1980 Joy Division are supported by Killing Joke for 3 iconic gigs – an eye witness account

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In February 1980 Joy Division played 3 shows with Killing Joke in support. Adam Morris was working with Killing Joke at the time and was right in the middle of the action for these iconic shows. 

The first was at ULU, that was the one where Joy Division dropped “Love Will Tear Us Apart” into their set for the first time. It was one of those moments in popular music history where everything changed and would never be quite the same ever again.

We didn’t get off to a great a start with Joy Division because we didn’t know about their Nazi skinhead punk problems.

They’d had a massive fight at a gig with some skinheads a short while before ULU. Its in the 24 Hour Party People movie.

We had a proper geezer called Wally with us, from down Shepherd’s Bush way. Some people (Wally probably) claimed he was the same Wally who had been in The Sex Pistols for a short while. I don’t know. He was certainly aptly named. He was also a purveyor of rather fine “alternative substances” (if you get my drift), particularly of the fast variety.

We were sharing a rehearsal room called Ear (in Frestonia, Free London) with Motorhead at this time. We were, in fact, being mentored by Lemmy and his gang. We used to share the rehearsal rooms with them and we frequently sat in on their rehearsals. “We” were mainly Alex Paterson and me. We were Killing Joke’s road crew and we watched and learned what Motorhead did. In particular, we learned their “warm-up routine”. This involved one of their roadies wracking out three long line of whizz on the snare drum. Then the band would arrive. They treated it like clocking in. They’d say, “morning”, “morning”, “how’s it going?” to each other. Then they’d hoover up a line of whizz off the snare. Smoke a fag whilst it kicked in. Then they’d plug, “1,2,3,4” and off they’d go. They’d tear through their set, usually in less than half an hour.

It was so loud in there I often wondered if my face was going to melt. I still wonder how I have managed to survive that intense volume without going completely deaf. This was peak period Motorhead, “Bomber”, “Overkill”, “No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith” and the rest. When they were done, one of them would shout “pub” and they were gone. That was it. Ultimate rock n roll. What we lived for. That’s how they did it. So we aspired to doing it that way too. The most intense rehearsals the band could create. Very very very loud. That was what sounded best. And copious amounts of weed and whizz, which Wally usually supplied. Allegedly.

Anyway, I digress. Wally got caught in ULU letting a load of skinheads into the gig through a toilet window. We got the blame for it and Joy Division really disliked us for a while. They assumed we were the southern branch of the Nazi skinhead punk society, or something. For a moment there was a strong possibility of us getting booted off the shows all together, though Rob Gretton, the legend, smoothed those waters over fairly quickly. We got on fairly well in the end.

I still remember ULU as being a brilliant gig. I was a massive fan of “Unknown Pleasures”, I thought it was one of the best albums I had ever heard in my life, made by one of the best bands that have ever existed. I still think that. So hearing it live, plus Love Will Tear Us Apart for the first time, was a privilege.

After that, we went to High Wycombe. Joy Division eventually released their set from that gig, plus some of the sound check, on the deluxe edition 2CD set of Still that London Records released in 2008.

I have to tell you, when I put that High Wycombe CD on and the soundcheck recordings played, almost twenty years after the show, I had the most vivid flashback. I was there in the hall again, I could almost smell the stale beer from the previous evening’s entertainment.

I had my one and only conversation with Ian Curtis that day. I had two encounters with him. The first was a close one. (See what I did there?) It was in a corridor in the venue. High Wycombe Town Hall. I had to walk past him and he was having a paranoid attack, or perhaps he still had thoughts that we were Nazis angling to attack him. He pinned himself against the wall and looked hunted as I walked past. I just said, “all right mate?” or something like that and went on my way.

A bit later, we were in the dressing room, when Ian appeared. He was carrying a six-pack of lager. Lager was what the promoter had put on the rider. He looked at me and asked, very politely, “can I swap this for some stout?” I shook my head, “nah mate, you are down south now, they don’t do stout”. I probably added something like “the soppy southern jessies” as I was prone to do back then. Ian looked sad, grunted and disappeared again. That was it, my one and only conversation with the legend and at that point, the biggest hero, in my universe.

