Είκοσι πέντε χρόνια από την αυτοκτονία του τραγουδιστή των Joy Division, Ιαν Κέρτις
Στην οθόνη η σύντομη ζωή του
Τη νύχτα της 18ης Μαΐου του 1980 ο Ιαν Κέρτις, τραγουδιστής των Joy Division, έβαλε ένα άλμπουμ του Ιγκι Ποπ, το «The Idiot», στο πικ απ και απαγχονίστηκε στο σπίτι του στο Μάντσεστερ. Πίσω του άφησε ένα σύντομο σημείωμα: «Αυτή τη στιγμή θα ήθελα να ήμουν νεκρός, απλώς δεν αντέχω άλλο».
Ετσι, σταμάτησε απότομα η πορεία μιας μπάντας που σηματοδότησε με έναν απαράμιλλα σκοτεινό και κλειστοφοβικό ήχο και αφόρητα πεσιμιστικούς στίχους το τέλος της πανκ θύελλας. Ο εικοσιτριάχρονος τότε Ιαν Κέρτις πέρασε στην ιστορία του ροκ εν ρολ ως ο καλλιτέχνης που χάθηκε στον ίδιο του τον λαβύρινθο, αδυνατώντας να τα βγάλει πέρα με την κατάθλιψή του. Και κατά παράδοξο τρόπο, έγινε ήρωας σε μια σκηνή που είχε απορρίψει τα είδωλα.
Οι Joy Division άφησαν πίσω τους μόνο δύο άλμπουμ, το ντεμπούτο τους «Unknown Pleasures» και το «Closer» -το τρίτο ήταν το μεταθανάτιο «Still», με τα πρώιμα τραγούδια και κάποιες ζωντανές ηχογραφήσεις-, αλλά η επιρροή τους στάθηκε καθοριστική για μία περίπου δεκαετία στη μουσική σκηνή. Δεν ήταν μόνο η ζοφερή ατμόσφαιρα που δημιουργούσε η μουσική τους, ούτε μόνο η απόγνωση που εξέφραζε η φωνή του Κέρτις. Στις ζωντανές τους εμφανίσεις, όπως δείχνουν και τα ελάχιστα μαυρόασπρα βίντεο, καθηλωτική ήταν η σκηνική παρουσία του Κέρτις, που χόρευε μαινόμενος μπροστά στο μικρόφωνο σαν να υπέφερε από κρίσεις επιληψίας.
Μετά τον θάνατό του οι υπόλοιποι Joy Division άνοιξαν νέο κεφάλαιο ως New Order, άλλαξαν μουσική κατεύθυνση και υπέγραψαν το πιο εμπορικό δωδεκάιντσο τραγούδι όλων των εποχών, το «Blue Monday». Και η χήρα του Κέρτις, Ντέμπορα, με την οποία είχε αποκτήσει μία κόρη, έγραψε το βιβλίο «Αγγίζοντας από απόσταση» (εκδ. «Νέα Σύνορα»), όπου διηγούνταν τη ζωή της με τον Ιαν χωρίς να αποφεύγει να τον κατηγορήσει ως εγωιστή και αυταρχικό, πως διατηρούσε μια εμμονή με το Γ' Ράιχ.
Σε αυτό το βιβλίο βασίζεται το σενάριο μιας ταινίας με προσωρινό τίτλο «Control», που φιλοδοξεί να αποτελέσει μια βιογραφία του Ιαν Κέρτις, αφού έχει και την έγκριση της οικογένειάς του. «Το κοινό έχει διάφορες απόψεις σχετικά με την αιτία της αυτοκτονίας του Ιαν και ίσως η ταινία καταφέρει να φωτίσει κάποιες πτυχές», είπε στο BBC ο Τόνι Γουίλσον, ιδιοκτήτης της ιστορικής δισκογραφικής Factory, όπου οι Joy Division είχαν κυκλοφορήσει τα άλμπουμ τους. «Δεν θέλουν απλώς μια ταινία για τη μουσική της δεκαετίας του ογδόντα, αλλά την αληθινή του ιστορία. Επιφυλλάσομαι, βέβαια, γιατί όταν οι άνθρωποι του κινηματογράφου ασχολούνται με τη μουσική, έχουν την τάση να ανακατεύουν τα πράγματα ώστε να προκύπτει ένας πολτός», συμπληρώνει ο Γουίλσον.
Αυτή τη φορά, όμως, οι προθέσεις είναι διαφορετικές. Η Ντέμπορα Κέρτις είναι παραγωγός της ταινίας και σκηνοθέτης είναι ο Ολλανδός Αντον Κορμπάιν, πρώην φωτογράφος και γνωστός από τις δουλειές του με τους Depeche Mode και τους U2. Αυτός ήταν ο φωτογράφος της μπάντας το 1979. «Οι φωτογραφίες που είχα τραβήξει συνδέθηκαν με τον θάνατό του», λέει ο ίδιος. Τώρα τον ζωντανεύει στη μεγάλη οθόνη, υποσχόμενος μια ιστορία πέρα από τα κλισέ του «καταραμένου» καλλιτέχνη. Ενώ ο μουσικός επιμελητής της ταινίας, Τοντ Εκερτ, συνοψίζει: «Παρά τις φήμες, ούτε ο Μόμπι θα παίζει μουσική ούτε, φυσικά, ο Τζουντ Λο θα έχει τον ρόλο του Ιαν. Θέλουμε να παρουσιάσουμε την ανθρώπινη πλευρά ενός χαρισματικού μουσικού, που επέλεξε κάποια στιγμή τη φυγή του με απόλυτα έντιμο τρόπο».
ΕΛΕΥΘΕΡΟΤΥΠΙΑ - 22/01/2005
Εχετε ακουσει κατι νεοτερο ή σχετικο με την ταινια;
παντως οσοι ενδιαφερεστε για την μουσικη σκηνη του manchester τη δεκαετια του 80 ενδιαφερουσα ταινια ειναι το 24hour Party people.
