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You Just Can’t Believe Me: 10 New Order Facts You Probably Didn’t Know
List & Guides

You Just Can’t Believe Me: 10 New Order Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

Think you already have the lowdown on this influential Manchester band? Here are ten New Order facts that may surprise you…

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They have an illustrious past as Joy Division, but New Order changed the future of music a second time with their unique blend of electronica and guitar-based rock. However, while their reputation certainly precedes them, the influential Manchester outfit have never been willing self-publicists. Here are ten New Order facts that will help fill out the picture…

Listen to the best of New Order here, and check out our ten surprising New Order facts, below.

1: They were billed as The No Names when they played their first gig

Keen to ensure the band got back onstage in the wake of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis’ death, manager Rob Gretton drafted them in to perform at Manchester’s Beach Club on 30 July 1980, when Factory Records’ Belgian act, The Names, were unable to play. Amusingly, Gretton billed Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris as The No Names. In today’s social-media-saturated world, there’s no way the subterfuge could have remained under wraps, but back then the trio’s first live show genuinely surprised their audience.

“Come the night, and the audience didn’t know, the other bands didn’t know, the promoter didn’t know,” Peter Hook wrote in Substance: Inside New Order. “Nobody knew it was ex-Joy Division. The surprise on peoples’ faces as we set up and played was priceless.”

2: Instead of New Order, they nearly became The Witch Doctors Of Zimbabwe

Following Ian Curtis’ death, the band knew they couldn’t be Joy Division anymore, but choosing a new name proved difficult. With the help of Rob Gretton, they eventually narrowed it down to either The Witch Doctors Of Zimbabwe or The New Order Of Kampuchean Rebels (taken from a headline in The Guardian), which was then whittled down to New Order.

“For a while there was a tense stand-off,” Peter Hook recalled. “Rob and Steve said New Order was a shit name, but me and Barney threatened to leave the band if it was called The Witch Doctors Of Zimbabwe. We got our way!”

3: Producer Martin Hannett is synonymous with Joy Division, but New Order were mostly self-produced during the 80s

New Order famously fell out with Martin Hannett over the production of their debut album, Movement, and – after the producer stormed out of the studio during the mixing of the band’s second single, Everything’s Gone Green/Procession – he didn’t return. With help from engineer Mike Johnson, the band then mostly produced

Sessions at London’s Advision Studios resulted in the group’s classic third single, 1982’s Temptation, and its B-side, Hurt. “Barney and me pretty much took command, organising the recording and the overdubbing,” Hook remembered. “The keyboards and drum machine were recorded, and the acoustic instruments layered on top until we were happy with the amount of melodies and the song structure.”

4: A snowball fight produced Bernard Sumner’s famous “whoop” on Temptation

In Substance: Inside New Order, Peter Hook praises Sumner’s “oh-so plaintive” vocal delivery on Temptation – one of the definitive New Order 12” singles – but also reveals that the little “whoop” the singer throws in came about due to a prank Hook played with help from manager Rob Gretton.

“Rob and me, spotting that it was snowing outside the studio, snowballed Barney while he was doing the main vocal, which produced the ‘whoop’,” the bassist wrote. “The song itself was a complete one-off. Fast, dance-y, simple.”

5: All four group members were active as producers for other bands during the 80s

New Order adopted the name BeMusic for their publishing company (the original record label for Movement reads “B Music” in large letters, using the German “ß” for the letter “B”), but all four members of the band used the name for their production work for other artists’ recordings between 1982 and 1985.

The first BeMusic credit was for Peter Hook producing Manchester outfit Stockholm Monsters in 1982. Other artists with records bearing producer and/or musician credits for BeMusic were 52nd Street, Section 25, Marcel King, Quando Quango, Paul Haig, Thick Pigeon, Nyam Nyam and Life.

6: Top Hollywood directors have filmed videos for the band

The New York-based filmmaker Michael Shamberg was instrumental in New Order (and Factory Records in general) achieving a foothold in the US, and the band’s cinematic music later brought them to the attention of groundbreaking US directors Jonathan Demme and Kathryn Bigelow.

