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. 

The Blue Monday Diaries: In the Studio With New Order is available from Amazon both in Kindle and paperback format. Click here to find out more.

Next week’s extract includes Michael’s first 1982 diary entry.
Published in We Are Live!
Over the next four weeks we will be sharing extracts from The Blue Monday Diaries: In the Studio With New Order by Michael Butterworth. This book is a memoir of the time he spent with New Order in 1982, whilst the band was recording ‘Blue Monday’ and Power, Corruption and Lies. Butterworth kept a handwritten diary documenting this period, when he was both living with the band and going with them to Britannia Row studios during the recordings. This diary forms the centre of the book.

The blog posts that we will be sharing are selected passages from The Blue Monday Diaries. These are simply highlights, which are explored in much greater detail in the book.

The first two posts set the scene, describing the late seventies, when Stephen Morris and Ian Curtis found the Savoy bookshops.

Documentarians of Joy Division and New Order, seduced by satanic mills, the city’s seventies doom-laden veneer and the moody black-and-white photography of Kevin Cummins reflecting a true Taste of Honey version of Manchester, usually stop at Joy Division. The cloud that hung about the city seemed to oppress its inhabitants, especially its youth, and it is not surprising that the spirit of the Sex Pistols, in the form of Joy Division, rose with anger and a cold cry of anguish there. But for me, rather than being distinctly separate bands, Joy Division and New Order are aspects of each other. The aspect I will be documenting here is the band’s sunnier one, the side that, for pragmatic reasons, happens to have called itself New Order. For me, they are the Mancs who finally cut loose from their own and their city’s past; who, with other bands, discovered black swagger and cool in New York.

As part of Factory Records, the band grew up in a parallel world to my own, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time to record a part of what they brought back. There was another side to the Madchester music explosion, one that is largely unknown, that isn’t recorded in the annals of the city’s musical history except in the underground press and covertly in books like Clinton Heylin’s history of rock bootlegs, The Great White Wonders. The company that conceived and disseminated this alternative culture began in 1975, a few years before the founding of Factory. The publishing house, Savoy Books, consisted of David Britton and myself, and the early ‘edges’ of these two companies, Savoy Books and Factory Records, overlapped and cross-influenced one another.

In a city that was still trying to emerge from its industrial past, its buildings blackened from soot, coping with wartime decline and the purging of its nightlife by police, the company’s retail outlets were oases of alternative youth culture for bands including Joy Division and New Order. Inhabited by young rockers, leather-clad punks and would-be Baudelaires from the science-fiction wastelands, and positioned on the run-down edges of the city centre, these bookshops – House on the Borderland, Bookchain, Orbit Books – formed a kind of occult triangle about Manchester’s respectable mercantile heartland. Gaudy posters, fly-pasted around the city guided the wary and not-so-wary citizens to our door. It was an area staked out as Savoyland.

Growing up as children and teenagers in the late 1950s and sixties, the formative experiences of David and I were seminal rock’n’roll, the literary experimentalism of the Beats, the music of Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa, and the UK underground magazines Oz and Ink. By the seventies, instead of conforming, as many of our peers were doing, we just carried on.

Our attitude was expressed in the books we published, but it carried through into our retail businesses, where our young shop managers – each a specialist in their own areas of comics, music or literature – reigned supreme over their cultural fiefdoms. At Bookchain, they outdid one another by compiling tapes of newly-released punk and post-punk music, cranking the volume up on the shops’ sound systems so high that the music was not just audible inside the shop but also yards away outside in the street, advertising the iconoclastic presence of Savoy Books. Over there, on that side of town, may be Factory Records. But over here, on our side, something different was happening.

Meccas for the rebels of the city’s street life the shops held a particular allure for the Electric Circus/Ranch/Rafters/Factory/Beach crowd in the sparse era before the chain stores, emboldened by pirates like us, came to monopolise the markets. An integral part of Manchester’s music and literature scenes, we sold bootleg records in the days when such a venture was dangerous. The bootlegs were principally of Bowie and Roxy Music (the backbone of rebellious youth culture), quickly followed by the New York Dolls, the Sex Pistols and any vinyl bearing a candid photograph of Debbie Harry on its hastily printed sleeve.

The Blue Monday Diaries: In the Studio With New Order is available from Amazon both in Kindle and paperback format. Click here to find out more.
Published in We Are Live!
Cookies make it easier for us to provide you with our services. With the usage of our services you permit us to use cookies.