Married at 19, the brightest star of the post-punk scene at 22, dead at 23. The life of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis is the stuff of rock mythology – and a much talked-about new film. Here, his former band-mates talk exclusively to Jon Savage about their troubled singer’s last days
Saturday 27 October 1979. I’m up in the gods of the Ardwick Apollo, a huge 1930s cinema situated in the middle of slum clearance. The Buzzcocks’ manager Richard Boon is fiddling with the tripod of a primitive Beta video camera as he attempts to get the stage area into focus. His primary purpose is to film his group, who are headlining tonight, but he inadvertently ends up capturing a piece of history.
Framed within the cinema’s huge proscenium arch, Joy Division walk out and launch into “Dead Souls”. The peculiarity of this song is that it has a long, rolling introduction that allows the group to orient themselves in their environment for the night. Like many of the venues on this 24-date national tour, the Apollo is larger than the clubs that have been the group’s environment to date. But they are not intimidated. They inhabit the space.
Then he begins to sing: “Someone take these dreams away/ That point me to another day”. The lyric to “Dead Souls” is an unsettling evocation of psychic possession and the presence of past lives. The chorus is an anguished chant: “They keep calling me”. From today’s materialistic cultural perspective, this might excite derision, but like many others in that hall, I’m totally gripped. Continue reading
Jonny Buckland and Will Champion from Coldplay surprise Jodie Whittaker. In an exclusive collaboration for BBC Children in Need, a whole host of stars have got together to record an entire album to raise money for this year’s appeal. It will be released on Friday 1 November in conjunction with Silva Screen Records. Each star has handpicked a song significant to them for the album. Recorded at the legendary Rak and Abbey Road Studios in London, they each received expert guidance from Brit and Mercury award-winning record producers and songwriters, Guy Chambers and Jonathan Quarmby.
In the summer of 2019, ten of Britain’s most critically acclaimed actors came together to take on their toughest role ever: to record an album for BBC Children In Need.
This 90-minute film charts the making of the album, Got It Covered. Its stellar cast includes Helena Bonham Carter, Jim Broadbent, Olivia Colman, Shaun Dooley, Luke Evans, Suranne Jones , Adrian Lester, Himesh Patel, David Tennant and Jodie Whittaker. With just 12 weeks to record the album, each actor must choose a song that has special meaning for them and must make their cover version their own.
Cameras follow the actors behind the scenes as they cram rehearsals into their busy schedules. The illustrious company get to grips with being out of their comfort zone and we see the real them unfold. To help guide our actors on their musical journey are veteran producers Guy Chambers and Jonathan Quarmby and vocal coach Mark De–Lisser. There are also a few surprises provided by Will Champion and Jonny Buckland from Coldplay.
The actors also visit some charity projects that Children in Need supports in order to help raise funds and awareness.
The modern mixtape emerged as a hip-hop expediency to avoid sample clearance. Stick in the Wheel – former ravers turned innovative folk artists – have cheerily embraced the almost-album form, putting out the collaborative This and the Memory of This mixtape in 2018 soon after the much-lauded Follow Them True (2018), their last full band outing. This year, core Stick duo Nicola Kearey and Ian Carter offered up yet another collected compilation, the many-limbed English Folk Field Recordings Vol 2.
This latest series of “explorations” with medieval roots, Against the Loathsome Beyond, maxes out their innovative impulse. Here, then, are more chilly ancient tunes, re-imagined as drone-rock (Down In Yon Forest) or baroque early synth pastorales (Drive the Cold Winter Away), or as electronic sound art (a remix of Cambridge avant-guitarist C Joynes’s Sang Kancil). Most fist-pumping of all is the instrumental centrepiece Moskeener (British Yiddish for pawnbroker, apparently), a raga that could have gone on far longer. Kearey speaks two tracks, given extra witchy poke by more resonant thrumming. Given that no single version is ever definitive in folk, “anything goes” remains a valid modus operandi.
45 years ago on November 25, legendary singer-songwriter Nick Drake passed away, aged 26. To mark his anniversary, we’re revisiting Adrienne Murphy’s reflections on his legacy, originally published in Hot Press in 2004, following the release of Drake’s compilation album, A Treasury.
It’s thirty years since Nick Drake passed away from an overdose of anti-depressants, aged 26. At the time of his death the reclusive Drake was barely known outside a circle of devout admirers. Yet today he’s every second musician’s favourite musician. Like the poet William Blake, whose work he adored, Drake’s reputation for innovative genius only flourished posthumously.
A Treasury is a compilation of songs taken from Drake’s three albums, Five Leaves Left (1969), Bryter Layter (1970) and Pink Moon (1972), along with a couple of tracks that he recorded shortly before his death. This is deep, beautiful music that rewards repeated listening; songs that you want to learn so you can carry them in your heart. Drake’s husky, gentle voice – a balm for the soul – and intricate finger-picking guitar style have been imitated so many times they’ll be familiar to newcomers. But here is the original, with the high lyricism and musical knowledge – hear those classical string and jazzy brass arrangements! – that carry Drake’s particular brand of folk towards the celestial blue.
“I was born to use my eyes/Dream with the sun and the skies/To float away in a lifelong song/In the mists where melody flies.” Drake seems to yearn for eternity. In classic romantic poetry, he sings of mortality in a way that hints at his own demise. His songs would break your heart, but there’s a flip-side of irrepressible joy and wonder. A Treasury provides an excellent starting point from which to explore the work of this man, whose extraordinary sensitivity was both his shining star and the black dog that chased him, too young, from this world.