And then to The Lyceum Ballroom. The Lyceum was the primary show to do in London at that time. It had been a big band venue around wartime and Bob Marley recorded his first incredible Live! LP there. The one with the live version of “No Woman No Cry” on it that busted the singles chart when Island cut it on a 7. It was a brilliant venue to play, nice big stage, big payday, full house, streams of sweat running down the walls. Killing Joke followed by Joy Division, my Lord, what a show. We broke the box office record that night, the most tickets ever sold for a Lyceum show, or so the promoter claimed. The fool. That just meant that he had to pay us more didn’t it?

EG Records came to that gig. They had been sniffing around Killing Joke for a few months and that night was the final piece in the jigsaw that convinced them to sign the band. We (the management) didn’t really want to sign to them to be honest, but we were so broke and Killing Joke got so popular so quickly, we had to do it. To be fair, EG treated us like kings. It was the aftermath that was the problem. If you want to know the gory details of what it was really like to be signed to a label as rich and powerful as EG were at that time, try and track down a copy of the legendary “Fripp letters”. I think some of them are archived on King Crimson’s website. They are an amazing document of EG’s lack of true diligence and their criminal underbelly, as well as being a wonderful insight into Mr Fripp’s remarkable mind.

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13 comments on “1980 Joy Division are supported by Killing Joke for 3 iconic gigs – an eye witness account”

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  1. frank Jenkinson

    Great account Adam, you should compile all your articles

  2. Adam-Thanks for an interesting section,with some good ‘eye-witness’ accounts…a number of points worth commenting on:the ‘ex-Pistol’s name is reported as ‘Wally Nightingale’,he did some ‘on tour work’ for the Clash.. There are a few earlier pictures of him with Cook & Jones (he wore glasses& had buck teeth- seemingly the main reason he was outed from the pre Lydon pistols. There’s some debate if he ‘wrote’ the song ‘Did you know wrong’)
    The Lyceum in the Strand ( Bram Stoker was once manager of this fine theatre) was a great venue ,but it would seem unlikely that any particular concert ‘broke attendance records’ as a lot of high profile groups played-many ‘selling out the venue’.(in late 70s-early ’80s the Clash played there quite often & Bauhaus,Theatre of hate ,Johnny Thunders/Heartbreakers, Ramones etc + a concert by Prince that was so ‘unappreciated’ it was a few years before he returned to the U.K.)
    Thanks for clearing up the Killing Joke/E.G. management issue, as K J were ‘on’ Island records from their’79 debut ‘turn to red’ 7″/12″ but also this & following releases carried a ‘Malicious Damage’ label logo (EG were quite eclectic releasing Penguin Cafe Orchestra ,Eno etc).
    & yes Motörhead in this time were incredibly loud live…
    A couple of days ago I was describing Killing Joke ‘live’ in the early ’80s and said they were like Joy division playing ‘Never mind the Bollocks’ mixed with the sonic assult of Motörhead…after the death of Ian Curtis & the end of JD for a couple of years there were few bands that could match K J on record or on stage….

  3. Cheers Andre. The first KJ record was a 10 inch single on Malicious Damage Records. It had four inserts and had to be bagged in a 12 inch PVC sleeve because they didn’t make 10 inch sleeves at that time. (They do now). In fact I’d say that record revived the craze for the 10 inch format. 10 inch were popular as 78 RPM’s, but had fallen out of fashion when that turntable speed became obsolete. Basement Five also released a 10 inch around that time – Silicone Chip/Chip Butty – that was the second 10 inch I know of, coming out in 1980, ours was 1979. Nowadays 10 inch is a popular format again, particularly with dub reggae sound boys.

    The 12 inch bag was floppy, so before its release, Brian Taylor, the band’s original manager, came up with a method of strimming it using a steel ruler and a soldering iron. Technically we ended up with an eleven inch bag, as the card cover with Centrepoint on it was eleven inches square. So, 10 inch vinyl, 11 inch card, 12 inch bag.

    I’ve still got my original 10 inch and the soldered sleeve is still going strong. The inserts were all killing jokes, my favourite was a repro for a genuine advert from World War Two, “Shadphos. When war days lag take Shadphos”, it said. It was an advert for government approved speed.

