As a follow up to our three part interview from earlier this week, Jon Wozencroft and Mike Harding dug deep into the Touch archives for some key artefacts which would help illuminate their thirty year history.
Jon Wozencroft: Next year we plan to release an archive series of recordings and documents insomuch as copyright and traceroutes allow us. Our long interview with The Liminal is one catalyst for us to look at the things that we’ve got, to try and shine light on the past as a way of making more sense of the present. Here, Mike and I present a few memories to start the process going. Happy holidays and happy New Year to everyone.
New Order cassette master
The liner card tells you that the recording was made as the soundtrack to a video, heralding the opening of the Haçienda nightclub (which took place on 26 June 1982). The title seems to have suddenly changed at the last minute to 5–8–6 (this is manager Rob Gretton’s handwriting).
This is funny, because when Mike and I went to meet Rob and the band in Norwich Pennies nightclub in May, they premiered the vocal version of 5–8–6 that would be on the 2nd Peel session (1st June 1982) and on the Power Corruption and Lies LP. So the title had to be amended again. (In 2011 the track was resurrected and has become a key element of New Order’s current live set).
I was helping out Mark Johnson at the time who was writing a book about Joy Division and New Order; for all its flaws it was one of the first in a steady stream since then – “An Ideal for Living”, it was called, after the first record. He got it into his head that the track should be called ‘Prime 5–8–6’ and it annoyed the hell out of me when a lot of people thought that was the true title, after it was printed as such in his book.
I’d had a conversation with Steve, Bernard and Rob in the upper circle of The Venue in Blackpool after the soundcheck for the gig that they played on an August bank holiday, the 30th, and we’d settled on ‘Video 5–8–6’.
We were very much into video then as a way of extending the visual element.
It’s as well to remember how difficult it was to get moving image work made and distributed at that time. In my mind, cassettes have always been the companion to VHS video. Both have the special advantage that you can cue them exactly, in position. You cannot do this with CDs or DVDs in the same way.
When we finally came to release ‘Video 5–8–6’ on CD in 1997, HMV agreed to make it “Single of the Week” in their stores and in their advertising. Great, we thought. We never twigged that we were meant to pay for this privilege, and sell the digipaks to them for 50p, for retail at £1.99. We were going to lose 3 times for every 1 copy we sold… In the words of Steely Dan, “get back, Jack, do it again”…
Danger in Paradise
By the time of the 3rd magazine, Touch Travel in 1984, we’d started to get the hang of how to get the best sound out of cassette mastering. Meridians 1 & 2 had a diverse range of sources, from professional studio recordings (A Certain Ratio, Ludus, John Foxx…) to portastudio and walkman items; trying to maintain an even flow over the course of a 60 minute cassette was quite a challenge. Rob Keyloch, a friend of Garry Mouat’s, helped considerably in this respect. Andrew McKenzie was busy with the first The Hafler Trio release at this point – Bang! An Open Letter – which is one reason why none of his stuff is on Touch Travel.
In commissioning the recordings for Touch Travel, I’d been in contact with David Toop who lived round the corner from me off the Holloway Road. He contributed some superb field recordings from his Venezuelan trip recording Yanamamo shamen, and also though some serendipity, suggested this recent collaboration he had done with David Cunningham and Steve Beresford – General Strike. Two tracks came out on TT, but the whole session was so good, we really wanted to release it, and eventually persuaded David, David and Steve to agree.
The first “solo item” we did was, however, Waterglass by Sayno Productions – Eddie Sayer and Simon Tassano. This always an obscure item, somewhere between early ambient and world music.
Danger in Paradise, however, was the first serious attempt we made to act like we could be a sort of/against a record label – it wasn’t made available on LP, only cassette, which we got professionally manufactured. Richard Cook (from the NME) did the sleeve notes. It was an act of faith on our part that a cassette-only release could be as seen as important as vinyl was.
Garry had gone to Germany by this time, so Panni Charrington and I did the artwork – the A6 booklet was also perfect for the format, so we made it look like an oversized cigarette packet, and inside we used great travel photos we’d seen by Martin Proctor that were on display at the Commonwealth Institute when we’d started the discussions for a subsequent release, Drumming for Creation, documenting the African music played there in the Summer of 84. (We’ll make this available next year as one of the archive releases).
David Cunningham re-released Danger in Paradise on CD on his Piano Records imprint in the late 90s. Together we changed the artwork and used frames from Rupert Bear comics instead. This worked well – looking back on it, the 1984 version is very much of its time… another Letraset job, because we couldn’t afford typesetting and pay the artists. David tells me he is preparing the third edition of it. It’s a great recording and as contemporary as ever.
Chris Marker’s Sunless was a resonant background to the putting together of this release.
The Trouble with Typesetting
Two factors converged in quick succession to change the way the printed word was distributed – first was the 1986 Wapping dispute, which centred around newspaper printing technology and the destruction of the Trades Unions that had previously held dominion over each phase of the printing process. In the early 80s, graphic design was a much more distinct profession than it is now. And to order typesetting from a photo-typesetting bureau, you had to be a member of the NGA (National Graphical Association).
The second factor was of course the advent of the PC, or in the case of the graphic design profession, the first Apple computers and towards the latter half of the decade, Quark XPress software ¬– the desktop publishing platform of choice.
Here you can see one of the typesetting bills from Meridians 2. We talked about the idea of “audiovisual publishing” – it was a difficult undertaking, because of course if you break with regular formats and try and do something different, the print costs, especially, were very high. Underneath this Focus invoice, which was billed to Assorted Images, where Garry worked with Malcolm Garrett, you can just detect Neville Brody’s signature for a separate invoice he would have billed for the costs he incurred for his work on the release.
When Garry moved to Düsseldorf in 1984, by chance I got my first record cover job from Iain Scott of Triple Earth Records who alongside us was an early promoter of World Music. I didn’t have the time to get NGA membership together so I used a local ‘Kwik Copy’-type bureau and had the choice between 5 typefaces, of which I chose Century Schoolbook and Helvetica. (Even the East End typesetters would only offer you 30/40 choices at this point, and you had to shop around to find anything obscure).
10 years later you’d have 10,000 typefaces available, thanks to the PC’s liberation of type design. Nowadays, typesetting comes at no cost, unless you want to have a bespoke font designed for you.
Whether the quality of typographic practice has increased in proportion is a moot point. But it gave the spur to ‘Contact’, to ‘Vectors’ and to FUSE. Many things change in a short period of time.