Bernard Sumner has helped inspire generations of musical talent with his own unique brand of alternative pop. The sounds, effortlessly intertwined with hints of rave culture and the brooding nature of post-punk with New Order and Joy Division. So we were thrilled to see the range of artists that still inspire him to this day.
Through his work with Joy Divison and New Order, Sumner has built up a CV that makes him one of the most important figures in British music over the last 40 years. He’s a man who has helped forge two pioneering acts which are among the finest that this country has ever produced.
Sumner’s music is eclectic and the same is reflected in his own taste which spans decades as well as different genres which is unsurprising given the vast range within his own music.
In an appearance on Australian network ABC’s Take5 podcast, Sumner revealed the five tracks which have helped influence his own output over various point’s in his career, which is well worth revisiting and seeing what music has earnt a place close to the New Order man’s heart.
Bernard Sumner’s 5 favourite songs:
Iggy Pop – ‘Shades’
Iggy Pop’s ‘Shades’ is the first pick from Sumner, it featured on the former Stooges leader’s 1986 David Bowie produced album Blah-Blah-Blah. The record is up there with the finest work that Pop has ever conjured up and captured the essence of that magnificent Berlin scene.
Sumner: “I performed this song a couple of years ago with Iggy in New York. I think he was a bit surprised by my choice. But I just think for Iggy, obviously, there’s like, ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ and that side of him, but also there’s a kind of deeper, more sensitive side.” It’s a trick that Sumner has also managed to perfect on his own band’s music.
“This is a really beautiful, quite romantic song. It shows another side of Iggy,” says the guitarist. “The album showed him experimenting with synthesizers a bit. And I just thought was just that was a really beautiful song, and inspirational. I like the lyrics as well, they’re really beautiful.
“It’s kind of a bit deeper. It transfers an emotion, and songs that do that interest me greatly. A song that you can listen to and you can feel the emotion that the writer wrote the song with… songs like that as well tend to stand the test of time. I think this one does.”
Joe Smooth – ‘Promised Land’
The former Joy Division man’s next choice comes from the same era of music with Joe Smooth’s deep house track ‘Promised Land’ which released in 1987 and was famously covered by The Style Council. Weller and the band had more commercial success with the track than Smooth, with their version climbing all the way to number 27 in the UK.
Sumner: “Well, this song was a big dance track in Manchester. We used to own a club, The Hacienda, and I think I was their biggest customer. Me and my friends. After [a night at] the club, word would get around that would be a party somewhere, a warehouse party. That would go on till about nine or 10 o’clock the next day. Then you’d roll home about midday in a complete state.” Of course, the club in question was the Factory Records owned Hacienda, a piece of Manchester music history.
“One of the tracks they used to play at these warehouse parties was ‘Promised Land’ by Joe Smooth. It’s a really uplifting, positive song and it’s just got something about it. There was a handful of songs that DJs used to play at these parties and this was a big one. I remember having a great time to it.”
It was a frayed time for Sumner professionally though. “In that time, I became a punter more than a musician. We’d been touring a lot in America, we were party animals in America, and I got really burnt out, so decided to take a bit of a break from the band. Instead of being a purveyor of music, I’d become a consumer of music. Go and check sounds out, go to clubs and go to parties and check music out.”
Electronic – ‘Twisted Tenderness’
Sumner’s next choice comes from closer to home than his previous two picks. He, somewhat cheekily, picks some of his own music that to cite as an inspiration. The pick comes from his much-celebrated side project with Johnny Marr. ‘Twisted Tenderness’ is the titular track from the duo’s third album which was released to critical acclaim in 1999.
Sumner: “The reason we formed Electronic was because I was burnt out with New Order. We just seemed to get pushed out on the road over and over and over again to pay for The Hacienda’s mounting debt. And I got sick of it. The Smiths had split up, and Johnny [Marr] was a bit traumatised by one of the other members of The Smiths. It could be any of them. I’m not naming names. Use your imagination.
“Johnny was stressed out. I was stressed out. So, this was a solace. We could go and make music, rather than just play it all the time.”
Two of Manchester’s finest songwriters in one room, the project was bound to be a fruitful one. “It was great working with John, and Neil Tennant [Pet Shop Boys] got involved as well. It was so good that we locked ourselves in the studio for a couple of years. Johnny loves being in the studio and he loves talking. So, we got stuck down there for a couple of years, it was in the basement of his house. He wouldn’t let me out.
Arcade Fire – ‘Ready To Start’
Arcade Fire’s ‘Ready To Start’ taken from their Grammy award-winning ‘The Suburbs’ is one of the quintessential alternative rock songs from the 21st Century and is nothing short of a triumph in every way imaginable. The Canadian rockers have clearly taken some inspiration from Joy Division and New Order in their music so it’s heartwarming to see Sumner replicate this feeling of mutual respect.
Sumner: “I was watching TV and it came on a trailer or something. They used the bit where the track slows down and immediately my ears pricked up. I was like, ‘I recognise the DNA in this song. That sounds very like something I’d do. Very like, something I’d do’.
“I listened to the whole track and I thought, ‘This is amazing’. It’s got really great drive and I think it’s in quite a strange time signature.”
The real power of the Arcade Fire song comes from the winding and pounding rhtyhm though. It’s a simplicity that appealed to Sumner. “I love it because it’s really simple. I think it’s a great vocal line. I found it really inspirational. A couple of years later I got a chance to see Arcade Fire. We played a festival in South America and I went over to the stage where they were playing. The only place I could watch them from was about 100 foot or 200 foot high, overlooking the stage. It was peculiar, this massive ladder.
“They were great, really great. I like the way they swap instruments and every song’s really different from every other. I went to meet them and he said, ‘Oh, we’re really into your stuff and we got a lot of inspiration from your material’.”
David Morales – ‘Hideaway’ ft. Blondewearingblack
The iconic musician’s final pick is from journeyed US house DJ David Morales’ 2018 track ‘Hideaway’ which features Blondewearingblack. Sumner: “I heard it in either Spain or Portugal. I had a boat in Spain, I was travelling to my boat and stopped off a hotel one night. I went out for something to eat, to a trendy restaurant, and they played it. And I thought, ‘this is great’.”
This choice really emphasis the variety in Sumner’s music taste, one second he’s listening to Arcade Fire and the next Morales’ unique brand of house music which transports you straight to Miami. “This is a great example of melodic house music and that dance music has gone in a good direction. I just thought it was really strong, I really liked the groove, I thought it was really, really danceable.
“It seemed like a finger pointing towards the future, even though it came from the 1990s originally. This version is really cool. It’s a great track. It’s one of those where you don’t study it too much, but it just makes you want to get up and dance. It does a lot with a little as well. I’m always a big fan of that. It’s very difficult to do that.”