“There’s fucking Nazi’s riding on the fucking tank!” Peter Hook

Although the history of Joy Division (and later New Order) would become affectionately intertwined with a little corner of Walthamstow, North East London, a poster with a bunch of Nazi’s on it was perhaps not the most auspicious start.

Almost forty years on and Jasmine Hooper – who organised the gig on March the 30th 1979 – is chuckling as she recalls the reaction to the poster, while simultaneously making me some porridge and gesticulating out her back window to where ‘Walthamstow Youth Centre’ once stood, literally at the bottom of her garden.
I got into so much trouble over that poster… my manager, understandably, went berserk when she saw it… she said,Do you know what this is!?’ I rather naively said, ‘well, the kids designed it, it’s fine’. She said, ‘It’s a German tank! You’re going to upset a lot of people, get it down now!!’.

The ‘kids’ responsible were local lads, Martin Comey and Dave Jones from the group SX (as in Essex) who’d provide support for Joy Division on the night. Dave Jones, or Jonesy as he was known to his mates, changed his name by deed poll to Dave Pils – perhaps taking inspiration from Bernard Sumners own shifting surname – and he went on to work for Joy Division and then New Order for almost a decade.

Martin: “We cut some pictures out of a magazine called ‘Purnell’s History of the Second World War’, and collaged them together. So the tanks are in North Africa, the blokes walking in front are in Russia and so on”.

Then a bloke called Greg who ran photography sessions for the kids took a picture of the collage and in the youth centre’s very own darkroom, developed a few A3 copies onto glossy photographic paper.

"There's fucking Nazi's riding on the fucking tank!"

— Peter Hook's reported reaction to the poster.

Dave Pils was one of the first punks who came into the youth club, which at that point mostly catered for working-class East End kids. Jasmine loved music and so did the youngsters hanging out at the club, so she began organising gigs and discos. Pils became her lodger, arriving with a few small carriers of clothes and a huge army kit bag bursting at the seams with music magazines.

It was Dave who insisted Jasmine HAD to come and see a new band called Joy Division.

Martin Comey: “Dave had bought a 10 inch EP called “Live at the Electric Circus” primarily for two bands we were interested in, The Fall and Burning Spear. However, when we gathered round Jasmine’s house to listen, they were completely eclipsed by this group we’d never heard of before, called Joy Division.”

An opportunity to see the band came up that Christmas with Joy Division’s first ever London gig in the basement of the Hope and Anchor in Islington (27th December 1978).
They just blew everyone in the room away,” says Martin, “all 8 of us and the 3 people behind the bar“.
Jasmine was similarly impressed: “It was tiny and Ian (Curtis) was just mesmerising, just because of how he performs. I thought I have to get them down to the youth club. I HAVE to go and ask them“.
Martin takes up the story: “Jasmine went up to their manager, Rob Gretton, and said I’ve got a youth club in Walthamstow would you like to play there and he said ‘yeah’, just like that! No, I’ll just phone the office and check the diary, or where’s Walthamstow!

They were very warm and very friendly,” says Jasmine, “You have this perception that people who perform are a bit up their own bums but they said, “Yeah, yeah, ok“.

A date was set for Friday 30th March 1979 and as the band were skint, they gladly accepted Jasmine’s offer to crash at hers as well as the ‘in-house’ support act, SX.
We put an advert in one of the music papers” recalls Martin about the next step in their ill-fated publicity drive, “they misprinted it as ‘Joy Davidson’ as though it was an opera singer… so it’s hardly a surprise no one came“.

(above) Lead singer Dave Pils (nee Jones) about to pour water over Lawrence Giltnane (who was not the drummer for SX) to get him off the kit so they could get on with practice © Martin Comey

"It was one of those incendiary gigs. They played an absolutely storming set to a sparse crowd". Paul Jenner (pictured)
"It didn't matter that it was youth club with a bunch of kids in it, they played as though their lives depended on it".  Martin Comey (SX)

A portable stage of a dozen boxes was set up at one end of the hall and in the absence of hi-tech stage lighting, the tube lights above the band were turned off to temper the harsh glare of a Victorian school hall. “I don’t remember what they played,” Jasmine tells me “but I do remember thinking, Dave your PA is rubbish!! There was so much feedback“.

