Peel Sessions – Joy Division, 26 November 1979

Joy Division had recorded the first of two John Peel sessions at the start of 1979, and the second followed ten months later, towards the end of the year.

It opens with a fantastically raw version of Love Will Tear Us Apart, the non-album single which would see release seven months later, just after Ian Curtis‘s untimely death. It’s definitely an early version of the song, but it’s not hard to hear just how good it is.

Twenty Four Hours comes next, also half a year from its full release on Closer (1980). This is more similar to its final album version, but Colony, also to be seen on the next album, is noticeably more raw and less polished.

Honestly the charm that Joy Division had when they were at their best is somewhat lacking from this second half of the session – this is the darker, more tortured and less accessible sound that they drifted into at times. Finally, The Sound of Music, which was never fully released until the Still compilation two years later, which sees Curtis in more poetic form, and has a glorious rhythm but does seem to be lacking the melody which is necessary to make a strong song.

Unlike the first one, this session finds Joy Division in darker and more introspective territory. It’s still fascinating and entirely listenable, but perhaps not quite as remarkable as its predecessor.

We covered the first session previously. You can read more about Joy Division‘s relationship with John Peel‘s radio show here. This session is available on the CD The Complete BBC Recordings or as the second disc of The Best Of, which you can find here.

Peel Sessions – New Order, 1 June 1982

New Order recorded four John Peel sessions, but the most famous are the two from the very early days, recorded in 1981 and 1982 respectively. By this time they just had one album and a handful of singles under their belts, and were still spending a lot of time sounding a bit like Joy Division, as you might expect.

The session opens with the never-released Turn the Heater On, which you might justifiably expect to be dreadful, but surprisingly it turns out to be a pleasant dub reggae-inspired piece, with the huge amounts of reverb and sound effects that it deserves. The lyrics are a bit wet, but it’s actually pretty good otherwise – and it’s definitely a shame that it never saw a proper release.

In fact, at the time of the session, nothing on here had seen a release, which is definitely admirable. We All Stand would later turn up on the next album Power, Corruption and Lies, but with a lot more production. I think I actually prefer the Peel Session version – it’s a lot more chilled out, and seems somehow to have the atmosphere that the song deserves.

Too Late was never released at all, and this one is probably a little more justified, as it does seem to be the weakest track on here. It bobs along nicely, but it’s pretty bland.

As is 5 8 6, actually – one of the better tracks from Power, Corruption and Lies, they clearly hadn’t quite figured out what it was going to be yet when they recorded this session. It’s nice to hear a bit of experimentation in the recording, but it does sound as though it needs quite a lot of work still. But that’s alright – nobody said the Peel Sessions had to be particularly polished.

We previously covered the first session here, and you can read more about New Order‘s relationship with John Peel‘s radio show here. This session is available on the CD The Peel Sessions, which is no longer widely available.

Greatest Hits – Vol. 8

Every so often I like to take a little downtime and remind you about some of the posts that you might have missed recently. Here are a few…

Peel Sessions – Joy Division, 31 January 1979

Joy Division recorded two sessions for the John Peel show, both in 1979. As you might expect, they were well supported by Peel, having been played on his show way back in March 1978, long before their debut EP An Ideal for Living had ever hit the shops.

Their February 1979 session opens with the short and somewhat iffy Exercise One, pleasant enough, but a worthwhile reminder that even Joy Division weren’t always perfect. The live version of Insight, subsequently released on their debut album Unknown Pleasures, is much better, and any doubts you might have had about how perfect they really were will quickly be allayed by this.

Also from Unknown Pleasures is the brilliant She’s Lost Control, which definitely isn’t quite as polished in its Peel Session form, but it’s great to hear it in its live form, albeit in a studio recording. The breakdown at the end is particularly satisfying, in a very rock and roll way.

Non-album work of genius Transmission follows, again sounding more raw and maybe not quite as perfect here, but it still sounds pretty amazing. The actual release didn’t appear till October of the same year, as their first “proper” single, and so it’s particularly fascinating that they played it so early, and also that they decided it wasn’t something they wanted on Unknown Pleasures, but I suppose that’s up to them. Great stuff though.

We’ll cover the second session in a future article. You can read more about Joy Division‘s relationship with John Peel‘s radio show here. This session is available on the CD The Complete BBC Recordings or as the second disc of The Best Of, which you can find here.