OUT OF ORDER Sounds 30/7/83
Interview by Mick Middles


  MICK MIDDLES carries on his Stateside binge with NEW ORDER
  Pix: Kevin Cummins  

"How I wish you were here with me now".
(New Order, 'In A Lonely Place')

  The 737 from New York to Washington fills with groans from the rear as Hookey
completes his third sick bag.
  Rob Gretton, New Order manager, and Steve Morris are unconcerned about this 
and the fact that they are three hours late - the effect of eight Melonball 
Cocktails carries them away on a separate, astral plane.
  In Washington, the local promoters are apprehensive and tour manager Ruth 
Polsky is panicking as Barney and Gillian complete the band's soundcheck alone.
There has been no phone call from Rob.
  Outside the venue (a large Spanish cinema, the only seated venue on the tour)
the queue is already 100 yards long - people are becoming increasingly angry at
the delay.
  Ossie (soundman and fifth member) is struggling with a PA half the size of the
previous evening's and a venue twice as big. Onstage, an attempted run through 
of 'Your Silent Face' breaks down for the fourth time.
  "Oh, don't tell me," screams Ossie in mock effeminate tones, "the sequencer 
won't work properly... you fuckin' puffs."
  Things move downhill from here.
  Soundcheck complete, Barney and Gillian head back to their Holiday Inn. As the
crowd pour into the steamy auditorium I wait in a deserted dressing room for the
arrival of the absent threesome.
  Eventually Hookey falls through the door, curls up underneath the table and 
falls asleep. 
  "He's pretty bad," says Steve. "I've never seen him as bad as this."
  Outside in the hallway, Rob is in the midst of a wrestling match with a member
of the road crew. Amazingly perhaps, Rob is losing. The huge bouncers gaze down
warily, a hint of disgust.
  "Melonballs," says Steve. "It's amazing what they do to people."
  Downstairs, support band Quando Quango, complete with a revitalised Simon 
Topping, bounce their way through another rhythmic short set and create an 
  New Order are happy to use friends as support. They have had trouble with 
American support acts on this tour. In Texas, a one-man synthesiser act began to
re-arrange New Order's stage set-up in order to give himself 'a better 
ambience'. This resulted in nothing more than Barney walking to the foot of the
stage and telling him: 
  "I'm going to teach you two English words. One of them is off and the other 
is fuck."
  "He was one of those arty bastards," says Rob.
  He should talk.
  Hookey has woken, looks better. Lunges for me in the hallway.
  "Hey, Mick! Get pissed tonight will you? Let your hair down. If you want to 
know where to go, just ask me and, er, I'll tell you how to get there..."
  He staggers downstairs and out of the club. Ten minutes later Barney and 
Gillian are back, awaiting their set. Ruth looks at her watch, still unhappy, 
with five minutes to go and a missing bass player.
  "Why couldn't one of you have chained him down?" she says.
  "Stop panicking, Ruth," says Rob, "and have a sandwich."
  But after half an hour the situation hasn't altered. The crowd are restless 
and, unlike New York, seem to have no qualms about showing it. New Order sit in 
the dressing room, interrupted only by constant threats from the management. 
They make a decision. To my amazement they decide to restructure the set and go
onstage without Hookey. Rob will go onstage and play syndrums. "No one will 
notice," they conclude.
  I doubt this and the prospect of seeing New Order minus those driving bass 
lines drags me downstairs and into a prominent position. No amount of Budweiser
is going to make me miss this.
  Onstage, to cheers.


