To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the release of “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” Rhino has re-issued four iconic Joy Division albums on heavyweight 180-gram vinyl. Each design replicates the original in painstaking detail, including the gatefold covers used for Still and Substance. The music heard on the albums was remastered in 2007 when Rhino introduced expanded versions of the albums.
Joy Division recorded two albums, Unknown Pleasures and Closer, before singer Ian Curtis tragically took his own life in 1980. But what the Manchester quartet lacked in longevity, it more than made up for in quality. The band’s only two studio albums were groundbreaking and helped shape the sound and mood of the alternative music that followed in the band’s wake.
The compilations Still and Substance fill in the missing pieces of the band’s history with non-album singles (“Transmission” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart”), unreleased studio tracks (“Something Must Break” and “Ice Age”), and choice live recordings (“Disorder” and the only performance of “Ceremony.”)
Rhino Records recently did that thing they do very very well, and re-released Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, Closer, Still, and Substance on 180 gram vinyl. My feelings are mixed on the recent flood of vinyl reissues of albums that have been widely available for decades, but the 2XLP reissue of Substance contains some items of interest that have never been featured on any release of that collection—a rare 7” b-side called “As You Said,” and the so-called “Pennine mix” of “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”
“As You Said” was released as a b-side to a flexi-disc of “Komakino” that was given away in The Öther Söund magazine. That flexi also included a version of “Incubation,” and all three tracks were outtakes from the Closer sessions, the band’s final studio recordings. It’s a significantly brighter mix than the version that can be heard on the Heart & Soul box set and the Warsaw CD, and it’s only ever been issued with this level of clarity as part of the preposterous Singles 1978-80, an ultra-limited box set of ten remastered 7"s. It’s a synth-based instrumental curiosity, likely of interest to the überfan who’s heard it all.
The Pennine version of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” was actually the rejected original recording of the song, recorded at Pennine Sound Studios in January of 1980 (the version with which we’re all much more familiar was recorded at Strawberry Studios in March). It was released as the b-side to the original 7” and 12” of “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” along with “These Days.” Some versions of the 7” dropped the Pennine recording of “LWTUA” and featured “These Days” alone. It saw a 1988 release on the “Atmosphere” 12” that accompanied the original release of Substance. In a 2010 GQ interview, JD’s drummer Stephen Morris cited this version as his preferred recording of “LWTUA:”
The Pennine version has always been there - it was on the b-side of the 12-inch when it first came out. But it wasn’t called “The Pennine Mix” or anything like that, it was just “Love Will Tear Us Apart” but a slightly different version. That version was the way we always played it live. The one that everybody knows, I actually hate.
Why, because it’s too poppy?
Just because of the bad, emotional things. Martin Hannett [Joy Division record producer] played one of his mind games when we were recording it - it sounds like he was a tyrant, but he wasn’t, he was nice. We had this one battle where it was nearly midnight and I said, “Is it all right if I go home, Martin - it’s been a long day?” And he said [whispers], “OK… you go home.” So I went back to the flat. Just got to sleep and the phone rings. “Martin wants you to come back and do the snare drum.” At four in the morning! I said, “What’s wrong with the snare drum!?” So every time I hear “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, I grit my teeth and remember myself shouting down the phone, “YOU BASTARD!” [smashes up imaginary phone.] I can feel the anger in it even now. It’s a great song and it’s great production, but I do get anguished every time I hear it.
I give perhaps too much benefit of the doubt to high-concept joke bands, and rarely does it pay off. A great many DM readers are surely familiar with the drill—the cheeky name and description of the band gives you enough of a chuckle that you check them out, only to find so-so music still playing past the exhaustion point of your admiration for their cleverness.
I can think of twice when generosity with my time paid to a jokey-seeming band concept actually paid long term dividends. The first was a late-‘90s Ohio post-punk band called the Conservatives, which is a looooong story for another time. The second was when a pal from NYC hipped me to “Dub Will Tear Us Apart,” the wonderful lone E.P. by Jäh Division. It’s exactly what you’ve surely guessed: reggae versions of Joy Division songs. But don’t take this to be some fratty, Dread Zeppelinish, cheap punchline. Jäh Division (I assumed the unpronounced umlaut was there to distinguish them from a Russian band of the same name, a guess that’s confirmed below) were/are noteworthy musicians respectfully transforming Joy Division classics into lugubrious dub spiked with strange and jarring noises.
