Music documentary series. In the 1970s, a time when even the Sex Pistols were on a major label, the true act of rebellion was to release music independently.
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This programme contains some strong language.
Starting in the 1970s, a countercultural movement would
change the way music was made for ever.
From grass-roots beginnings in the backwaters of Britain,
a new DIY approach to music making would give rise to a whole new genre.
Not just the sound but an attitude and an ethos.
This is indie.
MUSIC: Disorder by Joy Division
We'll discover why it spoke so perfectly to a generation
and reveal how this music for misfits eventually came of age.
So, what is indie?
Is it a genre of music generally accepted to involve noisy guitars?
Is it a business model, small companies not beholden to
major corporations, or is it a state of mind?
What's clear is the sense of rebellion.
40 years ago, the major record labels had total control of
the music industry and making your own record seemed completely
out of the question, and it would take a ragtag bunch of outsiders
and misfits to start the revolution.
My whole thing about independence - it's not about whether your record's
distributed by an independent person or it's an independent label.
It's not about that, it's about spirit.
I think indie seemed to be something that people would gravitate
towards and then embrace it 100%.
Guitar music suddenly came back into the charts in a big way.
And then everything was independent.
Independent was as broad a church as the record companies could make it.
It was a statement - "This is what I want to do".
A lot of bands just put their own records out
without even a record deal.
The major record companies just thought what
we were doing was unbelievable.
Instead of 10,000 watching or 5,000 watching,
actually there was 20 of you in there loving this moment.
Although it would have been great at the time
to have been given a shitload of money, you know.
If you had something to say you could try and do it yourself.
It just felt like it was attainable.
It felt like it spoke to you and it felt home-made.
# He painted Salford's smoky tops... #
Our story begins in 1976.
# And parts of Ancoats where I used to play... #
One Thursday the NME came out and I said, "Look, there's a band here
"who do a Stooges song."
So that evening, we drove all the way down to Reading.
The next day we set about trying to find The Sex Pistols.
We phoned up the NME and they said, "Their manager has a clothes
shop on the Kings Road," and that's how we met Malcolm McLaren.
# Get off your arse! #
We saw them and we thought, "Great, this is like what we want to do."
They said they wanted to play somewhere outside of London
so me and Howard just decided to put on the show ourselves.
# I am an antichrist
# I am an anarchist
# Don't know what... #
The Sex Pistols concert at Manchester's Lesser Free Trade Hall
in 1976 has achieved legendary status.
But that's not what it felt like at the time.
I don't know if Manchester noticed The Sex Pistols had played.
The most important thing was that the few people who were interested
in the same kind of music came along to check out what was happening.
Morrissey was there, Peter Hook and Paul Morley.
Were you at it?
Half the people who were there weren't there.
What the Pistols were doing were kind of what
we wanted to do, which was basically start a band.
# One, two, three, four! #
Punk came with an attitude. It was all about DIY.
This spirit quickly spread out
and infected the worlds of journalism and fashion.
# Bind me, tie me Chain me to the wall... #
The thing a lot of people had in common across the country was
a sort of DIY aesthetic.
So, you know, we were doing vintage clothes.
You'd go to London and meet other people who are doing it.
Vivienne Westwood was putting clothes together,
which inspired us, so it was across fashion.
There were fanzines rather than magazines.
People were just doing it regardless.
It was that feeling of wanting to get involved, you know.
A girlfriend worked in an office that had a photocopier.
They were pretty primitive in those days, photocopiers.
A lot of them on that very oily paper.
She snuck into work in her lunch hour and knocked out a few for me.
I took them to the store and said, "You know
"I was talking about doing a magazine? Here it is.
"Sniffin' Glue And Other Rock 'n' Roll Habits."
"Great. How many you got?"
"I've got 20."
"We'll have the lot. Can we have some more?"
Yet this was a time when even The Sex Pistols were on a major record label
and the idea that a band could do it themselves
and cut a record independently seemed like an impossible dream.
But here in Manchester, Buzzcocks were about to revolutionise
the music industry - not that it seemed that big a deal to them.
MUSIC: Boredom by Buzzcocks
In about October '76,
we thought it would be nice to hear what we sound like.
It would be good if we could actually make our own record.
It was like a mystical process.
# Boredom, boredom... #
We found out that we could have 1,000 singles made for ?500 with
a picture sleeve and also including recording costs.
It seemed feasible. We found this... Well, basically a hippy.
He always wanted to be a record producer
and his name was Martin, Martin Hannett.
So we booked the studio and recorded Spiral Scratch.
# Boredom, boredom.... #
We thought "Well, we need a sleeve now."
That Christmas, my mum and dad had bought me
a Polaroid black-and-white camera.
Richard took the photo and we used that for the Spiral Scratch.
We knew the people who ran the local Virgin store.
We said, "Can you sell these?" Which they did.
We sent a copy to John Peel. He played it.
# Boredom, boredom. #
It was only about a month or so,
we'd actually got rid of the whole thousand.
So it was surprisingly easy!
It was a revelation. Up till that point, there was kind of
a bit of mystery about it, how to make a record.
It involved people snorting coke in, you know,
mansions in Beverly Hills and all this lot.
Once Spiral Scratch had happened, everyone in a band felt empowered
to do whatever you liked, on your own terms,
and you could do it outside of London.
