How Soon Is Now? - The Sound of the Post-Industrial North - BBC Radio 2 Preview


Wrong species

The People's Songs - Episode 31 Preview

This episode will be broadcast in July 2013 on BBC Radio 2, but we're inviting listeners to get in touch now with their comments and stories to feature in the programme. Get involved at

From the bombed-out, broken down cities of the North they came, a stream of pasty-faced, earnest young men and women in trench coats and black clothing with a new music that sowed the seeds of what became commonly known as 'indie': totally changing the nation's musical landscape.

When the Sex Pistols played Manchester's free-trade hall in 1976, many of the crowd went on to form their own bands; The Buzzcocks, Joy Division, Durutti Column, The Fall and The Smiths, all began after that fateful night. And word soon spread like wildfire across the North of England. Out of Sheffield came The Human League, Cabaret Voltaire and Heaven 17. From Leeds there was The Gang Of Four, The Mission and The Cult. Liverpool gave us Echo And The Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes and The Icicle Works. Maybe it was the wetter weather that encouraged kids to stay indoors and play records and pick up instruments. Or maybe it was the lack of job opportunities and the hard, bleak social conditions that persuaded kids to turn their attentions elsewhere. Maybe these teenagers couldn't get a job and, inspired, by the old cliché, found an escape through music.

And so from that damaged, dour, dismal north came a music that changed kids from ALL over the UK. And each band was quite, quite unique and idiosyncratic. Joy Division was fronted by the epileptic angular frontman Ian Curtis, and driven by Hooky's low-slung bass. The Bunnymen were wide-eyed, cocksure kids who unashamedly wanted to conquer the world. The Human League at one point comprised the less than traditional line-up of singer, projectionist and two school girls on backing vocals... and still conquered the world. The Cult sprinkled themselves in Native American-infused voodoo vibes and The Smiths were led by an opinionated, but fey, chap with an impressive quiff and an even more impressive set of literary and cinematic reference points.

Punk was swiftly dismantled and brushed aside in London, but its essence burned bright in the North. Interestingly, these young cock o' the norths managed to invert the nature of the record-business by refusing to travel to London, and instead said, "If you want what what we have, you'll have to come to us". The late Tony Wilson went one better and started his own record label, Factory Records, staging classic acts of punk-inspired derring-do like the Hacienda nightclub or the ''Blue Monday'' 12-inch single, both of which became artistic touchstones, and financial disasters. But then, it wasn't all about the money, it was about the music and the attitude. All of which served to infuse a massive amount of self-pride in the young people of the North and re-affirmed the punk ethos of, 'if we can do this, then so too can you'.

Do you think indie took the promise of punk but did something different or even more interesting with it? The People's Songs wants to hear from you.

What influence did each song have on your life?

Where were you living at the time and what were you doing?

What memories and events does the song conjure in your mind?
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