In ‘Unknown Pleasures – Inside Joy Division’, Peter Hook notes: “It was a weird crowd, very young kids there, running about, ignoring us like a school hall type gig“. 
Jasmine explains, “We had a junior section of under 12’s and we’d dashed around trying to get rid of them before the gig but they didn’t want to leave“.

Paul Jenner – who was at the gig and to this day has one of the original photographic paper posters hanging on his stairs – recalls “It was one of those incendiary gigs. They played an absolutely storming set to a sparse crowd. There was plenty of room to walk about“.

Paul also recalls Curtis having a fit during the show (although it should be noted that everyone else I’ve spoken to is adamant he didn’t and that his erratic stage moves could sometimes be confused with a fit).

During ‘Digital’ Curtis had one of his fits and fell through the stage. There was a hole in the carpet and he went down through the crates. They dragged him off but he soon recovered and was back up in front of everyone again“.

“When we played with them, we realised that whatever it was they had…We didn’t have!”

— Martin Comey (SX)

Comey was left both in awe and with a new understanding of SX’s place in the world: “They played a full set and it didn’t matter that it was youth club with a bunch of kids in it, they played as though their lives depended on it. And they were something. The legend deserves to be legend with that band, they were moving so quickly and writing songs so fast“.

When we played with them, we realised that whatever it was they had… we didn’t have!

The night turned out to be the apex for SX, as Pils was offered a chance to roadie for Joy Division and jumped at the chance. “He was the dealmaker as well as the singer so that was pretty much the end for us” laments Martin.

Whether the local council lamented their end is less sure given their hobby of spraying their logo with aerosols in Day-Glo pink all over Walthamstow.
On one occasion Dave – complete with Jasmine’s pasting bucket – was caught flyposting and ended up in court.

The funny thing was“, recalls Jasmine, “the report in the local paper says that when he was asked if he had anything to say to the magistrates, he replied, ‘Can I have my landladies bucket back’?… Of all the things to say! How Silly!

After the gig, Jasmine sheepishly apologised to Joy Division’s manager Rob for the lack of takings on the door, and everyone headed back to her for what she always considered the most fun part of the concerts she organised.

I didn’t have any furniture or carpet, just some rush matting I got cheap from Habitat and some mattresses and cushions from the ex-hippie days. We just laid everything out and everyone would sleep on the floor“. According to Jasmine, Ian Curtis was tired and a little stressed so headed to bed almost immediately.

The next morning, however, Peter Hook was up early and in a playful mood, “We were making toast and they decided to play a trick on Dave“. Gesturing at the sink, Jasmine laughs as she tells me, “You see those sponges? They put butter and stuff on them, so they looked like toast. When Dave came down, he took a bite and freaked out“.

Martin remembers Barney, Hookey and Steve wanting to go shopping for clothes. “They wanted to go to Carnaby Street, Petticoat Lane and Portobello Road. I was not into that at all, so I stuck them on a bus at St. James Street with instructions on how to get to Brick Lane“.

On Sunday they were due in Stockport for three successive weekends at Strawberry Studios recording their debut LP, ‘Unknown Pleasures’ with producer Martin Hannett.

The SX logo, as spray painted in day-glo across Waltham Forest
Martin Comey from SX 1979 © Martin Comey
Walthamstow Youth Centre on Markhouse Road – then and now

“Our relationship with the band became more like friends… It wasn’t so much, I’m booking you for a gig. It was more like – the house is open, if you wanna come, come and stay.
I think they valued that as they were just starting out and didn’t have a lot of cash
“. Jasmine Hooper

Returning to Walthamstow in March 2018 for a talk about his career, Peter Hook echoed Jasmine’s feelings: “We’d never met anyone like Jasmine before, she actually helped people! She was a youth worker looking out for young kids. We didn’t have people like her where we came from and every time we were in London we’d just crash at hers.”