Once it proved to be commercially viable,
to actually be part of the music business,
everything is up for grabs.
And suddenly, we're in a new world.
One of the bands inspired by Buzzcocks
were their fellow Mancunians Joy Division.
Got to do a record.
It's what everyone was doing, so how hard can it be?
Our first mistake - in fact the biggest mistake that we made -
was wanting to do four songs.
We didn't realise that cramming that much music on a tiny little disc
made it sound a bit shit.
We thought, "It'll be all right - value for money!"
# So long sitting here
# Didn't hear the warning
# Waiting for the tape to run... #
We went to Pips, number one in Europe, this disco
in Manchester, which was doing New Wave nights, punk nights.
"Put our record on, put our record on!"
They'd been playing all this loud music
and they put ours on and it sounded...
"Nya nya nya nya"...
"What's this shit?!"
But help was at hand in the unlikely form of a local TV presenter.
I didn't know what to make of Tony.
Tony was very likeable and irritating on television.
Everybody in Manchester felt they knew Tony Wilson.
"You're that bloke off the telly! Yeah! Tony Wilson!"
He loved it! He loved it. He loved that people...
Hated him! Hated him!
He was great, you know, he was totally cool.
He was a bit like...
Tony was a bit like that kind of teacher at school
who would give you a go on a spliff or something, you know what I mean?
Oh, he looked like a hairdresser to me,
with kind of poncey hair.
He was a bit of an anomaly, really, wasn't he?
He was such a genius guy.
Wilson was a complex person.
The on-screen genial buffoon hid a man of serious intent.
Inspired by punk and the Buzzcocks,
he decided to set up his own label, Factory Records,
in the South Manchester suburbs, here on Palatine Road.
In fact, in the front room of his mate's flat -
it's the bay window, just up there on the first floor.
And his business model couldn't have been more different to
that of the established music industry.
It was the kind of offer you can't refuse. I mean, it was basically,
"I'll pay for you to make a record, you own the music,
"and you can..."
His thing was, it's all about artistic freedom -
the freedom to fuck off.
Factory was not a business.
It was a statement of intent against the prevailing forces.
I do not know of a decision ever taken
in the 14-year history of Factory that was based on profitability.
Factory did things, and Tony did things,
because it was possible to do them.
The thing about Tony is you always got the impression
he's got big, big, BIG ideas.
He always thought big.
Factory is not just about records, it's about everything.
He was very into Manchester. He always thought it was underrated.
There was always, like, "Fuck you, London,
"what you can do, we can do better. We don't need you."
Next, Wilson assembled a pool of talent to run the label.
Martin Hannett, the old hippy who produced Spiral Scratch,
would take care of the music
and he recruited a talented art school graduate, Peter Saville,
to create Factory's distinctive look.
Everybody was living out their idealistic notion
of what it meant to be in pop culture.
To be, effectively, in kind of a form of Pop Art.
What gradually began to evolve was this autonomous collective.
Everybody did what they did the way they wanted to do it,
without anybody telling them otherwise,
and that applied to me as it did with the musicians,
as it did with Martin Hannett the producer,
as it did with Rob the manager,
as it did with Tony, the "impresario" of it all.
With all the elements in place, the question now was, would it work?
Joy Division's and Factory's debut album, Unknown Pleasures,
was to be the testing ground.
MUSIC: Shadowplay by Joy Division
Joy Division were the band I'd been waiting for.
They broke your heart when you listened to them.
# To the centre of the city where all roads meet, waiting for you... #
That bleakness, which, to be honest,
when you're in your late teens, early 20s,
is very, very attractive.
There was something mournful and soulful,
that people did come to associate with Manchester as well.
Rain, mist, cloud, fog, smog, long raincoats, everything monochrome.
It was as if that band had been forged in my imagination -
it felt personal.
I don't think any of us really appreciated it at the time.
We knew it sounded different
but, in a way, we thought it sounded a bit TOO different,
because it didn't sound like us!
Martin Hannett had an audio vision of what he wanted to create,
and he initially took Joy Division as the raw material of his ideal.
Unknown Pleasures is what Martin heard in Joy Division.
It's not what Joy Division played,
or necessarily the way Joy Division heard it.
He'd taken it and he'd... He'd future-proofed it, basically!
You know, he made it sound like nothing else.
We just didn't appreciate it at the time.
We thought, "It sounds a bit bloody weird!"
You thought it was awful.
I didn't think it was awful.
You were a bit disappointed, then.
You're disappointed because you'd always imagined it would sound...
You always have an idea in your head how it's going to sound.
That's the thing about doing music and recording.
When it doesn't sound like that, you're disappointed.
You don't think that he's put his own brilliance and stamp on it,
really. It's as though he's taken it off you and changed it all.
Yeah, he's a twat!
I think it was absolutely crucial,
Tony Wilson's view of creating a Northern empire.
I mean, he was very political.
And I think, for people in the North,
it was an incredible sort of badge of identity.
Tony Wilson created something out of a paradox,
this idea that we're rubbish, we're nothing,
and yet we are everything. And we are incredibly proud of that.
And I think people really tuned into that paradox.
# Take me, take me... #
The spirit of independence wasn't confined to Manchester.
In cities across the country, scenes were popping up,
all with their own local flavour.
In Liverpool the first sprouts could be seen
in the market stalls of the alternative fashion scene.
A lot of the punk characters were involved in retail, actually.