The E.P. has been out for about 11 years, and it still gets frequent and reverent spinnage in my house. The band was a hip all-star concern that featured two members of the deeply weird NYC-via-Tampa prog band Home, plus two folks from Ur-Williamsburg psychfreaks Oneida. The latter band’s Barry London was kind enough to take some time to share Jäh Division’s story with DM.
Jäh Division was myself on Moog, string synth and Space Echo, Kid Millions on DrumFire Electro Drums through an old Farfisa Reverb Tank, Brad Truax on bass and Chris Millstein on drums. The band kinda came out of a joke that Brad and I had while living together. Our other roommate Matt Mikas had brought home this Roland string synth that he found at a flea market and I traded him a mini bar I had found for it. We were messing around with it and had a drum machine running through a tape echo and playing the string synth and it sounded like dub Joy Division. Pretty easily enough we put together the words Jäh Division and we started talking a lot of shit about our reggae/dub Joy Division cover band Jäh Division, even though it was just the two of us and we hadn’t actually done any Joy Division covers or anything. We still continued to talk shit, and then one day in 2003 our friend John Fitzgerald, who does Dooodcast, called us on it. He was booking venues in Brooklyn at the time, and this bar/venue in Williamsburg called the Right Bank was closing. Fitz was doing the last batch of show there to close the place out and he booked us, forcing us to actually get it together and play a show. At the time it was just Brad and Me, we were playing together in a line up of Dan Melchoir’s Broke Revue, and Brad also was in (and still is) in Home, whose drummer Chris Millstein we were trying to draft into playing this show, because no one was available, or thought it was a dumb idea or whatever. We got Chris to play with us, and that’s kinda it. We played, it was fun, people liked it, we got asked to play again, this time Kid Millions was available but he didn’t want to play drums. We had a bunch of electro percussion stuff, so his job was to make a bunch of dubby noise, and that’s pretty much it.
Rich & Joe from Social Registry records really loved us and asked us to record some stuff, so we set up the 8-track reel to reel and recorded a bunch of stuff, and self recorded and mixed it. We played out that way for a year or two, doing Joy Division and New Order covers and some other stuff like Jackie Mitoo & Desmond Dekkar, but truthfully we got bored and we just enjoyed jamming more than anything else. So we eventually dropped doing Joy Division covers and slowly morphed into becoming a reggae/dub jam band of sorts, with a really modular lineup of whomever was available at the time, double drums, double bass and so on, many different people from a lot of Brooklyn bands circa 2001-2010 played in various lineups of Jäh Division. Brad and I usually get it together to do about one show a year now, just with everyones schedules etc, he’s on the road tour managing Animal Collective and playing bass for Interpol. Kid Millions and I do Oneida, and Kid is busy doing Man Forever which is out on the road all the time, and Chris is drumming for the Psychic Ills. We always talked a lot about doing a second record, and have some unfinished stuff lying around somewhere, but it was always meant to be fun and not work, so one of these days we’ll bang something else out. Maybe. Oh, yeah, the umlauts are totally because of Russian Jah Division.
Poster by Wolfy, printed at Kayrock. Photos below from the band’s MySpace page.
Creating dub versions of JD songs makes such perfect sense it’s sort of amazing it took until 2003 to happen—Peter Hook’s active and complex bass lines remain compelling at slow tempos, and Ian Curtis was an avowed reggae fan whose contribution of melodica on “Decades,” the final song on the band’s final studio album, Closer, was a direct nod to dub godhead Augustus Pablo.
Since the E.P. was limited to a mere 600 copies, it’s LONG gone, and used copies start at $45 on discogs.com. Unfortunately, Social Registry isn’t even selling it digitally, though the label DOES offer, free of charge, a podcast of a JD show from 2006, recorded at the now-deceased Manhattan venue Tonic.
The Internet works so quickly it could give you whiplash. Yesterday, Vanyaland posted this desaturated image of the Teletubbies, noting that the actually nightmarish image could have been a still from the famous video Anton Corbijn made for the Joy Division song “Atmosphere.”
