New Order’s Power, Corruption & Lies
August 24, 2020 by Traci Turner
Power, corruption and lies could easily describe the current political climate in the US, but who cares about that mess? On October 2, New Order will release the “definitive collection” of their 1983 album, “Power, Corruption & Lies.” There were no arguments about masks or outrageous conspiracy theories, but there is an amount of drama and devastation in their history.
When looking back on New Order, we must reflect on their first band – Joy Division. Childhood friends Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook formed the English band in 1976 with Ian Curtis and Stephen Morris. As fans of the Sex Pistols, their original sound was more punk than what we may associate with them. Vocalist Curtis wrote all of the lyrics while Sumner (guitar, keyboards) and Hook (bass) wrote the majority of the music, and Morris provided the drums.
Although poised for success with their 1980 North American tour, Curtis was struggling with personal and health issues. Epilepsy made performances challenging as he would sometimes suffer seizures during the show. Add a crumbling marriage and depression, and it proved too much for Curtis. He attempted suicide in April, and then ended his life in May – the night before the band was to head to America.
Peter Hook told Jon Savage (writer of the documentary “Joy Division”), “Everything seems a blur after that. We just couldn’t take it in. Since then, I’ve lived with his death every single day. He might have gone away physically, but he’s never gone away musically or mentally.”
Ian Kevin Curtis | July 15 1956 – May 18, 1980
“There are far, far better things ahead than anything we leave behind” | C. S. Lewis
THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTAL HEALTH
If you know someone struggling with depression or openly talks about suicide, please get them help. This is the first step.
Our first real look into the greatness of Joy Division was a song called “Disorder” from their freshman debut album “Unknown Pleasures.”
Unfortunately, Curtis missed seeing the positive reaction to their follow-up album, “Closer” which displayed his powerful lyrics. Their iconic single “Love Will Tear Us Apart” remains a staple on ‘80s alternative “top song” lists, and music critics still hail the album as groundbreaking.
With just two albums , their brief time together laid the groundwork for punk-inspired synth music, and a cult following that still exists.
The three remaining members retired the Joy Division name, but remained committed to music and became New Order. Sumner took over as the lead singer and Gillian Gilbert joined on keyboards and guitar.
New Order started off in a similar musical style as Joy Division and used two remaining Curtis-written songs on their “Movement” album. But after visiting the club scene in New York, they ventured into electronic dance music.
“Power, Corruption & Lies” pushed them farther away from the Joy Division sound and made them one of the most influential bands of the ‘80s. While “Age of Consent” and “Confusion” were great singles from the 1983 album, the biggest song wasn’t even on the UK version. “Blue Monday” was released two months prior as a 12-inch single – the popular format for clubs due to the richer sound. It went on to be the bestselling 12-inch single of all time.
Not just in the UK.
Not just in the 1980s.
The best-selling 12-inch single OF ALL TIME.
The US version (and multiple re-releases) of “Power, Corruption & Lies” did contain “Blue Monday,” and the song has been re-released as a single many times over (re-mastered, re-mixed, dance mixes, etc.!).
It also got a boost when the band Orgy did a cover of it for their “Candyass” album.
A. Please take a moment to appreciate that “late ‘90s alternative rock band” hair and makeup.
B. That band name has popped up too many times on my car radio when my teenage son is in the car. Thanks for that.
With the success of “Blue Monday,” New Order continued on the path of the electronic dance format, but still kept some of their rock. The single “Thieves Like Us” showed they were more than a one hit wonder, and the album “Low-Life” produced the amazing singles “The Perfect Kiss” and “Sub-Culture.”
They once again made themselves part of cultural history by landing multiple songs in the John Hughes classic, “Pretty in Pink.”
In addition to instrumental versions of “Thieves Like Us,” and “Elegia,” “Shellshock” was featured in the film and ended up on the soundtrack.
That same year, “Brotherhood” helped New Order truly break into the US with “Bizarre Love Triangle” on the charts and a North American tour with Echo & the Bunnymen.
With their catalog of hits established, they released the compilation “Substance,” that included a new track, “True Faith.”
While the video was popular on MTV, it truly is the stuff of my nightmares and I will absolutely understand if you skip it. However, “Substance” is amazing an should be in every fan’s collection.
Surely someone told them I was disturbed by their last video, and New Order came back with a phenomenal one for “Touched by the Hand of God.”