We were people who were forerunners in our fashion and style.
It wasn't catered for, so we kind of jumped in and did it.
The glamorous look of these people was very important to the music.
It was a set of very unusual characters, including
Leila, a transgender stall holder,
and the prima donna, Jayne Casey, with her head shaved bald
and painted silver, which really was confrontational and alien.
Holly was a fascinating character.
In a working class background,
to walk down the street looking the way that he did,
and to go to school with the attitude that he had,
I mean, it was just confrontation,
confrontation, confrontation, you know?
Punk had an effect on me.
Overnight, I stopped getting called a queer in the street.
And I was called a punk, which I didn't really mind.
It was kind of a slight improvement, in a way.
# You see me standing here... #
But it was here in central Liverpool opposite the site of
the properly world-famous Cavern Club
there was another dank, basement cellar
that became equally legendary.
This is Eric's, where the punks band played.
I came here as a student from Manchester,
went down the stairs and saw Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers
and it properly blew my mind.
But it was just the kind of sanctuary in the late '70s
that would form the meeting place for the misfits
who would guide the city's independent scene.
The disaffected all joined together in Eric's, really,
and they were disaffected for various reasons.
I'd spent my teenage years in children's homes.
My mother had died when I was five. My father tried to bring me up.
I left home at 14.
Holly and I and Pete Burns, the glam caucus of the Eric's scene,
what we had in common was, we were all abused children
and we were wearing our neurosis.
Eric's house band was Big In Japan.
Less than the sum of its parts, it included people who would go on
to achieve massive success in the future -
Ian Broudie from The Lightning Seeds.
Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
And it was formed by Bill Drummond, a set designer,
who went on to sell millions of records as founder of The KLF.
And we had the Tony Hatch Book of Pop,
which was the rules of pop music,
and the first rule was,
"If your singer can't sing, she must have big breasts."
So we knew we'd be fine!
Bill, he was a big sort of strapping Scotsman,
who wore a kilt for the performances.
He lived just near to me mum's.
And we would get the 86 bus together to rehearsals every day,
sometimes not speaking.
Bill was just a weirdo, you know?
There was this fascinating clash
between avant-garde, counter-culture ideas
and a really strong Presbyterian background
and that was really interesting.
# Suicide a go-go... #
Big In Japan had a theatrical aspect.
But each individual was doing their own thing
and doing what THEY thought was performing.
MUSIC: "Suicide A Go Go" by Big In Japan
Everyone acted out their fantasy
of what art-pop, New Wave superstar was.
And that's partly why it disintegrated.
With Big In Japan no more, Bill Drummond, with his partner,
Dave Balfe, decided to set up his own indie record label, Zoo,
to showcase other bands emerging from Eric's.
MUSIC: Pictures On My Wall by Echo and the Bunnymen
We did ask Bill Drummond for an interview
but in the independent spirit, he decided he'd rather do it himself
so he sent us this message.
August, 1978, Liverpool.
Big In Japan.
We were never going to be the one-hit wonders
we dreamed we would be.
So we split the band.
The dream was over.
Dave Balfe, a recently recruited bass player,
asked me what I was planning on doing next,
and I said, "Forming a record label."
And he said, "Can I do it with you?" And I said, "Fine."
And he said, "What do you think we should call the record label?"
And I said, "Bill's Records." And he said, "That's a crap name."
And I said, "OK, so what do you think we should call it?"
And he said, "The Zoo." And I said, "Fine."
So we started recording and we ALMOST succeeded
in recording bands that had never been heard of before
and were never going to be heard of again.
But people wanted to hear these bands again
and the bands wanted to make more records.
By 1980, the dream was over.
# Love it all... #
Zoo was the vision of Bill and Dave to try and make 50 quid.
I think it was inspired by Buzzcocks' Spiral Scratch single,
which was a very important single
to many Northern musicians
to see that, you know, someone could actually do that,
and have a kind of hit.
We thought, "Well, why can't we do that?" And so they did.
We just felt total amateurs. That's the main thing we felt.
We were running on ridiculous budgets.
We were all basically subsidised by the dole.
We would just about make 300 or 400 quid profit
on about 1,000 seven-inches, if we were lucky.
In 1979, this is how it worked at The Zoo.
Balfey and I would record the band in Liverpool.
We'd take the tape down to London in the Balfemobile.
We'd go round to the mastering rooms,
Alan would master it and cut it,
we'd take the acetate up to Lyntone pressing plant
off the Holloway Road.
We'd ask them to press up 2,000 copies of the record.
They'd say, "It takes two weeks." We'd drive back up to Liverpool.
Kev Ward or Alan Gill would design a record sleeve.
We'd have the sleeve printed down the Dock Road.
Two weeks later we'd drive back down to London, with the sleeves,
go into Lyntone, pick up the 2,000 records,
drive round to Rough Trade record shop, go in, play it to Geoff.
Geoff would say, "Great! I'll have 1,000 copies."
We'd go out to the car, sleeve up the records,
take it in, he'd hand us a cheque.
We'd drive down to Beggars' Banquet record shop,
somewhere south, I'd play it to Martin,
Martin'd say, "Great! I want 200 copies!"
We'd hand it over, get a cheque.
Then we'd drive over to Walthamstow, go into Small Wonder record shop,
play it to Pete, Pete would say, "Great, I'll have 400 copies!"