Peter Hook and Jasmine @ Walthamstow Rock'n'Roll Book Club 2018 (c) Robert Shiret

The Youth Centre hosted Joy Division again on August 22nd, 1979, but with a distance of 40 years, memories of the performance are sketchy and often fused with the first.
As Martin points out to me when I keep badgering him for details…”It was a long time ago!

Trevor Howard, who like most who attended the Walthamstow gigs became a lifelong Joy Division and New Order fan – was mesmerised by Ian Curtis but more vividly recalls the drumming. “My main interest was Stephen Morris and his frantic/ferocious drumming. I had always fancied myself as a drummer and he was thrilling to watch! I remember him hit the Synare drum like it was yesterday and thinking… “so that’s what makes the sound!

"I scanned the negs and out of the past emerged a picture of Ian"

— Martin Comey

STUMBLING ACROSS UNPUBLISHED PHOTOGRAPHS OF IAN CURTIS

Back in 2016, with help from a load of talented folk, I curated an exhibition about Walthamstow’s seminal punk and post-punk shop and label, Small Wonder Records. As is the way with these things my research sent me off down tangents I hadn’t expected, so an interview with The Zero’s Steve Godfrey, revealed a Walthamstow Punk zine called ‘Fair Dukes’ and then exchanges with those responsible revealed two of the Fair Dukes were also in the band SX.

It wasn’t until the summer of 2017 that I finally met up with the Fair Dukes and half of SX (minus Dave and drummer Spencer South).
 At the end of a good hour and a half chat, Martin Comey casually mentioned finding some photos, “I might be interested in“. This was said in the manner of a man who’s fairly sure my jaw had better get acquainted with the floor. “You might recognise these people“… he deadpans, handing me a photograph of Ian Curtis, cigarette in hand, sat on Jasmine’s floor with a purple blanket wrapped around his shoulders.

I’d completely forgotten I’d taken a picture of Ian until you came along and prompted me to go searching through what I had. I found a film that had hardly any prints left in it but quite a lot of negatives. So I scanned the negs and out of the past emerged a picture of Ian“.

Another photo shows a relaxed Steve and Barney shooting the breeze with some of Martin’s school friends. He was initially reticent to share the photographs online, due to fears of them being exploited or misrepresented, a concern I can more than understand having had an early photo of Adele I took ripped off by The Sun, complete with a fictitious backstory and copyright symbols everywhere.

There was a hell of a lot going on after that gig” The second gig, I ask…”yes, I’m pretty sure,” he says in an unsure manner.
My recollection after the gig was that Rob their manager and Ian were closeted together all night long and it was a pretty heavy conversation that was going on in a room upstairs“.
Peter Hook thinks they were taken after the first gig… so who knows.

After learning Peter Hook was coming to E17 for a talk with the Walthamstow Rock’n’Roll Book Club, I messaged Martin me to let him know… the reply came back.
if Hooky wants to know why I didn’t get a picture of him, it’s because he was in the kitchen drinking the case of Fosters they brought with them. I did help him out a little with that!

The second concert is perhaps best known for a meeting that took place back at Jasmine’s after the show. “Annik was here you know,” she says with perhaps a hint of dolefulness in her voice. Hooks ‘Unknown Pleasures’ book confirms the aspiring Belgian music journalist Annik Honoré interviewed the band for, some say, “a marathon four hours“.
The married Curtis and Honoré connected and met again in Leeds a month later. “Annik was only here that one time” points out Jasmine, “but I suppose that was when all the damage started“.

Jasmine also recalls the band playing ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ at the second show, although it’s widely reported that the song got it’s first live airing at shows supporting The Buzzcocks, the following month.

Ahead of their European tour in January 1980, Joy Division were back and according to the book, ‘Disorder and other Unknown Pleasures’, having a row.

