Friday, February 24, 2006

Rarest New Order Song

Last week I wrote about the release of the original "Ceremony" on CD after all this time. Apparently I'm not yet done musing about New Order (for no particular reason, it's just that I'm a music geek). On this particular occasion I'm wondering "what is the rarest New Order song?" And of course I've got an answer for you.

First, to clarify the question. I don't mean some obscure white label remix, or a live recording of a tune they played once. I want to determine which of their regular run-of-the-mill studio tracks is the most difficult to stumble upon. This is likely only the sort of thing that completists care about, and although I am not a fanatic by any means, I do enjoy seeking out the dark hidden places in post-punk music catalogues.

And I've got an answer: "Mesh".

Now I can hear all you other post-punk music geeks clammering "but that was on Substance, how rare is that?" To which I reply that yes, there was a song with that name on Substance, but it was not the song "Mesh". You have been duped! "Mesh" itself has not been issued on any readily-available CD. Let me explain.

Back in December of 1981 New Order liked the b-side of their second single "Procession" so much that they turned around and issued an extended version of it on a slab of 12" vinyl. "Everything's Gone Green" was released on Factory Benelux as FBNL 8 with two b-sides, listed as follows with their timings: "Mesh" (3:25) and "Cries and Whispers" (3:00).

These are both low-key mood pieces that sound exactly as though they are extra tracks from the session for their debut album Movement, released one month prior. They've got the same song-writing, the same recording, the same mood. And so although I have not read it anywhere officially, I will assume they are Movement cast-offs. The odd thing is they are as good as the tracks from the album, a record short by any standards at 35 minutes in length. Why they were not included on the album (or at least the CD version) is a mystery, though not the mystery I am investigating here.

Here's the root of the enigma: the names for these b-sides were accidentally switched. So actually it's "Cries and Whispers" at 3:25 which begins with the swirling synth reminisent of "Procession". And it's "Mesh", 3:00 in length, which has a plodding beat and the line "out in the woods and the trees / atrocity lays". (Or at least I imagine those are the lines, which is the same thing.)

The compilation Substance 1987 perpetuated this problem. The second disk contains single b-sides on CD for the first time. It has a track called "Mesh" but it's actually "Cries and Whispers".

The massive boxed set Retro includes exactly the same song, but correctly labels it, for the first time, as "Cries and Whispers". The new Singles collection does not include b-sides and so has neither track.

Now oddly, there is one place where you can find "Mesh" on CD. In November 1982 the 12" vinyl EP 1981-1982 was released in Canada to collect up some of the group's non-album material. It's a pretty scatter-brained effort on the whole, not including the "Ceremony" single or "Cries and Whispers".

In 1989 this EP was released on CD and become the only place on disk to get the full 12" version of "Hurt" (at 8:03), a song truncated by about a minute for Substance 1987.

More to the point, it is the first and only time that "Mesh" has been available on CD -- and correctly labelled to boot.

As a Canadian I know this well, having bought the vinyl EP when it was first released. Besides the musical content, it is notable for having cover art designed by Martha Ladly (ex-Martha and the Muffins), who was dating Peter Saville at the time.

But before I branch out into the unwritten history of Martha Ladly, I'll stop. I could easily fill several pages with this sort of esoterica, but no-one reads anything except my tech posts anyway.



Anonymous said...

Not strictly true - it did appear on a CD single back in the early 90's - "Everything's Gone Green" (Belgium CD - :-)

robin said...

You are correct -- thank you! So it has been on CD twice, once in Canada, once in Belgium. It would do well if I checked either your source or this excellent discography which dates the EP to 1990.

And thanks for disproving my hypothesis that only my techy posts get read!

Anonymous said...


I've been thinking a few days about your thoughts, who may is reading your Blog. And I've got to tell you, I'm just reading your posts about Music!!! And I really enjoy them. Ain't got no clue about programming and special progs you're talking about.

I enjoy your taste of music and often I'm thinking about these sounds of my youth!
Thank you Robin!

robin said...