Give us a cheque. Drive back up to Liverpool.
Go into Probe Records. They'd say,
"It's rubbish, but we'll have all of what you've got left,"
and we'd hand them over.
Except we'd keep a box for ourselves.
We'd give two copies to each member of the band, one for himself
one for the mother.
Then we'd go up to Mike at the bank. We'd hand in the cheques.
Then we'd write out cheques and send them out to the studios,
the printers, the pressing plant, the band,
and then we'd send a copy out to each of the music papers,
The Record Mirror, the Sounds, the Melody Maker,
and a week later, it'd be record of the week
in one of them, or most of them.
The next day, Geoff would phone us from Rough Trade and say,
"I want 1,000 more copies of that record."
That's how it worked then. It was simple.
# This is the band
# Speaking... #
In its brief two-year span, Zoo launched the careers
of two of the most influential bands of the '80s,
Echo and the Bunnymen
and The Teardrop Explodes,
and hoped to create a sparkling, new kind of Mersey Beat.
MUSIC: Crocodiles by Echo and the Bunnymen
They're all really great songs that you can whistle on a ladder.
You see, I come from Liverpool,
where the Beatles were drip-fed into you at birth,
and proper songs and catchy lyrics and melody lines
were a part of your DNA
and musical and melodic songwriting really was part of the tradition.
It was like really good songwriting in a sort of punk clothing,
if you know what I mean.
# ..what you doing today?
# I'm gonna do tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow
# Oh! #
MUSIC: Blue Boy by Orange Juice
At the same time, another unique city sound was emerging.
This time, the scene revolved around Postcard Records,
north of the border in Scotland.
And the music was also really melodic,
borrowing heavily from funk and Motown.
It was seen very much as a reaction against punk.
# ..listening to her lying tongue... #
Postcard really, really wanted to celebrate and borrow
and steal bits of the past
to create an incredibly refreshing, modern now.
It was a wonderful magpie aesthetic.
But it also had a richness to it that
came from the talent of the people involved.
The label was founded in Glasgow by Alan Horne,
a self-styled boy genius
who ran the whole operation from a shelf in his wardrobe.
We have here the Orange Juice fan mail.
Alan Horne's mercurial ideas about running a record company,
what he could get away with, who he could annoy, who he could agitate.
And really dismissive of so much of what became known as post-punk.
"Yes, I understand confrontation. I understand aggression.
"But I'm not really interested in ripped clothes and air guitars.
"I'm going to do all that, but I'm going to do it
"with shortbread biscuit tins, '60s guitars,
"fringes, haircuts and charm."
Leading the way on the charm front were Orange Juice.
And their fresh-faced frontman Edwyn Collins embraced everything
that Postcard stood for.
MUSIC: Simply Thrilled Honey by Orange Juice
# I choose to rid myself of this tired, old clique
# You return to stand as one... #
We did feel that, when the label started,
that it was the beginning of kind of a new age.
I think the first record on Orange Juice,
it was like one day in the studio and we recorded three songs.
But what was good about Postcard Records, the idea was
Alan wanting to have a hit single,
independently, on Postcard Records.
# Worldliness must keep apart from me... #
Alan Horne and Edwyn Collins, they wanted their own hit factory,
they wanted their own production line.
And any visit to London was an excuse to taunt London.
"We're going to sit in our bedsit here in the West End of Glasgow
"and start a revolution with this box of singles."
I thought it was great, what they were doing.
It was a much more poppy sound.
It was much more accessible to radio,
and that was probably what Alan Horne was looking for.
He was looking for poppy acts because he liked that kind of music.
The idea that these effeminate yobs could represent the Scotland
of 1980 is ridiculous, and would have been ridiculous to them.
If you were to say, "The sound of young Scotland,"
you'd still think of Postcard. There's so much
that has gone overground that has grown from those roots.
With Orange Juice, The Go-Betweens, Josef K
and Aztec Camera, Postcard exploded onto the music scene.
And there was no shortage of ambition at Postcard
but, in common with other young independent labels of the time,
there wasn't always a firm hand on the finances.
You know, Alan pretty much was Postcard Records.
It was run on a shoestring, which was kind of quite frustrating.
I remember we used to try
and persuade Alan to maybe take on a partner.
Because he didn't run the business, Edwyn would say to us,
"You know, you won't get any royalties.
"Alan's spent all the money on Kentucky Fried Chicken."
Despite the amateurish aesthetic, Postcard possessed
a precociousness that was embraced by John Peel and the music press.
Yet the mainstream chart hits Horne really longed for were to elude him.
MUSIC: Gangsters by The Specials
It was here in the West Midlands that another young maverick in a bedsit
was looking to the past to set up an indie label.
This time, it was the ska records of Jamaica and the multiculturalism of
his adopted city of Coventry that were the inspirations.
# Said you've been threatened by gangsters...
It was here that the 2 Tone label was founded,
just past the dog groomer's.
It's not like anywhere else.
It really is an almost closed little enclave.
Wolverhampton was like a foreign country.
Go to Dudley, it was like, "Ooh, the jet-set."
You just didn't expect anybody to take any notice of you,
so you become an insulated little music society, really.
# I was there, we were having some fun
# When they come and take me away
2 Tone was ostensibly set up by Jerry Dammers.
It was his idea, his brainchild.
With a label which had a very specific identity
and a specific remit,
which was to be anti-racist, anti-sexist.
