Dick’s Picks: Unravelling the debut album with ‘that’ sleeve from The Durutti Column

Factory record were on of the most iconic label during the ‘80s, releasing classic records from Joy Division, New Order, A Certain Ration, Happy Mondays, and countless others. This week, Dick has dug deep into their catalogue and revisited The Return of The Durutti Column, the debut album The Durutti Column.

So what’s the story with that sleeve, Dick?

Well, it is made of coarse sandpaper. The idea was taken from Memoirs, a book by Guy Debord, which had a sandpaper sleeve that was designed to destroy the other books on your shelf. Wanting to make their make on the industry, The Durutti Column used this technique and 3600 copies of their debut album were manufactured with the same style sleeve.

According to legend, the sleeves were put together by members of Joy Division, A Certain Ratio, and various other Factory Records alumni. As the story goes, Ian Curtis was gluing them while the rest of the band watched pornography in the same room…

Interesting, but what about the music? Is it any good?

The actual content of The Return of The Durutti Column is fantastic. It was miles ahead of its time, and while the UK was hooked on the hypnotic repetition of post-punk, Durutti Column mastermind was thinking outside the box. The instrumental album is marvel of intricate guitar work, with gentle atmosphere and incandescent hum. Reilly drew from classical guitar, folk, new wave, and even soft rock, eschewing the raw clatter of post-punk at the time. It almost serves as a pre-cursor to dream pop, and you can almost hear the Cocteau Twins taking notes.

It proved a divisive formula for The Durutti Column, and history says that not everyone knew quite what to make of the Martin Hannett produced LP. Even Reilly himself seemed indifferent to the music he made, simply wanting to “just try and be truthful,” as he said in an interview. This was parodied in the movie 24 Hour Party People, where footage was show of Reilly playing to an empty Hacienda.

Whether it was popular or not, listening back to the album nearly forty years later, its feels so much more important. By taking a chance, and going against the grain of the early ‘80s, The Return Of The Durutti Column has aged incredibly well and has stood the test of time.

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1 Comment

  1. I bought my copy of The Return of The Durutti Column in of all places a small record shop in Berlin. For some reason the shop had several flyers up for the Pork Dukes. the shopkeeper provided a heavy duty plastic sheet in which it and the flexi 7″ still reside. To be honest I’ve probably only played it 3 times since I bought it.

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