50 greatest producers ever

Various associations might spring to mind when you think of Joy Division: the tragedy of Ian Curtis, moody post-punk Manchester, drunken nights at your local indie club, or perhaps just the dodgy ‘Unknown Pleasures’ tattoo which your mate’s mate has.

How about Martin Hannett? The truth is, without his spark of production genius, Joy Division could have ended up as just another ’70s post-punk band, and British music might have missed out on one of its defining sounds.

Photo: Chris Hewitt/Recordcore, martinhannett.com

Manchester born and bred, ‘Martin Zero’ (the name he used for signing on) produced both Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’ and ‘Closer’ albums in the image of industrial Manchester – giving them that dark, distinctive atmosphere which has blown the minds of every generation since. Hannett was obsessive in his attention to detail and quest for sonic innovation.

This is the man who used to make Joy Division rebuild their drum kit on the roof, and got a device made to recreate the beats he heard in his head – which in turn came from the air compressors in the huge Manchester factories. This is also the man who wanted Factory Records to spend their money on a state-of-the-art recording studio instead of spending it building the Hacienda. In this, according to bassist Peter Hook, Hannett was “absolutely right” when the rest of Factory were “absolutely wrong”.

Today (April 10) marks the 21st anniversary of Hannett’s death from heart failure, following a desperately sad descent into heroin addiction. To mark the occasion, and as a tribute to a musical visionary, I’ve put together 10 tracks which were produced by the legend himself:

Buzzcocks – ‘Boredom’
Taken from their ‘Spiral Scratch EP’, this was the first punk-rock record ever to be self-released; the band had to borrow £500 from their friends and families to pay for its manufacture and production.

Joy Division – ‘Disorder’

The lead track taken from their ‘Unknown Pleasures’ album, which never actually made it past number 75 in the album charts; living proof that that charts mean nothing.

New Order – ‘Ceremony’

‘Ceremony’ was written as Joy Division, but after Ian’s death it was carried over and released by New Order.

Happy Monday’s – ‘Lazyitis’

One of the best-loved tracks from the Mondays’ 1988 album ‘Bummed’; proof that Martin’s production not only shaped post-punk, but the Madchester scene too.

U2 – ’11 O’Clock Tick Tock’

According to Hooky, he was in the studio with Hannett one day when a group of “wet behind the ears” 15-year-olds walked in. Turned out to be U2.

Joy Division – ‘Atmosphere’

Following the death of Ian Curtis, this was released as a savagely poignant single… which randomly made it to Number One in New Zealand.

The Stone Roses – ‘So Young’
Martin produced the Roses’ debut single, before they had developed their signature sound. It was apparently disowned by Ian Brown because “too much enthusiasm and not enough thought” went into it.

A Certain Ratio – ‘Do The Du’

A pioneering slab of post-punk-funk from one of the more underrated Manchester bands on this list.

The Stone Roses – ‘Tell Me’

The early sounds of The Stone Roses – a nice, bright production job, though not sure this one will be featuring at the Heaton Park gigs…

John Cooper Clarke – ‘I Wanna Be Yours’

On his recorded work, Manchester’s ‘punk poet’ was musically backed by The Invisible Girls’; one of whom was Martin Hannett.

If you’d like to learn more about Martin Hannett, I’ve made a radio documentary about him, which you can stream below.