JOY DIVISION were an English rock band formed in 1976 in Salford ,
Greater Manchester. Originally named WARSAW, the band consisted of
Ian Curtis , guitarist and keyboardist
Bernard Sumner , bass
Peter Hook , and drummer Stephen Morris .
Formed by Sumner and Hook after the two attended a
Sex Pistols gig,
Joy Division soon moved beyond their punk roots to develop a sound and
style that made them one of the pioneers of the late-1970s post-punk
movement. The band's self-released 1978 debut EP, An Ideal for Living
, drew the attention of the Manchester television personality Tony
Wilson , who signed the group to his independent label Factory Records
. Joy Division's debut album
Unknown Pleasures , recorded with
Martin Hannett , was released in 1979 to critical acclaim.
As the band's popularity grew, singer Curtis suffered from personal
problems that included depression , a failing marriage, and epilepsy .
He found it increasingly difficult to perform live concerts, during
which he sometimes suffered seizures . In May 1980, on the eve of the
band's first American tour, Curtis committed suicide, aged 23. The
band's second and final album, Closer , was released two months later;
the album and preceding single "
Love Will Tear Us Apart " became the
band's highest charting releases.
After Curtis's death, the remaining members continued as New Order
and achieved critical and commercial success. Although Joy Division's
career spanned less than four years, the band continues to exert an
influence on a variety of subsequent artists.
* 1 History
* 1.1 Formation
* 1.2 Early releases
* 1.4 Closer
* 1.5 Curtis\' suicide and aftermath
* 2 Musical style
* 2.1 Sound
* 2.2 Lyrics
* 2.3 Live performances
* 3 Legacy
* 4 Band members
* 5 Discography
* 6 Notes
* 7 References
* 8 External links
On 20 July 1976, childhood friends Sumner and Hook separately
Sex Pistols show at the Manchester Lesser
Free Trade Hall .
The following day Hook borrowed £35 from his mother to buy his first
bass guitar. Sumner later said that he felt that the Pistols
"destroyed the myth of being a pop star, of a musician being some kind
of god that you had to worship". Inspired by the performance, Sumner
and Hook formed a band with their friend Terry Mason, who had also
attended the show. Sumner bought a guitar, and Mason a drum kit. They
invited schoolfriend Martin Gresty to join as vocalist, but he turned
them down after getting a job at a local factory. An advertisement
was placed in the
Virgin Records shop in Manchester for a vocalist.
Ian Curtis, who knew them from earlier gigs, responded and was hired
without audition. Sumner said that he "knew he was all right to get
on with and that's what we based the whole group on. If we liked
someone, they were in".
Richard Boon and frontman
Pete Shelley have both
been credited with suggesting the band name "Stiff Kittens", but
settled on "Warsaw" shortly before their first gig, referencing David
Bowie 's song "Warszawa ". Warsaw debuted on 29 May 1977 at the
Electric Circus, supporting the Buzzcocks, Penetration and John Cooper
Clarke . They received immediate national exposure due to reviews of
the gig in the
Paul Morley and in Sounds by Ian Wood. Tony
Tabac played drums that night after joining the band two days earlier.
Mason was soon made the band's manager and Tabac was replaced on
drums in June 1977 by Steve Brotherdale, who also played in the punk
band Panik. During his tenure with Warsaw, Brotherdale tried to get
Curtis to leave the band and join Panik and even got Curtis to
audition for the band. In July 1977, Warsaw recorded a set of five
demo tracks at Pennine Sound Studios,
Oldham . Uneasy with
Brotherdale's aggressive personality, the band fired him soon after
the demo sessions. Driving home from the studio, they pulled over and
asked Brotherdale to check on a flat tyre; when he got out of the car,
they sped off.
In August 1977, the band placed an advertisement in a music shop
window seeking a replacement drummer. Stephen Morris, who had attended
the same school as Curtis, was the sole respondent. Deborah Curtis,
Ian's wife, stated that Morris "fitted perfectly" with the other men,
and that with his addition Warsaw became a "complete 'family'". To
avoid confusion with the London punk band
Warsaw Pakt , the band
Joy Division in early 1978, borrowing their new
name from the sex slavery wing of a Nazi concentration camp mentioned
in the 1955 novel
House of Dolls . In December, the group recorded
what became their debut EP ,
An Ideal for Living , at Pennine Sound
Studio and played their final gig as Warsaw on New Year's Eve at The
Swinging Apple in Liverpool. Billed as Warsaw to ensure an audience,
the band played their first gig as
Joy Division on 25 January 1978 at
Pip's Disco in Manchester.
