The Complete BBC Recordings


History on its shoulders, this ephemera weighs heavy indeed.

It sounds like it’s being broadcast from Alexandra Palace in the early days of the crystal set. The “rare interview material” trumpeted by ‘The Complete BBC Recordings’Richard Skinner jovially quizzing two young men from Manchester about what they think of [a]Gary Numan[/a]’s claim that “machine rock” is the future – is perhaps, the only way in which this record might raise a smile. “No disrespect to [a]Gary Numan[/a]”, they say, their true feelings clear, “but what we do is what we do.”

There’s no need for justification now. Recorded 21 years ago, these brief broadcast tapes have taken on the dark glow of relics, tokens of a band who hover darkly on the skyline wherever you stand. This is Turin Shroud-style ephemera, a spot of apocrypha for the bible fanatic: a tape-snippet of Ian Curtis and Stephen Morris, two Peel sessions, a previously unreleased television recording from [I]Something Else[/I] and that’s the “complete” BBC archive.

For a band of such looming status, it’s valuable witness-bearing, parallel-universe versions of textbook history. Perhaps most compelling are the compare-and-contrast versions of ‘Transmission’ and ‘She’s Lost Control’: the first set, recorded for John Peel in January 1979, laden with buckling tension and incipient panic; the second, taken from [I]Something Else[/I] – where Curtis‘ dancing brought angry phone calls from viewers claiming he was “on drugs” – something of a culmination, a febrile sprint through the misery, a sudden chaotic yelp. Alternate versions of the monumental ‘Exercise One’ and ‘Sound Of Music’ add to the most obvious canon, while elsewhere, superb takes on ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, ‘Colony’ and ’24 Hours’ are instant shots of unflinching chill and cruel clear-sightedness.

History on its shoulders, this ephemera weighs heavy indeed.