This article has been linked to by a Factory Records blog that I was completely unaware of. So thanks for the link... now I know you exist!

Anonymous said...

I just sold this CD on (user name wilkiewilkie). I of course made myself a copy first.

moffetcat said...

I stumbled upon your entry as I was searching to see if anyone realized that Cries and Whispers had an entirely different set of lyrics - and many of them - when sung on New Order's first tour of the US in late 1980. I have a bootleg of their performance in Boston at the Underground on 30 SEPT 1980. It sounds as if Peter Hook is singing here as well. There are many short bursts of lyrics with the same instrumental backing you'll find on the EP version. It sounds like one of the lyrics is "inside the line" or "the final...something" It's hard to understand. It's extremely interesting and I wish I had the chance to ask Peter about it when I met him at Dry in Manchester in 1990, but I hadn't heard this recording until I recieved a tape copy in 1995. Homage is another rare track that was also performed at this gig in Boston and a handful of other gigs during 1980. It also appears on a badly recorded studio demo reported to have been recorded at the Western Works Recording Studio in July of 1980, possibly in Sheffield. Aparently there are decent versions of this 4 song demo floating around out there. I remember seeing it at Bleaker Bob's Record Store in NYC's Village in 1985, but I didn't have the money to buy it at the time, but I did come across someone else's bad copy in 1995. The Homage in the demo is a bit different (sounds like Steven is singing) than it sounds in concert. In concert there seem to be more well-defined lyrics and it also sounds like both Hooky and Bernard are singing.

I wish they just release the Western Works demo - remastered - on CD. I thought it would appear in the box set on the Retro CD, but no such luck.

robin said...

Thanks moffetcat for that information!

Ross said...

hey Robin, very interesting article... of course now I have to dig around in the back room of my basement to see if the "Everything's Gone Green" disc that I bought back in 1981 (might have been 82) matches up with this one. And on another note, its been really interesting browsing around your site and reading your blog entries. I might throw a comment or two in other locations also.

p.s. one of the pictures of you could have been taken back in grade 13... you have aged well!

robin said...

Hey Ross! Long time no contact!! Hope you have fun reading around here and my other sites. Yes, I think my Indian genetics have helped with the old aging process. ;-)

Unknown said...

One other place I have found the New Order song, Mesh, again incorrectly labelled as Chries and Whispers, is on the compilation, Back to School.

Anonymous said...

now they're both, Cries And Whispers and Mesh, together on 1 CD. Movement 2008 Collector's Edition bonus disc:

although Stephen Morris correctly said in the retro booklet, that on Substance the song Cries And Whispers is misspelled as Mesh, he also said there incorrectly, that no song entitled Mesh exists

robin said...

Looks like they butchered this re-issue, with poor quality booklets, art errors and a truly bizarre attempt at bonus tracks. The version of "Temptation" sequenced between "Ceremony" and "In a Lonely Place" is the remix from 1987! Holy idiocy!

And, though both are present, it looks like they misnamed "Mesh" and "Cries and Whispers"... again. Argh!!

Anonymous said...

they're misnamed in the UK:

but correctly in Germany:

Anonymous said...

This is all very interesting, but when a song has been sold with the supposedly wrong name for so many years, for even serious fans like myself that becomes the song title. For the band to come out after all these years to try to set the record straight only produces further confusion (even in 2008 when this was discussed). Substance CD 2 says track 3 is Mesh. Even the EGG EP lists the same track as Mesh. Too many years went by without this being corrected.

robin said...

The error took until 1989 to fix... but then only in Canada! Terribly odd, I agree.

Anonymous said...

A late afternoon browsing New Order minutiae. Thanks. Knew about Mesh/C&W but NOT about the artwork for the Canadian compilation or even that it WAS Canadian.

Anonymous said...

So am I correct in stating that Cries & Whispers appears only once on vinyl -- on the B-side of Everything's Gone Green? it looks like that was reissued as late as 1987 (though I wonder how anyone really knows that).

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