    The 10 inch was a 3 track, Nervous System, Are You Receiving and Turn To Red. This pressing was self distributed, mostly to London indie stores, from the back of a car. It was then licensed by Island Records who re-issued it as a 12 inch with an extra track – Almost Red.

    The second single, War Dance and Pssyche was a 7 inch on Malicious Damage pressed and distributed by Rough Trade. This also had an insert, call up papers from the war.

    There was a third single pressed – Change and Tomorrow’s World – taken from BBC John Peel sessions. It was an official bootleg, pressed with a blank red label and sold at gigs. Its brilliant, the version of Change on that is particularly outstanding.

    After that, the deal with EG had been completed and the records that followed had Malicious Damage labels and went through Polydor.

    There were a few other releases on Malicious Damage through Rough Trade. One was Machines in Motion by Red Beat, who were Howard Jones’ brothers. They came from High Wycombe and if memory serves, they wanted to play on that show and (unsuccesfully) tried to gatecrash the gig – which was a pretty punk rock thing to do.

    There were also a couple of singles by Ski Patrol, Nick Clift and Ian Lowery’s band. Jazz played keyboards on the first of these, Agent Orange, which is considered to be a lost classic of that period of indie by experts on that scene. Ski Patrol became The Folk Devils. They released an album – Goodnight Irony – on the Beggar’s Banquet offshoot label Situation Two.

    I totally agree about KJ at that time, I don’t think any band could match them. Their live shows in particular were incredible. Cook and Jones came to some of their London shows, one at the Music Machine in Camden springs to mind.

    I always thought the Lyceum box office statement was silly, it was the promoter who claimed that, not me. Cheers.

    • Adam,thanks for the reply…I remember the ‘silicone chip’ release being popular with John Peel I seem to remember that Paul Cook originally helped basement 5 (they had the future bassist of BAD Leo Williams in the band?)..
      Do you know how after the various events in ’82 that eventually resulted in Raven replacing (pig)Youth the LP ‘the original Killing Joke live’ (at Lyceum 1981) was released? As it appeared in ‘proper’ record stores ,but in every other way seemed like a bootleg..& yes the Peel & other evening sessions were of a very high standard ..there have been various releases of ‘change’& nearly all are good ..showing the band really could ‘hit a groove’ when needed.
      Do you if the rear picture on the sleeve of ‘war dance’ was meant to resemble an end scene from the film ‘Assult on precinct 13’ as they are very similar images?

      • Andre Chat – Basement 5 were started in 1978 in London. Their first vocalist was Don Letts, the original dread DJ and film maker from The Roxy club and Clash fame. Their first gig was with PIL in 1979. Don left after that and was replaced by the photographer Dennis Morris (no relation).

        I met Don recently and I asked him if he’d been on the tour to Germany Basement 5 did with Killing Joke in 1980. The summer after the three gigs with Joy Division in fact.

        He said, no, he’d been the catalyst, he had introduced them to Island, who signed them. After that, Dennis took over. Dennis is most famous for all of the wonderful photos he took earlier in the 70’s, mainly for Island Records, of reggae artists like Bob Marley and many others. He is one of the great photographers of popular music.

        Basement Five recorded with Martin Hannett, who, of course, produced Joy Division, which brings us back to the reason why this thread started. They also played at the Music Machine in Camden, the same gig that KJ played that Cook and Jones turned up to enjoy.

        That Summer, KJ and Basement Five went on tour in Germany together. That was a formative tour in many ways, certainly for me. I had become KJ’s tour manager by then and I have to say, I wasn’t very good at it. I’d never even been on a plane before I got involved with those guys, so let’s say I had a lot to learn. We used to say, I was most famous for my U Turns, because it took me a while to realise even the most basic of things. like – it is a good idea for a tour manager to carry with them, when going on tour to somewhere they had never been before, a few maps.

        That tour was a great education for me (and everyone else I’d wager), as well as being a great life changing experience in many other ways too.

        It lasted about a month and the arrangement was that the bands rotated. So one night KJ topped the bill and the next night it was the turn of Basement Fumph, as the Germans called them.