Joy Division were approached by
RCA Records to record a cover of
Nolan "N.F." Porter 's "Keep on Keepin' On" and were afforded
recording time at a professional Manchester studio in return. Joy
Division spent late March and April 1978 writing and rehearsing
material. During the Stiff/Chiswick Challenge concert at Manchester's
Rafters Club on 14 April, the group caught the attention of Tony
Rob Gretton . Curtis berated Wilson for not putting the
group on his
Granada Television show So It Goes ; Wilson responded
Joy Division would be the next band he would showcase on TV.
Gretton, the venue's resident DJ, was so impressed by the band's
performance that he convinced them to take him on as their manager.
Gretton, whose "dogged determination" would later be credited for much
of the band's public success, contributed the business skills that Joy
Division lacked to provide them with a better foundation for
Joy Division spent the first week of May 1978 recording
at Manchester's Arrow Studios. The band were unhappy with the
Grapevine Records head John Anderson's insistence on adding
synthesiser into the mix to soften the sound, and asked to be dropped
from the contract that they had recently signed with RCA.
Joy Division made their recorded debut in June 1978 when the band
An Ideal for Living , and two weeks later a track of
theirs, "At a Later Date", was featured on the compilation album Short
Circuit: Live at the Electric Circus (which had been recorded live in
October 1977). In the
Melody Maker review of the EP, Chris Brazier
said that it "has the familiar rough-hewn nature of home-produced
records, but they're no mere drone-vendors—there are a lot of good
ideas here, and they could be a very interesting band by now, seven
months on". The packaging of An Ideal for Living—which featured a
drawing of a
Hitler Youth member on the cover—coupled with the
nature of the band's name, fuelled speculation about their political
affiliations. While Hook and Sumner later admitted to being intrigued
by fascism at the time, Morris insisted that the group's obsession
with Nazi imagery came from a desire to keep memories of the
sacrifices of their parents and grandparents during World War II
alive. He argued that accusations of neo-Nazi sympathies merely
provoked the band "to keep on doing it, because that's the kind of
people we are".
In September 1978,
Joy Division made their television debut
performing "Shadowplay " on So It Goes, with an introduction by Wilson
in which he misidentified Sumner, and not Hook, as being from Salford.
Joy Division contributed two tracks recorded with
Martin Hannett to the compilation double-7" EP A Factory
Sample , the first release by Tony Wilson's record label, Factory
Records . In the
NME review of the EP,
Paul Morley hailed the band as
"the missing link between
Elvis Presley and the Banshees ". Joy
Division joined Factory's roster, after buying themselves out of the
deal with RCA.
Rob Gretton was made a partner of the label so as to
represent the interests of the band. On 27 December,
Ian Curtis had
his first recognisable epileptic episode. During the ride home after a
show at the Hope and Anchor pub in London, Curtis had a seizure and
was taken to a hospital. In spite of his illness, Joy Division's
career progressed. He appeared on the cover of 13 January 1979 issue
NME following the persistence of music journalist Paul Morley.
That month the band recorded their first session for
BBC Radio 1
BBC Radio 1 DJ
John Peel . According to Deborah Curtis, "Sandwiched in between these
two important landmarks was the realization that Ian's illness was
something we would have to learn to accommodate".
The band recorded their debut album,
Unknown Pleasures in April 1979
Strawberry Studios ,
Stockport . Producer Martin Hannett
significantly altered their live sound, a fact that greatly displeased
the band at the time. Hook said in 2006 that the album "definitely
didn't turn out sounding the way I wanted it But now I can see that
Martin did a good job on it There's no two ways about it, Martin
Hannett created the
Joy Division sound". The album cover was
designed by Peter Saville , who would go on to provide artwork for
Joy Division releases.
Unknown Pleasures was released in June
and sold through its initial pressing of 10,000 copies. Tony Wilson
said that the relative success of the album turned the indie label
into a true business and a "revolutionary force" that operated outside
of the major record label system. Reviewing the album for Melody
Jon Savage described the album as an "opaque manifesto"
and declared "eaving the twentieth century is difficult; most people
prefer to go back and nostalgise. Oh boy.
Joy Division at least set a
course in the present with contrails for the future—perhaps you
can't ask for much more. Indeed,
Unknown Pleasures may very well be
one of the best, white, English, debut LPs of the year".
