Poking fun of Joy Division is like making someone giggle at a wake—it just shouldn’t be as easy as it is. But the combination of the band’s funereal sounds, the death-cult that followed the suicide of their lead singer Ian Curtis, and the incredible earnestness of its ever-growing fandom makes deflating them a fish-in-a-barrel matter. The iconic cover art for their debut LP Unknown Pleasures has been parodied on so many t-shrt designs that this very blog called for a moratorium, and their best-known songs have featured in too many sound and video mashups to list here. Our ongoing favorites have been “Love Will Freak Us,” Dsico’s band vs band mashup of their signature song “Love Will Tear Us Apart” with Missy Elliot’s “Get Ur Freak On,” and the wonderfully spooky, and strangely elegiac combination of their 1980 single “Atmosphere” with desaturated footage from Teletubbies.
But last week, a brilliant bastard on the internet won for all time. Now, this has been around for a minute, but to my surprise, I found that a ton of rock snob-types who should have known about it didn’t, so we’re sharing it here in case you missed it, too. It’s combines the Unknown Pleasures album closer “I Remember Nothing” with 15 seconds of head-cam footage from a roller coaster ride. If you know the song, you can probably already see the punchline coming, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve watched this dozens of times and it keeps making me laugh.
Ian Curtis would have turned 60 today. Two years ago, the website post-punk.com celebrated Curtis’ birthday with a fascinating contribution to Joy Division studies, a complete transcript of one of the few surviving interviews with Curtis that exist.
The interview took place on February 28, 1980, before JD’s gig at Preston Warehouse. (In 1999 a recording of that show was released as Preston 28 February 1980, as it happens.) “Spyda” from Burnley Musician’s Collective interviewed Curtis for a BBC Radio Blackburn program called “Spinoff.” You can actually hear the rest of the band doing a soundcheck in the background.
In 1988 the interview appeared on BBC Manchester with some previously unheard snippets. The interview is variously called the BBC Blackburn interview or the Radio Lancashire interview. This is actually considered to be the last interview Curtis ever gave.
In the interview Curtis, asked about “the current state of new wave,” replies thus:
Don’t know. I think it’s, a lot of it tends to have lost its edge really. There’s quite a few new groups that I’ve heard.. odd records. Record or have seen maybe such as, eh, I like, I think it’s mostly old Factory groups really, I like the groups on Factory; A Certain Ratio and Section 25. I tend not to listen, when I’m listening to records, I don’t listen to much new wave stuff, i tend to listen to the stuff I used to listen to a few years back but sort of odd singles. I know somebody who works in a record shop where I live and I’ll go in there and he’ll play me “have you heard this single?” singles by er the group called The Tights, so an obscure thing … and a group called, I think, er Bauhaus, a London group, that’s one single. There’s no one I completely like that I can say “well I’ve got all this person’s records. i think he’s great” or “this group’s records” it’s just, again, odd things
Bauhaus had released “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” in 1979. Aside from that, the band released “Dark Entries” in January 1980 and that was the entire Bauhaus catalog when Curtis did that interview.
When you consider all of the famous and infamous people who William Burroughs met in his lifetime, maybe the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game should be adapted for the late Beat author. I’d have a “Burroughs” of one, as I met him (briefly) in Los Angeles in 1996 at his big art opening at LACMA.
At the Reality Studio blog, there’s a fascinating tale, told in great detail, about the time Joy Division shared the same stage with Burroughs, Brion Gysin and Cabaret Voltaire in Belgium. Ian Curtis was an avid reader and favored counterculture fare like J.G. Ballard, Michael Moorcock, Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre and Hermann Hesse. William Burroughs was one of his biggest heroes.
Joy Division was given its first opportunity to play outside the United Kingdom on 16 October 1979. That alone would have distinguished the gig for the band, but of special interest to Curtis and his mates was the fact that they would be opening for Burroughs. The avant-garde theater troupe Plan K, which had made a specialty of interpreting Burroughs’ work, were founding a performance space in a former sugar refinery in Brussels, Belgium. The opening was conceived as a multimedia spectacle. Films were to be screened — among others, Nicholas Roeg’s Performance (starring Mick Jagger) and Burroughs’ own experiments with Antony Balch. The Plan K theater troupe were to perform “23 Skidoo.” Joy Division and Cabaret Voltaire were to give “rock” concerts. And Burroughs and Brion Gysin were to read from their recently published book, The Third Mind.