In no time flat, a YouTube user named Christopher G. Brown uploaded a black and white video of the Teletubbies frolicking to that song. Somehow, the rotund and eternally chipper children’s TV mainstays’ merry (if admittedly kind of creepily surreal) countryside cavorting is a perfect fit with the forlorn, elegiac majesty of the JD song. I can’t even add anything here, just watch it.
A million thanks to Nerdhole‘s Mary P. Traverse for this day-making find.
Peter Hook has announced that he will perform the complete works of Joy Division at a one-off concert at Christ Church, Macclesfield in May. The date marks exactly 35 years since the death of the band’s singer Ian Curtis.
Hook and his current band, The Light, will play every single song the band recorded in chronological order, including both studio albums ‘Unknown Pleasures’ and ‘Closer’. They will also play the posthumously released ‘Still’ as well as B-sides and rarities.
Looking ahead to the Macclesfield show, Hook added: “For the 35th anniversary I decided that to do a proper celebration we need to play all the music. It will be every song that Joy Division ever wrote and recorded in one go. It’s a bit of a marathon! It’s 48 songs, comprising all the singles, B-sides, and album tracks. You know what – there’s not a duff one in it! I wish I could say that about New Order!”
Macclesfield is the town south of Manchester, England from whence Joy Division singer Ian Curtis originally hailed, and where he kept his residence at the time of his 1980 suicide—DM recently reported on efforts to preserve Curtis’ home. Hook’s concert will be titled “So This is Permanence,” a phrase lifted from the first line of the song “Twenty Four Hours,” from the LP Closer, and which was also the title of a rather lovely book published last year, which collects Curtis’ writings.
Tickets go on sale Wednesday, March 25th at 9:00 AM, presumably GMT. Best of luck.
Enjoy this short but informative and quite good BBC segment on Curtis and Joy Division.
Bonus! Here’s Peter Hook giving a lesson on how to play JD’s signature song, “Love Will Tear us Apart.”
The listing reads: “Situated in a popular and central location, this double-fronted character cottage offers spacious accommodation with two reception rooms, two double bedrooms, a good size kitchen and a shared courtyard garden.”
The house was previously on the market for £64,950 in 2002. It was used as a location in the 2007 Anton Corbijn-directed film Control. Curtis took his own life in the property on May 18, 1980 at the age of 23, days before the band were due to undertake a US tour.
Fans are trying to group together to buy the house in order to prevent developers from getting it. Zak Davies, who started the campaign, which has raised £600 so far, said on its website: “As important as every member of Joy Division was to the band, one member that made the difference was Ian Curtis. The troubled yet gifted singer and lead guitarist has impacted upon so many peoples lives.
“Recently his final home and the place where he spent his final moments has gone up for sale in Macclesfield. Rather than it be taken by developers or sold for development, we feel a place with such cultural significance with such an important man attached deserves to be made into a museum and somewhere that Joy Division fans from around the world can come to pay respects and learn about Ian Curtis.”
The realtor’s listing is here, if you’d like a peek into the place. Or maybe you’d like to simply buy it for yourself. Maybe YOU’D be the one saving it—the idea of turning the room where a gifted artist killed himself into an open-to-the-public shrine could be quite solemn and moving, or it could become a tacky and gross Mecca to the death romanticizers for whom the act of Curtis’ suicide transformed him into a doleful post-punk Christ figure.
Here’s an informative and fittingly gloomy BBC bio of Curtis.
As a child Joy Division’s lead singer wanted to be stuntman. He went so far as setting up a specially constructed stunt that involved him jumping off a garage roof. Cheered on by friends, Curtis donned a crash helmet and took a giant leap off the roof. He landed badly and his ambitions for a career as a stuntman were over.
Thankfully, Curtis showed greater talent for writing poetry, and it would be his lyric writing and singing that eventually brought him fame. Now, one of his original poems, written circa 1966-67 when Curtis was at school, is to be sold next month at a “Beatles Rock ‘n’ Roll Memorabilia Auction,” with a starting bid of $1,200 (£1,000).