  New Order begin a set which is the total antithesis of the previous evening's.
The electric excitement of their pop set is replaced by the low key and the 
meandering. 'In A Lonely Place', an amazingly 'down' song, opens the set. Rob,
back to the audience, punches syn-drums at regular intervals. A loosely 
structured sound, Steve Morris works hard, hands skipping across the toms, to 
replace those missing bass lines. True enough, nobody appears to notice. 'Your
Silent Face' is weird and patchy but not lacking in intrigue. 
  "You caught me at a bad time, so why don't you piss off," sings Barney, 
aware, I'm sure, of the irony.
  The crowd is hesitant and the bouncers sneer with distaste, unaware of the 
drama. Without any obvious reason and mid song, Rob casts his drumsticks to the
ground and strolls casually offstage. Barney seems to be having a conversation 
with Gillian and only the sweat of Steve Morris pushes the song to its finish.
The band hide behind an almost Public Image style aloofness. The crowd, 
masochistic as always, enjoy this, beautifully unaware of the unplanned nature 
of the set.
  Then they spot Hookey, charging down the left hand aisle, looking, for the 
first time in his life, slightly worried. 
  "Hello shitheads." Hookey to crowd.
  "Oh, the black sheep returns." Barney to Hookey.
  Straight into 'Age Of Consent', immediately lifting the atmosphere, releasing
the tension as things settle down to a comparative normality. Sound problems
persist though, making the gig more interesting but far less exciting than last
  And off.
  So suddenly.
  Four people charge into the dressing room. The door slams shut. Absolutely 
nobody backstage for ten minutes. A meeting.
  The crowd really are unhappy this time. Cries of "rip offs" and even "Snotty 
English bastards" are heard in full as the management turns the disco off. The
bouncers rush in and the scene becomes ugly as they literally push the 
complaining crowd through the doors. Seats are kicked, doors are kicked, but 
little that is human is kicked. Good luck prevails and a minor riot is avoided,
but only just. 
  In the dressing room things soon cool down. Surprisingly, the band are happily
signing autographs as I return.
  "Look, er, could you sign this one with the red pen and use the silver one for
the album sleeve?  Oh and sign 'Closer' with the black pen please."
  Confused, maybe even dumbfounded, the band struggles through. Gillian has been
kidnapped and taken into the adjoining dressing room for a radio interview. A 
12-year-old black kid sweeps the floor as the remainder of the beer is hastily
  "They are literally throwing people out downstairs," I tell Rob.
  "So they fuckin' should do too, kick 'em out. That's what I say."
  Careful Rob.
  I think he's joking. Not sure though.
  "You're a star Rob," I tell him in reference to his instant percussion act.
  "Always have been, Mick. Always will be. Forget those bastards." 
  Back at the hire van, appointed driver Kevin Cummins (yes, if we hadn't turned
up, New Order would still be drunk in some downbeat Greenwich Village bar) hands
Rob two parking tickets.
  "I'll put them with the others. That makes ten, so far."
  Gillian and Steve scramble into the van, quiet, tired and a little concerned
at the evening's below par performance. Only Rob is in top form, spouting a 
steady stream of insults.
  We head for a nearby hotel bar. Forced to buy a ridiculously expensive round
("I don't get paid three thousand dollars a show and turn up late," I inform 
them), I perch next to Steve and Gillian. I mention the hostile crowd reaction.
  "I don't blame them really," says Gillian.
  "I think we were shit, tonight. I'd have been annoyed if I'd paid ten dollars 
for that show, I really would. Perhaps, for once, we should have played an 
encore. It wasn't very good, was it?"
  Steve: "I don't think it was so bad. Not as good as last night, but there was 
a bit of tension which, I think, made it very interesting."
  The subject matter returns to New Order's usage of computerised instruments.
In particular, Tony Wilson's recent claim that New Order's computerised music is
the sound of the future. However, to these ears, 'Power, Corruption And Lies'
sounds remarkably straight, almost rocky and (the old M.U. question) do 
computerised sounds strip away the personality of a record?
  Steve: "That's a load of bollocks, all that computer noise shit. Firstly, all
Tony Wilson ever says to us is, 'Great lads, love it, love it'. That's about the
extent of our conversation with him lately. Secondly, the machines we used were
American so they never worked properly anyway. They are supposed to be great
leaps forward in technology, the KGB are probably stripping them apart at this
very moment. The truth of the matter is that they are a load of shit. Boxes with
flashing lights on them and instructions that are impossible to understand and
which don't mean anything anyway, in the end. We should have bought Japanese.
They have not altered our basic songs in any way and never will.
  "Sure, we use effects onstage, but so what? Who doesn't? I often think we 
should just tape the entire thing. It would make life a lot easier, but perhaps 
very boring. The same set every night. We could use different tapes for 
different nights, we tried something like that once but it didn't work, so it's 
always back to basics, really."
  Gillian and Steve and new-found driver Kevin retire to bed, to prepare for 
tomorrow's long trip to Trenton, New Jersey. Rob and I go out on the town, eat a
meal, watch the street fights and finally crawl back to the hotel. 

