book review:: Who Killed Martin Hannett? The Story of Factory Records’ Musical Magician

Moving like a steady train heading for imminent disaster, Colin Sharp’s Who Killed Martin Hannett? The Story of Factory Records’ Musical Magician fills in the grey area of Martin’s slow collapse. Hannett is of course the genius alchemist behind those great Joy Division records, The Buzzcocks’ “Spiral Scratch EP,” Happy Monday’s “Bummed,” John Cooper Clarke, and many more. His productions inspired many over the years, including those grunge guys from Seattle, and a number of this decade’s forgettable acts such as The Killers. The manner in which he captured the drums made them sound as if they were from a different planet, or recorded in another atmosphere, as I believe Martin was really seeking. His icy productions on those Joy Division records are such marvels, presenting the music in stark frame, that in all reality one has to wonder whether that band would have ever achieved such notoriety without the services of Martin “Zero” Hannett. The author Colin Sharp was his best friend, and through the recollections of those around Martin “Zero” in the dark years leading to his death, Sharp has pieced a tale together to fill in the blanks. Who Killed Martin Hannett? has a pacing similar to Hunter S. Thompson’s works, only without the esoteric details. The book is set up as an episodic tale centered predominantly around heroin scenes, laid out with a finesse that brings about the feeling you’re experiencing the narcotic ramblings first hand. Sharp’s scene depictions are so picturesquely dour, that the waves of warmth and hum of the drugs kicking in, can almost be felt through his connection of sentences. In the early years, the drugs allowed Martin to delve deep into his work in the studio with his mind’s powerful microscope. After his glory days, the drugs stopped working and took him further away from his true joy; with that separation being what most likely killed him in the end. Perhaps it is the natural fate of the obsessive pursuing the elusive goal of perfection of a vision, that self-destruction is the only possible finale. Who Killed Martin Hannett? is a fun read that can be sucked down in no time at all.

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