Although they survived merely five months into the decade, the shadow cast over the music of the Eighties by Joy Division is unlikely to have faded by 1990. The tragic death of singer Ian Curtis in May 1980 coincided with the release of what was generally agreed would be their artistic and commercial breakthrough second album (Closer) and, as with so many of rock’s graveyard of youthful and unfulfilled casualties, it has become difficult to separate the acclaim justly earned on the merits of some brilliant music from the excesses of the inevitable death cult that subsequently surrounded the name of Joy Division. The myth and nonsense that has accumulated about what was a very private death, and anything but a Romantic artistic martyrdom, has distorted the critical perspective on Joy Division and come close to obscuring the fact that, behind the unsolicited hyperbole, the comparatively small recorded legacy of Joy Division’s short life remains remarkable and memorable. It not only stands as classic and unique rock, but will undoubtedly play its part in defining the very nature of rock music in the Eighties. Perhaps the most destructive effect of the Joy Division cult has been the creation of the myth that the haunting melancholic baritone, obscurist lyrics and marvellous timing of Ian Curtis were the only significant ingredients of Joy Division’s greatness. It is a myth that unjustly belittles the importance of the roles played by Bernard Albrecht, Peter Hook, Steve Morris and producer Martin Hannett in evolving their beautiful moods, melodies and deceptively danceable rhythms. Joy Division died with Ian Curtis on May 18th 1980 but in a real sense the band does live on — in the music of New Order, the band formed by the remaining members of Joy Division. The history of Joy Division is, therefore, paradoxically a story both with and without an end.
The aggressive ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’ rock of the Sex Pistols now seems to have very little connection with Joy Division music like ‘Atmosphere’ or ‘New Dawn Fades’, but like so many bands, Joy Division may well never have existed if the Sex Pistols had not turned the British rock scene around from its collision course with Middle of the Road respectability in the summer of 1976, first with live performances of almost total spontaneity and carefree enthusiasm, and then with a series of singles which took rock out of the concert halls and back onto the streets.
Ian Curtis, Bernard Dicken, Peter Hook and Steve Morris were all twenty in 1976 and working in either dull or dead-end jobs. Ian Curtis pushed trucks in a cotton mill and Bernard Dicken pushed a pen in an office. At twenty they were old enough, after four years of work, to feel themselves to be in a rut but still young enough not to have dreams and ambition worn out of them by the daily grind. The Pistols revolution, which was almost immediately taken up by local Manchester bands like The Buzzcocks, Slaughter & The Dogs and The Drones, inspired Curtis, Dicken and Hook, along with so many others, to buy instruments and form a band as a means of expressing themselves. A year earlier such an idea would have seemed absurd — only Real Musicians who had ‘paid their dues’ in bands since childhood had any right to get up on a rock stage — but the Pistols had cut through the mystique of the ‘70s rock musicians’ art and served as a reminder that three chords and a lot of cheek were basically all that anyone ever needed to rock and roll.
At first it was just three friends who met at gigs (Bernard and Peter had been at school together in Manchester) learning guitars and trying to play and write punk music in the evenings and at weekends. Even by the time the three began to take on roles — Ian Curtis as the singer and occasional guitarist, Bernard Dicken as the guitarist and Peter Hook as the bassist — and call themselves a band early in 1977 there was still little to distinguish them from any other Pistols followers spitting venom in back bedrooms all over Britain. With a target set somewhere between the musical accomplishment of ‘London’s Burning’ and the urbane sophistication of Iggy Pop they played hard and obnoxious and — no doubt to the relief of neighbours — without a drummer as no one was yet willing to join them in that capacity.
Like everyone else of their age they had listened to Bowie in their teens, and when their band became serious enough to need a name it was to Bowie’s most recent album, ‘Low’, that they turned for inspiration: the Germanic instrumental ‘Warszawa’ seemed to provide just the right combination of the familiar and the exotic once amended to plain ‘Warsaw’ for local punk consumption
In keeping with the style of 1977, in which bands delayed for a minimum length of time between picking up their chosen instruments for the first time and making their performing debut, Warsaw played their first public performance just five months after formation on May 29th at Manchester punk mecca The Electric Circus. They were bottom of the bill which also included local heroes the Buzzcocks, who still relied on the sparks produced across the twin terminals of Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley at this stage, and Penetration. It was a performance of archetypal punk cockyness and aggression, made all the more convincing by the fact that the original trio’s months searching for a fourth member to play drums had only come to fruition on the eve of their public debut, with the completion of the line-up by Ian Curtis’ old Macclesfield school friend Steve Morris.
The NME review by Max Bell indicated one of the identifiable ingredients of Joy Division’s unique musical concoction: Ian Curtis’ melancholy baritone so often recalled the Doors’ Jim Morrison, just as his wild epileptic dancing conjured up visions of Iggy Pop: a man who also lapsed into a very acceptable impersonation of Mr. Mojo Rising on occasion. This undeniable Jim Morrison/Iggy Pop heritage was set against a musical backdrop that was an electric mix of post-punk ‘free-form’ a la Siouxsie and the Banshees’ explorations of Minor 7th chords, Tangerine Dream! Neu/La Dusseldorf mood mekaniks, Epic grandeur of the Pink Floyd/King Crimson school and the sullen melancholia of the Jacques Brel/Scott Engel/Tim Buckley/Leonard Cohen faculty of Psychosis Engineering. Yet to list the elements of Joy Division’s s music is to devalue a unique and original experience: just as a chemical compound takes on an identity that is uniquely its own and not that of an amalgam of elements, so Joy Division’s music achieved the rare and elusive quality of originality. So much so that identifiable similarities with past music soon seem to be merely surface features when the music becomes familiar. Much of Joy Division’s impact was, for example, derived from their subtle melodic inventive-ness and their haunting quality from a remarkable manipulation of familiar ideas set against lyrical and I instrumental ‘obscurity’ and uncertainty, which placed them within the context of late seventies rock but at the same time quite outside similar previous experience
Remarkably, an era dominated by the independent single, Joy Division had not released a conventional single during their first two years of operation so for them releasing a single in 1979 was a novelty. Usual practice was to issue one of the outstanding tracks from an album immediately before putting the album out, in the hope that a hit single would give the album an initial sales boost, but neither Joy Division nor Factory were slaves to industry conventions and l although a single was chosen from the May album sessions it was deliberately left off the album and no one seemed in any hurry to release it, despite considerable demand.
