Tuesday, April 24, 2007

WHEN NIGEL MET HOOKY…




…On the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Hacienda and the 10th anniversary of its closure, Nigel Pivaro chats to fellow Salfordian legend, Peter Hook, about New Order, the hac, the new Ian Curtis film and life in Langworthy and Ordsall…

Photo by Lyndsey Winnington

In 1970’s Salford there was a lone house standing defiantly amongst the rubble of Ordsall’s demolished streets. This was the Hook family home. Thirty-four years later, in stark contrast, I am sitting in the kitchen of Peter Hook’s fantastically appointed 19th Century cotton magnate’s mansion near Wilmslow. The commodious cooking cum breakfast room is triple the size of the homes of Hooky’s upbringing in Ordsall and Langworthy, and the space and décor befit his expansive physical presence and personality.

This is a man who has been famous, not to say iconoclastic, for thirty years. When one considers Hooky’s contribution to contemporary music and his continued input, there is no sense that the house and the five cars on the drive, are not more than earned. Yet despite the obvious self-recognition of his own achievement and the work ethic behind it, Hooky still takes time to consider his good fortune. And he is not averse to expressing a little guilt for having escaped Chimney Pot Park.

His best mate still lives on Langworthy Road and he genuinely feels for the plight of the families. He is angry on their behalf. He is angry that the place has gone down the pan, incredulous that it was allowed to happen.

“What amazes me is how the place degenerated from when I lived back there in Harmsworth Street” he says “It’s an unbelievable occurrence, where did all those people go?”

He’s also distraught that sometime mutual champagne quaffer, canapé muncher and former club owning (Home) fellow traveller Tom Bloxham has chosen to develop the place for the benefit of wealthy outside professionals. At the expense of his Salfordian brethren.

“I don’t know who I feel sorry for most, Chimney Pot Park or the yuppies...It will be like Assault on Salford Precinct 13” Hooky predicts with ironic mirth “I’ve always thought that if Salford people are with you, you’re rocking, if they’re against you you’re f***ed”.

Peter Hook first rocked with Joy Division in 1977. “We didn’t set out to be rock stars” he explains “We were just naïve lads enjoying ourselves.”

I ask whether it was this same naivety that allowed him and his musical confederates to go along with the Ian Curtis choice of name for their first band. How did they get away with it ?

“Ian got it from a novel The House of Dolls” Hooky replies “He saw it as identifying with the women of the concentration camp brothels, identifying with the oppression of the women of the Joy Division. It wasn’t a celebration of the Nazis, quite the opposite.”
.
I remember my first few episodes of Coronation Street where they’d written this party scene, asked me what tracks I’d like playing in the background, and I wanted Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division. They came back a bit later and a hapless researcher said that the director wouldn’t allow it because of the name. When I approached the director, a dour Scot, he was nearly apoplectic and started ranting `Not only are these bastards called Joy Division, they then form a new band and call themselves New Order’.

So what was the thinking behind New Order ?

“That was from a newspaper article and it was titled `The New Order of the Khmer Rouge’” Hooky recalls ““We were really impressed with it, and we thought `great, yeah, we’ll call ourselves The Kmer Rouge’ for whatever reason, probably being incredibly drunk and stupid…”

It gets worse, I think to myself...Cambodian mass killers…

“But then we sobered up” he adds “and somebody said `You can’t be called Khmer Rouge’…So Rob Gretton, our manager, ripped the newspaper in half in frustration, threw it on the table and when it landed, there it was, the half with New Order on it. Barney picks it up and says `That’s it, New Order, we’re gonna be called New Order’.

“The alternative was The Witch Doctors of Zimbabwe because that was the headline on the next page, so radio DJs and record sleeve designers should think themselves lucky” laughs Hooky.

The desire to entertain and to provide entertainment for the youth of Manchester led Peter and the band into a 15 year roller coaster of hedonistic masochism with the legendary Hacienda nightclub. The club was opened basically so the band, by then New Order, and its entourage had somewhere to go. Hooky talks of the Hacienda with the reverence of a distantly deceased lover, who provided both pleasure and pain and was ultimately uncontrollable. He’s now pleased that at least the building isn’t some tacky tourist spot.

“At one time Virgin Clubs were bidding to buy it” he says “and I’m glad they never got it because it would have been like seeing your ex girlfriend out with somebody else.”

There is understandable resentment at what happened to the club, how it made millions but inexplicably lost even more money than it generated. Hooky refers to this as a tragedy, not least because it was his and the band’s money that was keeping the club afloat. The debacle of all the mismanaged finances provided one of the stories for the cult film 24 Hour Party People.

“What was earth shattering to me was losing money on every copy of Blue Monday, nobody had bothered to add up the figures and then it turned out to be the biggest selling 12-inch single of all time” he says “It added insult to injury, when people in the audience at the film were laughing about it. I thought `What are you laughing about you bastards? It’s not even funny’. But it was funny because you’d have to be a complete idiot to make one mistake and a complete idiot to make two mistakes…the club and the record…”

And who does Hooky attribute that to?

“Tony Wilson of course, and Rob Gretton and us for letting it happen…crass stupidity” Hooky retorts, gripping a steak knife just a little too tightly “Someone wasn’t concentrating, because they didn’t do the figures right. To survive in a shop or selling newspapers on the corner you’ve obviously got to get your figures right otherwise you’re not gonna survive are you? It was allowed to continue for years because our money was subsidising Factory…”

Hooky is currently writing a book on the history of the Hacienda…

“I was doing the research this morning, was looking at the figures and we worked out what the Hac earned in 15 years…It earned £15 million, mainly in cash, and that’s on top of the money that we put in. And it all disappeared. I mean, where the hell did the money go ? Because nobody went off to Brazil spending it all on charley and hookers. I’d have been quite happy about that. I mean, if Tony or Rob had phoned me up from Rio and said `I’ve got all your money and I’m surrounded by charley and hookers’ I’d have gone `Top lad…great… fantastic…don’t care…good on you’ because I would have probably done it myself if I’d had the chance. But the fact that it was wasted…it’s heartbreaking.”

Despite the amusing imagery, one feels the sap rising as Hooky delivers his monologue at staccato pace. He continues…

“What I hate is that you get very few chances in life and to blow them is a complete waste of time. We were working our balls off, watched our mate die, still carried on, worked hard, toured hard, made good records, earned money and then it just gets wasted...”

He pauses for a second…

“It’s the same as Chimney Pot Park, isn’t it ? Where’s all the money going ? Where’s it gone ? Nobody will tell you…”

I interrupt Hooky to dwell on his astute comparison, and state that when you look at the £88 million that the Housing Market Renewal fund has purportedly spent on Central Salford (basically Langworthy) we’ve got very little for our money. Hooky nods in agreement.

“It isn’t there is it ?” he says “And what really upset me about it was all the information that Salford Star was asking for, that was relevant, they weren’t allowed to have…Someone’s gone `If we give this to them then we’re f***d, that’s our jobs down the line’. You don’t get many who do what Salford Star is doing because normally little people are left to get walked on.”

Despite his reservations about the content of 24 Hour Party People, Hooky is more positive about the new film, Control, based on the novel by Ian Curtis’s widow, Deborah, and due out this summer. He’s seen the finished film and is happy with the overall product and, specifically, his depiction in the movie. The film is directed is by Anton Corbijn, who photographed many of the bands of the late 70s and 80s, including Joy Division. The producers had the benefit of Hooky’s advice on the areas concerning the band. However Deborah was ultimately sidelined from the making of the film.

“She thought she was going to be consulted and in control of it but at the last minute it didn’t happen” he says “Anton just went off and did it himself, she was really pissed off about it.”

So, beyond the obvious shock and sadness at the loss of a friend, does Hooky feel any resentment towards Curtis for committing suicide ? It came, after all, on the eve of what would have been Joy Division’s first US tour. The answer is a genuine `No’…

“It was just a job that we all loved and it was being taken away from us” he recalls “We were all on thirteen quid a week, we didn’t get any beer, there was no excess involved, except for a lack of sleep…”

And the women ?

“There were no women, English girls are not like that, why do you think New Order went to America?” he laughs “The decision to carry on was easy….the kinship that you had with the group, the roadies and the people around you meant that even though Ian was gone the rest of you were still together. It wasn’t like your best mate had died and you were on your own. So even though it was awful we just thought `We’re gonna carry on’. We did worry about replacing Ian because he was so fantastic and unique, but we still had the music.”

27 years on, I ask Hooky to what he attributes the longevity of the band. He half jokingly puts it down to “how easy going” he is, and quickly adds that “you don’t get as much time for murder”. He might have legendary status but this hardly registers with him…”I still have to go out and pick up the dogshit and trail round Sainsbury’s every week”.

This humility is indeed disarming but what is even more touching is his continued connection with Salford and its people, coupled with his concern about what happens to them. Hooky knows first hand the brutality of having his home compulsory purchased for demolition. The family house in Rothwell Street, Ordsall, was the last to be pulled down, and stood defiantly whilst his mother fought the council for a house in Swinton, only to be disappointed by the final offer of Little Hulton. That was at least preferable to Ellor Street flats. Now, deservedly living in his mansion in Cheshire, Hooky’s lived the dream, but how does he view Salford now ?

“I don’t really see a happy ending and I’m very sad about that” he says “To me the strength of Salford has always been its people, and when those people aren’t treated well you haven’t got anything. What I’m concerned about is the massive amounts of money that’s been spent on buildings like the Imperial War Museum, The Lowry, and the BBC thing…but when it comes to looking after people the council can’t seem to get it together….It makes me think I’ll put myself up for election and I’d do better than that…”

Well Hooky if you did, you’d certainly get my vote….

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