Peter Hook, the famed bassist whose work with Joy Division and New Order bassist is widely celebrated, has cememted his place in the annals of rock and roll with a series of pioneering and brilliantly unique songs. As co-founder of both the aforemention iconic bands, Hook forged a new approach to alternative music, pushing forward his signature style and always staying true to his own creative vision.
It’s quite something to have two game-changing bands as part of your long-running musical CV, many artists can only dream of having one. But it’s something that Peter Hook, the enigmatic, dynamic, and somewhat dangerous bassist of both bands, can slam slap bang in the middle of his.
The bassist found fame with Joy Division during the bubbling Manchester punk scene but soon enough he and the band were crafting their own path. As many landscape gardeners will tell you, to change the lay of the land you need some heavy machinery. Joy Division had Peter Hook.
His motor-powered bass seemed to typify their sound from the very beginning. His driving basslines tore through the audience like a steam train, gathering open-mouthed adoration and intense gasps in its glinting cow-catcher as it went. It would power the band through seminal albums Unknown Pleasures and Closer until their all-too-quick end following the death of lead singer Ian Curtis.
In honour of their friend and in order to complete the dream they all once shared together, Hook, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris carried on as New Order, with the addition of Gillian Gilbert the band was complete. The band would again change the make-up of the music world and introduce rock and roll to the dancefloor.
New Order would evolve Joy Division’s sound and propel themselves into the limelight as they championed a brand new sonic disposition. While many would assume the addition of synthesisers and other electronics would dampen Hook’s contribution it only emboldened him as an artist. Well, have you ever known Hooky to back down from a scrap?
In a celebration of his brilliance, we thought we would look back through our 10 favourite Joy Division and New Order songs and celebrate one of the greatest bassists rock and roll has ever seen.
Peter Hook’s 10 best songs:
1. ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ – Joy Division
There isn’t much we can say about ‘Love Will Tear us Apart’ that you won’t already know. We could tell you how it continues to this day to offer a place of solace for the lonely or misunderstood. We could say how it remains a bittersweet moment of what could have been. But we thought it would be best to leave it to the Hook himself to share his feelings on the song.
He told Louder Sound, “The great thing about being young as a musician is that you’re not overdrawn at the riff bank yet. You come up with a lot of riffs [seemingly] very quickly. As you get older, they come much slower. When we started off as Joy Division, every riff we came up with felt like a gift from God.”
He continued: “One in particular, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart‘, Ian then took as the vocal melody line of the song and he gave me, I suppose, my best-known bass riff of all. It was really simple, it was written in three hours from start to finish. It was basically all around the bass riffs, and it was one of the easiest, simplest things. I can’t remember any song being as easy as that one.”
One of the greatest rock songs ever written, simple as that.
2. ‘Ceremony’ – New Order
Simply genius. But as with many of the bands during the late seventies genius was born out of necessity. With so many cheap amps knocking around with Joy Division, Hooky needed to play high up the fretboard or risk not being heard at all. It meant that his mammoth basslines soon became a mainstay of JD’s sound. It’s most poignantly heard on the last song the band ever composed together ‘Ceremony’.
The refined and tweaked by New Order, Hooky’s bassline is the one and the only reason to continue listening. It’s delicate and sweet yet passionate and futuristic. It’s a bit of bloody everything and it’s marvellous.
3. ‘Transmission’ – Joy Division
While a case can be made for all the members of Joy Division being experts in their field, Stephen Morris is a truly sensational drummer, Curtis a murderous singer and Sumner a clean an efficient guitar player, Hooky is the only member who can be sure that without him the band would never have succeeded.
Hook’s basslines were the band’s main point of difference. Yes, the lyrics were darker than punk, their clothes weren’t as brash or gaudy, and their tone was altogether more menacing. But much of that is down to Hook’s marauding basslines, on ‘Transmission’ it is magnified x1000. Here Hook looks back at the first time he played the song for an audience.
