding farewells, we wend our way through the revellers and wreckage. On the long journey home, my friend keeps falling asleep at the wheel.

 

Simon will be in the UK in late June, doing two events to promote this new edition of Energy Flash:

Monday 24 June, 7 p.m. Rough Trade East, London. Simon reads from Energy Flash and is in conversation with Luke Bainbridge (Observer Music Monthly and Festival #6). Full details here http://www.roughtrade.com/events/2013/6/139

Thursday 27 June, 7 p.m. Rise, Bristol. Simon reads from Energy Flash and is in conversation with John Doran (The Quietus). Full details  here http://www.rise-music.co.uk/events.php?event=206

 

England, Vienna, Scotland

In the third of four instalments, MD of Document Records Gary Atkinson describes the scales falling from his eyes and his introduction to the Document back catalogue

At the city engineers, I was approached by two close work friends. ‘Do you like Rory Gallagher?’ Dave asked. ‘No,’ I gave as a reply that, in my view, needed no consideration. ‘Why not!?’ exclaimed Dave, genuinely puzzled. ‘He plays blues.’ I looked at him, mystified as how he could come to such a ridiculous conclusion that a) Rory Gallagher played anything that could pass for blues music and b) I would give such a screaming singer, a screeching, electric-guitar-playing idiot a microsecond of my time. Had the Hull City Corporation’s palatial Guildhall buildings have been mine, I would have told him to ‘Get out!’ Dave looked at me, obviously wanting to say more. Yet it was clear he knew that, for the moment, he was not going to be given a way in, despite his best of intentions.

On the Saturday afternoon following the conversation with Dave, the countryside’s tranquillity was shattered by the roaring noise of motor scooter engines. I opened the front door and to my astonishment watched a small armada of Vespas liberally adorned with mirrors pull into the drive of the house where we now lived, in the village of South Cave, twenty miles west of Hull. Sat as a passenger on the leading scooter was Dave, holding tightly onto a bunch of LPs. Each scooter had a driver with a passenger holding their own bundle of albums. Dave apologised for the intrusion but said that it was important. Apparently he had been bothered by our discussion regarding Rory Gallagher or, more to the point, the lack of it. It had played on his mind for the rest of the week as to how intransigent I was about music. He had decided to take matters into his own hands and demonstrate the error of my record-buying ways with a damn good record-playing session.

I had little option other than make several cups of coffee, provide a dish of Rich Tea biscuits and invite them to the usually prohibited area of my room. I was then subjected to a crash course in what one would miss out on if one bloody-mindedly stuck to one thing only in one’s life. The first thing they played me was Free Live. As the record span Dave pointed out the intricate, relationship between the guitar of Paul Kossoff and the bass of Andy Fraser. I was a little taken aback that such things could be discussed about a rock record. Surely, this was the preserve of the blues, jazz or classical connoisseur . . . wasn’t it? Next came the Rolling Stones, Rory Gallagher, Santana and Pink Floyd. The whole afternoon was like a week in rehab – or was it the reverse? I struggled and sweated my way through, trying to resist the demons. The gathering of people in my room, with their knowing looks and appearing as if they were in some kind of trance, all focused on the sounds of hell emanating from the sacrificial turntable, made me want to resist. A voice in my head murmured, ‘Get thee behind me Satan and be gone with your vile, rock albums.’ The whole scene was like the final chapters of a Dennis Wheatley novel. But I began to get drawn in and I found myself going with the sounds filling the room. Oh god, I was becoming enchanted. It was like two-timing. After my friends left, with their faces saying ‘Our work is done, we must go now’, I could hardly look my blues albums in the face. What would my heroes think? What if I ended up liking this music more than I liked the blues? Could I really end up dumping my records, the best friends that I had?

It would not be too long before the answer came. I bought records by everyone from Mississippi John Hurt and Kokomo Arnold to Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Bob Marley and The Stranglers. My head had been turned. Everything was up for grabs. The music was played loud, particularly when everyone was out and it was up to just me and my records to entertain ourselves. When summer arrived the windows were thrown open wide and with the help of my collection South Cave became the Newport Blues Festival, the Newport Folk Festival and the Newport Jazz Festival. Concerts by Free, Taj Mahal, Muddy Waters, Reverend Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt and others blasted out.

My record collecting carried on, unhindered and unabated, for the next couple of years or so. Sheridan started up another shop on Anlaby Road. Although one of the early Virgin Record stores had opened in Hull around the same time, for me, Sheridan had become the Richard Branson of second-hand vinyl-record shops. I was already eternally grateful to him. Would he go on to create an empire of Sheridan Second-Hand Railway and Airline Exchanges, and Sheridan Second Hand Banking Exchanges, or Sheridan Second Hand Broadcasting Exchanges? Only time would tell.