        Leo was indeed in the band with Dennis and Bigga, a keyboard player who went on to fame (and hopefully fortune) with Aswad.

        Godwin Logie went as their sound man. Godwin was a brilliant sound engineer who worked for Island Records, where he graduated to sound for Black Uhuru amongst others. He also worked with Paul “Groucho” Smykle, the revolutionary sonic genius who mixed some of the all time epic dub records – such as Black Uhuru’s Dub Factor album and the 10 inch version of Gregory Isaacs Night Nurse. That 10 inch record is considered by some people (like my sister for example) to be the best reggae record ever released. (We could debate that one until the cows come home).

        So that tour was packed with amazing talent honing its skills as it zig zagged all over Germany.

        One strange thing I cannot recall from that trip was seeing Dennis Morris with a camera. I don’t think he photographed any of it, though that might just be my mind playing tricks on me.

        KJ turned in some epic performances on that tour, both bands did. They seemed to push each other to new heights. It was on that tour that KJ wrote the basis of SO 36, which is the district of Berlin that housed Tresor. At least I think it was Tresor, that might be my mind again. It it wasn’t Tresor, it was the predecessor to it.

        If you go on to Facebook, Killing Joke Picture Book –

        https://www.facebook.com/KILLINGJOKEPICTUREBOOK1979/

        they’ve just posted some new photos that Frank Jenkinson has unlocked from his wonderful archive. Some of them are from Berlin, including a lovely one of Alex that was shot in the club in SO 36.

        That tour really made the first KJ album so brilliant. When it ended, we got off the ferry, drove back to London, went straight into the studio. It was Marquee studio in Soho, owned by Status Quo at that time. We laid down the first album. Bosh! Most of it in one take. That was where Geordie earned his nick name, “one take wonder”. I say “we” laid down the first album. It was mostly the band, of course, but we all got recorded making noises, hand claps, whistles and so on. The same thing happened with “What’s This For?”, so I am proud to say that a little bit of me appears on the first two Killing Joke LP’s. That thought makes the whole experience worth while. Even the shit that followed. And a lot of shit followed, believe me.

        Have I answered your question? (scroll up), no.

        Sorry you have set me off now.

        Fast forward to events in 1982. This is known as the Iceland period. Iceland as in the country, not the supermarket that sells frozen prawn rings and the like.

        The Falklands war started and we all thought it was the start of the end of the world. (It still might have been). Jazz, who is a real wizard, by the way, believed that after the apocalypse there would only be two safe places on earth. One was New Zealand and Iceland was the other. He couldn’t afford to get to New Zealand at that point in time, so he legged it to Iceland, where Geordie followed. Killing Joke mark one broke up. Jazz and Geordie formed a band with some Icelandic musicians from a band called (approximately) Peyr (its actually a Nordic symbol then eyr). That band was called Niceland (which I still think is a great name).

        Youth and Paul formed the first version of Brilliant, though Paul left that pretty quickly and went to Iceland to join the others. At that point Raven came in.

        I have personal evidence that when I say Jazz is a real wizard, I am not joking. He once did a tarot reading for me about my life to come and every thing he read to me in that reading has since come true. The only thing he didn’t do was tell me the jackpot numbers for the lottery, the rotter.

        Jazz also told me the truth about Jimmy Savile as long ago as 1980. So when I say he really has the powers, I mean it, man.

        Anyway, I am still digressing.

        The answer to your question is, I don’t know.

        My days with the band ended Christmas 1981, half way through the recording of Revelations, which was made in Koln, Germany with “the German Lee Perry”, Connie Plank.

        A lot of weird stuff happened at the start of 1982, it was a very portentous time. Youth went on to form another incarnation of Brilliant with Jimi Cauty, which was the first band signed to Food Records by Dave Balfe. Balfe later signed Blur before going on to live in a very nice house in the country. Balfe knew Bill Drummond from their Zoo Records, Liverpool days. Bill worked in Warner’s A&R at that time, being all round genius. Brilliant signed to Warner’s. That was how Bill met Jimi. Brilliant cut an album produced by Pete Waterman, of PWL fame.

        That sounds like a strange combination at first, doesn’t it?