A confirmed New Order fan, Demme (later to direct The Silence Of The Lambs) had only recently captured Talking Heads’ remarkable concert film, Stop Making Sense, when he shot the smart and highly stylised performance video for New Order’s The Perfect Kiss in 1985. Bigelow (who later went on to make acclaimed movies such as Point Break and The Hurt Locker) collaborated with New Order in 1987, shooting the brilliant glam-metal parody the band devised for their Touched By The Hand Of God video, which also featured cameos from actors Femi Gardiner and Bill Paxton.

7: They once supported jazz legend Miles Davis in concert

Implausibly, New Order were booked to play at Denmark’s Aarhus Jazz Festival in June 1987, on a bill that was headlined by the legendary trumpeter Miles Davis. The event was promoted by colourful Manchester promoter Alan Wise, who conveniently failed to inform the group that they were performing at a jazz festival until they’d arrived in the country.

Nonetheless, the band gave it their all, though they didn’t get to see much of Davis’ set as they over-indulged with help from a famous local brew. “On this particular day, we were drinking Elephant beer by Carlsberg,” Peter Hook later wrote. “It was very strong, but surprisingly drinkable!”

8: Blue Monday inadvertently appeared in an ad campaign for soft drink Sunkist

Early in 1988, when New Order were working on a Quincy Jones-helmed remix of Blue Monday, soft drink manufacturers Sunkist offered the band a tempting $350,000 to use the same song in one of their advertising campaigns – but with subtly altered lyrics. The group had previously rejected a similar offer from watchmakers Swatch (“We just couldn’t handle it, it went against our principles,” Hook said), but while Bernard Sumner got as far as trying to sing the new lyrics Sunkist insisted upon (“And you’re drinking in the sunshine/Sunkist is the one”), he simply couldn’t take it seriously.

Apologising, the band withdrew from the offer, but that wasn’t the end of the matter. Somehow, a bootleg tape of Sumners’ attempts to sing the Sunkist lyrics found its way into the company’s hands.

Sunkist “grabbed it, put their logo on it, did an edit using some of the Touched By The Hand Of God video and issued it as an official advert”, Hook wrote in Substance. “We protested, and they ended up pulling the ad, but of course by that time the damage had been done. Like it or not, we’d advertised Sunkist. To add insult to injury, we never got paid for it. Not a cent.”

9: The group almost collaborated with English film legend Michael Powell

New Order’s collaboration with the England football squad, which produced their No.1 hit, World In Motion, is well-documented. However, it’s less well known that the band were considering an offer to soundtrack English filmmaker Michael Powell’s putative final film, The Sands Of Dee, at around the same time.

New Order were fans of Powell’s groundbreaking 40s films such as A Canterbury Tale and A Matter Of Death, made in tandem with Emeric Pressburger (“Their films have an otherworldly, dreamlike quality that really appealed to me,” Stephen Morris wrote in his memoir Fast Forward), and they were amazed to discover that Powell liked their music, too. The band duly met Powell and his wife, Thelma Schoonmaker (also Martin Scorsese’s editor), in London in 1989, and scripts for the new film, which was based on Charles Kingsley’s poem of the same name, were discussed, but Powell’s death, in February 1990, prevented the project from going any further.

10: The Killers took their name from New Order’s ‘Crystal’ video

The memorable video for New Order’s 2001 single Crystal featured a group of teens miming to the song. Judging by the name written on the front of the bass drum, the fictional band is called The Killers.

The video directly influenced a young Brandon Flowers, who nabbed the name when deciding what to call his real band. Flowers, a huge New Order fan, went on to pay homage to the Crystal music video in The Killers’ promo clip for Somebody Told Me, before collaborating with his heroes on the song Superheated, which closes New Order’s 2015 album, Music Complete.

Buy New Order vinyl, box sets and more at the Dig! store.

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