While you won’t find many people questioning the aesthetic merit of Joy Division’s music, it’s also hard to argue that the tragic suicide of singer Ian Curtis didn’t contribute mightily to the band’s enduring allure. But there was another component that nurtured JD’s mystique—scarcity. All a fan in the US could readily get without paying a hefty import premium were Unknown Pleasures, Closer, and the iffy, posthumous, blood-from-a-stone compilation Still. A lot of single and EP tracks were difficult to come by here until the Substance compilation arrived in 1988. The Heart & Soul set eliminated a lot of scarcity issues as regards JD material, but that didn’t arrive until the late ‘90s.
Resorting to bootlegs wasn’t such a great option, as a hell of a lot of JD boots sounded like total garbage. I remember when a much sought-after Italian JD bootleg called Dante’s Inferno turned up in a record shop I frequented, when I was 17. I snatched that thing up fast and excitedly brought it home to play it, only to find that the music was barely audible. Was I pissed off? OH YES, I was pissed off.
Concert videos were even slimmer pickings. While today, between DVD and YouTube there’s plentiful Joy Division vid easily available, in the ‘80s pretty much the only JD concert footage available through legitimate channels was the Factory release Here Are the Young Men. Inexplicably, it’s never been released on DVD (except by pirates), but if you’re the gotta-own-it type, old VHS copies are priced within reach of mere mortals. The video’s title is borrowed from the lyrics of the song “Decades,” and the video is compiled from footage shot at three shows—the Manchester Apollo on October 28 and 29, 1979, and at Effenaar in Eindhoven, Netherlands, on January 18, 1980. Included at the end, but not included in the track listing on the box, was the music video the band produced for the single “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”
Since this was pretty primitive looking stuff in the first place, worrying about finding the “best” version on YouTube would have been quixotic, and anyway, I kind of like the rawness of this. As mushy as it looks and sounds, a lot of these performances are face-melters, particularly the stuff from the Dutch show. I selected this version because a few of the band’s BBC television appearances are tacked onto the end. Enjoy.