4. ‘Age of Consent’ – New Order
‘Age of Consent’ is driven by the bassline and it goes down as Peter Hook’s favourite. Pulling out of the station like a chugging powerhouse, the rest of the track builds on the solid foundation Hook lays down.
Hook once saying, “To a bass player, it was such a gift. The song is lead by the bass and it’s very melodic. That’s my favourite New Order one.” It’s a beautifully crafted line which not only takes its own piece of the acclaim but renders the rest of the track with a glittering optimism.
5. ‘Disorder’ – Joy Division
Tony Wilson once said of Joy Division, “Punk enabled you to say ‘fuck you’, but it couldn’t go any further. It was a single, venomous, two-syllable phrase of anger. Sooner or later, someone was going to say more; someone was going to want to say ‘I’m fucked.’”
The first song on the band’s first album would always need to be a statement and with ‘Disorder’ the band make a daring and fuzzing contribution to what would be one of the greatest albums of all time. Hook’s bass once again takes centre stage.
6. ‘Thieves Like Us’ – New Order
Following the iconic ‘Blue Monday’ would always be a difficult thing to do. The song that launched a thousand synthesisers cannot be underestimated but it was ‘thieves like Us’ that really put Hook in the spotlight with New Order—but it didn’t come directly from his own mind.
As Hook told Louder Sound, “I’m not ashamed to say I stole it from Emma, by Hot Chocolate, and used it to great effect. It was wonderful, because I did bump into Errol Brown and felt that I had to confess, and Errol Brown said to me “Well done, my boy!” Which was very nice of him I thought. These days, he’d be bloody suing you, wouldn’t he?”
7. ‘Atmosphere’ – Joy Division
While with New order, Hook would work his way up the fretboard, on ‘Atmosphere’, a French-only release until Curtis’ death, he takes it low. It is this depth of field that allows the rest of the song to grow.
Building ground for other’s to flourish is part of the bassist manifesto (not that Hook paid much attention to it) and it’s unmistakable on ‘Atmosphere’ that it’s exactly what hook is doing. Providing the needed solidity for the glittering sonic night’s sky to be painted by the rest of the band.
8. ‘She’s Lost Control’ – Joy Division
Much of ‘She’s Lost Control’s power comes from Ian Curtis’ powerful lyricism. Written about the moment he witnessed a woman having a seizure in the office he was working in as a result of epilepsy, the song’s predestined nature could leave this song feeling on the wrong side of chilling.
Despite the sad foreshadowing of the song’s conception, this track still sings loudly in the hearts and minds of many JD fans. Hook’s bass is an earthquake inducing phenom and the complexity of thought and construction it’s bone-shaking allows is one of the reasons Hook is held in such high regard.
9. ‘New Dawn Fades’ – Joy Division
Arguably one of the most arresting numbers of Joy Division’s back catalogue is another showing of Hook’s methodical control. It is a dark and scary riff that rumbles on as the buzzsaw guitar begins to enter the fray.
It is one of Hook’s most unrelenting riffs as he menacingly provides the backdrop for Curtis’ lyrical musings. Simple but brilliant.
10. ‘True Faith’ – New Order
In the mid-eighties, Peter Hook’s basslines had become a key element of New Order’s success yet with their direction heading ever more closely towards electronic music, Hook’s involvement became a little more sparse. Incredibly this seemed to make his contribution more vital.
As can be heard in this classic 1987 hit, Hook’s sequenced bass line is a vibrant splash of buzzing colour that would leave the track bereft without it.
Honourable Mention: ‘World In Motion’ – New Order
Leave us alone. It’s our list and when we think of New Order a lot of us instantly think back to the magical World Cup, Italia ’90.
Now, we’re not sure it’s something Hooky would necessarily approve of but we can’t help but cherish this record as we do any other from Joy Division, New Order or anybody else. Oh, and a special shout out to John Barnes, Liverpool’s best rapper.