Chapter and Verse – Bernard Sumner in conversation

November 24, 2014, Article by Tom in Culture, Music

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of the work of Bernard Sumner. From Joy Division to New Order, via Electronic and Bad Lieutenant, he’s been one of leading figures in British music for over 30 years now.

So when the chance came up to see him discuss his incredible career and brilliant new book, Chapter and Verse, we just couldn’t say no. A large crowd came along to the Tabernacle in Notting Hill to see Bernard in conversation with Ed Potton, rock and pop editor for The Times.

They covered a wide range of topics, particularly focusing on Bernard’s early career and the foundations on which the legendary Joy Division were built. Discussing his ‘austere’ upbringing in industrial Manchester, he described how his record collection had been the bright spot in his life. Rather than his music teacher at school, it was actually his geography teacher who introduced him to many new sounds and artists. If they behaved themselves, he used to let the students bring in their LPs and play them on his record player during the break that followed his lessons. If only our geography teachers had been so cool…

When Joy Division first got together, Bernard and Peter Hook, the group’s bassist, advertised in the Virgin record shop in Piccadilly to try and find a singer. After receiving lots of calls from ‘weirdos’ at all hours of the day, Bernard was quite relieved when Ian Curtis got in touch – he already knew about him and was a fan of his coat, which had the word ‘HATE’ stitched on the back. Finding a drummer was even tougher, and they developed an interesting technique for sacking those that they tried but didn’t quite fit the bill; they’d go round to his house with a box of Milk Tray and tell him that he was simply ‘too good’ for the band, claiming that they didn’t want to hold him back.

Chapter and VerseChapter and Verse (Bantam Press)

At times hilarious, at others moving, this was a fascinating 90 minutes of discussion. With topics ranging from the tragic suicide of Ian Curtis, to Joy Division and New Order’s financially reckless manager, Rob Gretton (‘He just didn’t give a shit about money…’), via the acrimonious split between Peter Hook and the rest of New Order, Bernard was a charismatic storyteller who had the whole theatre hanging on his every word. His story of corrupting poor little Johnny Marr (featuring a cameo from Seal, bizarrely) whilst promoting the Electronic album in New York was a particular highlight, and the hints that he gave about the current New Order recording sessions suggest they’re creating another classic. Credit must also go to Mr Potton too, who did a great job chairing the event.

The huge queue that formed for the book signing after the event was a testament to what a popular and influential figure Bernard is. A cracking evening with a true legend to celebrate a ruddy brilliant book, every last Joy Division and New Order fanboy in attendance went home happy.

Chapter and Verse by Bernard Sumner is out now, published by Bantam Press. It’s so good in fact, that we picked it as one of 2014’s best memoirs