Making the book
During his twenty-one years managing Joy Division and New Order, Rob Gretton - a dedicated hoarder built up a private archive of notebooks and business records (plus a wealth of memorabilia such as posters, sleeve artwork and gig tapes) in a secret lock-up in Manchester city centre.
When Rob's partner, Lesley, decided to bring some order to this collection, she contacted Manchester District Music Archive and together we began cataloguing the objects that Rob had left behind.
Soon we began to think about doing something in celebration of Rob's life, using the material he had stored so diligently. And then it was decided: we would turn Rob's Joy Division notebooks perhaps the most intriguing element of his archive into a book that we would publish ourselves.
Over a number of weeks, we photographed all of Rob's notebook pages, and each item of supplementary material, before beginning a lengthy and democratic editing process. How to squeeze seven hundred pages of scribbled ideas, set lists, gig plans, posters and letters into a single volume?
Inevitably, page count constraints - and the desire to make the book as readable as possible - resulted in a number of things being left out. But we have added the extra material that didn't make it into the book to a special 'members only' area of this website. Passwords for these pages will be sent as a thank-you to those who buy '1 Top Class Manager' directly from our site.
When working on the layout and design, we did consider annotating Rob's books (notes on notes?), but decided it was best to present the material in as pure a form as possible, leaving readers with the option of carrying out a little detective work, should they feel so inclined. Joy Division's career is well documented in books, films and on websites; duplicating that information would have reduced the space available for Rob's notebooks, most of which have never been publicly presented before.
We did, however, decide on a blanket policy of blocking out all phone numbers and personal addresses in the book. Whilst this data is thirty years old and for the most part no longer relevant, we still felt it important to protect everyone's personal information.
We have divided the material into separate years: '78, '79 and '80, and given a brief outline of the band's activities during each twelve month period. We hope that these breakdowns give the less 'informed' reader an overview of what Rob and the band were working on at any given time.
Whilst the notebooks do follow a loose chronology, readers may notice some crossover between books, or shifts in time here and there. This is because Rob generally had two different notebooks on the go at any one time: the traditional reporters' spiral-bound notepad, and larger 'legal'-style books. He would carry a spiral pad in his pocket when he was out and about, recording expenditure, set lists, new contacts and the like, and then neatly transfer the important details into larger books at home.
These notebooks aren't diaries they are not a record of Rob's emotional life during the Joy Division years but his personality and thought processes are on show throughout. His notes on the band's image and aesthetic at the beginning of '79, for example, read like a kind of JD manifesto, and underline his role as 'fifth member' of the band. 'Synthesizer', he writes, ' my idea is to introduce it at the end of the set in a form of jam Ian suggests he talks over [it] but who is going to play it? What do you think about this?'
And '1 Top Class Manager' doesn't just lift the lid on Joy Division. There are broader themes to enjoy. It debunks the myths of the trade, ('Bands, Posters, Lights, Money' could have been another title for this book); it paints a picture of post-punk Manchester and its community of like-minded musicians, promoters and journalists; and, perhaps most importantly of all, it allows us a glimpse of a one of Manchester music's most influential yet elusive characters. It is the real Rob Gretton. We hope you enjoy it.