These Cars Collide
Hannett seemed to have his hand in on everything musically interesting from 1976-1981, even though he got more hands on as that time went by. For instance, it doesn't seem like he diddled the old knobs a lot for Spiral Scratch, the legendary Buzzcocks first ep and the third punk item ever committed to vinyl. But he was there for it, when Shelley and Devoto tried to share a band, when the best song was "Boredom," the best line was "I've seen the movie but it doesn't move me," and the best guitar solo, ever, was just two notes.
But there's more--the brilliant soundscapes he helped play as well as produce that turned irascible John Cooper Clark into something musical; the first U2 single, "11 o'clock Tick-Tock," before the Dublin messiah starting scattering crumbs (spot the Mekons allusion!); making OMD too bouncy even for them on their first single "Electricity" (and of course he was right); the dreaminess of The Durutti Column; you just need to get the disc.
Then there was this--I forgot, assuming I knew, that he produced the original version of the Psychedelic Furs' "Pretty in Pink." Hadn't listened to the song in years, although I liked the band enough in its day, and upon hearing it couldn't but help wonder: How did those lyrics get to a teen romp with Molly Ringwald? "The one who insists he was the first in the line is the last to remember her name"? Not to mention Richard Butler's insinuating "isn't she?"s [now that's a call to the proofreader] that question "pretty" on more or less an ontological level.
Alas, and this is where I speak ill of the dead, bastard that I am, it's little surprise John Hughes might be tone deaf to that sort of thing. We're talking about the man who killed whatever was good about Simple Minds (young, romantic me adored New Gold Dream) by making them record a Keith Forsey song, which, of course, the public loved, so they kept chasing after dreck. I would argue, further, that The Breakfast Club is so utterly phony that Holden Caulfield would let the entire group go pell-mell over the cliff with nary a thought. But that's a different essay.
Suffice to say, the Furs re-recorded "Pretty in Pink" to make it less Hannett-esque for the Hughes' film. Call it "Prettified in Pink." Less psychedelic, more fur. Probably fake fur, though, so as not to disturb milder sensibilities.
This kind of thing bothers me, and I wish it bothered more others, too, the notion there are things we can't expect people to put up with. Edge. Difficulty. Dissonance. Fur and blood and bone. Well, I didn't mean to go all high moral dudgeon when I started this so I'll just move into the Joy Division portion of the program. What Hannett did to the band was open it up, let us peer into the songs longer than we might have otherwise if they just played them straight. Yes, Ian Curtis was the tortured talented soul at the center, but the echoey chambers Hannett helped build made the soul all the more haunted. Closer, in particular, is the most ghostly record ever, even without Curtis's suicide.
The oddest thing, though, is while Joy Division meant so much to me when it was released, I guess I'm a different me now. As a desperately poetically sensitive 18-year-old Joy Division gave me access to a despair I don't feel I have the privilege to wallow in as an adult. That's not to say that despair wasn't real--Hannett made sure of that. The thrill of Joy Division is the challenge--can you take it? Do you want to recognize it brings you to a place that already was in you?
So John Hughes? I'm sorry he's dead, but meh. I still want to lament Martin Hannett.