Ian Curtis was never the cliched tortured artist in the Van Gogh tradition that his legend has cast him as, on the evidence of aspects of his music. He was a deeply sensitive and creative introvert but also capable of such everyday acts as enjoying a joke, a drink and following Manchester United FC. Few people are capable of smiling through the crumbling fragmentation of emotions and nerves that accompanies the break-up of a marriage and Ian Curtis was not exceptional in any way when he joined the ranks of the sufferers. Recording what was to become the ‘Closer’ album took 13 days and 13 nights in March 1980 and, despite the brilliant result, no one present enjoyed the experience very much. The Romantic gloom that surrounded Joy Division’s fractured ballads seemed to lure Ian Curtis into a claustrophobic dialogue with himself which drew him ever inward and further down. No one who has heard the resulting album can fail to feel the tensions reverberating around the vast musical area that Joy Division had created for themselves, but even within the darknesses on the album there is hope and optimism which seem to exist in contradiction of the realities crushing the owner of the album’s voice. ‘Closer’ is not an album of gasps uttered from the end of a rope but the peak of artistic achievement that everyone had hoped for and predicted. Even on the rack Joy Division’s group identity and corporate greatness could not be muted.
The tensions which hacked at Ian Curtis during those album sessions cut ever deeper in subsequent weeks as he performed his duties with Joy Division through a sequence of live dates that were to precede and warm up for the band’s debut US tour in the middle of May. The tortured figure temporarily unable to continue at Hampstead’s Moonlight Club on April 4th was no sham-acting James Brown but a man treading a tightrope across a deeply personal internal abyss. Yet, paradoxically, even at such extremity Joy Division could still give hope to the wretched through the glory and ultimate triumph of the will that was their musical maelstrom: The handful of early April dates at the Moonlight were in the tradition of the ‘Factory Evenings’ but deviated slightly in that Joy Division performed for four consecutive nights supported by a fly-past of Factory acts, changing on each night. Section 25, A Certain Ratio — Joy Division partners on so many Factory evenings — Durutti Column, X-O-Dus, Kevin Hewitt, Crawling Chaos, Blurt and the Royal Family all took their turn to support Joy Division and in their turn Joy Division took advantage of their stay in London to support the Stranglers at a prestige Rainbow date on April 4th. It seemed hectic and to outsiders Ian Curtis seemed to be the worst affected by the heavy work-load in between songs. The Moonlight shows and the isolated gig, so typical of Joy Division’s date book, on May 2nd at Birmingham University’s High Hall, soon took on a far greater significance: they were to be the last the band would ever play
After playing the Birmingham date, supported by A Certain Ratio and recorded for a proposed German-only live album release, as were many performances over previous months, Joy Division returned to Manchester to prepare themselves for whatever the US of A had to offer them. ‘Unknown Pleasures’ had been successful as an import album — voted one of the year’s best by ‘New York Rocker’ — and the dates booked in New York were already attracting some interest. In the days before their planned departure date of Sunday May 18th, Joy Division rested and made plans for future releases with Factory. The second album was set for June release, and the song ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ was left off the album and mixed for a single release with accompanying video (filmed on April 30th) for possible TV exposure if, as expected, the single became a hit. And as if these two releases seemed too conventional, Factory also prepared to take the unheard-of step of releasing an entirely free single to be given to anyone who asked for it.
On Saturday May 17th, 1980 — the day before he was due to fly to New York to play the first of Joy Division’s US dates — Ian Curtis revisited the home he had shared in Macclesfield with his wife and baby and, after an evening alone watching his favourite director Saul Herzog’s film ‘Stroszek’ on BBC2 TV, hung himself in the kitchen during the early hours of Sunday morning. His dead body was found by his wife just before noon on Sunday 18th May and at the inquest the following week a verdict of suicide was recorded. The funeral took place on June 13th.
During May 1980 the British music press began a lengthy industrial dispute which kept the familiar weeklies — NME, Sounds, Melody Maker and Record Mirror — off the streets so the news of the death and confirmation of details was slow to spread. At first it was just a rumour that sounded more like a sick joke being put about at gigs but on May 24th the temporary opportunist weekly music paper ‘New Music News’ carried a tiny announcement — almost as if they did not believe the story — that Ian Curtis had "died at his home" the previous Saturday. Listeners to the John Peel programme knew by this time that the story was no hoax, as not for the first or last time John Pee] was given the entirely unwelcome task of being the first to broadcast the news of a rock death. When the weeklies began to drift back onto the streets the details and the tributes began to accumulate. The fact that Ian Curtis and Joy Division (the band that seemed just an album away from their very own brand of superstardom) were suddenly no more began to sink home. For many, the method and circumstances of Ian Curtis’ death seemed an inevitable development of the gloom and despondency of his music, as if the ‘Where’ that he had sung about was inevitably the same destination as the cliche ‘tortured artist’, in spite of the plain enough fact that Ian Curtis was no more or less than a sad and unfortunate man driven into the ground by private and deeply personal unhappiness. His was no Romantic martyrdom but still the necromancers gathered to sob to the sounds of ‘Atmosphere’ and ‘New Dawn Fades’ and distort the critical perspective on what was, on merit alone, one of the Great bands in the history of rock with a singer of unusual power.
JOY DIVISION BY MIKE WEST P 5
The growth of such a death cult focusing on Joy Division was doubly inappropriate, for beneath the melancholy surface of their music lay an undeniable affirmation of purpose and hope. The apparent despair and sadness in much of Joy Division’s greatest music was, in context, merely an aspect of humanity reflected and always accompanied by a sense of ultimate victory over adversity. The ‘message’ of Joy Division’s music was not — as so many like to believe — to lay down and die but to accept the human condition for what it was without self-pity and rise through that acceptance to the affirmation of individuality and purpose. The ‘gloom’ often provided a smoke screen for the true uplifting nature of Joy Division’s music which, far from being the soundtrack for suicide, was something that almost by its very existence proved that determined individuals can assert themselves against the odds, ‘beat the system’ of the music business or anything else.
