Martin Hannett: ‘Creator of the Manchester Sound’

Chris Hewitt
Chris Hewitt

He was heavily involved in the Leigh Festival, organised Bickshaw, let punks play at Deeply Vale on what was a psychedelic festival and there wouldn’t have been Factory Records but for Rochdale. His name is Chris Hewitt and he’s setting the record straight on legendary producer Martin Hannett...

The words etched on Martin Hannett’s headstone, read ‘The Creator of the Manchester Sound’.

Martin Hannett

Martin Hannett

Two decades after his death, the mysterious and once extraordinarily prolific Factory Records producer is to be remembered with a new book, documentary and exhibition about his life.

Hannett succumbed to heart failure, aged 42 in 1991, after a ferocious battle with alcohol and heroin addiction.

Yet since his death, the work of the man behind the sound of Joy Division’s classic albums, Unknown Pleasures and its follow up Closer, has rarely received close attention.

Now record label owner and Lancashire-born author Chris Hewitt, a friend of Hannett, has painstakingly put together the documentary – He Wasn’t Just the Fifth Member of Joy Division – since two decades worth of interviews, tapes and notes were dropped at his door.

“Martin Hannett was a great musical pioneer,” said Hewitt, who has also penned the book.

“Without Martin Hannett, Joy Division and New Order would not have been anything more than a third rate punk band.

“They go off around the world talking about their albums, but Joy Division didn’t understand him at the time because he was so far ahead of the game.

“Martin Hannett created the Joy Division sound – he put Manchester music and the north on the map.”

Sadly, Hannett’s family was destitute when he died, and Hewitt said he was keen to put the record straight two decades after his passing.

“When somebody wrote an uncomplimentary book about him, I decided to try to redress it with the film, about how he played a huge role in the careers of Joy Division, New Order, The Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses, and hopefully it will.

“Martin was a firm believer that you shouldn’t have to go London to break a band, and that records should reflect the environment that they come from, and he broke the mould.”

From the late 70s until the mid-80s, Hannett worked with a variety of artists, 
recording early singles by 
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, John Cooper Clarke, Paul Young and U2 before they moved on to the majors.

He also worked with the Buzzcocks on their first EP, Spiral Scratch.

The documentary DVD will be released in May and a preview of the film, along with an evening dedicated to Martin Hannett will be shown at Gorilla, Whitworth Street, Manchester on April 10: £6