        Commercially, it was not the massive hit they all hoped for. But. I asked Youth once why they had done that – chosen PW as producer – and he said, because they wanted to learn how to make a perfect pop single, so they went to learn off the master. When you look back at what has happened since then, for both Youth and Jimi Cauty, you cannot really fault that logic, can you? They had a plan and it worked.

        I don’t know about the live album you ask about. I do recall that Connie produced a live album with them, which was, once again, released on 10 inch vinyl. That album had the wonderful title, “Laugh? I Almost Bought One”.

        There was a series issued called The Bootleg Archives issued by KJ at one point later on in time.

        There were at least 3 double CD’s of material that they had gathered together and mastered properly released in that series.

        Perhaps the album you are asking me about stems from that. I hope so, because I cannot type any more now, I’ve got cramp in my hands.

        Good luck.

        The end.

        • Adam,thanks … If anybody reads this ,& do not know of Conny Planks productions other than ‘Revelations’ lp please check various releases by Harmonia, la Düsseldorf ,Cluster, Michael Rother & many others..including ‘motorik’ originators Neu! .They also seemed to create ‘a Post-Punk sound’, before there was a (U.K.)punk rock(!)..’negativland’ off ‘ Neu!75’ would seem to have greatly influenced KJs ‘primitive’& sounds very much like early era PIL.
          A quick listen to Twinkle Brothers ‘never get burned’ single or indeed the extended mix of ‘night nurse’ & some of his Black Uhuru tracks will confirm Paul Smykles studio abilities ..& I assume we all know who Martin Hannent was ,which in a manner brings everything back to Adams original posting….

    • Adam there were a few 10″ ‘lps’ released ‘Short Circuit’ & a Virgin promotional – both in ’78 I believe…

  4. frank Jenkinson

    Assult on precinct 13 was one of brian taylor’ carpenter obsessive films. always thought the cover was a still from that film. mike coles might know

    • Frank, I’ll be honest & say I thought it was a still from the film when I first saw it ,but the picture appears to have Jaz (in white shirt) in it …I guess the best way would be to watch the film & stop it & see if images match up…

    • Frank.. It appears neither of us can spell ‘Assault’ correctly! – I remember some of the music paper reports that mentioned their manager…the one referring to him as ‘being KJs verbal punch-bag’ stuck in my mind …I’ve not owned ‘A o P 13’ on DVD (only on VHS ,over 30 years ago)… As I don’t have any ‘digital downloads’ only ‘physical objects’… this seemingly easily to answer question is (for me) quite difficult ….anybody provide one??

  5. Re High Wycombe gig… always nice to see this one mentioned – especially as Red Beat WERE on the bill, despite the nonsense sleevenotes on the ‘Still’ reissue (north V south? Really?). You will probably recall The Wizzard doing his fire-breathing act ‘from the floor’ during Killing Joke’s set? Killing Joke were (ahem) on fire that night and Joy Division had a hard time following them. The hall was half-emptied by the time JD had performed six songs. I saw them many, many times and know how hit and miss they could be, but it always amazes me that the High Wycombe gig is ever held up as anything other than one of their lesser performances. Not a classic at all. The Lyceum was a different kettle of fish altogether.

  6. Adam – Have really enjoyed reading all the KJ info hidden here in the comments. Your eye-witness account of the Germany tour with Basement 5 and its influence on that incredible debut album, plus the other revelations about the Motorhead infleunce in achieving the huge KJ sound, would make a fantastic article to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of one of the greatest albums of all time next year. Just a thought.

  7. Have to agree with Martin James & Nick….it would appear Joy Division were pleased with any sort of paying audience..their
    only ‘proper tour’ supporting Buzzcocks.. The ‘Cult of J D’ only starting a fair time after the tragic death of Ian Curtis.
    Was not previously aware of the killing Joke/Motörhead ‘connection’- knew about Youth previously being a ‘Sid-Alike & his (acid)trips down kings rd etc, but KJ seemed to ‘appear from nowhere’ & soon ‘passed by’ the competition…Also Adams recollections would make great ‘liner notes’ for a debut or ‘Whats This For’ reissue… ( & would have added something to the recent Basement 5 comp..?)

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