Ian Curtis’ death of course halted the US tour and put an end to Joy Division as a band. All the members of Joy Division had agreed that if any one member ever left the remainder would immediately abandon the identity of Joy Division along with all the material associated with the band and begin again under a new name with new music. Such devotion to integrity and principles is extraordinary in a music business in which bands often tour under once famous names regardless of the fact that the original members associated with near-forgotten hit songs may have left the fold years since. The decision to bury Joy Division with Ian Curtis was a brave one in view of the fact that his death had created the myth that the singer and co-songwriter was the be-all and end-all of Joy Division’s greatness, and far too many people were prepared to regard the remaining members of Joy Division as pathetic figures whose ride to fame and fortune had been halted for good by the death of their pilot. This was, as events were to prove beyond all doubt, an extremely inaccurate assessment of Joy Division’s creative mechanism: Albrecht, Hook and Morris were never merely three satellites of a creative sun but three quarters of a unique partnership.
[ Το μήνυμα τροποποιήθηκε από τον/την : W4TT4N4B3 στις 17-09-2005 03:59 ]
AN IDEAL FOR LIVING BY MARC JOHNSON PAGE ONE Out of Print
I left my memory to play its tricks, rather than fight it. It’s only recently that I’ve been reminded that Warsaw were waiting for me in the Manchester city centre before they drove off to an underground bunker in the mourning Pennine wilder/ness, to record. To-days exaggeration considers that they waited four hours for my baby blue presence, but they probably paused for minutes before hissing open cans and hitting the silver road. I think that they wanted me to produce — a loose term covering four bald sins, I expect — their first recording, seriously called ‘An Ideal For Living.’ Who knows how my life would have been changed if I’d managed to squabble through a hangover out of my bed and keep that Sunday appointment. (How drunk could I have been when I made the promise, suggesting I could conjure up the crystalline mystique of Spector, Brod, Eno and Czukay combined?)
A change in my life? Probably none at all: things were blinking in and blanking out lazily and fast in those ‘77-heaven days, causing no effect that would stick fast. We were all pale hysterical ghosts of anything we were to become. I would have produced Warsaw, the record would have been no different because if the time isn’t right the trees don’t joke, and it would have been as important in my life as a stone in a date, and for Joy Division my association would have settled into social blandness. You see, and I knew this the time we all sprang up in our places at the Free Trade Hall to see Buzzcocks and Sex Pistols, it was all predestined what we were going to get up to. Even if I’d started out as a Stiff Kitten I would still have threaded my way into the position as top Pop writer of the post-modernist times: and nothing except a real fine joke would have stopped Joy Division alighting on that empty space which stretches between person and person, between ignorance and knowledge, between one hand and another, and shocking those who were awake with what it was they did.
What it was they did. . . all those creeping inside here hoping to embrace the essence, the essential sinful pleasure, of what it was they did — a minute or a century past ‘An Ideal For Living’ — should fade away: Back Off Boogaloo! as Ringo said, aptly. No such luck: not much luck is left. All the luck of the century is greedily snatched at and soaked up by young people like Joy Division, searching for nothing to do so that they might do something. Joy Division were drunk on luck before anything else, pernod or bitter. Joy Division were lucky, lucky that they turned the damned whore rock language back into a virgin, lucky that out of their common sense blossomed a peculiar beauty, lucky that amidst it all they were quite stupid, lucky if you assume that what they wanted to do was create something rich and better than some fucking decorative abbreviation. And we should thank our lucky stars that they were so lucky, if not think about what it was they did every other minute of the day. To look straight at luck, head on into the glare, is to have it disappear, twitch away, like a black spot on the eyeball: it hovers, in vision but out of it, irritating and enthralling, restless and nowhere, here and then. Luck; just like Joy Division, in vision but out of it. A grasp that can be found even in our artificial and fearful times.
In a way, and I say this a lot to myself as my memory plays its tricks, my connection with Joy Division and their particular halo is that of a minor character in a minor Beatles biography I tell my story to a dim researcher, I went to school at 14 with Best, I once almost asked out George Harrison’s cousin or, case, I talked with Ian in ranches circuses and factories about. gluing our personalities to the world through words and pauses. Nothing much, I wasn’t there, but in the end I wasn’t far away.
[ Το μήνυμα τροποποιήθηκε από τον/την : W4TT4N4B3 στις 17-09-2005 04:03 ]
Somehow, reminding us how much the Pop writer was victim disproportionately, I gained small time fame as the one who was torch to this dark Division: shined a light on this. . . un-usual. commitment to living. People will approach me at Rainbow 5 Odeons to say that if it hadn’t been for ... I blush might even boast, because I don’t tell good jokes. But it was slight — what else? I mentioned Joy Division often enough for everyone nearby to know of them, and maybe look for themselves. I never said anything about the group: I did little more than talk about the weather, hoping that readers knew their Oscar Wilde and would be certain that I meant something else. (This also applies to the best ever interview with a member of Joy Division when I asked their guitarist what he wanted to drink.) I was quiet as I possibly could be allowing for my former urge to be bouncily given the flimsiest encouragement, because what I felt about Joy Division is no business of yours. What New Order to me is nothing, really, to do with you. What I let leak out may give you a clue, it may be a joke; when I use the word ‘impatience' showing you a glimpse of one of my biggest secrets.
So, they won’t name any streets after Joy Division. At least they never tried to help anyone. They just took their chance, as everyone can, to reinvent the things around them. Until we stopped. I think we’re all aware in our own private ways that can only respond, in public, to what spun out from what they did to what surrounds what it is they do. The Division, the order, is all guessing, luck, wishing, indifference, impatience.., to apt and past that point we’re forced to disentangle and wipe away habitual conceptions of reality. We can never talk sensibly in public of ‘the inside.’ No words reach that deep. I’ve often felt that those on whom the group’s effect would be most beneficial are repelled, and on those on whom they most fascinate their effect may be dangerous, even harmful. And then, when I reach this far in, somewhere between patterned leaking and plain spilling the beans, I just have to tell a joke. Heard the one about the tragic Jew and the lucky scholar...?
I am inclined to believe that one should only listen to Joy Division when one is in an eupeptic state of physical and mental health and, in consequence, tempted to dismiss any scrupulous heartsearching as a morbid fuss. When one is in low spirits, should possibly keep away from them, for, unless introspection is accompanied, as it always is with New Order, by an equal passion for the good life, it all too easily degenerates into spineless narcissistic fascination with one’s own sins and weaknesses we wouldn’t want that, would we?