I think that young people seized on that and said,
"Yes, we understand that."
# Oh, danger, danger
# There's going to be a terrible fight! #
Well, Jerry's a genius.
Those songs are absolutely the best 1970s punk songs, you know.
# You've done too much, much too young... #
"You've done too much, much too young"
"Now you're married with a kid and you should be..."
I mean, that's so true.
# With me... #
Along with his own band, The Specials,
Dammers signed a number of local acts to the label...
..including The Selecter and The Beat.
Success was instantaneous.
# Try wearing a cap! #
Jerry's songs, to me, were a social comment.
From where we all lived at that time, in Coventry,
those songs were absolutely spot-on.
I would say that Jerry was the visionary, in that respect.
Mixing up rock music with ska music, which was a much more
up-ful beat than reggae, and turning it into music that people
could dance to, as well as music that people could think about.
And, at that time, there was plenty to say.
If you were a young black kid in particular,
there were sus laws on the street, so you could be picked up
by the police at the drop of a hat for no reason at all.
# What's up?! #
For that very, very brief period of time between -
what? - 1979 and 1982,
pretty much everything that the 2 Tone label put out became hits.
# But when I switch on, rotate the dial... #
There was a time, I believe, in 1979, early 1980,
where there were three bands, all from a tiny label called 2 Tone,
who were all on Top Of The Pops at the same time, which, you know,
even Peter Powell had to wear black and white on that occasion!
# On my radio! It's just the same old show
# On my radio! It's just the same old show... #
Unlike the other independents of the time,
2 Tone was pop, and it had hits.
# On my radio!
# On my radio... #
But, in common with a lot of the other indies,
it was driven by a charismatic Svengali figure.
Jerry Dammers was in a different league.
His actual vision was quite brilliant.
The money for the first record - that came from his landlord
because he hadn't paid his rent for so long, so to get him out,
he made him pay for the record.
And you know, that's Jerry.
And that's independent. That's what you had to do.
I think, with anybody who was involved in 2 Tone,
there were always two of them.
They were the person you saw on stage
and there was the person you saw on the tour bus.
They weren't necessarily the same thing.
Now, this is a record Richard Brad gave to me
when I shared a house with Brad...
Jerry was the very, very sharp mind
but affected this kind of...bumbling nature.
Nice piece of mohair.
THEY LAUGH AND CHEER
That puts people off their guard.
They don't really know how to handle that.
But what's going on behind it is something completely different.
And there's somebody who knows completely what they're doing.
You've also got to remember that Jerry was middle class.
Most of the rest of the people who made up those weren't.
He went to private school in Coventry.
That gives you a sense of entitlement
and he knew how to use that with record company types,
who probably also went to private schools
and all those kind of things, and were university educated.
When you saw him without his teeth, he was the darling of the NME.
What sort of pop star takes his teeth out, you know?
He did have false teeth when I first knew him.
Boosh, stood on them.
MUSIC: Ghost Town by The Specials
Almost inevitably, tensions tore the label and the band apart.
But not before they'd had time to create their masterpiece.
With record high unemployment leading to rioting in the streets,
Ghost Town topped the charts.
# People getting angry... #
Within two short years, 2 Tone had burst out
of its West Midlands bubble and taken the pulse of the nation.
# This town
# Is comin' like a ghost town
# This town
# Is comin' like a ghost town. #
In London, Daniel Miller had created a label to release just one record.
# TV OD
# TV OD... #
His passion for a then-unfashionable form of music would ensure
that Mute would ultimately achieve great things on a global scale.
# La la, la la la... #
Electronic music at that time was associated with prog rock bands
like Emerson, Lake and Palmer or Yes, a very overblown,
fake-classical music which I hated as much as punk did.
MUSIC: Wondrous Stories by Yes
I wanted to harness that energy and spirit and put it into
the kind of music that I really loved, which was electronic music.
MUSIC: New Life by Depeche Mode
His love for electronic music led Miller to
one of the biggest finds of the '80s.
# I stand still stepping on the shady streets
# And I watched that man to a stranger... #
I don't know why, but I decided to watch the support band.
They were kids with these really dodgy,
home-made kind of New Romantic clothes.
But each one had a little synth,
and they were teetering on the edge beer crates.
# New life, new life... #
They played one song and I thought, "This is really good."
Then they played another song and I thought... And the whole set
was just, like, unbelievable synth-pop,
brilliantly arranged and really great songs.
And so, I went backstage afterwards and I said to them,
"That was great. I'd love to... Are you playing again?"
Because sometimes you can't quite believe what you hear.
And they were kind of being slightly cool, but not really, you know?
More shy, I think. And they knew Mute, and they were fans of Mute,
and they said, "Yeah, we're playing here again next week,"
so I went back, and I said, "Let's do a single," and they said, "OK."
And that was it.
One of the things that was so attractive to Daniel
about Depeche Mode was that everything was portable.
This isn't gadgetry on Tomorrow's World,
this is actually the real thing. We're playing without a roadie,
we're doing it out of a hatchback, and we can stand here,
and we can fill this place,
and we could be in the charts, and we could be really successful,
and it's just us, and these buttons.
Daniel's new signing caught the attention of Seymour Stein,
a New York A man with a passion for the latest British sounds.
He would open the door to America.