Joy Division performed on Granada TV again in July 1979, and made
their only nationwide TV appearance in September on BBC2\'s Something
Else . They supported the
Buzzcocks in a 24-venue UK tour that began
that October, which allowed the band to quit their regular jobs. The
non-album single "Transmission " was released in November. Joy
Division's burgeoning success drew a devoted following who were
stereotyped as "intense young men dressed in grey overcoats".
In January 1980,
Joy Division set out on a European tour. While the
tour schedule was difficult, Curtis experienced only two grand mal
seizures in the tour's final two months. With
Martin Hannett again
producing, the band recorded their second album, Closer , that March
Britannia Row Studios . March also saw the release of the
"Licht und Blindheit " single (featuring the songs "Atmosphere" (A
side) and "Dead Souls" (B side)) on the small French label Sordide
Lack of sleep and long hours destabilised Curtis's epilepsy and his
seizures became almost uncontrollable. Curtis would often have
seizures during shows, which left him feeling ashamed and depressed.
As the band worried about their singer, some audience members thought
his behaviour was part of the show. On 7 April, Curtis attempted
suicide by overdosing on his anti-seizure medication; phenobarbitone .
The next evening,
Joy Division were set to play a gig at the Derby
Bury . With Curtis recovering, it was decided that the band
would play a combined set with Alan Hempsall of
Crispy Ambulance and
Simon Topping of
A Certain Ratio filling in on vocals for the first
few songs. Curtis came onstage to perform for part of the set. When
Topping came back out to finish the set for Curtis, some in the
audience began throwing bottles at the stage. Gretton leapt into the
crowd and a riot ensued. Several April gigs were cancelled due to the
continuing ill health of Curtis. The band played what would be their
final show at the
University of Birmingham
University of Birmingham 's High Hall on 2 May; the
show included Joy Division's first and only performance of "Ceremony
", which would later be recorded by New Order and released as their
CURTIS\' SUICIDE AND AFTERMATH
Joy Division were due to begin their first American tour in May 1980.
While Curtis had expressed a desire to take time off to visit a few
acquaintances, he feigned excitement about the tour around the band
because he did not want to disappoint his bandmates or Factory
Records. At the time, Curtis's relationship with his wife, Deborah
(the couple married in 1975 as teenagers), was strained. Contributing
factors were his ill health, his excluding her from band activities,
and his affair with a young Belgian woman named
Annik Honoré whom he
had met on a European tour. The evening before
Joy Division were to
fly out for their first American tour, Curtis returned to his home in
Macclesfield to talk to his by then estranged wife. He asked her to
drop the divorce suit she had filed; later, he told her to leave him
alone in the house until he caught a train to Manchester the following
morning. Early on 18 May 1980, having spent the night watching the
Werner Herzog film
Stroszek , Curtis hanged himself in his kitchen.
Deborah discovered his body later that day when she returned to their
home. It came as a shock to both band members and their management.
Wilson said in 2005, "I think all of us made the mistake of not
thinking his suicide was going to happen We all completely
underestimated the danger. We didn't take it seriously. That's how
stupid we were".
Simon Reynolds said Curtis's suicide "made for instant
myth". Jon Savage's obituary said that "now no one will remember what
his work with
Joy Division was like when he was alive; it will be
perceived as tragic rather than courageous." In June 1980, the
posthumous single "
Love Will Tear Us Apart " was released, which hit
number thirteen on the
UK Singles Chart . In July 1980, Closer
finally came out, peaking at number six on the
UK Albums Chart . NME
Charles Shaar Murray wrote, "Closer is as magnificent a
memorial (for 'Joy Division' as much as for Ian Curtis) as any
post-Presley popular musician could have."
Stephen Morris has said that even without Curtis's suicide, it was
Joy Division would have endured as they were. The
Joy Division had made a pact long before Curtis's death
that, should any member leave, the remaining members would change the
name of the group. Eventually renaming themselves New Order , the
band was reborn as a three-piece with Sumner assuming vocal duties;
the group later recruited Morris's girlfriend
Gillian Gilbert to round
out the line-up as keyboardist and second guitarist. Starting as a
member of punk group The Inadequates, Gilbert had become friends with
the band's members and had played guitar at a
Joy Division performance
when Curtis had been unable to play.
New Order's first single, 1981's "Ceremony ", was formed from the
last two songs written with Curtis. While the group struggled in its
early years to escape the shadow of Joy Division, New Order went on to
far greater commercial success than their predecessor band with a very
different, more upbeat and dance-orientated sound.