During June of 1978, Joy Division self-issued the 5000 copies of their An Idea For Living EP (Enigma PSS1 39) in the form of a 7" (Fig. 11) which came with "a special folding Sleeve which turns into a 14" x 14" full colour/black-white poster — a real treat for all ‘Collectors item’ fans" (letter from Steve to London promoters and record distributors). The 7" was to be distributed on our label — Enigma—but... it was discovered that another record company existed with the title Enigma, so once again we are in a ‘HAVING TO CHANGE THE NAME’ situation." Unfortunately, the terrible quality of the stacks of 7" records had not been improved by sitting on the shelf for six months, and Paul Morley reviewed it by saying the record is "structurally good, though soundwise poor, a reason it may not be widely released" (NME, 3 Jun 78). The poster-sleeve for the 7" was designed by Bernard and made up of four 7" x 7" segments: upper left is a drummer-boy noticeably resembling a member of the Hitler Youth but more exemplifying the concept of "music by youth" and the EP’s title. The upper right segment contains two outdoor photographs, one of Bernard and Steve and the other Ian and Peter. The lower left quadrant of the sleeve is a photograph of the band standing together against the wall of what looks like the inside of a cell. The photograph on the lower right is a very famous one of a young Jewish boy in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II with his hands in the air being guarded by an armed Nazi storm-trooper, and the opening four lines of the EP’s song "Leaders of Men". The poster sleeve is most certainly "an enigma", and one which caused the group further accusations of Nazi sympathies: "Another Fascism For Fun And Profit mob, judging by the Hitler Youth imagery and Germanic typography. But interesting, and definitely worth investigation if you’re gripped by the grindilgriff gloom and industrial bleakness of the Wire! Subway Sect order."
Acklam Hall, London (Thursday, 17May79): Factory Records contacted Final Solution to set up Joy Division’s next London date, and Rob Gretton even had 100 or so special badges made up by Better Badges London which read "Joy Division At The Acklam" (sic) (Fig. 19). Unfortunately, despite advertisements in the rock press and handbills passed out at record shops, only about a hundred people (many of them rock journalists) turned out for this ‘Factory Night". Joy Division had been well-received in the small club atmosphere of The Hope and Anchor and Marquee, but they were still not well enough known to hope to fill a hall the size of the Acklam as headliner, especially with the support of other Factory bands even more obscure than they were.
Bowdon Vale Youth Club, Altrincham (Wednesday, 23 May 79):
Although this was part of the Factory Tour, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark did not show up at Bowdon Vale because they thought that the stage — really only a low platform in the corner—would be too small for a two-piece band, its equipment, and (in their case) fluorescent lights. At one point during Joy Division’s set the stage lights went out, sending Ian into a real flap. He had been hard at work learning to play the guitar and when it went dark he could not see the chalk marks he had put on the neck to show him the chords. This gig was one of the few times Joy Division played the Still version of "The Kill".
Royalty Theatre, Holborn, London (Sunday, 17 Jun 79): With John Cooper-Clarke.
1. Disorder 1. She’s Lost Control
2. Day of the Lords 2. Shadowplay
3. Candidate 3. Wilderness
4. Insight 4. Interzone
5. New Dawn Fades 5. I Remember Nothing
Joy Division’s debut was first issued as FACT 10, and contained a message in the run-off groove which reads "This is the way" (A) and "Step inside" (B) from the song "Atrocity Exhibition". The American edition, FACTUS 1, reads "I’ve been looking for a guide" (B) (a variation on the lyric to "Disorder"). The sleeve of Unknown Pleasures was Peter Saville’s stark design (Fig. 20) which contradicted many proper design principles and was the better for it. ‘Everything on Factory is designed, as opposed to decorated" (Saville, Sep 79). Record sleeves usually evolve from ideas supplied by the band themselves — the graphic on Unknown Pleasures being suggested by Bernard’s discovery of the intergalactic scream of a dying star. The group had originally suggested a white cover with a black inner sleeve but agreed with Saville that the image would be stronger with a black cover. Having an "inside" and an "outside" to the album "was a purely arbitrary design decision which had to do with my having a black label on one side of the record and a white label on the other side" (Saville, Sep 82). The photograph on the inner sleeve was given to Saville by the band who had cut it from a book, and it wasn’t until two years later that Saville found that it was really a very famous picture by Ralph Gibson.
The Basement, Cologne, West Germany (Tuesday, 15 Jan 80): The next stop on the tour more than made up for the "disaster" at Antwerp the night before. The club in Cologne was situated in the basement of an old church, and the stage on which Joy Division set up was between a set of massive arches. The atmosphere of the concert was outstanding, the audience was made up of crowds of German punks who were very enthusiastic about the band’s music, and the sound was greatly enhanced by the odd acoustics of the arched and vaulted crypt
Club Lantaren, Rotterdam, Holland (Wednesday, 16 Jan 80).
Plan K, Brussels, Belgium (Thursday, 17 Jan 80) (Figs. 40-42).
Effenaar Eindhoven, Holland (Saturday, 18Jan80): During the end of "Ice Age", a group of English in the audience were jeering Joy Division by chanting "One, two, three, four. Get them off and out the door". Peter, not always known for massive under-reaction, quieted the boisterous ones perfectly by playing the bass line from "Dead Souls", their next song, in time with the shouts.
Club Vera, Groningen, Holland (Saturday, 19 Jan 80).
Kantkino Berlin (Monday, 21 Jan 80) (Fig. 43): "It was really strange when we went there with Joy Division.. . the atmosphere.. strange.. . It was quite alot like Manchester... Berlin... It had a cold atmosphere... Anonymous. . . an evil atmosphere. You could feel the evil... You could feel it from the war" (Bernard, May 81). It is interesting to note that these European gigs highlight the refusal of the band to play the same set every night. Often Steve made up the proposed set list just prior to Joy Division going on stage, the group appears to have freely transposed the playing order, and seems to have considered each song the equal or near-equal to any other in their current catalogue. Returning to England on 23 Jan 80, Joy Division took another short and well-deserved break from touring. Like the holiday prior to the European jaunt, they used the time to write still more songs, including "Incubation" plus "AsYou Said", "Heart and Soul", and "Komakino" the last song being named in memory of the venue in Berlin (or for the dance of the same name used by Japanese mediums to hypnotise their audience and cause them to see visions).
