Wednesday, 10 May 2017
678 Play at Home
First viewed : 21 August 1984
Play at Home was another Channel Four music programme which invited successful bands to make a documentary about themselves, showing how they went about their business. No disrespect to the other bands involved but the outstanding draw was the second programme which featured New Order, part of the ongoing thaw in their public presentation, having spent the four years since the tragic demise of Joy Division eschewing the usual media channels, whether through a desire to preserve the JD mystique or simply to avoid answering endless questions about the suicide of Ian Curtis.
The programme offered a first opportunity to see and hear the four musicians talking about their music and half-delivered on the promise. It did feature interviews with Bernie, Steve, Hooky and Gillian except they were asking the questions of the guys behind Factory Records, the real subject of the documentary. Joy Division aren't mentioned once in the programme.
Poor Gillian Gilbert drew the short straw with a visit to chez Wilson where she had to climb inside the bath to interview the great man in his birthday suit. He had the decency to cover his vitals until making a point about capitalism when he needed both hands to gesticulate and all was revealed ,including possibly the reason Mrs Wilson,ahem "played away " with Howard Devoto. Gilbert, a reticent personality at the best of times, looked nervous and embarrassed throughout as well she might. She later had a more comfortable encounter in the gym with Factory's female employees Cath Carroll and Liz Naylor ( and looked pretty good in hot pants ).
Steve Morris didn't fare much better, being saddled with an off-his-face Martin Hannett whose entire contribution to the programme could be summarised in four words : I am a smackhead.
Peter Hook got the best claim for posterity with a very rare interview with the elusive Alan Erasmus , posing the questions while giving him a ride on his motorbike on the latter's farm. Erasmus's answers left you absolutely none the wiser as to the enduring mystery of what exactly he brought to the party.
Obviously a lot of water has passed under the bridge since it was made and it's hard to watch it now without the weight of hindsight. Apart from Happy Mondays' antics , the reasons for Factory's eventual demise are clear enough already in the cavalier attitude to contracts and economics. The shortcomings of the Hacienda as a club are mercilessly exposed with Factory's own people lining up to stick the boot in, a remarkable bit of television.
I must admit I can't recall anything about the other programmes in the series which featured Big Country and Level 42 amongst others.