  The next morning is so sunny and bright we could almost be in England. New 
Order are lying by the swimming pool, their relaxation interrupted only by the 
never-ending clicks of Kevin's camera. Gillian and Steve spend their time 
choosing cheap gifts and mementos. Hookey goes with Kevin to see the White 
House. Barney falls asleep by the pool.
  "I'm getting worried about him," quips Steve. "Milk deficiency, I think. Some
kind of deficiency, anyway. He falls asleep everywhere. He's missed most of this 
  Gillian doesn't want to go home. Just two more gigs.
  A helicopter prowls the hotel. Sirens wail.
  Steve: "I hope there isn't going to be a shoot out. Shouldn't think so, not in
Washington. In Detroit, it was really scary. They have this curfew where nobody 
under seventeen is allowed out after eleven o'clock. It's to stop the city's 
youth getting blown away."
  "It is, genuinely. Shots, you hear them all the time down there. Really heavy
atmosphere, frightening."
  Like Liverpool?
  Two vehicles drive our party to New Jersey. A long, sweaty journey. I'm in 
with Barney, Rob, Quando and Kevin the driver (are they paying him for this?).
Barney falls asleep. 150 miles down the road, we stop at a services. It's not
Watford Gap, though. A kind of cross between a chip shop and a cathedral.
  Barney has woken up and delights in insulting us all - giggling, boyish, the
opposite of his public persona. Kevin finds a plectrum, suspiciously hiding in 
his cheeseburger. The waitress is overcome, apologises and scraps the bill. How
can she be so...
  "An old Salford trick," mutters Barney.
  "It's stealing really, isn't it?" observes Kevin.
  "Yes, but try explaining that it was a joke to her," says Rob.
  "They just won't understand. No sense of humour these yanks."
  On to Trenton. Through miles and miles of featureless scenery. Poor scary 
black neighbourhoods, rich boring white suburbs. The journey is broken only by
Barney's pornographic cassette tapes and Rob's newly bought 'Smoking Monkey'. 
America's downmarket commercialism is an endless source of amusement on journeys
such as these. The atmosphere is, most conclusively, one of rock 'n' roll (sic).
Some things never change. I could be with the Damned or Def Leppard or Herman's
Hermits. The 'Bad News' tour.
  "I'm with New Order," I constantly remind myself.
  Just to add fuel to the cliche, we are lost. Typically, not in one of the rich
boring white suburbs, but in a poor scary black area. We pull in at a roadside 
cafeteria to ask for directions. We drink caffeine-free Diet Coke (for health)
and suck on caffeine pastels (to stay awake). We stare at the cafe from the 
safety of the van as we digest these two symbols of American madness. 
  "It looks awfully black in there, doesn't it," says Barney.
  "Go on Kevin, go and ask for directions then," taunts Rob, somewhat betraying
his hooligan image.
  Wimpily, we pull out. An hour later we find the venue. A pity.
  Hookey is oblivious to everything, sunbathing on the roadside. Behind him is a
graffiti-daubed monstrosity, looking for all the world like the Electric Circus,
Manchester, ironically the place where New Order (then named Stiff Kittens) 
began their career some six years ago.
  The local radio blasts 'White Riot'. The radio DJ is also the DJ for this 
evening. We climb out of the van, stare in disbelief. Like stepping out of the 
Tardis. Rub our eyes and stare again. The vision remains, complete with 
subsequent deja vu.
  Who booked this place?
  We are just 40 miles from Times Square and six years behind in time.
  "Don't worry. America is always like this," says Hookey.
  "Varies from town to town. Disconnected. A mess."
  I light a cigarette. Take one more look at this absurd phony 1977, lie on the 
grass next to Hookey, and sunbathe. 
  "I hope the birds wear suspenders and men's shirts down here," somebody says.

  Thisis, actually, where it ends. In three hours I will be on board a cramped
Jumbo and headed for Gatwick. The scene before me is genuinely weird. If I were 
a cynic I'd say the Americans had bought the Electric Circus and transported it 
brick by brick to New Jersey. In some respects I suppose they have. A museum of
English music, 1977.
  Tonight, what the audience expects and what it will get are so obviously at
opposite ends of the spectrum. Without doubt, New Order will professionally 
exploit the bewilderment of the onlookers. They should be at their best. I envy
  I think of one last question, a good question, the answer to which should put 
this entire two week piece well and truly into perspective. 
  Excited, I turn to Hookey.
  Hookey is asleep.    


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