High Hall, Birmingham University (Friday, 2 May 80): The Birmingham University concert, supported by A Certain Ratio, was chosen by the band to debut one of their new songs, Ceremony". Just following his vocal on the first and last performance of "Decades", but before the song was finished, Ian stumbled off stage with assistance, and the band played on. He was able, however, to return for an encore, "Digital". This was to be Joy Division’s final performance. The long-awaited American tour, which was slated to last for three weeks and included the East and West Coasts, was about to begin and the band’s energy and expectations were running high, with their departure scheduled for Monday morning, 19 May 80.. Joy Division was on the verge of achieving the goal which they had set almost three years earlier. But, on the eve of their tour, and due to an unusual combination of personal circumstances best left unexplored, Ian Curtis committed suicide at his home in Macclesfield. Speculation is not only futile, but also an invasion of his privacy. Suffice it to say that melancholy had not been a dominant factor in his personality, and his life had been relatively happy and punctuated with some practical jokes of his best left untold. Possibly Chris Bohn of NME summed it up as well as anyone when he said (17 Oct 81) that "May 18,1980 didn’t so much bring Joy Division’s journey to the heart of darkness to an abrupt halt as... freeze it for all eternity at the brink of discovery. At least we can still travel that far with them."
The loss was devastating. Although each band member had successfully kept his private life well-separated from the business of being in a group, they were all close friends. Ian’s suicide had come as a complete surprise and, though they joked to break the tension by saying that it was all just part of Factory’s five-year plan, reactions were very individual and extremely personal. Interviewed in Melody Maker almost exactly a year later (23 May 81), Bernard was still attempting to come to terms with it: "I will never be able to cope. Ian’s death will affect me for now, and forever. I will never be able to forget it. Personally, as a friend.. . it means so much tome.., regardless of the group.. . as a friend. Friendship has always been more important, that is what produces the music. He was really a good friend." Peter, who took an immediate dislike to his interrogator, maintained an indifferent faηade to mask his personal feelings: Well, I was just playing. He would write and sing. I didn’t really take a lot of notice of him. I couldn’t really, you have to concentrate on your contribution." There was no doubt about continuing — the band would go on in a different guise. After the first, difficult meeting in June they set about the task of writing a new set. They had long before agreed between themselves that if, for any reason, Joy Division lost a member, they would stop playing the old music and change their name: "We just don’t want to dwell on the past" (Bernard, Mar 81). Though it would be months before a name was settled upon, the music would not stop
PLEASURES & WAYWARD DISTRACTIONS (out of print) P 1
In the Summer of 1979 something strange happened in Manchester, England. During the space of a week the sewerage system’s century-long lifespan finally came to an end when its crumbling Dickensian pipes collapsed, filling the city’s streets with a foul stench. It was a timely indictment of the decay and decline in a region which had previously experienced boom growth during its industrial heyday. ironically, Manchester’s music scene was at this time enjoying a spectacular Renaissance forefronted by Joy Division, a band whose music uncannily reflected the atrophying air in which not only Manchester but our entire nation was steeped. No other music since has so accurately captured the mood of its time nor so profoundly touched on this country’s plight as did theirs.
Ignored in their early days Joy Division became the band of the moment in that year of 1979, subsequent to the release of their dauntingly powerful debut LP "Unknown Pleasures". For music press journalists the band lay somewhere annoyingly between the contrived and the inspired, placing their music, for all its striking merits, somewhere between the conventional and the unconventional. Developing from strength to strength Joy Division attracted a fanatical and devoted following, for whom the band could do no wrong. Joy Division, however, remained aloof from this adulation and attention, preferring to keep themselves to themselves.
It was their off stage introversion and reticence, coupled with their solemn on stage presence, that contributed to Joy Division’s outwardly natural mystery. But as Tony Wilson, their record label manager said, ‘to people they seemed a very gloomy band, but as human beings they were the absolute opposite.’
Tragically, Joy Division were cut down in their prime in May 1980 when their charismatic vocalist Ian Curtis committed suicide.
The band’s three remaining members Bernard Albrecht, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris, continued as New Order, adding a fourth, female member Gillian Gilbert shortly after. New Order retained their vital sense of liberty and like Joy Division enjoyed an iconoclastic relationship with the music industry, though they still remained relatively obscure.
Progressing tentatively at first, New Order’s final departure from their overly Joy Division sound and status came in March 1983 with the record-selling hit single "Blue Monday", whose electronic dance rhythms resounded throughout clubs and discos across the globe. 'A change of speed, a change of style’, went the Joy Division song "New Dawn Fades": this was what press and public were waiting for and what New Order had finally achieved.
Since then New Order have had numerous commercial successes and toured widely, but have at the same time kept their enigmatic mystique intact, a mystique which, as NME’s Paul Morley wrote, ‘really came out of a "mind your own business" defensiveness, some concentrated music, a death, fan's obsession, and fancy critical hyperbole.’
Yet despite the myth, its inherent preconceptions, and the rewards of commercial success, New Order are always at the beginning.
People again jumped to naive Conclusions when they saw the Aryan drummer boy on the cover of the group’s very first single, and beside him was the name on their new rally banner, Joy Division, written in bold Germanic s c r i p t. In subsequently disclosing that Joy Division was the Popular euphemism applied by SS guards to the prostitute's wing of a concentration camp, the band did little to alleviate irksome friction and obvious misunderstandings between them and moral arbiters of the day, the ever-virtuous music press. Having had these serious ramifications pointed out to them, the punters in Joy Division’s burgh, as elsewhere, came to regard them with prejudicial suspicion.
Clearly the name is open to interpretation, just as Curtis suggested his lyrics to be. Is it then perhaps an ironic statement highlighting their assumed submissive role in a prurient music industry? Whatever, this adverse publicity did bring them a little beneficial exposure, even if it wasn’t quite on Malcolm "Machiavelli" McLaren’s scale.
