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Baker's Dozen

Crime Plays: Writer Ian Rankin On His 13 Favourite Albums
Luke Turner , November 21st, 2012 07:37

Ian Rankin talks to Luke Turner about his life in music, and how he'd like to write novels based on Joy Division and David Bowie albums

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Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
This is the leap from high school to University. I grew up in a small town, and I was the kid who'd hide in his bedroom writing poetry and not telling anyone he was doing it. Suddenly when I got to University I was surrounded by people who wanted to be poets, writers and musicians, and I could relax a little bit, I didn't have to pretend any more, I didn't have to pretend to be one of the gang who hung around on the street corner with their Doc Marten boots on. I could say 'yes, I'm going to write poetry, and be in a band and try this and that'. Punk was great for that, because punk said 'it doesn't' matter what school you went to, or if you've got money, just get out there and try it'. I was scribbling stuff down and sending it off here there and everywhere. I was sending stuff to the Radio Times and there was a cat in hell's chance they were going to publish one of my short stories, but I thought what the hell, I'm going to get myself out there and see what happens. So when some people asked if I wanted to be the singer in their band I said 'yeah fuck it, why not?' We were actually playing a gig in Cowdenbeith in Fife the night that we heard that Ian Curtis had topped himself. I remember going onstage and saying 'this concert is dedicated to Ian Curtis'. I don't think anyone in the audience knew who Ian Curtis was - we were the support band to a heavy metal group who had a laser. I think the only reason people were in the room was to see a laser.

When I got to Uni it was the dark clothing, the black mock leather jacket - I couldn't afford a real leather jacket so I got a PVC type thing - lots of doom and gloom. The poems I wrote got a lot darker, and I was listening to a lot of Joy Division and Throbbing Gristle and Clock DVA. One of my huge regrets is that one of my friends came to my digs one night and said 'hey, I'm going to see the Buzzcocks, they're being supported by this band Joy Division'. I said 'nah I've got an essay to do, I won't go'. The next day I got intrigued by Joy Division and that was when I bought the first album and thought they were really good. Then I heard they were coming back to Edinburgh to headline a small club, so I bought a ticket for that… and of course they never made it. I could have gone to the venue and got my 50p back, but I held onto the ticket. I've still got it.

To me there's almost a narrative running through Unknown Pleasures. I'd love to write a novel that'd take lines from the songs. It's be about an assassin who's sent to a city that he can't make sense of. It's nighttime and he's wandering through the city and he doesn't know exactly who it is that he's going to kill. I've actually gone through the lyrics and plucked out lines from the various songs that you could string together as a story.

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Nov 21, 2012 3:32pm

Big fan of Bowie's Outside - thought I do listen to a copy without the narrated interludes.
Some real quality songs on there.
It sits with Diamond Dogs, Low and Station to Station as my Bowie favourites.

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Nov 21, 2012 4:48pm

one of the best Bowie albums for Lodger, Low, Scary Monsters, Station to station...

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Orishe Olugbo
Nov 21, 2012 5:00pm

Ian Rankin please leave my idea alone! I have been working on my 'Joy Division' novel for a long time and I did exactly as you did. Beginning with 'New Dawn Fades' and ending in 'Interzone' I feel that I have a great tale. Don't rain on my parade.

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bob the slob
Nov 21, 2012 8:44pm

its dansette not dancette mp3 heads tsk tsk tsk

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Nov 21, 2012 10:44pm

Another engaging selection in this always interesting feature. Some of the choices won't come as a massive surprise to readers of Rankin's fiction but his love of early industrial music is not so well documented as his other enthusiasms.

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Nov 22, 2012 1:08pm

Started listening to Jackie Leven right after reading this. Absolutely magnificent.

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Nov 22, 2012 2:24pm

Served him a few times many moons back when I worked in a record shop in Edinburgh! A gentleman who loves his music! Can't remember what he bought though! Sad to read this on the same day I find out that Avalanche are shutting down in said city...

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Nov 22, 2012 3:49pm

wonderful piece! Great to see someone with a real heart for music and a way of telling so too. Really enjoyed it. Guess I have to start reading the books now ...

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Nov 26, 2012 4:32pm

I was at that Buzzcocks gig at the Edinburgh Odeon, when the support act was Joy Division. And I had a ticket for the next Joy Division gig that got cancelled after Curtis' suicide. And, yes, I went and got my refund on the ticket...unlike Ian Rankin!

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Alan Ferguson
Nov 30, 2012 10:21am

Jackie Leven is the Robert Burns of our times - such poetic and thoughtful music in a generous serving - true genius ! Just ordered the whole catalogue... Get it while you can !
Thanks to Ian Rankin I learned about Jackie's existence , alpha to omega. the Jackie Leven RIP dedication in Standing in Another Man's Rain filled me with such grief I couldn't read it for 12 hours. It took the release of Ian's in NZ , nearly a year after Jackie's death to reach me, and on the anniversary I was pleased to have a conversation with Ian in a Scottish Bar in Dunedin - not the Bonny Earl of Moray though :-)

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branwell Johnson
Dec 20, 2012 3:40pm

Interesting - I actually want Hawkwind's Lord of Light or Ejection played at my cremation (latter for amusement's sake if you know the lyrics...).

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Denise Jordan
May 13, 2017 10:50am

Just been listening to a Cafe Jacques CD....can not remember if there is any reference to them in any of the books especially the earlier ones that I have read many years ago.

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