Before the evening’s events, Burroughs and Joy Division gave separate interviews to the culture magazine En Attendant. Graciously provided to RealityStudio by the interviewer and the organizer of the Plan K opening, Michel Duval, these have been translated from the French and are reproduced here for the first time since their publication in November 1979. You can read the French original or the English translation of Duval’s interview with Joy Division, as well as the French original or the English translation of Duval’s interview with William Burroughs.
After Burroughs’ reading brought the opening of Plan K to its climax, Curtis attempted to introduce himself to his literary idol. This meeting, like so many things about both Curtis and Burroughs, has already become legend — which is another way of saying that its factual basis may have receded into darkness. If you search around the internet, you’ll see sites describing the encounter in terms like this: “Unfortunately when Ian went up to talk to him the author told Ian to get lost.” And this: “Burroughs probably was tired and bored with the concerts and when Ian went up to talk with him the author told Ian to get lost. Ian got lost immediately, not a little hurt by the rebuff.” Chris Ott’s book Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures repeats the story, and Mark Johnson’s book An Ideal for Living asserts that Burroughs refused to speak to Curtis.
One of Keith Hudson’s nicknames was “the Ghetto Dentist,” because—unlike, let’s say, Suge Knight—he funded his Inbidimts label and shop (a/k/a Imbidimts) by filling teeth. Hudson died in 1984, but an impression of his basic decency remains. Dennis Alcapone, who made his first recordings with Hudson and remembers him as “a nice bredda who try ‘im bes’ to point you in a right direction,” says Hudson didn’t just give him a break in the record business, but set the DJ up with his first bank account and “a wicked tuxedo outfit” to wear on stage, too.
Caps and crowns also paid for Hudson-produced singles by Ken Boothe, Delroy Wilson, U-Roy, Big Youth, Alton Ellis, and Augustus Pablo, and, before Virgin signed him, much of Hudson’s own formidable solo discography. His Pick A Dub is Jon Savage’s choice for “the greatest dub album ever.” The first track on side two of Hudson’s 1975 LP Torch of Freedom was reportedly the favorite song of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, whose bereaved bandmates recorded their own chilly version of “Turn The Heater On” during a Peel session two years after Curtis’ suicide.
In her memoir Touching From a Distance, Curtis’ widow Deborah writes that the singer immersed himself in reggae in 1975, after the newlyweds moved in with Curtis’ grandparents in Hulme:
Ian always had an interest in reggae music; Bob Marley and Toots and the Maytals already figured in his diverse record collection. Moving into that area of Manchester gave Ian the opportunity to throw himself into the local culture. He began to spend much of his time in a record shop in Moss Side shopping centre, listening to different reggae bands - although, as our cheap record player was packed away ready to move to the new house, he spent very little money there. Once again Ian became obsessed with a lifestyle different from his own. He began to infiltrate the places where white people didn’t usually go. He took me to the Mayflower in Belle Vue, which at best was a seedy version of the Cotton Club and at worst a place where they held tawdry wrestling matches.
But when the Curtises got their own place in Chadderton, actually turning the heater on was something you could count on Ian Curtis never to do:
It didn’t take long to realize that married life was not going to be as comfortable as we had expected. We had very little spare cash for socializing and trying to keep the heating bills to a minimum meant that only the living room was warm. There were storage heaters in the house, but Ian refused to use them; in fact he disconnected one of them and lugged it into the back yard. The only thing he didn’t economize on were cigarettes.
After the jump, hear Hudson’s upful original and New Order’s somewhat more dour take on “Turn The Heater On”...
Before they recorded their classic 1983 album Power Corruption & Lies, New Order made an extended trip to New York and absorbed some of the city’s more upbeat sounds into their own morose and world-weary music. Latin salsa, 12” remix culture and the electronic beats they heard in nightclubs like Danceteria and the Roxy were obvious inspirations for the music they would soon come to make.
But at the time this was videotaped—live at the Ukrainian National Home in New York’s East Village on November 18, 1981—New Order were still largely Joy Division minus Ian Curtis, a post punk band, not the electronic dance quartet they would soon become. It’s a fascinating document of the group during what is perhaps the least documented era of their long career. As I would personally chose Movement over anything else in their catalog, this was a real treat to watch.
Low lights, the intense musicians saying almost nothing to the audience, a concert held in a hot sweaty dance hall—there’s an extremely underground quality to this show.