This was still in the era where the working-class calendar of life was already marked off for you when you were born, with ‘Go to school, leave school, get job (factory or office may be optional), get married, have kids, retire, die’ written on it. All of it being the earlier the better. By the age of nineteen I was on my way. Got job, found the girl. A year later, got married, got a mortgage, had our own bungalow and dog. We were married for fourteen years, much of it very happy but for reasons that I still cannot fathom, the records slowly began to remain in their sleeves. By the age of twenty-five we had moved over to Lancashire, set up a business, and brought our second child into the world. Within another five years the business had gone bankrupt and we had lost everything. We were left with nothing more than a few sticks of furniture and some clothes. I had a guitar and the record collection, both of which I held onto dearly to retain my sanity.

Eventually, we were both back in work. Good jobs, well paid, all expenses, the lot. I hardly noticed the transformation, as in Thatcher’s Britain we both, in our late twenties, began to metamorphose into a pair of grotesque, money-chasing yuppies. All artistic taste, creativity and cultural contemplation, along with the wisdom, consideration and empathy towards people that it comes with – things that we both had when we first began to go out with each other – left through the back door, helped on its way by an unceremonious kick up the arse by one of a £120 pair of Italian brogues. The record collecting, guitar playing and painting had stopped, replaced by an increasingly bland, mindless, status-symbol driven lifestyle. Finally, at around the age of thirty-two, I became the victim of our joint success. Like a mountain goat, grazing on grass growing by the quiet and tranquil railway line of life, I was suddenly hit by the huge, speeding locomotive of destiny, and on the front of it was written its unexpected destination: ‘Divorce Junction’.

At the same time, through my work, I had become friends with Gillian. I first met when, late on a winter’s afternoon, I visited a small graphic-design business that she helped run from her home, a Victorian terraced house just to the north of Manchester. I looked around her office as we spoke and noticed one or two things that made me suspect she might be into music. I broached the subject and she replied by asking me what sort of music I was into. This question had always been an awkward one for me in the past. During the sixties and early seventies mentioning the word ‘blues’ in Hull usually drew a blank expression. At the most someone might have a stab at it. ‘Oh right, yeh. Me dad’s got some Acker Bilk records.’ Or ‘What, ya mean like Sarah Vaughan?’ And then there was the standard, ‘I ‘ate blues. It’s all the same and it’s so bloody miserable.’

Surprised to hear such a question, having not been asked it for some years, I thought I would play it safe. I had learned to reply ‘jazz’, rather than ‘blues’. It was less complicated, and I usually didn’t have to explain myself any further. ‘I’m into Jazz,’ I remarked. Preparing myself for the inevitable, I was completely wrong-footed when she replied, ‘What kind?’ and then reeled off a small but very credible list of jazz musicians that she liked. A little stunned, I decided to let my guard down and venture a little more information. ‘Well, I do like jazz. In fact, I like all sorts of stuff, but my main love is the blues.’ There was an uncomfortable silence, and I thought to myself, ‘That’s torn it, this conversation will stop right here.’ As I began preparing my ’Lovely to meet you, I’ll be back in touch’ speech, Gillian stood up and said, ‘Follow me.’ We walked from her front room into the hallway and then into the dining room. ‘What the hell’s going on?’ I wondered. She went to the back of the room where there were two original built-in cupboards on either side of the chimney breast. First she opened wide the two doors to the left cupboard followed by those to the one on the right. Whilst gazing ahead of me, I slowly stooped slightly and gently and quietly placed my briefcase on the floor. There in front of me was a huge LP collection. In it was nearly every Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed album produced. Eventually we became a couple and the record collecting kicked back in with a vengeance.

By the mid-nineties we were living in Scotland. I had begun to write for various magazines, mainly as a reviewer. Having enthusiastically told one magazine’s review editor that I was interested in early blues and gospel music – ‘The earlier and more obscure, the better ‘ – I received a small package of Document CDs. The first I gave my attention to was a full album of very obscure 1920s gospel and spiritual recordings by a very little-known group. Their complete recordings were laid out in chronological order. Outraged, I paced over to the computer and began to write my review. I strafed the page with such words as ‘ridiculous’, ‘appalling’ and ‘unlistenable’. Why would anyone in their right mind, I asked in disbelief, want to reissue the complete works of such a group, using recordings that were at best uncomfortable listening, partly because of the performances and original quality of the sound recordings, and at worse impossible listening because of the terrible condition of the original records used for transfers to produce the masters?

The remainder of the CDs in the package were part of a seemingly endless A to Z of obscure female blues singers who had made only two to perhaps half a dozen recordings, mainly during the 1920 and ‘30s. My review gave them little better treatment than the Spiritual and Gospel group now lying, verbally bullet riddled, in their Perspex CD case.

When the magazine arrived I went straight to the review section, satisfied with my literary outburst and ready to bask in the glory of seeing my thoughts and comments in print. And there it was. But then I realised that a huge amount of other Document CDs were there, throughout several review pages. My eyes began to narrow as I tried to take it in and make sense of it all. As I read the other reviews, it became clear that this Document label was unlike anything else I had come across in all of my years of collecting. I spoke to the reviews editor, who told me that the owner of the label, Johnny Parth, was a mad Austrian who appeared to be on a mission from god to reissue every blues and gospel recording made, from the first, dating from the late nineteenth century, to at least 1943, following all that were in the appropriate discographies covering that period. After that it was difficult to listen to and understand what the editor was saying. The phone was held limply in my hand as I gazed into the far distance, my jaw having dropped slightly.

