We look back to a 2005 SPIN feature which saw former Joy Division and lead singer of New Order, Bernard Sumner, pick the albums which influenced him as a musician and a person. It’s a wonderful list that now has an accompanying playlist for your listening enjoyment.
The albums picked are not only a depiction of the vibrant Manchester music scene that Sumner, along with childhood friend and bassist Peter Hook, were determined to be a part of, they also show an extremely cultured taste and the myriad of influences that would see ‘Barney’ be a part of two of Britain’s most beloved acts.
In the feature, ‘The Records That Made Me’, Sumner is tasked with picking the albums which influenced or at least soundtracked the first fleeting moments of his musical development in the greying suburbs of Salford. In the selection are vibrant moments of his future all laid out in sonic detail. From the thematic nuance of Morricone’s A Fistful of Dollars to the dark intensity of Reed and Iggy Pop, the writing was clearly on the wall before Kraftwerk’s subversive sound.
[MORE] – Listen to the haunting isolated vocal of Ian Curtis on Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’
The selection also comes with some warming quotes about how he listened to the records or picked them up, in the first place. With so much of Sumner’s journey linked with Ian Curtis and his subsequent suicide, these connective moments of friendship feel extra poignant. Largely Sumner’s journey is intertwined with two distinct bands so it feels fitting to recognise that Curtis was a spark of life in Sumner’s art. There’s even a tip of the hat to the Factory Records-owned Manchester super-club The Hacienda.
Find the album’s that changed Bernard Sumner’s life below:
“I picked the records I got before I became a musician because I listened to music in a completely different way then,” he says. “We just spent seven months making a new record [Waiting for the Sirens’ Call], and the last thing you want to do is hear music when you come out of the studio after a 14-hour day.”
Ennio Morricone, A Fistful of Dollars: Original Soundtrack (RCA, 1967)
“I grew up in a house without a record player. I wasn’t that interested in music. Then I got to the age of 15, 16, and I became completely obsessed with it. My mother finally bought me a player, and the first single I ever bought was ‘Ride a White Swan’ by T. Rex. But I got fed up with having to get up and put it back on. I thought, ‘This is shit, I need to buy an album,’ but I didn’t know where to start. Then I saw The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and I was blown away by Morricone’s music.”
Jimi Hendrix, Electric Ladyland (MCA, 1968)
“I remember there was this kid at school who was a bit of a hippie, and he loved Jimi Hendrix. I said to him, ‘It just sounds like a lot of guitar noise,’ and he stared at me and said, ‘I like it.’ So I went out and bought it, played it, just a lot of noise, played it, just a lot of noise — and then all of the sudden my musical horizon went up a notch, and I really got into Hendrix. It was really weird, like a ‘Road to Damascus’ moment.”
The Rolling Stones, Through the Past Darkly (Big Hits, Vol. 2) (ABKCO, 1969)
“I love the Stones; they’ve got this kind of raw, nasty, unpolished edge. For a while they got sort of countrified and a bit American sounding, and I didn’t like that period, but the early, English-sounding stuff, ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ and ‘2,000 Light Years From Home,’ I really like.”
Roxy Music, Stranded (Virgin, 1973)
“I got a bit older and started going to nightclubs. One club in Manchester was called Pips, and they used to play stuff like Roxy Music. At the time it sounded like nothing you had ever heard before. It had a really fresh sound.”
Lou Reed, Transformer (RCA, 1972)
“Another album they played at Pips was Lou Reed’s Transformer, which has got a great track on it called ‘Vicious.’ It was considered a dance track in those days. I loved the riff in it — dead simple. They’re the hardest songs to write, simple songs. You’ve got to get yourself in the right frame of mind in order to write them.”
Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin IV (Atlantic, 1971)
“At school we had a hip geography teacher. He’d tell us that if we paid attention in class, during break time he’d let us use the record player. He used to bring in his records, and one was Led Zeppelin IV. All the kids liked it immediately. It’s a corny thing to say, but ‘Stairway to Heaven’ is a beautiful piece of music.”
Iggy Pop, The Idiot (Virgin, 1977)
“I knew Ian Curtis from going to punk gigs. So when we were forming Joy Division, I just gave him the job on the phone. I didn’t even listen to him [sing]. When we went around to his house to pick up his PA system, he had ‘China Girl’ playing. I said, ‘Who’s this track by?’ He said, ‘Oh, it’s Iggy.’ I was like, ‘This is fantastic. Bring it to rehearsal tonight, we’ll try and rip it up.’ So that’s how I got to know Ian.”
Kraftwerk, Trans-Europe Express (Capitol, 1977)
“Ian Curtis also turned me on to this — it was revolutionary. We had a record player in the rehearsal room, and people would bring stuff in. We used to play Trans-Europe Express before we went onstage.”
Hans Zimmer, The Thin Red Line: Original Soundtrack (RCA, 1998)
“When we owned a nightclub, the Hacienda, we’d just be out all night and then be a mess on Sunday. And after a few years of it and a lot of drug taking, I just got sick of it. So I bought a boat, and now I go sailing every weekend. The biggest place to listen to music is on the boat. And my favourite things to listen to are film soundtracks. They’re the opposite of what I make — they’re chilled out.”
Listen to the full playlist of the albums that changed Bernard Sumner’s life: