BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

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Copehead
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BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

Postby Copehead » 12 Jan 2018, 08:11

There is probably a period in your life when you listen to music more intensely, more intensively and more collaboratively than any other; for most people this period is probably in their teens to early twenties when they listen to music a lot with their friends and they use it to impress each other.

My period probably lasted 6-7 years or more and ran through the early to mid 80s.

The early 80s were an odd time musically New wave had died out we were having revivals of previous music scenes as pop music move into autophagia. The big noise in my peer group was the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, one of these revivals, which was pretty thin gruel; apart from Iron Maiden and Diamond Head little has stood the test of time. The other was the even smaller Prog Rock revival of Marillion, Pallas, IQ. Pendragon etc. The rest was shiny pop made my men in shiny suits singing shiny soul, the NME tried to sell this to us but we weren't interested, we bought Sounds instead as it wasn't prissy and didn't sneer at guitars. There were people doing interesting things with synthesisers and a lot of this was obviously good, but mainly for dancing with girls at discos to not for buying and putting on the deck.

The deck was important, around this time I bought my mate's Pioneer deck, B&O speakers and ???? Amp to upgrade from the piece of shit plastic turntable with 50p on the stylus head that had sufficed up till then. I think this plays quite a big role in the story, having a good stereo cannot be overestimated.

So what do you do when you have a new sound system, a bit of pocket money and the charts are full of shit? You start hitting the second hand racks at Cob records is what you, and so do all your mates with their stereos and pocket money and you start time travelling and as most of it is 50p a pop you are fairly catholic in your purchasing you also buy new albums and as you have a circle of 7-8 friends a lot of albums get bought and shared around and it is amazing what wins the Shit or Hit of the day: Barclay James harvest Concert for the people (Berlin) ? Hit, Going For the One? Hit Tormato ? Miss, Led Zep 2, 3 & 4 ? Hit everything else Zep? Miss; 5 mIles out? Big Hit, Ommadawn? OmmaYawn.

Basically we were going back over the rock music of the previous decade an half in a fairly haphazard way based on what was in the 2nd hand bins and what you could get your hands on new in Cob or from Britannia Music - Rainbow Rising from the latter mainly. I have parlayed this story a few times but all music was not at your finger tips and authorized lists of what was cool did not exist, if it wasn't in the charts it was unlikely to be in stock and if it was more than a year or two old and obscure it would probably have been melted down to make ABC albums. It was a jungle.

We would listen to everything from someone's Billie Holliday's greatest hits to Argus to The Great Rock n Roll swindle - because most of us had started listening to music properly during punk and we still had stuff from that period or friends older brother's did.

Of course we also had Peelie and this is where I start getting to the point, at this stage he wasn't the only one he was up there with Tommy Vance ( or Richard Rees radio wales' rock show host ) and of course at this period pickings were probably a bit slim for Peelie as well but occasionally he'd play a Joy Division or New Order track or something else from the Factory label, and we came to know that we must buy Factory label products and we came to know they were difficult to find, they didn't turn up in the 2nd hand bins, unless it was Still, they didn't have band names in big letters on them, you had to look at the small print, sometimes literally. What I am guessing happened here was that Joy Division singles and albums were steady sellers for Cob so they put in a regular order for a few bits of vinyl every few weeks or months and if you were the lucky person rifling through the 12" bins when they had just done that you could probably pick out Transmission, Everything's Gone Green, Temptation; I think I had all of them pulled out because I'd spotted the house style of Factory, I also had all 3 JD albums, but something had eluded us all.

But Plem ( Dr Aled Plemming Consultant Obstetrician Ysbyty Glan Clywd these days ) found a copy, pristine white, winter trees in snow: Atmosphere. I wont bother posting a link here we all know how it goes.

So how many of us are sitting in our little den when that goes on the turn table? somewhere between 5 and 10 as per usual all patiently waiting for a Joy Division song to start, hiss crackle hiss, portentous synth chords, that tribal Mo Tuckerish drum rumble and Hookies bass then:

What the fuck is that? Have we put this song on at the wrong speed? What is this warbling?

How were we to know that Tony Wilson had ill advisedly given Ian Curtis a Frank Sinatra record and told him to try and sing more like that?

What to make of it, do we laugh nervously, this doesn't sound like Joy Division, confusion reigns

Of course what pulls it through is the absolute conviction of Ian Curtis as a vocalist, he means it man, that much is plain, the song winds up the intensity, power chords are slashed across the record Ian Curtis starts to snarl "People like you, find it easy, naked to see, walking on air" this is no laughing matter this is chilling, and back to stillness as he implores the target not to walk away from him.

So what do you do? You put it back on again and again. You go down to Cob and find your own copy and play that over and over again.

