The Transmission of a Legend

Southern Steve: ‘Legend’ Mp3

Love Will Tear Us Apart might be Joy Division’s best known song, but Transmission probably should be. It’s a better representation of the band’s musical and lyrical power.

Transmission…Radio, Live Transmission…Dance to the Radio…Listen to the Silence…Touching From A Distance…The Language of Sound…

All of those lyrical fragments have been used as the names of bootlegs, books, Myspace sites, magazines, 80s music nights, cover bands, and all hark back to the power of this one song.

The 1979 single version is fine enough but the earlier, slower version on the RCA demo is even better in my view; the band almost stand back from the song and allow that slow, arrogant two-note bass line and the rumbling drums to do their work.

Joy Division – Transmission MP3 (RCA Demo Version).

There is an excellent drum break at the end of this track, with Steven Morris  left to slow down the tempo on his own after the rest of the band have stopped playing.  It’s a gift to the would-be sampler, containing that hallmark “Joy Division move” as my mate Fraser recently described it: a single tom hit just after the 3rd beat snare, giving the whole thing that lurching, robotic feel. It’s the sound of the classic Joy Division flawed machine.

In my own tune, Legend, I’ve backed up those drums with a midi track including some syn-tom sounds a bit like the ones on Closer, another two note bassline, and some guitar and bass chords with valve distortion and delay, to replicate the sound of the band live, on an album like Live at Eindhoven.

I like the sound, but even as I was doing this song, it occurred to me what a forlorn process it all was, and the lyrics that came to me ended up being about the emptiness of replicating a long-gone original…

It’s Just a Legend

An Empty Legend

A Cold and Empty Legend

You Heard a Dream

And Tried to Make it Real

Anyway, I’ll be back later with some more maunderings,

GSS, feeling alright but a little bogged down,  Aug 2009.


Boy About Town: The Jam as an upbeat pop band

There's more than you can hope for in this world - so cheer up, lads!

There’s quite a few different sides to Paul Weller’s songwriting for The Jam – the angry young man of “Going Underground”, the melancholy folk singer-songwriter on “That’s Entertainment”, the would-be Northern Soul artist on “Ghosts” and the the budding social commentator on “Town Called Malice.”  I like a lot of that, and some of it I like a lot, but when it comes down to it, my favourite songs by this band are the simple three or four chord, three minute bop tunes about love, music and being an excited kid, that are spread out across their six studio albums and on a few singles.

These tunes are all major key, up tempo, with melodic guitar riffs and often boppy horns as well, and are full of lines like “The kids know where it’s at” and “We got the gift of life” and my favourite, “There’s more than you can hope for in this world.” Mixed in with all that is an urgent desire to make the most of today, and a kind of bittersweet sadness about lost opportunity and fading youth. Maybe some of them were supposed to be light relief from their more serious tracks, but to me, they actually represent the best of this band.  No other band ever captured this mood in quite the same way.

Weller carries this “yearning kid” thing off perfectly, singing with a kind of eager boyishness and optimism that you could only really get away with if you were a teenager or in your very early twenties, and hey, let’s remember, he was! Their professionalism makes it easy to forget it but this band were babies, they’d had mainstream success at age nineteen and the band was wrapping up by the time Weller was twenty-three. No wonder he’s had such an interminable bloody solo career. Ahem…

Anyway, here’s the tunes I’m talking about. I’m not sure about a few of these but ten are rock solid.

  1. In the City
  2. Art School
  3. Sounds From the Street (?)
  4. It’s Too Bad
  5. Fly (?)
  6. When You’re Young
  7. Girl On The Phone
  8. But I’m Different Now
  9. Dream Time
  10. Boy About Town (mp3)
  11. Absolute Beginners
  12. The Gift

By the way, I’ll be posting a single of the Jam live in Japan at some point pretty soon. The live version of ‘But I’m Different Now’ is excellent.


Local Heroes Sw9 – Drip Dry Zone

Buy it from Amazon...

Buy it from Amazon...

In the heady year of 1980, when I was ten, Kevin Armstrong (guitar, vox), Kim Barti (drums), and Matthew Seligman (bass) recorded and released a hidden classic of British post-punk, the album Drip Dry Zone. The trio were later joined by Thomas Dolby on synths for a subsequent release called New Opium, before Dolby went solo, Armstrong decided to become a session musician rather than a front man, and Seligman continued with the Soft Boys and then also turned to session work.

I know it is a cliché to say that bands “should have gained more recognition” when all you really mean is that you like them. So, to cut to the chase, I really like this band. They have hints of XTC, the Clash, the Soft Boys, the Jam, and the Police, but with a great deal of their own charm. The bass playing is wonderful and the guitar is layered and intricate, the songs well written, the singing grainy and emotive and very English. All in all, the sound is a winner.

Local Heroes SW9 were a British post-punk band not afraid of being clever, and this may have cost them the exposure that many lesser and more derivative acts attracted.  But it’s not too late. Check out these two tracks, and if you want to buy the album (really, it’s all good), click the cover to go to Amazon, or start by reading this thread at Charlie Gillett’s website. It tells the story of how the digital re-release of the two albums was inspired, and contains posts from Armstrong himself on its creation.



The Weather is Far Away

Mp3 Link – The Weather is Far Away

I have this thing about cumulus mammatus clouds. They look so close to the ground, but also kind of otherworldly, like something is about to reach down out of the sky and strart grabbing people. They seemed a perfect cover image for a pop song I wrote in 2005 about the day the sky fell down, The Shortest Day.

At the same time I was writing a new wave tune for a guy called ‘Chicago Greg’ on the Punk Planet Message Board who has a thing for the weather. He’s one of those guys who is always looking up the wind conditions in some obscure Russian peninsula, even though he has no intention of gong there. The colder it is somewhere else, the better he likes it, it seems, although he often complains about Chicago’s bitter winters. The first track is for him.

The Weather is Far Away is a 4-song EP I made between 2005 and 2007, fleshed out with an instrumental and another song, both about bush-walking. The drums on tracks 2 and 3 are by Joy Division‘s legendary drummer, Steven Morris, from their first album Warsaw. When I put this up in Myspace, New Order befriended me, which I thought was very sweet of them.

Basic Mp3 files of all tracks are free to download here. Wave files are available if you want to use any of the music for commercial purposes (contact me).

The Weather is Far Away

A Walk on My Own


The Shortest Day

The album art is right here for use in Nero or whatever – bear in mind that none of the Myspace sites it mentions exist any more.

Front Cover