sat 15/06/2024

Music Reissues Weekly: Warsaw - Middlesbrough 14th September 1977, Joy Division - Manchester 28th September 1979 | reviews, news & interviews

Music Reissues Weekly: Warsaw - Middlesbrough 14th September 1977, Joy Division - Manchester 28th September 1979

Music Reissues Weekly: Warsaw - Middlesbrough 14th September 1977, Joy Division - Manchester 28th September 1979

Thrilling live document of one of Britain’s greatest bands

Joy Division, seen on the sleeve of the ‘Ideal For Living’ EP, released in June 1978 but recorded in December 1977 as they were changing their name from Warsaw

Edinburgh’s Rezillos were booked to play Middlesbrough’s Rock Garden on Wednesday 14 September 1977. “I Can’t Stand my Baby,” their debut single, had been issued in July and they were on the road subsequent to its release, positive music press reviews and regular spins from John Peel. Their humour-laced, Day-Glo art-punk was making waves.

In Middlesbrough, the bill was filled out by local band Lice? – their name taken from a cautionary poster about pubic lice – and Macclesfield/Salford outfit Warsaw, who’d had a line-up change the previous month when their drummer Steve Brotherdale left. His replacement was Stephen Morris. The Middlesbrough gig was amongst Morris’s first with the band.

Warsaw Middlesbrough 14th September 1977 Joy Division Manchester 28th September 1979Lice? were soon forgotten but Warsaw changed their name to Joy Division at the end of the year and played their first show under the new name in late January 1978. What followed is a matter of post-punk history. Without the presence of a tape recorder, the Middlesbrough outing would have become a neglected early Joy Division footnote. However, it was recorded from the audience by future Fast Records boss Bob Last, then managing The Rezillos. He gave the cassette to Warsaw’s bassist Peter Hook and, as is often the way with such things, what would otherwise have been lost after the blink of an eye eventually surfaced (it was first on record on 2011). Now, it is committed to vinyl as side one of the Warsaw Middlesbrough 14th September 1977 / Joy Division Manchester 28th September 1979 LP.

Before the Middlesbrough show was heard, the set-in-stone aural evidence for the Warsaw-era Joy Division was limited to the Ideal For Living EP, recorded in December 1977, the 2 October 1977 live recording of “At a Later Date” issued on the Short Circuit album and demos made with Steve Brotherdale on 18 July 1977 (most of which first appeared on vinyl in 1981). There are also a couple of tapes recorded at rehearsals. The Middlesbrough recording plugs a gap.

Warsaw Middlesbrough 14th September 1977 Joy Division Manchester 28th September 1979_side oneOn 14 September 1977, the live set was “At a Later Date,” “Inside the Line,” “The Kill,” “Leaders Of Men,” “Lost,” “Novelty,” “Reaction” and “Tension.” Three songs, “At a Later Date,” “Inside the Line” and “The Kill,” had been recorded at the 18 July demo session. “Leaders of Men,” which remained in Joy Division's live set into spring 1979, would be recorded for Ideal For Living. It’s safe, then, to assume the EP's other three tracks were written between the Middlesbrough show and the December 1977 studio session. “Novelty,” a long-term live staple, first surfaced on record as the B-side of November 1979’s “Transmission” single. The Rezillos support slot was about now, then and the future. However, this reading draws from knowledge of what came later.

In 1977, the Middlesbrough show probably came across as yet another offering from one of the year’s myriad of bear’s-arse rough, high-energy hopefuls. Even so, it is just possible to hear the future in what The Rezillos audience witnessed.

At Middlesbrough, the band are thrilling and visceral. There’s no then-typical Clash, Ramones or Sex Pistols flavours in the sound – despite “Lost” co-opting “Johnny B Goode’s” chassis, an underpinning the Pistols were familiar with. Curiously, there’s a vague kinship with what later surfaced in California hardcore. LA’s Fear come to mind. Bolstering this impression, Ian Curtis’s voice is mostly guttural, frequently a growl.

Warsaw Middlesbrough 14th September 1977 Joy Division Manchester 28th September 1979_side twoWhat sets this band apart is their use of space and a fearless sloughing-off of the hasty tempos of Brit-punk circa 1977. Notwithstanding the harsh vocal style, “Novelty” is already fully formed. “Leaders of Men” is as per what it would be on Ideal For Living: brooding, stately, weighty. “At a Later Date” is, in an early Skids fashion, structurally pushing beyond templates. Set these explorations against the bludgeoning “Inside the Line,” “The Kill” and “Reaction” and it’s clear Warsaw was still finding itself. Clumsily constructed set closer “Tension” seeks and fails to unite the two approaches. While the engrossing, enlightening, fascinating 14 September 1977 show does not provide clear evidence for what emerged as 1978 progressed and Joy Division evolved, it is essential listening.

On 28 September 1979, two years on from the Rezillos support slot, Joy Division are headlining the last Factory night at Manchester’s Russell Club. One of their opening acts is Teardrop Explodes. What’s surfaced from the show on the album’s flipside is a fine quality mixing-desk recording of 20 minutes of their set. The five-song excerpt begins part-way through “Atmosphere” and ends with “Colony.” The Unknown Pleasures album had come out in June 1979 and, by this point, the band were well known and widely lauded. Based on the recording, this show is – despite Ian Curtis having had a seizure before taking the stage – an unalloyed wonder. The spacey “Shadowplay” has an unrelenting momentum. Here, “Insight” is dreamily psychedelic. “Colony” circles in on itself, adding pressure to what was already tense. Although the Warsaw of a couple of years earlier is barely present at the Russell Club show, Joy Division could not have reached this point without having embraced – and then sloughed-off – the trappings of punk, especially 1977's build-it-from-nothing ethos.    

Turning this around, the Warsaw Middlesbrough 14th September 1977 / Joy Division Manchester 28th September 1979 LP unavoidably asks whether the band performing in the aftermath of the release of Unknown Pleasures can be found in the Warsaw seen by The Rezillos audience two years earlier. As the answer is yes, this important album is a mandatory purchase.

Thanks to the essential website Joy Division Central, from which background was drawn

@MrKieronTyler

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