A number of outtakes and live material have been released since the
band's demise. Still , featuring live tracks and rare recordings was
issued in 1981. Factory issued the Substance compilation in 1988,
including several out-of-print singles. Permanent was released in
London Records , which had acquired the
Joy Division catalogue
after Factory's 1992 bankruptcy. A comprehensive box set, Heart and
Soul , appeared in 1997.
Joy Division took time to develop their style. As Warsaw, they played
"fairly undistinguished punk-inflected hard-rock". Critic Simon
Reynolds wrote that their originality only "really became apparent as
the songs got slower". Their music took on a "sparse" quality;
according to Reynolds, "Peter Hook's bass carried the melody, Bernard
Sumner's guitar left gaps rather than filling up the group's sound
with dense riffage and Steve Morris' drums seemed to circle the rim of
a crater." According to music critic
Jon Savage , "
Joy Division were
not punk but they were directly inspired by its energy". In 1994
Sumner said the band's characteristic sound "came out naturally: I'm
more rhythm and chords, and Hooky was melody. He used to play high
lead bass because I liked my guitar to sound distorted, and the
amplifier I had would only work when it was at full volume. When Hooky
played low, he couldn't hear himself. Steve has his own style which is
different to other drummers. To me, a drummer in the band is the
clock, but Steve wouldn't be the clock, because he's passive: he would
follow the rhythm of the band, which gave us our own edge." By
Closer, Curtis had adapted a low baritone voice, drawing comparisons
Jim Morrison of the Doors (one of Curtis's favourite bands).
Sumner largely acted as the band's director, a role he continued in
New Order. While Sumner was the group's primary guitarist, Curtis
played the instrument on a few recorded songs and during a few shows.
Curtis hated playing guitar, but the band insisted he do so. Sumner
said, "He played in quite a bizarre way and that to us was
interesting, because no one else would play like Ian". During the
recording sessions for Closer, Sumner began using self-built
synthesisers and Hook used a six-string bass for more melody.
Martin Hannett "dedicated himself to capturing and
intensifying Joy Division's eerie spatiality". Hannett believed punk
rock was sonically conservative because of its refusal to use studio
technology to create sonic space. The producer instead aimed to
create a more expansive sound on the group's records. Hannett said, "
were a gift to a producer, because they didn't have a clue. They
didn't argue". Hannett demanded clean and clear "sound separation"
not only for individual instruments, but even for individual pieces of
Morris's drumkit. Morris recalled, "Typically on tracks he considered
to be potential singles, he'd get me to play each drum on its own to
avoid any bleed-through of sound".
Music journalist Richard Cook
noted that Hannett's role was "crucial". There are "devices of
distance" in his production and "the sound is an illusion of
Curtis was the group's sole lyricist. He wrote frantically when the
mood took him, and then listened to the band's music (which was often
arranged by Sumner) and chose lyrics most appropriate to the sound.
Imagery and words revolving around "coldness, pressure, darkness,
crisis, failure, collapse, loss of control" recur in his songs. In
Paul Rambali wrote, "The themes of Joy Division's
music are sorrowful, painful and sometimes deeply sad." Music
Jon Savage wrote that "Curtis's great lyrical achievement
was to capture the underlying reality of a society in turmoil, and to
make it both universal and personal," while noting that "the lyrics
reflected, in mood and approach, his interest in romantic and
science-fiction literature ." Musicologist Robert Palmer wrote that
William S. Burroughs
William S. Burroughs and
J. G. Ballard
J. G. Ballard were "obvious influences" to
Curtis, and Morris also remembered the singer reading
T. S. Eliot .
Deborah Curtis also remembered Curtis reading works by writers such as
Fyodor Dostoevsky ,
Friedrich Nietzsche ,
Jean-Paul Sartre , Franz
Kafka , and
Herman Hesse . . Finally, the band were influenced by
their World War II-derived band name, and several songs including
"Shadowplay" and "No Love Lost" seem to be written from the
perspective of a young man in northern England after a hypothetical
Nazi victory over the UK and the implementation of Hitler's occupation
plans, seeking to describe what daily English life might have been
like in such a universe.
The band refused to explain their lyrics to the press and did not
print lyrics sheets. Curtis told the fanzine Printed Noise, "We
haven't got a message really; the lyrics are open to interpretation.
They're multidimensional. You can read into them what you like." The
other band members later admitted they paid little attention to what
Curtis was writing. In a 1987 interview with Option , Morris said
that they "just thought the songs were sort of sympathetic and more
uplifting than depressing. But everyone's got their own opinion."