We know the story now: the conventional married man with young daughter, the artist with the bohemian girlfriend, the epilepsy. But you don't need any of that to be moved by the ferocity of that song you certainly don't need a video of load of moody monks walking up and down a beach.

I think hearing this song for the first time effected me more than any other which is why I can remember all this extraneous shit associated with it, I can remember the room, the people, the sense of occasion of getting another piece of Joy Division vinyl, the confusion on hearing the start of the record and the absolute conviction that it was one of the most amazing things I had ever heard in my puff a few minutes later.

tl;dr Proustian is the mot juste, and I could happily listen to that song every day for the rest of my life
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Re: BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

Postby never/ever » 12 Jan 2018, 08:28

Superb.
Need to gather my thoughts to properly express what this song meant to me.
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Re: BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

Postby Fonz » 12 Jan 2018, 10:57

I like most JD, but this just plods. One of my least faves by them.

But, I enjoyed your write-up. I can identify with a lot of it.
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Re: BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

Postby Toby » 12 Jan 2018, 12:04

Yeah I'm not a fan of it but this was a great write up. I never had that circle of friends listening to music until my early 30s.

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Re: BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

Postby The Modernist » 12 Jan 2018, 12:22

I'd say there was a hell of a lot more happening in the early 80s than NWOBHM or the neo-prog revival ( I wasn't into the former but it was big, the latter was marginal at best), but that's by the by, I realise you're talking about your own personal experience here.
I bought both Transmission and Atmosphere, not quite when they came out, but within the year I think (probably in late 80,I was still in school anyway). I'd undoubtedly heard 'Atmosphere' on Peel, but I don't think I knew the record that well when I bought it.

The sleeve was incredibly evocative, austere but beautiful, just as the music was. The music was really not like anything I'd heard before, other than having a vague resemblance to something off Low. Those cascading chimes sounded so magical to me and gave the record this exotic, otherwordly quality. Curtis sang with such conviction, such moral authority, that it both overwhelmed you and empowered you. The record, propelled by Morris' epic, stentorian drumming, seemed huge and significant in ways I could barely understand.

We've probably all burned out on it now, but I think the record has dated well, it still retains much of its power.

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Re: BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

Postby Deebank » 12 Jan 2018, 12:39

I think it was Scot Walker that Wilson said IC should aspire to bruv.

I remember laughing at the silly voice first time you told me it was the ‘best song ever’*... not laughing now! In fact there are a significant number of tunes or voices I thought ridiculous that became essential.


*it became a cliche among my mates that you had a new ‘best song ever’ on a daily basis. Stopped clocks and all that!
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Re: BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

Postby Bent Fabric » 12 Jan 2018, 13:01

I enjoyed reading that.

Without whipping out our respective birthdates, I think I was both young and landlocked enough to have taken JD as a retroactive item after the fact, digging back from New Order, aided by the release of their own Substance singles (with odds and ends on the CD) comp, the odd single you'd find that had somehow stayed in stock or print ("Love Will...", of course), and then the albums and the rather abundant bootlegs (no one will remember it, but the so called Warsaw release - "Ice Age", "They Walked In Line", etc. - was prime contraband for my friends and I who archaeologically discovered JD).

All of which is to say that "Atmosphere" was surrounded by all of this relatively immediate, accessible music at the point of discovery ("Transmission", "She's Lost Control") and may have, for many years, remained an absolute jewel hidden in plain sight.

Nothing about its eventual reputation as a towering cathedral of art/music/sound is overstated or hyperbolic, to my way of thinking. It is very much "all that and more".

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Re: BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

Postby Deebank » 12 Jan 2018, 13:56

I’d like to add that the mighty Solina string synthesiser plays a big g part in this tune (indeed lots of JD and early NO).
It’s a unique and gorgeous sound.
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Re: BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

Postby Darkness_Fish » 12 Jan 2018, 13:57

It's definitely one of the greatest songs ever recorded. Magnificent.
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Re: BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

Postby northernsky » 12 Jan 2018, 14:00

Deebank wrote:I think it was Scot Walker that Wilson said IC should aspire to bruv.


No, Curtis was on a Sinatra tip according to the Grant Gee documentary. The rest of the band thought Frank was fookin shite, to paraphrase Barney in the film. They were wrong.

Deebank wrote:I remember laughing at the silly voice first time


Me too. I was wrong.

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Re: BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

Postby Deebank » 12 Jan 2018, 14:03

northernsky wrote:
Deebank wrote:I think it was Scot Walker that Wilson said IC should aspire to bruv.


No, Curtis was on a Sinatra tip according to the Grant Gee documentary. The rest of the band thought Frank was fookin shite, to paraphrase Barney in the film. They were wrong.

