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.
This weekend the people of England prepare to shed their respectable garbs and unleash the villain within, in celebration of our annual ghoulish rollick. Meanwhile, the 31st October will mark the most solemn and cherished ritual of occultists across the country – the day upon which spirits and demons are temporarily liberated, and dark forces reign. This Halloween, delve into Lucifer Rising – Gavin Baddeley’s romping popular history of sin, devil worship and rock’n’roll – and take a step towards understanding the satanic forces that inspire our yearly homage to all that is devilish and demonic…

Like many before it, this book asks the question, why does Milton’s Lucifer cut a far more attractive figure than the Christian God? Why, across the ages, do we persistently have sympathy for the devil? In his delectably irreverent style Baddeley sets out to overturn our assumptions about good and evil, revealing the issue to be anything but black and white.

For example, did you know that ‘Lucifer’ derives from the Latin ‘light-bringer’ – allying Satan with Prometheus from the classical world? Just as Prometheus handed us the flame of truth, risking the ire of the Gods, so too did Satan hand us the fruit of knowledge. Across mankind Christianity has been pitted against Satan, wilful ignorance and conformity against curiosity independence and pleasure: These [says Baddeley] are the roots of Satanism.

Lucifer Rising takes us on a journey through the Satanic tradition and its most enigmatic leaders, beginning with Aleister Crowley – self-styled prophet who predicted the Aeon of Horus (aka Age of Satan) descending upon the twentieth century to liberate us from the strictures of Christianity – to Anton LaVey, founder of the twentieth century’s Church of Satan and dubbed its very own Black Pope. If the author admires the individualism of these figures, nor does he shy away from the less savoury aspects of the Satanic tradition. For example the direct link between the Thule Society and the emergence of the Third Reich, and the sinister strain of ‘Faustian Fascism’ still extant amongst some Satanists today.

Amidst the good and the bad Baddeley identifies Satanism as a source of resistance – allied to a history of creative counter-cultures putting a middle finger up to the establishment. At the forefront of this rebellion have been musicians, revealing how the history of devil worship is inextricably bound to that of rock’n’roll. Lucifer Rising tracks some of history’s most (in)famous, infernal collaborations: from the Rolling Stones notorious ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ to the demoniac self-styling of ACDC and KISS; the primal sounds of heavy metal bands like Metallica, through to the political anarchy of the punk bands like The Sex Pistols.

Baddeley reveals just how intrinsically the iconography of the devil has permeated the popular culture of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, suggesting Lucifer is indeed rising. This book is ultimately a celebration of the hubristic individuals that have flown in the face of the status quo – a reading of which might inspire you to make a more permanent alliance with the dark side this Halloween. The author himself ultimately throws in his lot with the devil, hailing the Aeon of Horus as the new age of curiosity, independence and pleasure, in which, ‘The Devil is winning.’

Lucifer Rising has recently been reissued with a new cover (see below).


It’s finally happened…

Whether you like it or not, we have reached that age where the language of texting/internet slang is no longer confined to comfort of the screen, but has succeeded in creeping into our day to day conversations. The way we communicate is constantly changing and evolving, and it can be tricky to keep up.

Well fear not! Balthazar Cohen, the genius behind Totes Ridictionary, is back and here to help, with Totes Ridictionary 2: The Super-revised, On-fleek Edition, containing only the most up to date phrases and abbreviations.

Totes Ridictionary 2 is more than just a guide to teen slang. It is also a pocket sized youth culture bible, that offers insight into the origins behind the latest phrases and the contexts in which to use them (Did you know, for instance, that ‘on-fleek’ was coined by a woman named Peaches Monroe, who used the phrase in reference to her impressively well-groomed eyebrows - ‘eyebrows on-fleek’). Expect more where this came from, plus appearances from celebrities and conversations between popular historical figures as our author explores the connection between technology and language, in both a positive and negative light. Some would argue that this evolution of language is an inevitable and beautiful thing, which should be celebrated. Others would suggest that day to day English language has been ruined by slang and perhaps long for a #Throwback to a more hashtag-free time. 

The author digs deep into the complex realms of youth culture. He offers a satirical take on slang, and, in a more implicit way, takes a look at the role that irony and humour play in the popularisation of these phrases: For instance, there are only so many times you can use ‘lol’ as an ironic alternative to actually laughing out loud, or pose for ‘‘ironic’’ selfies until all sense of irony is lost.