I had one of the trades - Melody Maker or...
and it says, "Daniel Miller signs new band to Mute
"called Depeche Mode."
If Daniel Miller signed this band, they must be fucking great.
I had a small office in London.
Drove up to Basildon
and what I saw was amazing.
There were other bands at the time that were similar to Depeche Mode
but none of them... If you ever saw them live,
you would want to run out of the room. I mean, they were so awful.
But Depeche Mode were great live, you know?
So I signed them right there, on the spot.
# It's getting hotter, it's a burning love
# And I just can't seem to get enough love... #
I think he was the first person from an American major
who understood what was going on.
People respected him and trusted him.
Because he'd signed The Ramones and Talking Heads
and lots of other people like that.
And so, when he wanted to work with us, we thought, "It's America,
"seems to know what he's doing, he's got good taste and he's a great guy.
So, at that point, You just go, "Why not?"
Punk may have been the fire that sparked much of the independent
spirit of the '70s, but it wasn't the only game in town.
The hippie movement had morphed into a collective of squatters and
seekers who were experimenting with lifestyle and modes of expression.
And from this scene sprang Throbbing Gristle
and Industrial Records.
The story begins in the 1970s
when Genesis P-Orridge and his partner, Cosey Fanni Tutti,
formed the Coum art collective whilst living in a radical commune.
There were no walls on the bathroom or the toilet,
so everybody could watch you.
And clothes were all put in a box each night.
Whoever woke up first got first choice.
If you wanted money,
you had to justify it to everybody else in the commune,
and they would say, "Oh, can't you walk there?"
"Can't you borrow a bicycle?"
It was liberating.
Every little bit that dropped away, we felt more freed
and somehow more creative.
It was an art collective and it was very...
Because it became from people's
own personal fetishes, interests, anything you like,
then it was really diverse, and it got quite harsh, as well,
and tough, and visceral.
Performances became much, much more about transgressive behaviour.
OK, so, you can masturbate in private,
but why can't you masturbate in public?
It's the same act and everybody knows what it is,
so why is it suddenly shocking in one location,
but totally acceptable in another?
We started going deeper and deeper
which, inevitably, is going to come up against the status quo.
They hit the headlines
with their provocative prostitution show at the ICA.
But, tiring of the art world, they decided to try their hand at music.
They started Throbbing Gristle,
and a label, Industrial Records, to release it.
Then, they began to muse on how they might mess with this form.
THROBBING ELECTRONIC MUSIC
What's the thing that holds down rock music the most? The drumming.
Get rid of the drummer.
Lead guitarists are always trying to show off and do long solos,
so the guitarist has to not be able to play.
No fancy music of any kind.
Anything that makes a sound is an instrument -
a kitchen fork, an old tin, a piece of wood, anything.
THROBBING ELECTRONIC MUSIC
We wanted to do everything ourselves,
Sleazy did some of the artwork.
The production, the editing, everything, we kept it all in-house.
It was like a cottage industry.
We'd met William Burroughs in 1971
and were fascinated with his and Brion Gysin's Cut-Up deals.
And, again, we were thinking with the music, OK,
maybe we can cut up rock music, too.
So, Sleazy started to build gadgets,
using Walkman tape recorders, that had just arrived on the scene.
And it was six Walkmans put in series.
There were no samplers at that point.
Nobody even knew the word "sampler" then.
That's basically what we built.
What excited me, on their records, it was like,
they'd have this electronic almost Kraftwerk-type stuff.
Then, that other track was somebody, a conversation being taped,
which was the performance art side.
# Around in the neck, you know. # # Feeling better, feeling better. #
Then, another track about some horrible, sort of, disease
or some sort of perversion.
REVERBERATING ELECTRONIC MUSIC
It was so different in everything - in the music,
the way they executed it. Their gigs were truly alternative.
I went to one Throbbing Gristle gig.
In those days, it wasn't legal
that you had to have a limit on the sound decibels.
So, you'd come out of there and it's like, what had hit me?
It was just an assault from all sides.
But, it was establishing completely new boundaries,
and I liked that, and I liked the art form that went with it.
Throbbing Gristle released this, The Second Annual Report.
Their first totally home-made album on their own label.
To the bemusement of the band, it was met with widespread acclaim,
and is now regarded as one of the top 40 most influential albums
of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.
Melody Maker and Sounds and The NME all gave it five out of five stars
in their reviews, which blew our minds.
We thought, "What, what? They like it?"
THROBBING ELECTRONIC MUSIC
# Number 354. #
I was still at school when Cabaret Voltaire started.
We used to do a lot of kind of Xerox art and cut-ups and things.
So, when the first Throbbing Gristle came out,
The Second Annual Report,
and we got hold of a copy of that,
and, I thought, "They seem like kindred spirits."
Throbbing Gristle's next album
was intended to confound on a grand scale.
It was called 20 Jazz Funk Greats, which it wasn't.
And, once again, proved the folly of judging an album by its cover.
We were at home at Christmas with my mum.
And she said, "I know why you do all these things.
"Couldn't you just once do something with flowers, a pretty picture?"
And we said, "Hmm...Interesting."
It's like a Val Doonican cover, actually.
We took a picture of a beautiful beauty spot,
in really nice jumpers and things.
Gen was dressed in a nice white jacket,
and I was dressed in just a short little skirt
and little socks and things. Like we'd gone out for a picnic.
