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28 October 2014

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Andrew Wake at the 1979 Joy Division gig
Andrew Wake at the 1979 Joy Division gig

From Safety To Where…?

It seems unbelievable now, but in 1979, Joy Division played a gig to a packed room of kids at Bowdon Vale Youth Club as thanks to the organiser. Andrew Wake was 16 at the time. Below he remembers his night with Curtis, Hook, Sumner and Morris.

Joy Division at Bowdon Vale Youth Club

  • Joy Division played the show as a thank you to Bob Jefferson, who bought them out of their first contract, allowing them to sign with Tony Wilson’s Factory Records
  • Three months later, the band recorded their debut album, Unknown Pleasures
  • In the audience was a young Ian Brown, attending his first gig. He has since described it as one of his favourites of all time.

"I'd seen the group play at the Check Inn club in Altrincham the previous November and already had their first EP which I thought was interesting but it was the release of the Factory Sample EP which really got me fired up. Something special had happened between the two gigs.

Andrew Wake's signed Joy Division EP
Andrew Wake's signed Joy Division EP

Interestingly enough, the wonderful Bob Jefferson put on both gigs and he owned Streets Ahead records in Altrincham where loads of us hung out, complaining we had nothing to do. The dozen or so gigs he put on were a godsend and attracted a crowd from all over South Manchester to see the likes of Manchester bands such as The Fall, V2, The Passage, and a memorable night featuring The Red Crayola and a fledgling Scritti Politti in support.

I actually grew up in Bowdon Vale so the weekly gigs were on my doorstep. I remember taking my Joy Division records down to the club early in the evening and meeting the band, who happily signed everything for me. Ian Curtis was playing snooker when I arrived and I also remember him dodging traffic in Cuban-heeled Chelsea boots and a double-breasted olive green raincoat as he ran to the local shop for cigarettes.

Joy Division (copyright: Martin O'Neill)
Joy Division (copyright: Martin O'Neill)

All four members of the band were happy to chat but I found Peter Hook was the most approachable. I suggested there was a Northern Soul feel to their rhythm section which seemed to please him no end as he admitted he'd been a 'suedehead' and loved the stuff when he was younger. It's worth saying that they all enjoyed having a laugh and were not the 'serious, young men' portrayed in the media.

"I pushed my way to the front within touching distance of the band. The gig was hot and loud and condensation dripped from the ceiling."
Andrew Wake on seeing Joy Division

As for the gig, well, they were phenomenal. Everything seemed to have fallen into place since I'd seen them last. I think everyone in the room knew they were witnessing something truly magical and there was a power and raw energy to the band live which was never captured in the studio.

The club's stage was cramped and low and I pushed my way to the front within touching distance of the band. The gig was hot and loud and condensation dripped from the ceiling. Gone were the covers of Sister Ray and Louie Louie to be replaced by an entire set of original songs, most of which were soon to appear on Unknown Pleasures. I got a bootleg tape of the gig which I played to death prior to the album coming out.

Andrew Wake
Andrew Wake

The show reinforced my opinion that Joy Division were very special and destined for much bigger things, and I spent the rest of 1979 and early 1980 catching them as often as I could.

I still have a really soft spot for the group and those times. Punk rock had a profound effect on me as it did with many others, and that spirit still rushes through my veins. Joy Division refined that feeling and moved it forwards in a new and exciting direction."

last updated: 03/05/05
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