If someone you know is unfamiliar with New Order, show them this one and see what happens.
Ok, videos on MTV, best of CD doing well, and touring all over. Has history taught you what is approaching?
After releasing “Technique” (mostly house/dance songs) and “Republic” (which included “Regret” – their best-performing song in the US), New Order SHOULD have been enjoying their success.
Instead, members began working with side projects. Sumner had already started Electronic with members of the Pet Shop Boys and the Smiths, and Hook considered this as a break up. He told NME, “In my mind, Bernard split us up in 1991 when he went off with Johnny Marr [to form Electronic].”
But was that the consensus? Sumner told Chris Sharratt, “I didn’t think it was the end of New Order, but I wanted to get away from the situation, the business pressures were so great. It was like, ‘This hurts and I don’t want it to hurt.’”
(In that same interview with Sharratt, Sumner gave a quote that will now be my life motto: “The best way to deal with tricky situations is not to think about them.” Yes, indeed.)
With Sumner in Electronic, Hook made music with Killing Joke and Revenge, and Morris and Gilbert formed The Other Two. Morris and Gilbert also formed a union by getting married and having kids.
That seemed to be the end as the tension between Sumner and Hook was well known. But, in 1998, the band members gathered to discuss a reunion and making music again. They played the Reading Festival and even included Joy Division songs.
Two albums (“Get Ready” and “Waiting for the Sirens’ Call”) did result from this regrouping, but before a show in 2006, Hook told a newspaper, “This might be our last concert ever.” Then during a 2007 interview, he stated he was not working with Sumner anymore. However, Sumner and Morris claimed they were not informed of this by Hook, but by the press. The said that Hook may be gone, but New Order was not.
Sumner created a new band, Bad Lieutenant, and said New Order was done after all. Hook started Peter Hook and the Light and began playing Joy Division and New Order songs at shows.
The remaining members of New Order did reconvene to perform at some charity concerts in 2011, but Hook was not part of it.
It did not go over very well.
Hook’s official statement: “It makes me all the more determined to fuck New Order over in any possible way I can. If they think I’m just going to scuttle off to a cabin in the woods, they’ve got another thing coming. They’re dickheads. People go and hide, but I don’t. I’m a fighter. I’m going to come out fighting.”
Accusations and angry words followed.
Hook: “I’ve watched so-called ‘New Order’ playing in Auckland and Tom Chapman is miming along to my bass on tape… He’s got his fingers on the low and you can hear my high bass in the background. So he’s miming.”
Sumner: “He’s not been very nice. To boil it down to its basic elements, if someone’s horrible a lot of the time, you’re not sad when they’re gone, you’re glad. He wasn’t happy in the band – primarily with me but also, it seems, with almost everyone.”
This war continued, and after New Order released an album of new music (“Music Complete”) in 2015, Hook sued the band. Hook claimed the other three original members set up a secret company as a way to stiff him of royalties from New Order music. The judge stated there was enough evidence to proceed into investigating it, but that a court case would be costly and they should work it out.
Finally, in 2017, it was settled.
New Order announced a full and final settlement has been reached in the long running disputes with their former bassist Peter Hook.
The disputes were based upon Hook’s use of various New Order and Joy Division assets on merchandising and in the promotion of shows by his new band, and the amount of money he receives from the use of the name New Order by his former colleagues since 2011.
The Joy Division and New Order names mean a great deal to so many of their fans, and the band felt it important to protect the legacy.
With these issues now dealt with, Bernard, Stephen and Gillian can continue to do what they do best, make music and perform live.
As for Hook, he stated he was glad it was over. “I’m happy to get my life back and I’m happy for my family. I haven’t got that hanging over me. I don’t think there will be a reunion soon, sadly – but you know, that’s life.”
But that wasn’t the end, exactly. A 2018 documentary about New Order named “Decades” included behind the scenes footage of the band preparing for their 2017 performance at the Manchester International Festival, plus footage of the past. Hook told NME he did not watch it because “I’m not a big fan of fiction.”
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. For New Order, their songs have been covered by so many bands, the list is insanely long.
For their fans, their catalog is a great combination of original songs and covers. The list of other era defining songs include songs like “Temptation,” “Love Vigilantes,” ” Round and Round,” “Regret,” and “Ceremony,” just to name a few.