Cohen demonstrates the simultaneously terrifying and incredible impact of the internet upon language and culture in a refreshingly light-hearted manner. Filled with fancy new phrases and cultural insights, Totes Ridictionary 2 promises to be a fun, witty read that can be appreciated by members of all generations and makes for the perfect gift.
Totes
 
From September 10 to February 26 the Victoria and Albert museum are holding an exhibition entitled ‘You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970’. It documents the fascinating subculture and social revolution of the 1960s.

The appeal of the 60s appears to be immortal. There is something inherently cool in the idea of society’s outcasts coming together to create something great, be it significant social change or the vision of Woodstock. The reality is that these were deeply troubled times, and any revolutionary ideals came out of necessity. Something I felt the V&A did particularly well was balance the excitement, fashions and flair of the decade with a realistic representation of the issues faced. The 60s wasn’t all sugar-coated psychedelic pop and free love, and this exhibition acknowledges that.

Upon entering the exhibition each ticket holder is given a pair of Sennheiser headphones (the company also provided the audio experience for the renowned ‘David Bowie Is…’ exhibition at the V&A in 2013). Whilst walking down the hallway towards the entrance, the jangling chords of The Who’s ‘Magic Bus’ begin to play, before you come face to face with an entourage of album covers from the era, alongside quotes from the likes of Bob Dylan. The audio then synchronises with a film featuring famous faces of the decade talking about their feelings looking back. Twiggy, for example: ‘It was a time when you didn’t need much money to survive.’

From this point, you are taken into a room that defines the set dates of the exhibition (1966-1970) and sets the scene with artefacts such as the chair from the famous Christine Keeler photoshoot, John Lennon’s glasses, and poetry from writers such as William Blake that inspired the beat poets.

Meanwhile, the soundtrack chosen by the V&A evokes a great deal of emotion; Sam Cooke’s velvet voice on ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ speaks of the deep injustice ingrained in society and reminds you of the reality of the real world, while you look at the brilliant colours of psychedelic paintings that aim to take you away from it.

After a series of rooms, presenting subjects ranging from psychedelia to societal revolutions of the time, the exhibition culminates in a surreal representation of Woodstock, where those who feel so inclined can lounge on the beanbags spread across fake plastic grass and take in a massive projection of footage from the festival. This last room feels a little contrived, but then again, perhaps this is fitting considering the modern reincarnation of the festival dream, with sponsors, flooded wifi and glamping.

It was an ambitious mission for the V&A to bring together every aspect of an era where things changed overnight. The result is therefore completely over
whelming, but this should come as no surprise. Thinking back on it, the experience of attending the exhibition is a colourful blur, although as the comedian Charlie Fleischer observed, ‘If you remember the ‘60s, you really weren’t there’ so for an exhibition that aimed to faithfully recreate the decade, perhaps this is a desirable result.

The end of the exhibition also considers the changes made between 1966-1970, and the ripples of those changes that we can still see in today’s society. Although the outlook seems positive, in a world where war continues to ravage the lives of innocent people and police brutality in America (the black panther movement was a particular focus of the exhibition) is an ongoing issue, it is perhaps more important than ever to consider the 60s values of peace, love and the fight for an equal society. After all, the times, they are still a-changin’.

Friday, 30 September 2016 09:15

James Dean: Rebel Life

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Today marks the 61st anniversary of James Dean’s death. Actor, cultural icon and all round legend, it is not unrealistic to expect that the name James Dean will still be referenced in casual conversation for many years to come. 

But what was it exactly about this brooding Hollywood star that made him quite so legendary? Find out, as John Howlett uncovers the secrets of James Dean’s past, detailing his rise from a modest, country upbringing to the glamour of the silver screen. This biography includes interviews and quotations from the man himself, as well as conversations with close friends, family members and co-stars. 

In the opening chapter, Howlett covers the early years of the young ‘Jimmy’ Dean and his (slightly dysfunctional) Indiana childhood. Although bright and highly talented, Dean is portrayed by the author as a socially awkward outsider who struggled somewhat in school, both in terms of the social dynamic as well as a lack of application to academic subjects. Photos reveal a gawky-looking, bespectacled ‘Jimmy’ in his high school basketball team photos, an image that contrasts almost comically with the cool, edgy effortlessness that we have come to associate with James Dean. 

The author then focuses on James Dean’s acting career, including his most notable films East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause. The reader is given behind the scenes insight into the experience of working with Dean (both positive and negative!) through interviews with his contemporaries, including fellow actor and friend, Natalie Wood. 

