An interesting if not slightly jarring account of one of Manchester’s most famous bands.
I’m trying to have these written as regular Friday features, thus adding to the wonderful acronym of DVRFFF; however, sometimes I’ve got nowt else to post so you’ll just have to make do. I should actually have another one ready for Friday considering I’ve finally got through a big backlog of Daria.
In the seventies there was this really good band from Manchester. They released one of the most perfect pop songs of all time and, on the eve of a big American tour that would’ve made them all stupidly rich, the singer killed himself.
To the credit of the remaining members, they stuck to their word that they wouldn’t carry on with the same name, and went on to produce a good few albums as New Order. It’s very hard to separate the band from the label – Factory Records only really stayed afloat thanks to the contributions of the band in return for their founder membership – equally so to acknowledge the good fortune that made them one of the biggest bands in the world in the early 1990s.
This documentary makes no such effort to redress the balance; with label impresario Tony Wilson’s constant presence in the faux-TV studio discussion show NO Time NO Place and the band’s half-arsed quiz show The NO Show, there’s very little in the way of extricating just what it is that gave New Order – and Factory Records – the thick skin that so many bands these days desperately try to shed to win fans and make money. I can’t imagine, for example, New Order drummer Stephen Morris having a Twitter account; the bloke’s entertaining enough to listen to in person but he doesn’t feel duty-bound to tell you what he had for breakfast.
And nor should he; in an age where you couldn’t necessarily get so up close and personal with your favourite band (1993), it’s part of the whole New Order package. Tony Wilson and his Factory cohorts – including producer Martin Hannett and graphic designer Peter Saville – did such a sterling job of building up the layer of mystique – around the band, the label, just the whole Manchester thing – that to try to unravel it might spell disaster. (Which it did, sort of; Peter Hook’s eventual willingness to put his own name about at the cost of the whole group is what’s led to their current relationship – the band minus Hook is currently active after a very long break.)
So with the strange cutaways, odd interview formats and eyewitness testimony from a great many people who were there, what you end up with is an entertaining but not entirely solid hour-long documentary; by no means a bad thing, but fuzzy around the edges – just how Wilson would have wanted it.
What I liked: Snippets from the shy and retiring, late great manager, Rob Gretton. The informative and in-depth interview segments with most of the key personnel. Everything Stephen Morris does and says.
What I didn’t like: the unnecessarily purred voiceover from actress Jenny Seagrove; I’ve never heard of her but the fake Yank accent gets irritating. The fact that Paul Morley had anything to do with this documentary; there’s perpetuating a myth and then there’s trying to take credit for it.
If you’re really bothered, you can watch it yourself on Youtube. (Trigger alert: this documentary contains Bono.)