Deborah Curtis recalled that only with the release of Closer did many
who were close to the singer realise "is intentions and feelings were
all there within the lyrics". The surviving members of the band in
retrospect regret not seeing warning signs in Curtis's lyrics. "This
sounds awful but it was only after Ian died that we sat down and
listened to the lyrics", Morris said in 2007. "You'd find yourself
thinking, 'Oh my God, I missed this one'. Because I'd look at Ian's
lyrics and think how clever he was putting himself in the position of
someone else. I never believed he was writing about himself. Looking
back, how could I have been so bleedin' stupid? Of course he was
writing about himself. But I didn't go in and grab him and ask,
'What's up?' I have to live with that".
In contrast to the sound of their studio recordings, Joy Division
typically played loudly and aggressively during live performances. The
band were unhappy with Hannett's mixing of Unknown Pleasures, which
reduced the abrasiveness of their sound. According to Sumner, "the
music was loud and heavy, and we felt that Martin had toned it down,
especially with the guitars". In concert, the group interacted little
with the crowd;
Paul Morley wrote, "During a
Joy Division set, outside
of the songs, you'll be lucky to hear more than two or three words.
Hello and goodbye. No introductions, no promotion". While singing,
Curtis would often perform what was referred to as his "'dead fly'
dance", where the singer's arms would "start flying in semicircular,
Simon Reynolds noted that Curtis's dancing style was
reminiscent of an epileptic fit, and that he was dancing in the manner
for some months before he was diagnosed with epilepsy. Live
performances became problematic for Joy Division, due to Curtis's
condition. Sumner later said, "We didn't have flashing lights, but
sometimes a particular drum beat would do something to him. He'd go
off in a trance for a bit, then he'd lose it and have an epileptic
fit. We'd have to stop the show and carry him off to the dressing-room
where he'd cry his eyes out because this appalling thing had just
happened to him".
Despite their short career and cult status,
Joy Division have exerted
a wide-reaching influence. John Bush of
AllMusic argues that Joy
Division "became the first band in the post-punk movement by
emphasizing not anger and energy but mood and expression, pointing
ahead to the rise of melancholy alternative music in the '80s."
The band's dark and gloomy sound, which
Martin Hannett described in
1979 as "dancing music with Gothic overtones", presaged the gothic
rock genre. While the term "gothic" originally described a "doomy
atmosphere" in music of the late 1970s, the term was soon applied to
specific bands like Bauhaus that followed in the wake of Joy Division
Siouxsie and the Banshees
Siouxsie and the Banshees . Standard musical fixtures of early
gothic rock bands included "high-pitched post-
Joy Division basslines
usurp the melodic role" and "vocals that were either near operatic and
Teutonic or deep, droning alloys of
Jim Morrison and Ian Curtis." Joy
Division has influenced bands ranging from contemporaries U2 and the
Cure to other artists such as
Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails , Neurosis ,
Bloc Party and Editors and even rappers . Rapper Danny
Brown even named his latest album after the
Joy Division song called
Atrocity Exhibition (The song is in turn named after a novel by J. G.
Ballard ). In 2005, both New Order and
Joy Division were inducted into
UK Music Hall of Fame .
Joy Division have been dramatised in two biopics. 24 Hour Party
People (2002) presented a fictionalised account of the rise and fall
of Factory Records, in which the band served as supporting characters.
Tony Wilson said of the film, "It's all true, it's all not true. It's
not a fucking documentary", and that he favoured the "myth" over the
truth. The 2007 film Control , directed by
Anton Corbijn , is a
Ian Curtis (portrayed by
Sam Riley ) that uses Deborah
Curtis's biography of her late husband, Touching from a Distance
(1995), as its basis. Control had its international premiere on the
opening night of Director's Fortnight at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival
, where it was critically well received. That year
Grant Gee directed
the band documentary
Joy Division .
Ian Curtis – lead vocals, guitar (1976-1980)
Bernard Sumner – guitar, keyboards, bass, backing vocals
Peter Hook – bass, backing vocals, guitar (1976-1980)
* Stephen Morris – drums, percussion (1977-1980)
* Terry Mason – drums (1976-1977)
* Tony Tabac – drums (1977)
* Steve Brotherdale – drums (1977)
Joy Division discography
Unknown Pleasures (1979)
* Closer (1980)
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* Ogg, Alex (2006). No