# Hot on the heels of love. #
We were all smiling.
We were right at the edge of the cliffs at Beachy Head
where dozens of people kill themselves every year.
But we've always thought it was interesting that
the information you give people changes what they experience.
We'd seen an album cover in - Woolworths was still around then -
in the bargain bin in Woolworths. It was, like, Jazz Funk Greats.
And it was like they couldn't sell it, you know?
So, we said, love to do that,
because it'll end up in Woolworths' bargain bin.
They'd go, "Oh, 20 Jazz Funk Greats, I'll buy that, it's only 50p."
And they'll take it home and put Throbbing Gristle on!
And it was just... It just appealed to us.
It was perfect because, the stuff on it,
it shifts from one kind of sound to another.
THROBBING ELECTRONIC MUSIC
For us, it was about being absolutely free,
having no constraints or restraints on content.
And no predetermined sound being OK or sound being not OK.
It was truly just, fuck 'em all.
At the epicentre of the indie business emerging in the late '70s
was Rough Trade.
Started by Geoff Travis
as an alternative record shop in West London
Rough Trade, like Throbbing Gristle, had its roots
in the post-hippie squatter movement and ran as a collective.
Rough Trade itself was fiercely independent
and fiercely anti-establishment, anti-major label.
And, on a day-by-day basis, was run on a, kind of, equal pay,
equal voice structure.
We were into ideas and into DIY.
And the DIY thing caught on very quickly.
It spread like a disease.
Within a few years of Rough Trade establishing itself as a label,
The Cartel was created.
# The future's open wide. #
It was a distribution network run from their shop
and it would revolutionise the independent record scene.
The idea was, you could walk up to the counter with a tape
and, if the people at Rough Trade liked it, they'd put it out for you.
And nearly everyone involved in Rough Trade was sufficiently
well-versed in Marxism to know that owning the means of production
was central to them getting off the ground.
It just went completely mad.
As the mail order grew, we got more and more contacts from shops,
and the actual reputation got around very quickly.
I can remember the first time we went to meet Geoff from Rough Trade.
We got off the Tube in Kensington, cos we were all a bit nervous.
Lads from Sheffield coming down to London.
I think we had a pub crawl all the way from Kensington to Notting Hill.
So, we were all quite bladdered and cocky
by the time we'd turned up there.
You were conscious of this kind of explosion, almost like,
if anyone can make a record, anyone can have a record label.
And a lot of people did.
Each of the regional companies would order
and we would send the stock to their warehouse.
And they would then sell it round to their local shops.
The last time I counted, it was over 200 labels.
And, if you think of the people who worked for those labels,
the bands on those labels,
we created 15 minutes for an awful lot of people
and that, for me, was the politics of it.
It was such a fantastic distribution system.
The structure was there for you to put out your own records,
and it was a really easy structure to tap into.
Back in the day, you used to get a record, a vinyl LP printed,
and you'd get ?10 for it.
Whereas, now, people are getting pennies for streaming.
It was a very honest thing to have a product in your hand
and just sell it and get the money for it. The band gets the money.
We could sell an album, we could sell 10,000.
And 10,000, in terms of money
going directly back to the artist, was a huge amount of money.
Within this new structure, there was success.
Records being sold, money being made.
So, it made sense to have a way of measuring what was selling well.
"I know," thought some bright spark, "We'll have an indie chart."
This enabled the independent music industry
to start taking itself a bit more seriously.
It was originally my idea,
I came up with the idea towards the end of 1979.
It seemed to me obvious to have a proper independent chart.
And I approach the editor of a magazine called Record Business.
I said to him, "Why don't you do an independent chart?
"Because you have all the data, it's quite easy to do."
It was a proper compiled chart,
and dealers could see what to order and maybe what not to order.
But also it showed other independent labels around the world
what was selling genuinely in the UK,
because they might want to license the rights in France, Germany,
North America, whatever.
If it's in the independent chart, it gives that release more credence.
The thing that you were really attracted to was the indie chart
which was a bible of weekly worth,
and you'd start to see these labels over and over again.
They became just as cool as the actual bands,
it was like they were playing for a particular team.
And, I suppose, Factory were the Man United, really, of those labels.
They were beautifully-engineered design icons,
almost bespoke products.
It wasn't just the rough-and-ready,
done-in-a-back-bedroom stuff, that punk had been.
Most major labels then and now have one way of selling records,
by getting them on the radio.
And independents, with very few exceptions,
have never really made records to get on the radio.
Majors shape records and polish them to get them played on the radio.
Independents receive what their artist wants to release
and what is the product of their art and that's it.
Then, you're competing in a marketplace with, in a sense,
one hand tied behind your back because you're not playing the game.
You have to compete on the basis of my music is better than yours.
This is Radio One. While the others are playing commercials...
'There was still this enormous resistance to chart music.
'Radio One was the enemy.'
There was actually a big question
about whether a band should do Top Of The Pops.
For a lot of people, if you did, you'd sold out.
'And you wanted these bands to be your darlings only.
'You wanted it to be a secret.
'You wanted them to be expressing
'an ideology which stood outside the mainstream
'which said that you were different.'
# Ever fallen in love with someone
# Ever fallen in love, in love with someone
# You shouldn't have fallen in love with. #
The thing that was really interesting to me was,
people were not competing.
We weren't trying to be more successful than each other,
or how many we sold of a particular thing.
