In the spring of 1980 I started listening to Mike Read on Radio 1 while I did my homework and found that he played some good music. This may come as a surprise when you consider the aging Brexit calypso-playing Cliff impersonator who has slipped into the twilight of his professional life like many of the DJs of your memories of Radio 1, recalling better days to five people on the Internet. The evening slot played newish music that had sometimes percolated down from John Peel‘s show on its way to daytime. A few years later it was a home for major label bands of the kind that fetched up at second tier Poly SUs on a Tuesday, and the 50p racks of record shops but under Read’s tenure on the way to the morning show it played the sort of music I was reading about in Record Mirror (and why I read Record Mirror instead of the NME is another story).
Anyway, one night in early May, he was pleased to announce the first play of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division. I knew the name from my reading because even then they were definitely an up and coming band, but I hadn’t heard them then. The song, a rattle of crisp drums, melodic bass and icy synthesiser with tenor croon in midfield, was a huge difference from the serrated edges of punk. I had found my entrance into new music, and a week or so later I took my paper round money to Fox’s in Doncaster and bought two things: Not ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart as it wasn’t out yet, but ‘Holiday ‘80’ by the Human League, on the strength of their namecheck in the Undertones’ ‘My Perfect Cousin’, and the 10” of ‘Messages’ by Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark. I took them and played them over and over again on the elderly Garrard I had inherited from my Grandma.
I heard that Ian Curtis had died not long after, possibly with Mike Read delivering the news. The video for ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ was played on ‘Fun Factory’, ITV’s Saturday morning show of the time, which was made by Granada and may well have had some bearing on its appearance. That weekend I took my paper round money to Fox’s and bought the single and played it over and over again.