Reviewer: Ben Macnair
Publisher: Little Brown 3rd September 2019
ISBN: 9781472126221 PB
Joy Division and subsequently New Order were popular, successful post-punk bands that blended solid punk energy with an open-minded approach to music-making that delivered to the world the deathless pop classics Blue Monday and Life Will Tear Us Apart, amongst others.
Stephen Morrison was the drummer for both bands, seeing the band, and the world from behind his drum-set. This is not a memoir of glamour, of the big hits, never-ending excitement, critical acclaim and riches beyond avarice, it is the story of an office worker in Macclesfield, dreaming of life in the bigger cities, meeting up with like-minded people who wanted the same, working incredibly hard to get what they wanted, and were lucky enough to meet the right people at the right time, to make those dreams reality.
Stephen Morris talks about his drum kits, and the electronic percussion he used, which would go on to be some of the rhythmic staples of the electronic music scene in the 1980s. He talks with admiration, and affection of the early days of struggling with poorly paid gigs, travelling hundreds of miles in unreliable transport, of underwhelming concerts abroad, of their first trip to America. He writes candidly about the suicide of the charismatic Ian Curtis, not just a singer, but a friend.
The book also speaks of his early life in Macclesfield in the 1960s and 1970s, a place far removed from the swinging 1960’s scene in London. He dreamed of the hedonistic, freewheeling life and never-ending adventure that nearby Manchester offered a place that was also home to The Smiths, and Tony Wilson, who became the band’s manager for a while.
This is a book that also looks at the less desirable elements of life as a musician. The gigs, the small, dank rehearsal spaces where songs miraculously sprang to life, of where drum track after drum track was recorded, or hours were spent recording Peter Hook’s iconic bass parts.
The book is incredibly well-written, with a wry sense of humour, and shows the reality from one of the more important chairs in the room of any gig, the drum-stool.