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Bernard Sumner: Confusion - Joy Division, Electronic and New Order Verus the World: Confusion - Joy Division, Electronic and New Order Versus the World [Paperback]

David Nolan
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

30 Aug 2007

Bernard Sumner's life and times, from the back streets of Salford to the international fame and critical acclaim of Joy Division, New Order and Electronic.

Jolted into action by the punk explosion of 1976, Sumner is the man who stepped into the shoes of Ian Curtis after his suicide in 1980 and steered New Order to even greater success, helping to create Acid House, the second Summer of Love and The Hacienda nightclub in Manchester, the most famous club in the world and a magnet for the city's gun and drug culture. His collaborations with The Smiths' Johnny Marr created Electronic, the first true post-punk supergroup.

But Sumner's past, even his real name, has always remained a mystery. . . until now. In a work of rare investigative depth, Nolan re-writes the history of one of music's most influential figures, and in the process nullifies many myths, with exhaustive primary source research, dozens of exclusive interviews and scores of previously unseen photos. The definitive work on the subject.

Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Independent Music Press (30 Aug 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0955282268
  • ISBN-13: 978-0955282263
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 74,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"I feel I now understand something about the riddle wrapped in an enigma that is Bernard Sumner" (Telegraph)

Book Description


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Confused? You won't be 28 Aug 2007
This is a really unusual book, not what I was expecting at all. Nolan has done the research and the leg work, found out about Sumner's past (including the reason for all those name changes) tracked down school friends and former workmates from when Bernard was an animator, as well as former employees, Factory and Hacienda colleagues ... then he's handed it over to the New Order man to get his thoughts. And Sumner gives them big time. Everything from his mum's disability to his feelings about Peter Hook quitting (that's how up to date it is - how did they manage that??) It's all here. For a guy who's never opened up before, Sumner is funny and honest in his contributions. He's not perfect and doesn't pretend to be. The style is different - like two voices in your head, Sumner's and Nolan's - but you get used to it. The introduction says that Bernard would rather this book didn't exist ... but I for one am really glad it does.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insight 29 Sep 2007
By Sean A
In the light of the current resurgence of interest in Joy Division and Ian Curtis, this book offers a timely and (surprisingly) compelling insight into the life of Bernard Sumner - the reluctant successor to Curtis as Joy Division/New Order 'frontman'. The fact Sumner has taken this role for almost 3 decades in near total anonymity provides an interesting counterpoint to the ongoing public excavation of every detail of Ian Curtis's short and tragic life. Through David Nolan's thorough (as usual!) research, we find that Sumner himself has an interesting early personal history, marked with difficult challenges - but his stoicism and reluctance or refusal to discuss his personal history in interviews is admirable in a time where every Z-list celebrity is willing to spill their emotional guts, and detail the 'tragedy' of their lives to any hack who will listen. Nonetheless, Nolan manages to draw Sumner into the project, and the multiple voices of Sumner, Nolan and other interviewees creates an interesting, informative but fundamentally ambiguous portrayal of the man and musician. However, this ambiguity is inherent to all public figures - so is not a criticism of the book - more an observation of how all such identities are complex and multi-layered, and ultimately unknowable as there is no simple truth to find ...

I personally enjoyed the contextual sections on post-war Salford, but often felt that I'd like more detail on the claims (by Tony Wilson et al)that Sumner was a great producer - but I guess that would be appeal more to tech-heads rather than the broader audience the book is aimed at.

Overall, I'd recommend this to anybody interested in Factory / Manchester music / JD/NO - and also to those who are interested in the sequel to the story recounted in the many books, films & documentaries on Curtis and Joy Division - where will it end?
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Publication 28 Sep 2007
(Suitably New Order title)

It seems an odd choice to single out one member of Joy Division/New Order as their unique sounds were down to all members, not just one individual (even the dead one). Nevertheless, there is no denying Bernard's contribution to modern music with his band's welding of dance electronics to rock sensibilities.

