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This band can give you a headache
...usually involving copious amounts of Pernod
and Asti Spumante as consumed by Nancy Culp, risking life
and limb on the road with New Order
It's gone midnight and we're on the M62
between Manchester and Bradford with a complete
madman at the wheel. I'm halfway under the front
seat clutching onto my handbag for dear life, whilst
the lunatic next to me grins slyly, helibent on burning
up the motorway and any other unfortunate vehicle
that dares to venture into his path.
I suppose if this had been `Game For A Laugh', or
some other such nauseous quiz show, the TV
audiences would have been crying into their cupcakes.
From the tiny, overloaded back seat of this natty
Nissen sports car, comes the plaintive cry "`Ere Hooky,
pull over, willya? I've gorra gerrout!" I glance over at
the digital speedometer and shut my eyes.
Hooky takes the car leapfrogging over the three
lanes to the hard-shoulder. We screech to a halt. An
icy blast hits me as I open the car door, get out and
step straight into a snowy puddle. Barney Sumner
scrambles over the tangle of arms and legs out onto
the roadside where instant relief awaits him.
This is life on the road with New Order.
The reason for our unscheduled stop? Probably one
too many `Headaches', the like of which Peter Hook
has gleefully been tipping down us all night. For the
uninitiated, a `Headache' is the lethal mixture of New
Order's two favourite tipples - Pernod and Asti
Spumante. And believe you me, a headache is what I
had on that Godforsaken stretch of road.
Would I ever get back to Manchester alive? Would
Hooky and Barney live to see the release of their next
single `Shell Shock'? What about the next date in
Since my original head-on clash with them last
year, New Order's chaotic musical ramblings have
taken a firm grip on me. My extreme fondness for
them as individuals has started to embrace their music.
Hearing their next two singles, `State Of The Nation'
and to a lesser extent `Shell Shock', and seeing them
play hotter than hell fires on that cold Friday night in
Bradford, my affection for them was firmly cemented.
100 or so miles away in Coventry, Sigue Sigue
Sputnik were inciting mayhem with their particular sex-
soaked collection of devil's tunes. New Order were
doing the same thing to the masses at the St Georges
Hall. True, there wasn't a riot but there were times
when it got a wee bit sticky.
The minute they came on, the crowds at the front
started their demolition act. By the end of `State Of
The Nation', the glasses and sputum were flying.
Curious, all this violence they attract. You have to get
right down the front to appreciate why, so that's
exactly what I did.
Sandwiched between the stage and the speakers,
right in line with Peter Hook's tootsies, the sheer force
emanating from that stage got too much for me and I
headed for the back. The intense vibrations of
suppressed violence the band send out were getting
The next day in the dressing room at Warrington,
Hooky collars me on my accusations, in my review of
their last gig at Liverpool, that most of the potentially
antagonistic waves were coming from him.
"That's a pretty heavy thing to level at one person,
you know," he says, strung across two chairs with a
challenging look in his eyes.
"Making one person responsible for all the
violence." Well, I think you provoke them, Peter.
"I know you do, but I don't. I always retaliate, I
never instigate. If someone spat at you, what'd you
do?" AK I have to admit that I'd probably want to kill
`Well, what difference is there?" But you're on stage
and in a position of responsibility, I say.
He leans further back in his chair and speaks even
more quietly than usual. There's that characteristic
mocking tone in his voice, which almost makes me feel
guilty for tackling him on the subject.
"I know, because they've put you in a position, they
expect you to act in a certain way, don't they? I
mean, I'd never dream of going up to somebody and
spitting at them. I've thrown cans at bands that were
particularly bad, but you don't bother seeing them
"The people who come to our gigs and spit are
generally the ones who are dancing and who are at
the front. It's not that they are pissed off or anything,
they just do it... I don't know why. Just `cos they've
paid you £4.50! I mean, the irony of it all is that
they're paying £4.50 to me, to come in to spit at me,
and then they get surprised when I land them with my
He shakes his head and sighs - he's a strange
kettle of fish. On stage he stands there, fixing the
audience with that potent stare of his, end of guitar at
As Gillian later points out to me: "That really gets
you when they start throwing bottles. I think I look
more at the audience than anyone else, apart from
Hooky who tends to look out far bottles."
It's very easy to dislike Mr Hook intensely, as he
swings the end of his bass about in a series of guitar-
as-a-phallic-symbol poses. Yet offstage he's charming,
with an enviably sarcastic wit. There's also an out-of-
character gentleness about him, and I'd say, that
under all the macho toughness and speedway dare
devil antics, Peter Hook is one big softie.
He seems genuinely concerned with the welfare of
everyone, and ends up chiding me for even writing
about the pugilistic scenes at their concerts.