...is written on a piece of lined paper and is glued into a school book called Our Book Of Epitaphs along with poems from the other pupils in the class.
It reads, “An Epitaph for an Electrian (sic), Here lies Fred the electrian (sic), who went on a very fateful mission, he got a shock when tampering with a fuse, which went from his head right down to his shoes, by I. Curtis”.
Ian has also drawn a small picture of a man and a tombstone.
The poem is described as being in “excellent” condition and measures 6.5 inches x 3.75 inches. It is contained within a larger book of poems by fellow classmates which has some wear and tear and a few of the poems have become detached from the book.
A letter confirming the poem’s authenticity from the owner and former classmate of the singer is included. The letter reads:
“I grew up on Hurdsfield Estate, Macclesfield where I attended Hurdsfield Junior School. I started Hurdsfield Junior School in 1963 where I met Ian Curtis, he was a fellow pupil in my class and we went through school together. Mr Young was our teacher when this piece of work was carried out, he himself has got a poem in the book along with myself and all the other pupils in the class. This poem was written in 1966 or 1967. I was presented with the book at the end of the school year for being head boy. At the time the head teacher was called Mr Tattasall. Ian Curtis lived on Grey Stoke Road, Hurdsfield Estate, I lived on Delemere Road, Hurdsfield Estate, Cheshire”.
As far as pop culture goes, it seems everything and anything is up for grabs, and amongst the other lots going under the hammer are Adam Ant’s 1981 “Prince Charming” shirt, Kate Bush’s handwritten lyrics for “Wuthering Heights,” various signed singles, albums, posters and concert programmes, and a shed load of Beatles’ memorabilia. I’m sure these will all make more than their asking prices and if you fancy bidding check details they are here.
Below Kate Bush’s handwritten lyrics for ‘Wuthering Heights.’
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.
One of the most iconic album covers in pop history meets one of the most iconic foreheads in television history in this T-shirt mashup of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures with Klingon Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The T-shirt is called “Klingon Pleasures” and the mix of album’s original image of radio waves from pulsar CP 1919 seems a perfect fit with Worf’s brow. “Klingon Pleasures” is one of NickOG‘s (Nick O’Gorman) designs on Threadless.
If not for Galaxie 500’s version of “Ceremony,” I probably wouldn’t like that song all that much.
OK, so while the commenters busy themselves sharpening their claws and crayons to inform me that I’m an idiot who knows nothing of music and should immediately be fired, let’s talk about the song. “Ceremony” was an ill-starred entry into the later Joy Division catalog. No proper studio recording was ever made, so the version most fans know best is the live version on the posthumous JD release Still, from which about half the vocals are AWOL. A different version, culled from a rehearsal tape, appeared on the boxed set Heart & Soul. The vocals are all present, but are largely unintelligible, and there’d never be another chance to get it right, as the group’s singer Ian Curtis took his own life days after that tape was made. I’ve heard that another live version exists, a crummy bootleg of a soundcheck, but I’m aware of no extant version with Curtis’ vocals clear and complete. (If I’m wrong on that, for the love of all that matters in this shitsack world, post a link, PLEASE.)
Joy Division, ”Ceremony,” version from Still
Joy Division, ”Ceremony,” version from Heart and Soul
After Ian Curtis’ handwritten lyrics for Joy Division’s single most iconic song, “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” surfaced in a Joy Division/New Order exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, images of the wrinkled 35-year-old sheet of notebook paper have been making fairly brisk rounds of Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. It’s not hard to understand why. The single was released very shortly after Curtis’ suicide, which transformed the song into an instant self-elegy for both Curtis and the beloved band. The title, in fact, is literally Curtis’ epitaph.
But even if Curtis had decided not to end his life that day in 1980, and Joy Division had continued, doesn’t it seem likely that it would have remained their signature song anyway? It has an intrinsic and enduring melancholy beauty that surely resonates even with listeners who know nothing of the song’s tragic connections, and its lyrics, though highly literate, still touch the universal. From coffeehouses to arena stage, it’s easily Joy Division’s most covered song. Here’s a roundup of several artists trying their hand.