Deebank wrote:I remember laughing at the silly voice first time


Me too. I was wrong.


Fair dos

Sounds more like a bad SW impression though.
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Re: BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

Postby Deebank » 12 Jan 2018, 14:08

In reply to Moddie...

While Nu Prog as a whole wasn’t a massive movement perhaps, Marillion were a phenomenon. Not many bands got as big as quickly. They sold out the MK bowl - otherwise the venue for rock gods - Bowie, Genesis etc - after their first LP was released. They were one of the biggest live draws of that era.
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Re: BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

Postby The Modernist » 12 Jan 2018, 14:31

Deebank wrote:In reply to Moddie...

While Nu Prog as a whole wasn’t a massive movement perhaps, Marillion were a phenomenon. Not many bands got as big as quickly. They sold out the MK bowl - otherwise the venue for rock gods - Bowie, Genesis etc - after their first LP was released. They were one of the biggest live draws of that era.


Yeah perhaps, I think of them as more mid 80s and I'm not sure that one band constitutes much of a movement, but it's all a bit irrelevant to the subject of the thread anyway.

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Re: BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

Postby Goat Boy » 12 Jan 2018, 15:10

Nice write up, Copey. You should do more of this and less of the political bollocks!

It was a very personal record for me when I was young and angry. It was actually one of my “funeral” records in my early 20s so make of that what you will. I don’t listen to Joy Division these days but Atmosphere still sounds like their unimpeachable peak to me. I’ve said this before on BCB but I think it’s power ultimately comes from its suggestion of another world beyond the physical one and the possibility of a journey between those two worlds. That shimmering celestial hook that announces the chorus and the synth melody strongly suggests some kind of light at the end of the long, dark tunnel to me. A spiritual release from the purgatory of the real world. By the time we get to the end and the synths fade away I can visualise a weary traveller finally reaching the ocean after some epic journey, lying down on the beach in weary, blissful exhaustion, resting their head on the wet sand. As pretentious as that no doubt sounds that’s the feeling I get from it.

It’s this metaphysical element that lifts it above their other work for me because as powerful as some of those songs undoubtedly are, they are still earthbound, they still remain in purgatory. Atmosphere suggests there is something Other and it’s this place which is our ultimate destination.

It’s a great record.
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Re: BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

Postby OCT » 12 Jan 2018, 15:13

Blimey!
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Re: BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

Postby The Modernist » 12 Jan 2018, 15:40

OCTO-ARM wrote:Blimey!


I think he's been reading Dante's Inferno or something. :lol:

I do know what he means though, I get a similar thing from it.

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Re: BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

Postby OCT » 12 Jan 2018, 15:41

I don't (I think it's the least of their Big Four).

But I like to read what people say, nonetheless.
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Re: BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

Postby Goat Boy » 12 Jan 2018, 15:44

The Modernist wrote:
OCTO-ARM wrote:Blimey!


I think he's been reading Dante's Inferno or something. :lol:

I do know what he means though, I get a similar thing from it.


I have read no such thing!
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Re: BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

Postby Darkness_Fish » 12 Jan 2018, 15:49

Goat Boy wrote:
The Modernist wrote:
OCTO-ARM wrote:Blimey!


I think he's been reading Dante's Inferno or something. :lol:

I do know what he means though, I get a similar thing from it.


I have read no such thing!

Spoilers - It's a revenge-fantasy wank. "Ooh, Bill from Accounts, he owed me a fiver, he's gonna get his eyes pissed into by acid-micturating demons forever". But in medieval Italian, which would be a bit pompous now, but was apparently acceptable at the time.
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Re: BCB 100 Songs - Atmosphere

Postby Deebank » 12 Jan 2018, 16:05

The Modernist wrote:
Deebank wrote:In reply to Moddie...

While Nu Prog as a whole wasn’t a massive movement perhaps, Marillion were a phenomenon. Not many bands got as big as quickly. They sold out the MK bowl - otherwise the venue for rock gods - Bowie, Genesis etc - after their first LP was released. They were one of the biggest live draws of that era.


Yeah perhaps, I think of them as more mid 80s and I'm not sure that one band constitutes much of a movement, but it's all a bit irrelevant to the subject of the thread anyway.


Fair enough.

For context though, all Will's music listening contemporaries thought Marillion were shit IIRC :lol:

At their height a nu prog band (that I like), IQ could sell out a couple of nights at Hammy Odeon and get a hundred or so along at Bangor Uni's JCR.

For contrast, a few years later, sophisticated early '80s music fans' darlings Furniture barely managed two men and a dog when I put them on in Brighton - perhaps that's testament to my poor promotional skills though.

Anyway, back to Atmosphere ...
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