In the meantime the band casually drifted away from an incestuous, elitist Manchester scene and entered Pennine Sound Studio in December 1977 to record a four track EP "An Ideal For Living’’. They emerged a little more consolidated as Joy Division, but found themselves lumbered with 5000 sub-standard pressings of their "home-made" record. After an initial delay of six months they were obliged to release this gravelly seven-inch disc on their own Enigma label, lest their name be ploughed under, recycled and forgotten by the overall momentum of the new wave. To this end Curtis, Albrecht, Hook and Morris conscientiously stayed up all night folding single sleeves which bore the arrogant claim that this record is not a concept — it is an 'enigma’ . . . though its contents failed to bear this out.
Joy Division, all in their late teens and early twenties, needed the patronage of more experienced partisans, businessmen who dealt in areas where they themselves were lacking, who could point out the club circuit’s pitfalls. Tony Wilson, who had expressed keen interest in the band, was the perfect wise counsellor, yet importantly young enough to share their idealistic objectives. He had recently formed a partnership with Durutti Column manager Alan Erasmus — also in his late twenties — which would promote concerts at Manchester’s Russel Club, then run by Wilson. Delegating Erasmus to organisational duties, Wilson sought out more worthwhile acts currently working locally, booking them to appear at the club he later re-named The Factory. He financed this project, which quietly succeeded, with income from his daytime job at Granada Television where he worked as a journalist. But as Rob Gretton remarked, running The Factory seemed a bit limiting to Wilson. ‘When he did "So It Goes", the major labels were snapping up the bands he was showing,’ explained Gretton. ‘He was acting like an A&R man (Artistes and Repertoire) on the telly. So he thought — "Why don’t I start putting out records for myself ?"‘ In October 1978 Wilson and Erasmus began concentrating their talents on the business of establishing their own independent label, Factory Records, which unlike its counterparts would never lease acts to majors. The fortuitous friendship between Wilson and Gretton enabled Joy Division to move comfortably behind the protective veil of Factory Records and with the addition of Rabid Records’ house producer Martin "Zero" Hannett, the team was in effect complete. Hannett’s avid interest in Joy Division had led him to persuade Rabid Records boss Josh Ryan to distribute "An Ideal For Living" using their own outlet network. If Rob Gretton was regarded as the band’s fifth member then Martin Hannett could be counted as the sixth.
The clever commentators who compared Joy Division to The Doors, pointing a "j’accuse!" finger at Jim Morrison inflections in Ian Curtis’s voice and thereby discounting any talent on the band’s part, had their timing all wrong. The two bands were not interchangeable; each was the product of its own era. Small wonder these myopic dismissals enraged Joy Division disciples. Joy Division were as much a break from tradition as The Doors had been in their time.
Similarly, there is the burning question of influences, which is another "Catch 22" situation. Cite your influences, which must in all actuality have some bearing on the matter, and you are pedantically accused of imitation; remain silent and there in the bumbling autopsy is printed the closest and most convenient reference point. This leads to journalists, who desire to deal only with pure definitives and not messy hybrids, coming up with phrases like, 'lggy And The Stooges in an English context.’ On reading this in his newspaper the punter will automatically take it as a self-evident truth and take it no further than that.
In ten years time some homegrown talent will no doubt be compared to Joy Division, much to their dismay. Outwardly the similarities will be there, but again it will be something entirely different, something to be judged on its own terms and not the criteria of past culture. Joy Division were all too aware that the press were in a powerful, responsible position; it is quite likely for this reason that they became so distrustful of this blundering organ. For them it became tiresome to be criticised by egotistical hedonists whose ethic in life was something as superficially banal as "fun" and whose main aesthetic was a "brilliantly-hued quirky", or the right haircut. Joy Division’s music just happened to be above all this. It actually dared to be so presumptuous as to take itself seriously — an attribute entirely worthy of credit, not mockery or derision — and to all intents and purposes it existed outside what is lovingly known as "Pop culture".
The only compromise Joy Division ever made was to make music: they were young people who made music that reflected the times in which they lived — by virtue of this they were included in the proceedings, though they did very little themselves to engineer this state of events. Joy Division made as little fuss as possible, they just got on with the job.
Despite the summer normally being a time of great inactivity, the band played a number of one-off gigs and appeared regularly at their residency, The Factory. In May 1979 they were just two years from their starting point, though the difference between the two incarnations was of quantum proportions. At the time they recorded "Transmission" Ian Curtis said, 'We wrote those songs on the album a long time ago; the sound of the album isn’t dated, but stylewise it has.’
Round about this same time certain promoters took it upon themselves to organise degenerate celebrations of the 'new’ music, sprawling festivals featuring big names like Public Image Limited and the Gang of Four, trying desperately to burgeon the faith in a great show of numbers; and the audiences turned up to see the bands. Joy Division too appeared at three of these philanthropic but sadly irrepresentative affairs during the months of August and September.
They played at the three-day London Punk Festival, Leeds’ Futurama ‘79 (subtitled 'the world’s first sci-fi music festival’ and described by Green of Scritti Politti as being like Reading without the mud and different badges’), and the open-air Leigh Valley Festival held on August Bank Holiday Monday. The last of these, FAC 15, was an attempt to get Manchester and Liverpool’s independent labels, Factory and Zoo, to meet literally "half-way". Set in a Lancashire landscape surrounded by slag heaps, old collieries and the ubiquitous Victorian cotton mills, the site was perfect, but regrettably inaccessible for most people wishing to attend. The poor turn out (200 or so) was also blamed on inadequate promotion and the threat of that perennial bugbear, the changeable British weather. Nonetheless, following such notables as Echo And The Bunnymen, A Certain Ratio and The Teardrop Explodes, Joy Division came on at nightfall and gave a spirited performance of both familiar material taken mainly from the album and new songs like "Colony" and Dead Souls’.
The European tour took in eleven dates, opening with a one-off at Les Bains-Douches in Paris, but beginning proper in the New Year at Amsterdam’s Paradiso. Most concerts were in Holland and neighbouring Belgium, though they also performed at The Basement in Cologne and Berlin’s Kant Kino.