We were releasing things that we liked because we liked them.
And, if other people don't like them, well, that's a pity.
But we did it and it exists and that's still good.
And one of the reasons Ian Curtis was so depressed
was Joy Division were getting too popular.
And it wasn't fun any more.
It had become a business.
And that was the moment when it started to change.
At that time, Joy Division were riding high in the indie chart
and were on the eve of an American tour.
However, this was anything but a cause for celebration for Ian Curtis.
Ian rang me up and we could tell that something was wrong
just straight away from his voice.
And then, he sang one of my songs back to me.
# I've found nothing lying, weeping, bleeding. #
And it was called Weeping.
It was actually about my suicide attempt.
And he sang it to me word perfect.
And we knew then that he was going to try and commit suicide.
We just knew.
And it was before cellphones.
Hardly anybody even had answer machines then.
And we started ringing people in Manchester and saying,
you've got to get round to Ian's house, he's going to kill himself.
He just told me he'd rather be dead than go to America.
# You didn't see me weeping on the floor. #
No-one went round.
The people we did speak to in Manchester,
"Oh, he's always been dramatic."
We couldn't persuade anyone to go.
I felt really guilty for a long time.
# My universe is coming from my mouth. #
While Ian Curtis had kicked against fame,
there were other bands on indie labels
that were beginning to feel frustrated by the lack of success.
We'd have loved to have had a hit record,
but we weren't going to sell our souls to do it.
We'd do it on our terms.
We were getting a bit tired of Rough Trade, whereby,
I believe the term, in the record business, is a sales plateau,
where we'd bring an album out, it would sell 10,000,
but never got beyond that.
And I think we got a bit frustrated
that we could do with getting through to more people.
I've never been a musician,
but I understand, if you're a musician, you want to be successful.
You believe in your music, you want to it to be heard by as many people
as can be around the world. You want the maximum exposure.
You may or may not be into it for making money.
But it's no doubt that,
if you've got the Warners or the Universal Sony machine behind you,
you've got more chance of success.
# When I first saw you something stirred within me
# You were standing sultry in the rain... #
Whether it was Joy Division or The Smiths or Depeche Mode or whoever,
a lot of those artists were approached by major labels
at that time in the early days, saying,
well, Mute/Factory/Rough Trade, they're nice labels,
nice people, but you'll never be able to have any success with them.
They don't have the infrastructure, they don't know what to do.
You really need to sign to us, if you want to have global success.
# I hope to God you're not as dumb as you make out... #
As the majors circled with the promise of real fame and money,
independent labels soon started to haemorrhage their talent.
Bands who would go on to have huge commercial success,
including Scritti Politti,
and Orange Juice.
Rough Trade had almost become an A wing of a major label
without any of the benefits.
What happens then is,
one, you don't make any money from your all your hard work.
And, two, someone else makes all the money for themselves.
And, I think, quite justifiably,
after a time, Geoff certainly thought,
I'd like to see if I can do this myself.
A few weeks later, a very sharply-dressed 19-year-old lad
from Manchester came into Rough Trade with a demo tape.
It was Johnny Marr.
A couple of days later, he was offered a full album deal.
It was the start of Rough Trade acting and thinking
like a proper record company.
# All men have secrets and here is mine
# So let it be known. #
The ideas that began in bedsits across Britain
would soon become the blueprint for an indie sound.
# And yet you start to recoil Heavy words are so lightly thrown. #
Next time, we'll discover how this outsider music
and the indie labels that started it all,
were able to take on the mainstream and the majors
and beat them at their own game.
# So, what difference does it make? #
The story of British indie over three musically diverse episodes. Much more than a genre of music, it is a spirit, an attitude and an ethos.
In the 1970s, the music industry was controlled by the major record labels, and the notion of releasing a record independently seemed like an impossible dream. At a time when even the Sex Pistols were on a major label, the true act of rebellion was would be to do it yourself.
It took an independent release from Buzzcocks in 1976 with the Spiral Scratch EP to begin a change in the game. The initial pressing of 1,000 copies was funded by family and friends and sold out immediately. The notion of independently releasing your own music was compelling, and it became a call to action.
Independent record labels began to pop up all over the UK, each one with its own subculture and sound - from Factory in Manchester to Zoo in Liverpool, Postcard in Glasgow and London labels such as Mute, Beggars Banquet and Rough Trade. They were founded by people with no business experience, just a passion for music and a commitment to helping others achieve creative autonomy. These labels were cutting, releasing and distributing the music themselves. Bedsits became offices and basements became studios. This was DIY, and it felt like a countercultural movement set against all that the mainstream had to offer.
These labels were pivotal in getting the new sounds to a generation hungry for change. Queues of hopeful bands waited to drop off demo tapes, and the first wave of indie bands emerged from the newly formed labels. It was a fantastically creative, if somewhat hand-to-mouth time, yet bands also had the freedom to make all the decisions about their image and musical direction themselves. Pioneering music from bands such as Joy Division, Throbbing Gristle, Echo and the Bunnymen, Orange Juice and Aztec Camera is featured in this episode.
These new indie sounds offered a defiantly oppositional stance to prevailing trends in popular culture. With new music exploding out of cities everywhere, it was indie label founder Iain McNay, from Cherry Red, who had the idea for an indie chart - its music spoke to a generation of kids who did not identify with the mainstream sounds on the radio.