The first member of Joy Division to discover our bookshops was Stephen Morris, on days when he was wagging school. He found us (though not me personally yet) at House on the Borderland, Savoy’s first shop, opened in 1972. Named after William Hope Hodgson’s novel of fantastical horror, it was positioned in Port Street at the top of the ‘triangle’ in what is today’s Northern Quarter. Fittingly, its home was the run-down warren of backstreets near to Piccadilly train station.
David, who managed the shop in those days, remembers a ‘hesitant, nervous teenager about fifteen years of age, buddingly eccentric, with an inner intelligence and depth belied by outer appearances; he engendered a keen sense that he was looking for something else in life.’ After his school eventually expelled him for smoking dope, Stephen’s visits became more frequent. Nervy and wiry, he was occasionally accompanied by school friend Adam, who was quiet and reserved. But Adam could also be articulate and knowledgeable, so that in years to come David misremembered him for Ian, until we realised that Ian did not meet Stephen until three or four years later, even though they went to the same school.
‘You’re right. I hadn’t met Ian at that time,’ Stephen confirmed when I asked him for clarification. ‘Adam was a great fan of Moorcock, although he preferred Moorcock’s character Elric to his other character Jerry Cornelius, a constant source of disagreement between us at the time.’
Adam also gravitated towards more outré literary titles by William Burroughs and the weirder fringe magazines of the period – New Worlds, Heathcote Williams’ The Fanatic, and Crucified Toad – foreshadowing the later friendship between Stephen and Ian who took to each other instantly. Ian and Stephen were to meet for the first time after an Electric Circus gig, and again when Stephen responded to an ad for a drummer, put up by Ian in Jones’ Music Store, in Macclesfield, following which he joined Warsaw, the nascent incarnation of Joy Division.
Stephen and his friend Adam helped out with minding the shop and running errands. The tasks usually entailed getting in supplies of ‘hot jam squares’ and cups of tea from a nearby sandwich shop, but ‘less serious’ work could also be involved, purchasing cumbersome quantities of stock from local wholesalers such as Abel Heywood, World Distributors, or Thorpe & Porter, the latter presiding over a cadaverous mill on Pollard Street in nearby Ancoats. No one could drive a car, so extra hands were always needed to manhandle boxes and sacks back to the shop.
Ian found his way to us much later, at Bookchain, at the bottom of the ‘triangle’ of bookshops, where one of the ex-shop managers remembers him as always wearing a long mac, ‘de rigueur’ clothing of the time that Ian hung on to. He remembers one occasion particularly clearly. ‘It must have been 1979,’ he told me, ‘because I was playing Bowie’s Lodger on the shop’s hi-fi system. It had just come out, and Ian came over and asked me what it was.’ Apparently, I then I arrived at the shop, and Ian left with me. ‘You both went round to the Savoy office on Deansgate,’ the ex-manager recalled, ‘I think to discuss William Burroughs.’
Ian and I had only recently met one another. He had invited me to a Joy Division gig and I must now have been repaying him with a return invite. I have very little memory of the occasion, but he was curious to understand how book publishing works, so I let him look at the books we were working on. I had just got back from America, and showed him a signed copy of the 1978 Viking Press hardback edition of William Burroughs’ book collaboration with Brion Gysin, The Third Mind. In October, Ian himself had plans to meet Burroughs, at Joy Division’s Plan K gig in Belgium. The meeting was to have a weird outcome. When Ian introduced himself and tried requesting ‘a spare copy’ of The Third Mind. Burroughs allegedly told him to ‘get lost, kid’. Supposedly, Ian was most upset at this. My own feelings are that if Burroughs really said what he was supposed to have said, then it must have been intended playfully. Ian said later that Burroughs had simply said that he hadn’t got any copies left.
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Next week’s extract includes Michael’s first 1982 diary entry.