Not too many years ago, in what now feels like a totally different life, a friend and I were chatting about the music (beloved to us both) that came to the world via the famed Factory Records and the truly horrific admission that I’d never seen the film 24-Hour Party People. Now, in the midst of lockdown, that same friend sent me a text with a link to a podcast and the message that I needed to listen.
The podcast in question, Transmissions: The Definitive Story of Joy Division & New Order, takes listeners on a journey through the life and times of two of my personal favorite things to ever come from Manchester. But a question worth asking before diving into Transmissions is – when tales of both of these bands exist already in books and films, do we really need a podcast?
During lockdown, I’ve spent my time as many music fans have – watching all the documentaries I could get my eyes. One that I thoroughly enjoyed, New Order: Decades, should have satiated my desire for content around one of the greatest new wave bands of all time. And yet, when Transmissions fell into my lap, I dove right in and was wowed with what I found.
Narrated by the absolutely brilliant Maxine Peake, the eight-part series spins a long and winding tale about the creation, demise, and rebirth of some of the most truly iconic music. Not only are we treated to newly-recorded interviews with Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert and Peter Hook, but we also get the experience of hearing the impact of Joy Division and New Order’s music on the likes of Bono and Thurston Moore. Nothing is taboo – the episode in which they discuss the tragic death of Ian Curtis is heart wrenching (and at episode 4, is a good spot for a break.)
As an aforementioned Factory Records fan (with a Tony Wilson tattoo, if you’ll forgive me) the early episode about the birth of the label and, later, the definitive role of The Haçienda in shaping the direction of dance music is a powerful acknowledgement of the roles of Wilson, Alan Erasmus and Rob Gretton on the scene and sound we as fans so adore. And for the most dedicated music fans, you will not be let down by the deep-dive in episode eight into the best-selling 12-inch single of all time, “Blue Monday”. The band’s exploration of how the seven-and-a-half minute synth-pop masterpiece was created (and a brilliant note from Bernard about vinyl vs. digital for dance music) makes the final episode of the series 37 minutes of pure joy.
Will there be a second season? Knowing that the last album discussed on the show, “Power, Corruption and Lies”, is only the second album in New Order’s ten-album history to date, one can only hope so. There is far more story yet to be told, and thus we find the answer to our earlier question: do we really need a Joy Division/New Order podcast? From fans around the world comes a resounding yes, and we desperately need season two.