Thursday, May 22, 2014

UK Indie Hits: 1980-89 (No. 10)

I'm counting down my top 50 singles from the golden age of the UK Independent Charts.

10. Joy Division - "Transmission"

Other Contenders: Outside of Peel Sessions, "Atmosphere" and a little song called "Love Will Tear Us Apart" are the only other charting singles. At 195 weeks, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" had the longest indie singles chart run of the entire '80s. In case you're interested, "Atmosphere" (70 weeks) and "Transmission" (77 weeks) also show up in the top 10 of the longest indie chart runs.

Chart Entry: Jan. 19, 1980

Peak Position: No. 4

Comment: I'm not sure if I'm in the minority, but I don't really think of Joy Division as a singles band. When I put them on, I usually listen to 'Closer' or 'Unknown Pleasures' from beginning to end (followed soon after by a much needed nap). I do have a few specific favorite Joy Division tracks, but they either weren't released as singles or didn't make the chart. "Warsaw," "Isolation" and "Digital" are the first to come to mind, but to leave "Transmission" off of an indie singles list would mean questioning the countdown's legitimacy in its entirety.

The trouble I have with handling this band has more to do with placement. I would never question anyone putting this song at No. 1, but No. 20 doesn't seem ridiculous to me either. Where things get muddy is when you weigh history and the band's importance in it. There is arguably only one other band on this countdown with such a legacy (I haven't quite reached the other yet), but when it comes to specific songs, there really are at least nine other songs from the indie chart I listen to and enjoy more than "Transmission," and this is all about indie singles.

Did you notice how I managed to almost completely ignore the more successful "Love Will Tear Us Apart?" Listen, great great song, but I'm just not sure those three-and-a-half minutes are the best representation of the band... plain and simple. If you like it more than "Transmission," I don't agree, but I do understand. It's pop brilliance.

Oh, and our pal Dirk at sexy-loser recently had a very interesting take on the subject of Peel Sessions vs. original studio recordings, and "Transmission" is one of the songs open to debate. If you get a chance, check out the comments section and weigh in at the end of his post. Great topic.

Buy "Transmission" on 'Substance 1977-1980'.


Echorich said...

Love Will Tear Us Apart stands on its own for me. I agree it's not typical of the JD sound. Transmission is much more that sound. Love Will Tear Us Apart sits comfortably in my Top 10 of all time, but it's the sound of Ian Curtis and JD pushing at the walls they found themselves in.

Brian said...

What can I say? Truly, one of the all-time great singles... and that's where I know I contradict myself. I feel comfortable with Transmission in my top 10 too. Enjoy the holiday weekend. Hope it's a sunny one for you.

Echorich said...

Brian - I very much agree with your choice - not sure if that came through reading back my comment - I think one of the great things about Transmission is that it is one of the only - if not the only JD track that is possible to cover. It's a powerful rock song.

Brian said...

Not too worry, my good man. We obviously love both of these songs.

Dirk said...

Just imagine they'd have chosen to release 'Disorder' as a 7": then you'd REALLY have a hard time deciding ....

I think the main problem here is that 'Atmosphere' and 'Love' have been so frequently displayed over the years that we tend to think they are kind of mainstream and thus don't consider them in comparison to 'Transmission'. But especially 'Atmosphere' is such a special song, I think I would have gone for it instead!

Brian said...

You wouldn't have to look far to find someone to agree with you. No. 1 in 1980 and No. 2 in 1988 when it was reissued. Like you said, a special song.

Séamus Duggan said...

has one of my all time favourite b-sides as well - Novelty - and remains one of the most played seven inches of vinyl in my collection.

Brian said...

Good to hear from you, Seamus, and an unforgettable flip side. A best B-sides series would be a fine idea.