“Playing Transmission there was probably the first time that we had a real stop-the-press moment,” Hook recalled. “I distinctly remember playing it at that soundcheck and the crew turning around, the guys in [support act] Emergency and the other support band, The Risk, coming front of stage to watch us; the PA guys, too, were watching us instead of getting on with stuff.
“We were looking at each other, like, What the fuck’s going on here? Because we’d never experienced that kind of reaction before,” Hook added. “Looking at each other we were thinking that, maybe, just maybe, we might be able to make a go of this [playing music], a living… It was a big moment for the band. A real confidence-booster.”
“It had that rare effect of eliciting goose bumps when it hit the chorus”
Joy Division frequently included Transmission in their live sets over the next 12 months, noting that the song had the ability to blow audiences away on any number of occasions. Its power didn’t go unnoticed by insiders, either, with the band’s new manager believing they mustn’t let it languish as an album track on their debut album, Unknown Pleasures.
In his memoir Record Play Pause: Confessions Of A Post-Punk Percussionist, Stephen Morris recalled that Rob Gretton was “adamant” the band keep Transmission in reserve for a single. “We agreed it was the most commercial and radio-friendly of all our songs, in that it even mentioned the wireless in the lyrics,” Morris explained. “I’m still not sure exactly what ‘commercial’ means here. It had a chorus and was catchy. Everything you need for a hit single, I suppose. It also had that rare effect of eliciting goose bumps when it hit the chorus – maybe that was it.”
In tandem with producer Martin Hannett, Joy Division demoed Transmission at Central Sound Studios, in Manchester, during the early summer of 1979. The two parties then returned to Strawberry Studios, in Stockport, to nail the song (and its eventual flipside, Novelty) at the end of July. The session proceeded smoothly enough, though – for once – the band managed to temper their producer’s autocratic tendencies.