'It was really strange, the atmosphere. Strange,’ recalled Bernard Albrecht. 'It was quite a lot like Manchester, Berlin . . . It had a cold atmosphere, anonymous. An evil atmosphere. You could feel the evil . . . You could feel it from The War.’ But here too the crowd loved them and the tour was an unqualified success. Back in the more intimate surroundings of smaller clubs Joy Division were in their element, spinning enchanted webs around their audiences. The feeling in these places was delectably clandestine, just as it had been during the halcyon days of 1977 when Warsaw played at the Electric Circus.
This was 1980 and Joy Division, now unquestionably the new wave frontiersmen, seemed unstoppable. And Britain was waiting for them. Tony Wilson, reckoning that ‘the intellectuals will love them,’ was eager to get them on the college circuit. But first the band chose to undertake a little charity work.
Joy Division’s first U.K. date was promoted under the heading "FAC for CITY FUNds", a benefit in aid of the local fanzine "City Fun". Held at Manchester’s newest seedy club, the New Osbourne (but a stone’s throw from the extinct Electric Circus), it featured Joy Division and two of their Factory stablemates, A Certain Ratio and Section 25. Despite an enthusiastic reception from the audience who doubtless viewed Joy Division as conquering heroes returning home, they failed to live up to such high expectations. But as reporter Mick Middles commented in 'Sounds’: ‘They needn’t worry, in fact they always were prone to playing below par gigs at the worst possible time, but in true r’n’r irony, they are forced into an encore situation. They tried to sound full of purpose, but nobody is perfect.'
‘Not even Britain’s finest rock band.’
The following night it was a different story. Their concert at the University of London was a sell-out, the guest list was huge and Joy Division, as they say, delivered the goods.
As on the previous night, the set comprised new material and apart from brief pulses of nostalgia the crowd were treated to a display of the brave new Joy Division. Love Will Tear Us Apart, now the highlight of their renovated set, showed clearly how the band had evolved, relying more on synthesizer rather than guitar and placing yet more emphasis on the bass by bringing it right upfront. The combined effect of these developments made the music sound less claustrophobic, with the fourth instrument, Ian Curtis’s voice, moving into the misty space created by the synth. Though the overall sound colour had changed, they still confronted the same shadows and fears with the same courage as before, dealing with them in such a way that demanded attention. NME writer Paul Morley indicated a fate that could so easily have befallen Joy Division had they been a lesser band than they were.
‘As Danny Baker said to me, Joy Division are due some sort of backlash, but he’s not the one to do it. If the group had shown the slightest indication of slackening or straightening out I would have attacked. But they are better now than they have ever been. Joy Division will tear you apart. Still.’
Seeing out the remainder of February with a few more impromptu gigs, Joy Division entered lslington’s Britannia Studios in March with producer Martin Hannett to begin work on their second album, and a forthcoming single, "Love Will Tear Us Apart". They stayed in London to play The Rainbow where they supported The Stranglers, and to take part in three "Factory By Moonlight" evenings during the beginning of April. For the first of these dates Factory issued an information sheet which said that ‘Joy Division have been banned as a result of their appalling behaviour on the night of Sunday 23rd March.’ But there they were, opening proceedings with the solid rhythms of "A Means To An End". For an encore they played a lengthy cover version of Velvet Underground’s "Sister Ray". with Curtis joking with the audience at its end. You should hear our version of "Louie Louie...Wow...", he dead-panned.
Ian Curtis’s health deteriorated and the cancellation list grew longer. Sadly, Joy Division’s few live performances became restricted to the north of England and publicised only by word of mouth. Apart from these few gigs, which seemed to indicate that they were for the time being taking it easy, Joy Division were under great organisational pressure. Along with a number of arranged British dates, which they still hoped to fullfill, there was the up and coming three week tour of America for which to prepare, and the promotional video for the single "Love Will Tear Us Apart" to shoot.
The latter was filmed in a dilapidated Manchester warehouse, which the band used as a rehearsal studio, only four days before Joy Division gave what was to be their final concert on Friday 2nd May at the University of Birmingham’s High Hall. And it is evident from the video that the band were their usual irascible selves, disinclined to "perform" for the camera, content instead to lethargically go through the motions to make the point that they viewed even this as being something of a sham. Factory played another of their rueful jokes by airing the "Love Will Tear Us Apart" video not on "The Old Grey Whistle Test", or even "Top Of The Pops" where it was probably intended for, but on the cult Saturday morning TV children’s programme "Tiswas". In a word, everything was normal; the tangled web of activity that surrounded and included the band was just counting off the last few days before they departed for the United States. Nothing seemed outwardly untoward.
But for Ian Curtis the strain, together with a combination of personal problems, proved too great. In the early hours of Sunday 18th May, at his old home in Macclesfield, he hung himself.
The principal reason for his suicide was acute depression, brought on by progressively worsening epilepsy and the disintegration of his marriage. He had apparently made two previous attempts to take his own life. Part of the note he left read, "At this very moment I just wish I were dead. I just can’t cope any more." Those in and around the band were among the first to learn of his death, but as Tony Wilson commented, ‘It came as one bloody shock . . . ‘ For although Curtis had frequently been ill, especially of late, and was often depressed, no-one seemed to have suspected anything. Even those closest to the man himself could not have guessed that something of this magnitude was about to occur, primarily because the conclusive finality of suicide makes it impossible to anticipate. A nervous breakdown can be forecast with some accuracy, but the prospect of self-murder is just too appalling for a concerned third party to countenance. Hence the initial reaction was one of universal disbelief. Nobody was willing to accept that this fait accompli was irreversible fact. ‘Sounds’ writer Dave McCullough, in his article "The Short Goodbye ..", detailed his own incredulous response. "Last Tuesday I was filling in an expenses form when somebody told me a joke. They said they’d had a phone call from Scotland saying The Teardrop Explodes had dedicated a song on stage the previous evening to Joy Division’s Ian Curtis who was dead. I laughed, and half self-consciously compensating for bleak and industrial jibes, I said I wouldn’t be surprised if he had. But I was half worried as well, so I phoned Factory’s Alan Erasmus to erase the joke from my mind and let me return to my difficult expenses sheet. In a frightening calm, most probably still shell-shocked voice, Alan Erasmus told me it was true; Ian Curtis was dead. I forgot all about my expenses sheet." Appropriately enough it was John Peel who brought unexpected confirmation to the listening world: "Bad news lads. Ian Curtis of Joy Division has died."