While there have been at least two semi-fictitious films and a handful of lengthy documentaries that have covered this story, what this book excels in is the minutiae. Long-forgotten Manchester places are remembered as we follow Bernard from grim Salford on the road to the Lesser Free Trade Hall revelation and far beyond. For somebody who the author accuses of "pulling down the shutters" on his personal background, the subject is honest and forthcoming in his little interjections. He gets annoyed when somebody is being misrepresented (especially the late Ian Curtis) and you can picture him smirking at some of the more unlikely claims. He even tries to clarify some of his earlier foolish flirtations with Nazi imagery which dogged both bands for years.

I suppose when you've had so much crap written about you over the last 30 years, you wouldn't be blamed for becoming mistrustful of prying journalists. But Bernard is not so much enigmatic as a decent bloke with a sense of fairness who doesn't suffer fools gladly.

Maybe you don't quite find out who Bernard Sumner (proper name) is, but you get to find out plenty of what he and his colleagues did. And that alone makes for a compelling read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book 27 Nov 2010
By ggnell
Really, really enjoyed this book. Sumner is one of my all time heroes and such an interesting person.
Nolan certainly did put in the work and talked to all the right people and I love the little notes in the text from Bernard.
The one thing that lets it down, that got really annoying, are the spelling, typos and grammar mistakes. Somebody please sort this out! Something as basic as this shouldn't take away from such a wonderful piece of work!
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rock `n' roll research at its best. 26 Sep 2007
By Phil S
I've known David since 2001 when he was a TV producer at Granada TV, working on his acclaimed documentary and book, I Swear I Was There. I was impressed by his determination and above all, the integrity he displayed in his quest to delve down to the nitty gritty and tell the truth. No guess work, half-baked theories, or hack writing.

In many ways his latest offering is even more astonishing than I Swear I Was There, simply because so little is known about Bernard Sumner. No one has tackled the subject before, and this becomes apparent as the biography begins with the author contacting the register offices of Salford and Manchester, only to uncover his first revelation: Sumner is listed as an adopted child. This is only the start.... name changes, his mother's disability, even his new wife's name, are all uncovered.

Nolan has interviewed a vast number of Sumner's acquaintances from all periods of his life to build up a comprehensive mosaic of memories, experiences, and opinions. The late Tony Wilson gave what was possibly his last ever interview on the topic; it captures him in a reflective and balanced mood, offering considered insight on all aspects of Joy Division, The Hacienda, and New Order.

The book warrants inclusion on God Save The Sex Pistols by virtue of the pivotal visit to the city by the Sex Pistols in June '76, which pointed Bernard Sumner, like many others, in a direction that would shape his life, and lead him away from a career with world famous film animators, Cosgrove Hall. New information about this gig has been unearthed. Also of great interest are the recollections of Manchester's punk mecca, The Electric Circus, where the Pistols would play twice on The Anarchy Tour.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Barney is still a mystery ...
Published 27 days ago by fiona flynn
2.0 out of 5 stars Lacking Substance
As another reviewer said, there are some typos which I also found annoying (better make sure there aren't any in this review then). Read more
Published on 22 Jun 2009 by Rogue Monkey
1.0 out of 5 stars Confused (..thats The Price of Love)
I'm a big New Order fan and grew up continually blasting out the likes of Chosen time, Temptation, Procession, Confusion, Mr Disco, Perfect Kiss & BLT etc. Read more
Published on 9 Oct 2008 by M. Pullan
5.0 out of 5 stars Answered some questions
I would agree with the review by K.Macfarlane (SCOTLAND). That summed it up for me.
Published on 21 Sep 2008 by A. West
2.0 out of 5 stars Illiterate, dull and ultimately disappointing
First things first, did anyone proof read this book? Barely a page goes by without a grammatical howler; it's hard to respect a published work that confuses 'your' and... Read more
Published on 22 Jun 2008 by Tooki
3.0 out of 5 stars Brave but flawed
This isn't quite the exhaustive piece of research it boasts it is. Nolan hasn't really penetrated Barney's inner circle and relies heavily on press cuttings, anecdotes from the... Read more
Published on 19 Mar 2008 by Valdemar
4.0 out of 5 stars Feel every beat
This is an enjoyable book and I would recommend it highly to all New Order / Factory Records fans. David Nolan has researched his subject thoroughly and the book is well written,... Read more
Published on 16 Sep 2007 by A. Simpson
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