The lineup that the Tibet House US put together for the 24th Annual Tibet House US Benefit Concert at Carnegie Hall two nights ago was the kind of collection of noteworthy musical talents that was guaranteed to make a certain kind of discerning fan of rock music quiver with excitement. The program promised the following enticements:
Matt Berning, Aaron Dessner, & Bryce Dessner of The National
Bernard Sumner, Phil Cunningham, & Tom Chapman of New Order
Patti Smith and her Band
With an invocation and closing by
Monks from the Drepung Gomang Monasteries
The evening would prove to have an impressive number of impromptu guests and collaborations not depicted here, including the surprise appearance of Sufjan Stevens, who sat in with The National; Nico Muhly playing together with Philip Glass; and a special gesture of tribute to recently departed Lou Reed from Patti Smith, who covered Reed’s classic “Perfect Day.”
But most exciting of all, perhaps, was Iggy Pop teaming up with three of the members of New Order (no Peter Hook, of course; Sumner was the only original member present) to play two of Joy Division’s most enduring songs, “Transmission” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” As all dedicated Joy Division fans know, when Ian Curtis hanged himself on May 18, 1980, Iggy’s 1977 album The Idiot was spinning on the turntable just a few feet away.
Perhaps you noticed a number of your friends posting—and then deleting—a “rare” cover version of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” on their Facebook walls today. The track in question was supposedly recorded by David Bowie and members of New Order.
Here’s what it said on YouTube:
A chance meeting in 1983 had David Bowie, Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook chatting away over beers in the Kings Arms in Salford. “...So we were all there just having a laugh and we joked that he should come n have a jam with us, then next minute - well, it was the next day actually, but i didn’t expect he’d definitely come by - and we were in the practice rooms and we were playing Love Will Tear Us Apart and i was like, f%$K we’re playing Love Will Tear Us Apart with David Bowie singing, this is crazy. We never released it - Bowie took a recording of it, and just layered some more vocals on for fun, sent it back to me…” - Bernard Sumner.
Was this the handiwork of Tim Heidecker?
Was Adam Buxton responsible, perhaps?
Until the perpetrator steps forward we may never know who was behind this clever prank, but Joy Division’s Peter Hook has weighed in on Twitter to say that… it’s a fake (as if that already wasn’t already totally obvious to anyone with ears, although I did appreciate the low-fi “bootleg” sound quality, which lent an air of authenticity to the proceedings. Extra points for that).
May the 18th 1980 Ian Curtis the singer of Joy Division took his own life in the Kitchen of the house he lived in with his wife Debbie at 77 Barton Street.
Included with the Table are confirmation of authenticity from Natalie Curtis, Debbie Curtis, Marco from Joy Division Central and Vicky Morgan. Also there is a four page print from a web site with pics taken inside 77 Barton Street when it was a B and B and a picture of Dorothy Smith.
The bidding began with a reserve of £100. The current bid is at £6,900.00 and the bidding ends on November 13, 2013.
“Ian Curtis’ Kitchen Table” would make a good name for a band.
We usually do these type of posts as “Happy Birthday ___” but to do that for Ian Curtis, the lead singer with Joy Division, who would have been 57-years-old today, seemed a bit much. A fragile and beautiful talent, Curtis was only 23, when he took his own life, in May 1980. His death came just before Joy Division were about to tour the States. Talk about bad timing.
I can still recall the first time I saw Curtis on TV, with his awkward, uncoordinated dancing, and his strange, resonate voice filled with loss, longing.
“You can’t listen to something without being able to, hopefully, put a feeling into the song…
...I think some of the things come out of confusion..But I’m not too sure what…exactly what or why.
When Joy Division finished recording their defining album, Closer, Curtis wrote to the band’s manager, Rob Gretton, expressing his dislike for the record:
Judged purely on my own terms, and not to be interpreted as an opinion or reflection of mass media or public taste but a criticism of my own esoteric and elitist mind of which the mysteries of life are very few and beside which the grace of God has deemed to indicate in a vision the true nature of all things, plus the fact that everyone else are a sneaky, japing load of tossers, I decree that this LP is a disaster.
I K Curtis
He was wrong. Closer is a work of brilliance, which now stands as testament to Ian Curtis’s talents.
Bonus clip, plus rare interview with Curtis, after the jump…