Tony (Bigissue) Peppiatt was there ...
This is written 34 years after the event; forgive me if some details have been blurred over the years….a lot a
of water (along with lager and vodka) has flowed under the bridge since then.
October 22nd, 1979. Derby, east midlands. Considered, by a pair of teenagers from out of town, as a cultural desert.
The newly opened Assembly Rooms have been roundly savaged as an acoustic nightmare by all who have played there
but here were we, eighteen years old, fresh from sixth form and flush with our £26.00 a week earned as trainee
managers with the local Co-op, armed with tickets for the third visit to Derby of the mighty Buzzcocks. Now seasoned
gig-goers, we had already caught the previous two gigs, at the Kings Hall (where the local swimming baths were
boarded over to create a venue) and although not enamoured with the new Buzzcocks album, felt it was rude not to
Monday nights in Derby were a particularly dreary affair, so a gig on a Monday would be at best, sparsely attended.
So, no queue on the door, and an assortment of punks, raincoats and student types dotted around the bar. Having
purchased our over-priced lager in plastic pots, we could hear the muffled sound of the support group starting
up in the Main Hall. Richard, my mate from school and work, and I had made a pact when we started going to gigs
that we would always give an act “three songs” before we decided whether to stay and enjoy or go back to the bar
(a maxim that I still employ all these years later).
The doors to the Main Hall we opened by a genial old dear with ear plugs in and we wandered in towards the stage.
No problem with the view, there could have been only thirty people at most watching. They were not dancing. They
we ALL stood shock-still. Open- mouthed. And so were me and Richard. There was a saying in Derby, used when you
were moved beyond words…..GOBSMACKED, and we were. A yellow light illuminated the lead singer, a gaunt, slack mouthed
figure in a two-tone shirt, contorting and grimacing to the music. The bassist, a mean looking bloke with an unfashionable
beard was glaring at anyone who dared meet his gaze. The drummer, concentrating hard, was a blur of precise and
insistent beats…..(god knows why New Order would ever need a drum machine) and the guitarist, better looking and
younger looking than the rest, at the same time looking cooler than the rest but scared to death. I nudged the
bloke next to me, who I recognised as working at R.E. Cords, the local indie record shop, and mouthed “who are….”
“Joy Division” he hissed “from Manchester.”
The music was urgent, hypnotic…..different. We had come to see a punk band and we were witnessing the future. Songs
that I was to become to know as Digital, Transmission and Day of the Lords washed over us, a feeling of euphoria
was begin to surge. We had never heard anything like this, and yet we were trend-setters, we listened to John Peel
and read the music papers….how the f*ck had we missed these?? Ian Curtis lurched, twitched and reeled in what I
could only describe to a mate later as ‘spaz-dancing’. Not PC I know, but it was the seventies.
Then it was over….twenty minutes that changed my life. Sorry Buzzcocks, you can not follow that. They came on,
but seemed dated, out of touch, yesterday. We left early, talking non-stop about what we had witnessed, wondering
what singles and albums these guys had, impatient to get to R.E.Cords to buy and hear them again.
Fast forward thirty years, and Anton Corbijn’s film ‘Control’ had a special festival showing at Derby Uni. Taking
along my 20 year-old daughter, raised on JD, New Order and the Stone Roses, I sat waiting for the start. And who
did I see three rows in front of us; Gordon, the guy from the record shop, who had told me their name (and who
organised a trip later to see New Order’s second gig at the Rock City, and who I had not seen since). I smiled
at him and he grinned back….we belong to a special club, with only about thirty members, who can all say “we were
there” when Joy Division first played Derby.
Tony (Bigissue) Peppiatt June 2014