Bernard Sumner: “We were at our friend Jasmine’s house in Walthamstow before we got the ferry to Europe and Frank Sinatra came on the telly. Ian said, ‘Frank Sinatra’s great.’ Either me or Rob went, ‘No, he’s shit.’ ‘No, he’s great.’ ‘No, he’s fucking SHIT!’ ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about, he’s fucking GREAT!’ And the whole argument escalated… I think Ian sang like Frank Sinatra on ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ to fuck us off.
Tony Wilson gifted Curtis with a set of Frank Sinatra albums shortly before the recording of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’.

Understandably Jasmine doesn’t want to dwell on Ian’s death. “It was such a difficult traumatic time for them. They were on the cusp of something and their key figure… disintegrates really and everything collapsed around him“. Dave Pils was due to fly to America the next day for the groups first US tour.

Much later Dave told Peter Hook that Ian had left his famous Mac behind the last time they’d stayed at Jasmine’s in Walthamstow. In his Joy Division book, Hooky recounts the tale:
Dave had grabbed the Mac and gone running after the car when we’d left, but it was too late we’d gone. That was the last time Dave saw Ian.
What did you do with the Mac I asked
‘Took it down the charity shop Hooky’

Out of the tragedy, huge commercial success somehow followed, and in September ‘81, New Order swapped the school hall for the Grade II listed Assembly Hall on Forest Road. The gig was organised by ‘Final Solution’, concert promoters set up by the former ‘Saturday boy’ at Walthamstow’s Small Wonder Records, Colin Faver, along with Kevin Milins.

The next day they were due to play a ‘mystery’ gig at a castle in Kent with people to be collected at Speaker’s Corner with no idea where they were heading. The British weather put pay to that plan.

Trevor Howard’s poster – signed by all of New Order (except Gillian)

While in Walthamstow the band popped into Small Wonder Records to sign their latest single ‘Procession’.
Local fan, Trevor Howard recalls asking Small Wonder boss Pete Stennett if they’d actually physically come in the shop:
Pete said, ‘Oh yeah, then they went to Dhaka tandoori across the road for lunch’. To this day, I always give an admiring glance to Dhaka tandoori!

Trevor was also one of the lucky two or three people who nabbed an original poster for the Youth Centre gig. When they played Assembly Hall as New Order he took the opportunity to ask Dave Pils if he could get it signed by the band, with one strict instruction, ‘do not let Gillian sign it‘!

In 1983 Martin Comey recalls Hooky driving him and Dave Pils around Walthamstow in his new bright red Audi Coupé.
He was verrrry proud of that car. It was an extremely fast and ‘ooky loved it, but we must have made a peculiar sight in austere early eighties Walthamstow. Three punk rockers in black leathers in a brand new supercar: some rebellion. At least we didn’t get arrested for speeding!”

For Jasmine, the times both Joy Division and New Order stayed with her are full of great memories and – despite a perhaps sombre image – mostly recollections of having a right proper good laugh.

I remember when they did the support for the Buzzcocks in Finsbury Park, Dave and I cooked up some horrible things for them. We bought maggots and mice. When I think back I think I must have been mad, it’s really quite a mean thing to do. What we did was when The Buzzcocks were due to play… I just remember we had maggots come off the instruments. In the bus on our way home there were mice, and we put shaving foam all over the dressing room. It was just like really stupid stuff, like kids do but it was all supposed to be a big laugh. It was just a bit dippy.
I remember Dave and I standing by the mixer at The Rainbow and waiting and watching to see the reaction and what would happen when the band realised there was something not quite right on stage. All of the sudden you saw them jump up and scurry off
“.

When Dave Pils finally stopped working for New Order, they held him in such esteem that they honoured him by inscribing “GOODBYE DAVY PILS 27.12.78 – 5.6.87” in the run-out groove of their multiple million-selling ‘Substance’ LP.

During his appearance at the ‘Walthamstow Rock’n’roll Book Club, Hook talked warmly about Jasmine (and Dave), “Every time we were in London we’d crash at hers. For years… it only ended when we got really rich… Obviously then we told Jasmine she could fuck right off!’.  At the back of the room, Jasmine grins, pleased to be in the company of her old friend again.

Small Wonder Records - 162 Hoe Street
New Order's 'Procession' 7" as signed at Small Wonder