Thursday, August 27, 2009

One Two Five Four

You might not believe me, but I was once on time to one of my classes at uni. It's true. In fact, I was actually early. It was a third year Criminal Evidence tutorial on the other side of campus, past the students napping on the grass next to the ELTs. I traipsed into Menzies College to find a gent already seated at the table. He was wearing a Joy Division t-shirt. It was the artwork to Unknown Pleasures, designed by Peter Saville, concept by Bernard Sumner. My eyes were zapped. Someone in my class likes Joy Division? Surely this must not be so. Without hesitation, I asked if he liked Joy Division. He stopped a moment and furrowed his brow: "What are you talking about?"

It was my first exposure to the artwork of Unknown Pleasures on a t-shirt. Ever since then, I've witnessed an unusually high number of Unknown Pleasures t-shirts around the place. My brother points them out to me when we're walking down the street and it makes me feel narky. How are you supposed to know who really likes the band if everybody who wears the t-shirt buys it on the basis of its appearance? I say this with some reservation, as I understand that I am not entitled to be ungracious about this. It is hardly a Ramones' t-shirt scenario where the popularity of the t-shirt has completely superseded the popularity of the band itself. I can easily recall a time where teenybopper icons would don a Ramones' t-shirt, not because of any due loyalty to Joey & co., but because their stylist told them to. That's right, I'm looking at you, Holly Valance.

My relationship with the Unknown Pleasures t-shirt took a strange turn a week or so ago. In a record store in Brisbane, I found a t-shirt of pre-Joy Division band, Warsaw. It featured the artwork to Warsaw's 1978 EP, The Ideal Beginning. I saw the t-shirt hanging on the wall and I immediately recalled its brief inclusion in Anton Corbijn's first feature film, Control. It was the scene where the fake Bernard Sumner presented his drawing of an HJ banging on a drum to the band. It's a rather haunting drawing, yet eerily enough, it wasn't too dissimilar to all those drawings featured in my girl annuals from the 1930s and 40s. Irrespective of any HJ affiliation, I bought the t-shirt. It's pretty damn cool.

Perhaps my preference for Warsaw over Joy Division highlights a lacklustre desire to be obscure and pretentious. It certainly wouldn't serve as any sort of surprise. Then again, I would hate to wear something that doesn't squarely symbolise my band anymore. That, and I would hate for any confusion to arise as to my allegiance to a musical group. I would hate to receive that odd look of disgust or subcultural suspicion. I'd rather avoid the scenario altogether.


  1. The Ramones thing has gone way too far. Band has been turned into 'brand'. D'you like that one? You can use it. :P

  2. I bought a touristy t-shirt in Christchurch once because I think it was based on the cover of Transmission - but instead of random lumpy mountain things, it featured the shape of NZ. Clever.

    A terrible waste of money (never worn it - too itchy), but I stand by my purchase.