Tony (Bigissue) Peppiatt was there
This is written 34 years after the event; forgive me if
some details have been blurred over the years….a lot a of
water (along with lager and vodka) has flowed under the
bridge since then.
October 22nd, 1979. Derby, east midlands. Considered, by a
pair of teenagers from out of town, as a cultural desert.
The newly opened Assembly Rooms have been roundly savaged
as an acoustic nightmare by all who have played there but
here were we, eighteen years old, fresh from sixth form
and flush with our £26.00 a week earned as trainee
managers with the local Co-op, armed with tickets for the
third visit to Derby of the mighty Buzzcocks. Now seasoned
gig-goers, we had already caught the previous two gigs, at
the Kings Hall (where the local swimming baths were
boarded over to create a venue) and although not enamoured
with the new Buzzcocks album, felt it was rude not to
Monday nights in Derby were a particularly dreary affair,
so a gig on a Monday would be at best, sparsely attended.
So, no queue on the door, and an assortment of punks,
raincoats and student types dotted around the bar. Having
purchased our over-priced lager in plastic pots, we could
hear the muffled sound of the support group starting up in
the Main Hall. Richard, my mate from school and work, and
I had made a pact when we started going to gigs that we
would always give an act “three songs” before we decided
whether to stay and enjoy or go back to the bar (a maxim
that I still employ all these years later).
The doors to the Main Hall we opened by a genial old dear
with ear plugs in and we wandered in towards the stage. No
problem with the view, there could have been only thirty
people at most watching. They were not dancing. They we
ALL stood shock-still. Open- mouthed. And so were me and
Richard. There was a saying in Derby, used when you were
moved beyond words…..GOBSMACKED, and we were. A yellow
light illuminated the lead singer, a gaunt, slack mouthed
figure in a two-tone shirt, contorting and grimacing to
the music. The bassist, a mean looking bloke with an
unfashionable beard was glaring at anyone who dared meet
his gaze. The drummer, concentrating hard, was a blur of
precise and insistent beats…..(god knows why New Order
would ever need a drum machine) and the guitarist, better
looking and younger looking than the rest, at the same
time looking cooler than the rest but scared to death. I
nudged the bloke next to me, who I recognised as working
at R.E. Cords, the local indie record shop, and mouthed
“who are….” “Joy Division” he hissed “from Manchester.”
The music was urgent, hypnotic…..different. We had come to
see a punk band and we were witnessing the future. Songs
that I was to become to know as Digital, Transmission and
Day of the Lords washed over us, a feeling of euphoria was
begin to surge. We had never heard anything like this, and
yet we were trend-setters, we listened to John Peel and
read the music papers….how the f*ck had we missed these??
Ian Curtis lurched, twitched and reeled in what I could
only describe to a mate later as ‘spaz-dancing’. Not PC I
know, but it was the seventies.
Then it was over….twenty minutes that changed my life.
Sorry Buzzcocks, you can not follow that. They came on,
but seemed dated, out of touch, yesterday. We left early,
talking non-stop about what we had witnessed, wondering
what singles and albums these guys had, impatient to get
to R.E.Cords to buy and hear them again.
Fast forward thirty years, and Anton Corbijn’s film
‘Control’ had a special festival showing at Derby Uni.
Taking along my 20 year-old daughter, raised on JD, New
Order and the Stone Roses, I sat waiting for the start.
And who did I see three rows in front of us; Gordon, the
guy from the record shop, who had told me their name (and
who organised a trip later to see New Order’s second gig
at the Rock City, and who I had not seen since). I smiled
at him and he grinned back….we belong to a special club,
with only about thirty members, who can all say “we were
there” when Joy Division first played Derby.
Tony (Bigissue) Peppiatt June 2014
Image courtesy Omega
Auctions. From Peter Hook's collection which he
auctioned off in March 2019.