Friday, August 14, 2009

New Order - "Ceremony" (the song remains the same)

In my review of New Order's first LP, Movement, I stated that I especially liked New Order's early, post-Joy Division sound. Of all the songs to come out of that era, "Ceremony" is my favorite. It was written while Joy Division was still active, but Ian Curtis died before JD could do a proper studio recording of it. Two JD versions of "Ceremony" exist: a badly recorded live version (which appears on 1981's posthumous collection "Still") and a rough rehearsal version (on the 1997 box set "Heart and Soul"). The JD versions are of interest only to collectors and hard-core fans and these versions are not recommended for those unfamiliar with the New Order version and subsequent covers.

New Order's first single and its B-side, "In A Lonely Place", were both songs originally written by Joy Division. NO itself released two versions of this "Ceremony": the March 1981 version, which has a more raw, heavy sound; and the September 1981 version, which has a cleaner sound and a slightly faster tempo. The September 1981 version also features Gillian Gilbert, recently promoted to a full member of the band. The September version is the one that appears on the 1987 compilation "Substance" while the March version was not reissued until the 2005 compilation "Singles".

Perhaps the most well-known cover version of this song is on Galaxie 500's second LP, "On Fire". Galaxie 500 was well known for their excellent choice of cover songs (in addition to writing excellent original material). For their treatment of "Ceremony", they slowed it down to the point where it sounds like Black Sabbath covering New Order. Galaxie 500 was an amazing band that never got the recognition they deserved.

Radiohead* also covered "Ceremony" in their 2007 "Thumbs Down" webcast (the full 2.5 hours of which has been uploaded to Google Videos). The do a lovingly sloppy, garage band version of the song (which is obviously not indicative of their studio sound).

New Order: March 1981 version, September 1981 version.

Joy Division: Live version, Rehearsal version (note: neither version has good sound quality).

Galaxie 500: Studio version, live version.

Radiohead: Thumbs Down Webcast version.

New Order B-Side Bonus Link for "In A Lonely Place": Original 7" version, 1981 Berlin live version, 1984 BBC Radio 1 version.




* = Despite all of Radiohead's accolades, they'll never be as good as Gooey.

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