It became clear to me that at nearly seventy years old Johnny was a serious collector of the scariest kind. Indeed one of his albums, produced on vinyl, prior to the CD era, had a plain white, card sleeve, and as part of the title on the LP label it simply said ‘For Serious Collectors Only’. Worryingly, he meant it.

Over the years I have noticed that record collectors (perhaps this is unique to blues collectors but I suspect not) have a natural urge to start amassing the tracks of particular artists that are scattered throughout their collections on records, spool tapes, cassettes etc., in a certain way. And this was it: the full recorded works in chronological order. This was what the Document label was not only trying to do, it was doing it, because Johnny was just doing what came naturally as a serious collector. As a result, the Document label was not trying to pander to anyone. It was making available, in a natural and recognisable way, the complete history of early blues, gospel and spirituals recordings, from the very beginning through to the so-called pre-war period (1943) and beyond. With the CD booklet came informed notes by experts and a detailed discography. It didn’t cherry-pick. It wasn’t interested in best-ofs. This was an attempt to preserve, for as long as possible, an Afro-American musical heritage. The best, the good, the worst, everything. Realising this, I became hooked. Here was everything that I had been looking for from my first days of record collecting. From then on my reviews of Document CDs became far more positive.

The first warehouse party in Manchester was in 1985. The Stone Roses headlined. Over a quarter of a century on, and the great and good of Manchester and the world’s press were drawn to another warehouse, on the other side of town, for the première of Shane Meadows’ film Made of Stone, his documentary following the reunion of the band. The reunion many wanted but thought would never happen. The reunion even the band thought would never happen. “This is a live resurrection we’re inviting you to, so you better be careful!” announces singer Ian Brown in the film, at the press conference. Meadows explained that when the band first asked him to do the film they stated the première had to be in Manchester.

Quarter of a century. It seems a lot longer. It seems like yesterday. A lot of the crowd at the première were old enough to be at that first warehouse party. Some of them looked like they haven’t had much sleep since. But for all the jaded ravers here, wizened where they were once wiry, still trying to perfect that simian stroll, despite the middle-aged spread, there was plenty of youth here who weren’t even born when the Roses played their first warehouse; the band’s appeal now spans the generations.

The mood was euphoric, more akin to a football terrace or a warehouse rave than a film première. There is something about this band that inspires devotion like no other. ‘She Bangs The Drums’, ‘Waterfall’, ‘This Is The One’, ‘I Am The Resurrection’, ‘Fools Gold’… these are songs we have loved and lost to. Danced, drank, puked, laughed, fought, cried, mourned, rioted and partied to. They remind us of euphoric highs, and have helped us through the odd low. Their back catalogue may be short, but it casts a long shadow. Like any greats, they sound very much of their time, but utterly timeless. The band have aged, so have we, but the music remains ageless.

Meadows admitted that he is a huge fan, that they’re his favourite ever band, so there was a slight worry beforehand that the film would be overly sycophantic. “This is the closest thing to a love letter I’ve ever made”, Meadows admitted, but it thankfully stopped short of fawning. Part of the attraction of the reunion was the sense that no one knew what to expect. The film touches on the fragility of the band, but as the band granted no new interviews, their enigma remains. Mani, the life and soul of this band, once explained how they called themselves “the egg”, with the band in their own shell, and everyone else on the outside, “tapping their beaks trying to get in”. The closest Meadows gets to cracking the egg is the intimate shots in rehearsal, where he places the camera in the crossfire of the four, with Mani facing John, Ian facing Reni, capturing the knowing looks, nods, smiles and infectious joy as they ease their way back into the songs and each other.

Talking about burying the hatchet with Ian Brown at the reunion press conference, John Squire said: “In some ways it’s a friendship that defines us both and it needed fixing”. In many ways they’re the band that defined a generation who felt it needed fixing. Some bands should never get back together as the danger of sullying their legacy is too great. The Roses are different. It was the original ending didn’t seem befitting to their stature. What the world is waiting for, now, is whether the reunion gigs and Meadows’ film will be followed by any new music.

In the Summer of ’83 I went to the USA to cover New Order’s first headline tour. It involved: missed flights; melonball cocktails; Hooky missing the beginning of the DC gig with manager Rob Gretton having to play the first three numbers in his place; sitting on the roof-terrace at NYC ‘superclub’ Danceteria watching an unknown Madonna perform more or less exclusively for us; an all-night video shoot for ‘Confusion’; plenty of confusion in the style of a Brian Rix farce; missed interviews and photoshoots with Rolling Stone; general high jinks from lads (and Gillian), who were finally throwing off the shackles of Joy Division and becoming New Order for real.

Needless to say: I was the only one with a credit card and a driving license, or so it seemed when I was told nobody else was qualified to hire or drive the tour bus. There was so much weed being consumed on the bus, I could barely see through the thick fog of smoke enveloping me. It seemed like five weeks. I think it was five days. It could only get worse. And of course – it did …

 

Faber Social presents Power, Corruption & Lies and all things 1983 at The Social on 3 June 2013. Tickets available here.