"The thing is, though, that you shouldn't write about
it `cos you only encourage them. If people read it
they'll go `Ere, let's go and gob at `im `cos he'll have a
go at us'. It's funny, innit? It's fun - `cos people are
meatheads....m a meathead, I don't differentiate
myself. I'd probably act in exactly the same way if I
were in their position. It's just position." Yes, but the
thing is, that you're in a position of influencel
`Yeah, but I don't think I should be. Which is why I
don't like people like Red Wedge, people who preach
or sermonise. I don't think that they've got any
Sadly, authority or not they still do it. And no
doubt whether or not I write about it the local
meatheads will still be out in full force ot the next
New Order gig to generally sour the whole
proceedings in a very adolescent fashion. This habitual
violence at gigs seems to be happening with a
"I think it's a terrible thing," opines Steven, "but it's
the state of the nation, isn't it?" (No pun intended
The nasty taste of the evening is soon washed away
by copious amounts of Pernod, a stonking good set
and the ever-heartening sound of Barney wandering
around those immortal lyrics like a lost soul.
Indeed, so good was the Bradford gig that only
once did Hooky look like he was going to stop
chewing gum and start chewing up the front row.
Anyway, you'll all be relieved to hear that we made
it back to Manchester in one piece and partied on `til
the wee small hours down at New Order's personal
investment the Hacienda.
The next day dawns and so does another gig, this
time in the middle of the so-called Warrington New
Town. In reality, it looks like no more than a collection
of tin and brick huts. Steven grimaces at the prospect.
"Hmm, Warrinyton's a strange place." Why come
here then? "Because we've never been before and I
thought it was all right. I didn't realise they'd built the
new bit miles out of Warrington, out of tin."
A gloom descends on the ranks and stays there
throughout the evening. Inside the Spectrum Centre,
vast aircraft hanger of a place more suited to
basketball matches, New Order grimly sound-check.
Catching Barney afterwards, he smiles at me
in that kiddish way of his then falls face down on the
table. He's looking the same colour as his yellow
jumper, and the bags under his eyes could hold a
"Come on then, let's do this interview." He sighs and
picks up an omnipresent baffle of Pernod, two plastic
glasses and a carton of orange juice. Methinks this
touring jape is getting to him, and after only three
days on the road!
What on earth he's going to be like after the
forthcoming 23 date US tour is anybody's guess.
"I hate it. I like the first six concerts, then, after that
it becomes a problem `cos I never quite get over it. I
get so worked up that after, I feel drained, really
drained and it don't seem to go away, that feeling
it lust builds up."
He's sprawled out on the chair in front of me with
his stomach bared. His eyes are practically closing
and since he has the unnerving habit of pulling at the
hairs on his belly, my attention is rivetted to his navel
rather than his answers
"I am a lot happier though, and a lot more self-
assured because of the group." Why, were you
poralysingly shy when you were younger? `Yeah, I
was. I was shy of girls, not lads but girls. I couldn't
speak to girls." How old were you when you first went
out with one?
Well how old were you when you lost your
virginity? He chuckles and pulls himself up from the
chair. "Thirteen." Was it the same one?
Yeah on a council estate, rough and ready, eh?"
Did you think it was over-rated? Most people do at
`Yeah, `cos I didn't know what to do, I was just lying
there. She was 16 and I was 13. I just lay there for
about five minutes then put me pants on and went
`ome. F"'in' `ell, I was too shy to move! I thought if I
move she'll f**in~ think I'm a f'''in' pervert or
He's obviously got over both his fear of women
and his fear of being a pervert, as he's now married
with a kid. That's another strange thing about this
band. For a group that can be remarkably punkish in
attitude, they are also amazingly conventional.
Gillian and Steven, a long time twosome, stay
noticeably together off stage and congregate in
corners of the dressing room, conversing in their own
quiet code. She freely admits that she'd rather be
back in Macclesfield than on some 30 date foreign
`We're just home lovers really, me and Steve. Isn't it
awful? I'm all right once I get there, it's the thought of
I'm consumed with curiosity as to how they met. I
mean, I've heard all sorts of strange stories.
"I used to sit next to his sister in geography at
school! Isn't that romantic? She used to go on about
her nutty brother who was in this band called
Warsaw, all the time. Then, when I was in this sort of
group, we used to rehearse next door to where they
`We bought one of their records off him and I
thought they were terrible. So we went to see if they
were as terrible as I thought. After the gig, he gave us
a lift back in his car," (quite a thing in Macclesfield),
"and that was it! I think it was the white, see-through
cheesecloth shirt that got me..."
Ho, ho, time for me to run off to the photo-files, I
thought Time, too, to head back to Manchester after
a rather sobering gig.
The next day, half asleep on the train, it suddenly
struck me why I like to hate this strange, erratic hotch-
potch of a band.
The clacking rails seemed to be singing `Perfect Kiss'
to me, but the chorus was ever-so slightly changed. It
went something like this: `I know/and you know/we
believe in the big Pernod!'.
Listen to the message in those well-oiled wheels, me
dears. The secret of my ambivalent attitude is in the
bottom of that sixth glass.
I'm drowning in New Order's peculiar charm with
the best of them, and I wouldn't have it any other way
- would you?
Last updated on 2005-03-07 9:32:00 PM - 9:32:00 PM
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