Standing around the Ukrainian National Home on Manhattan’s lower Second Avenue puts me in a sour mood. This is a prestigious gig in an odd venue, and the audience, like the hall, is truly pretentious in its self-conscious unpretentiousness. The place is full of the cream of New York’s pseudo-Continentals, the transparent and ridiculous ‘80’s would-be bohemians with their long dark coats, scarves and faces. Unfortunately, very much the crowd you would expect for New Order. The evening’s whole mood has been strongly anti-rock, so it’s refreshing and pleasantly surprising when New Order’s set begins brightly, with real strength and power.
“Truly pretentious in its self-conscious unpretentiousness”?
Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on May 4, 1979. The Manchester episode of Something Else, a youth program produced by the BBC with the mandate of offering teenagers “something else” to watch, was first broadcast on September 15, 1979, so it makes for a fascinating shapshot of the conditions that led to her becoming the head of state.
It might not need saying that it’s strange to have the Jam on the program, because Manchester was on the cusp of a truly singular wave of musical talent and the Jam were a London outfit—still, their bits are suitably vital. The clips of JD are top-notch, they’ve have been floating around the Internet for ages (there’s an excellent Playmobil stop-motion re-creation of “Transmission,” for instance), but the full program is encountered considerably less often.
The absolute best thing on this entire video, by far, are Ian Curtis’ dance moves during the guitar parts of “She’s Lost Control.”
Something Else was done in a magazine format with shorter segments. So there’s a brief documentary of an 18-year-old single parent in Salford as well as an interview with Cyril Smith, presented as “Rochdale’s only MP,” about underage drinking. (Smith is utterly indistinguishable from a Monty Python character, must be seen to be believed.) There’s also an awkward exchange with two uniformed police constables who must defend the premise that they hassle kids too much (which they deny).
There’s also a round table featuring Factory Records honcho Tony Wilson, Radio One DJ Paul Burnett, and Joy Division’s drummer Stephen Morris about why the radio never plays anything good. John Cooper Clarke is shown wandering around a shopping mall reciting his signature poem “Evidently Chickentown” and, late in the program, there’s a heavily censored reading of “Twat.”
It hardly seems like thirty-five years since Joy Division’s lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide and brought to an end one of the most promising bands since The Beatles. Though perhaps not unexpected, Curtis’ suicide came at a crucial moment for Joy Division on the eve of a major US tour. Guitarist Bernard Sumner later said that if Curtis had decided on killing himself, then there was nothing anyone could have done to prevent him from doing so. Indeed, Curtis often confided in his wife Deborah that he had no desire to live past his twenties. It was a romantic notion of the artist as tortured poet. Deborah thought Ian was just going through a phase that he would eventually grow out of. However, when she discovered some of Ian’s early teenage poems she understood that the singer was darkly troubled.
As TV presenter and record company supremo Tony Wilson once remarked, punk rock said “Fuck off,” Joy Division said, “We’re fucked.” The idea of being fucked came in part from Curtis’ own sense of alienation and the environment in which he, and his fellow bandmates Sumner, Peter Hook (bass) and Stephen Morris (drums) grew up—a dilapidated industrial wasteland being slowly bulldozed to make way for high rise buildings and shopping centers.
This was Britain in the seventies: a twice bankrupted country, deprived inner cities with no amenities, where buildings were collapsing, services defunct, unemployment and poverty rife. This is all too easy to list, but take one example of what conditions were like—this was a country where a vast number of homes did not have indoor toilets. The demand for change was not just inspired by a sense of political or social justice but by the arrival of American television programs—detective shows like Cannon, Columbo, Ironside, and kids shows like The Monkees and even The Banana Splits—which presented an alternate technicolor world where people had spacious apartments with central heating, air conditioning, hot and cold running water, matching curtains, scatter cushions and an affluent lifestyle. Joy Division’s hometown of Manchester—like Glasgow or Newcastle or Liverpool or Leeds or Birmingham—was Dickensian in comparison, and the lack of shared communal, creative experiences led many to focus inwards.
When punk arrived in the form of a Sex Pistols gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, Manchester in 1976, Curtis and co. saw a way out. Joy Division: The Documentary tells the story of Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris from their beginnings as a punk-inspired band Warsaw to recording their seminal and generation defining records Unknown Pleasures and Closer. It’s a story of how lasting success is created by the disparate involvement of managers, producers, designers, club owners, friends, but most importantly talent.
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.