John Howlett also addresses the ongoing ambiguity that surrounds James Dean’s sexuality. This has always been a subject of great intrigue for fans. Despite his relationships with various women, rumours of Dean’s alleged affairs with other men were often at the centre of media gossip, particularly at a time in which prevailing attitudes towards homosexuality were less than tolerant.

The final chapters explore the devastation of the doomed actor’s untimely death, at the age of 24. This includes an especially poignant extract from an interview with Natalie Wood. Wood talks of having dinner with a group of James’ friends that night: ‘We were talking about Jimmy’s lifestyle and Nick ventured the opinion that Jimmy wouldn’t live to thirty. We pooh-poohed the idea.’ Wood and her companions would have been crazy to think that this statement would come true that very same night…

James Dean: Rebel Life is an informative and well-written biography, and one I would certainly recommend. The writer manages to wipe away the gloss of Hollywood and offer the reader a more human side to James Dean, behind the chiselled jaw line and the smoky stare (so to speak). Even if you are, as I was, completely ignorant on the topic of all things related to James Dean, it still proves to be an interesting read and serves as the perfect tribute to one of Western popular culture’s greatest legends.

‘I don’t think I’m such an amazing person who needs to be written about’ - Amy Winehouse

We beg to differ…

September 14th marked the birth of the legendary musician, Amy Winehouse, who would have turned 33. Although her music was often overshadowed by her media representation as a troubled soul trapped in a drug driven cycle of self-destruction, Amy will always be remembered for her phenomenal talent, as well as her surprisingly down to earth attitude towards fame.

Amy is renowned, not only for her striking voice and musical ability, but also for her talent as a lyricist: it is perhaps the blend of the two elements that made her music so unforgettable. There is such genuine quality to her music that provides a refreshing alternative to the constant stream of sugar coated commercial pop. Amy Winehouse wrote on a variety of different topics and aspects of life, although she is perhaps best known for her songs on love and heartbreak, drawing deeply from her own personal experiences. In celebration of Amy’s incredible legacy, we thought we’d share with you a small selection of her greatest and most relatable lyrics.

1. ‘We only said goodbye with words/ I died a hundred times’

Taken from the song Back to Black, which describes a particularly difficult break up, there is a beautiful simplicity to these particular lines that so accurately capture the pain and emptiness that come with ending a relationship.

2. ‘For you I was the flame/ Love is a losing game’

Much like Back to Black, these lyrics to the song Love is a Losing Game have a mournful, despondent quality to them. There is a sense of resigned nostalgia (an acceptance of the situation perhaps) to the words, which gives the song, as a whole, a slightly retro feel.

3. ‘He can only hold her for so long/ The lights are on but no one’s home/ She’s so vacant/ Her soul is taken/ He thinks, ‘What’s she running from?’

Taken from the song He Can Only Hold Her, these lyrics differ from the majority of Amy’s songs, as they are written in third person. The song describes a relationship between a man and a woman in which the man is emotionally invested, yet the woman is in love with somebody else. The third person voice reinforces the woman’s sense of emotional detachment. It is possible that Amy is writing about herself in this scenario.

4. ‘His face in my dreams seizes my guts/ He floods me with dread/ Soaked in soul/ He swims in my eyes by the bed/ Pour myself over him.’

This song I Wake Up Alone is arguably Amy’s most heart-breaking piece, and explores the obsessive, nature of love and infatuation, and that haunting feeling of not only missing someone, but feeling their presence long after they have left.

5. ‘He walks away/ The sun goes down/ He takes the day/ But I am grown.’

Ending on a more cheerful note, these lyrics from the song Tears Dry on Their Own explore a similar theme to Back to Black (taken from the same album, and written about the same person) and are also relatable in terms of their simplicity. Unlike Back to Black there is a sense of hope and positivity, conveyed through the lines ‘But I am grown’. Perfect listening for those final stages of getting through a break up!

That concludes our list of Amy Winehouse’s top love themed lyrics. Why not let us know your favourites via social media, or, if you are interested in finding out more about Amy Winehouse’s life and works, take a look at our book ‘A Losing Game’ by Mick O’Shea
Thursday, 08 September 2016 14:03

Welcome to our blog!

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Welcome to the Plexus Publishing blog!

Keep an eye out in upcoming weeks as we'll be posting book reviews, information on our titles and some sneak peeks at what we're getting up to in the Plexus office. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to stay up to date.


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