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Monday, April 4, 2011

Music Unknown to the Masses Ep2- Joy Division

Joy Division was a post-punk band formed in 1976 in Manchester. Originally called Warsaw, the band consisted of Ian Curtis, vocals and occasional guitar, Bernard Sumner, guitar and keyboard, Peter Hook, bass guitar, and Stephen Morris, drums and percussion. They went under the names 'Stiff Kittens' and 'Warsaw', until in 1978 they decided on the name 'Joy Division'. The name came from a group of Jewish women who, under the Nazi regime, were forced into prostitution. This story was mentioned in the 1955 novel, the House of Dolls.
The band's first gig as Warsaw took place in May 1977, backing local bands, among them The Buzzcocks. The band received praise and national exposure due to reviews in NME and other magazines, such as Sounds. Over the next year there was a revolving cast of drummers, the first being Tony Tabac, who was replaced in June 1977 by Steve Brotherdale, who also played for the punk band Panik. On several occasions he tried to convince Ian Curtis to leave Warsaw and join Panik. After studio sessions in Oldham, Brotherdale was asked to leave the van they were travelling in to check on a flat tire. When he got out, the van sped away. When seeking a replacement drummer, they placed an ad in a music shop window. The only person to reply was Stephen Morris, who had known Curtis since they were in school. According to Ian's wife Deborah said Stephen was a "perfect fit". To avoid confusion with a London punk band, 'Warsaw Pakt', they changed their name to Joy Division. In December they recorded what would be their debut EP, 'An Ideal for Living'. They played their first gig as Joy Division in January 1978.
The band spent early 1978 writing and rehearsing. At a gig on 14 April they caught the attention of Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton. Curtis berated Wilson for not booking the band on his show, So It Goes, on Grenada TV. He assured them they would be the next band on the show. Gretton, the resident DJ, was so impressed with the band that he convinced them that he would manage them. This gave them the business knowledge they themselves lacked and also allowed them to focus on the music.
Their debut EP, the self-released 'An Ideal for Living', featured a drawing of a Hitler youth member, coupled with their name, fuled the Neo-Nazi accusations they would receive throughout the career. While Hook and Sumner admitted a vague interest in fascism at the time, Morris insisted the Nazi imagery was to keep the memory of the suffering of their parents and grandparents alive.
Over the next few months the band appeared on television and continued to tour. However, in December 1978, Curtis suffered his first recognisable epileptic episode. Despite this, the band persisited and continued to tour. They were even photographed for the January 1979 cover of NME. In April 1979 the band began recording their second album, Unknown Pleasures, at Strawberry Studios, Stockport. The band initially disliked the "spacious, atmospheric sound" provided by producer Martin Hannett, which greatly apposed the aggressive sound of their live act. Unknown Pleasures quickly sold it's initial pressings of 10,000 copies. They quickly turned from an indie band to a well-known act. Supporting the Buzzcocks on a 24-venue tour of the UK. This cemented their popularity and allowed them to quit their day job. Their emerging success gained them a devoted following, nicknamed the "Cult With No Name".
In January 1980 the band set off on a European tour. While it was a difficult tour, Curtis only suffered 2 major seizures during the 2 month tour. In March, recording began on their second album, Closer, at London's Britannia Row Studios. The long hours only made Curtis' seizures and epilepsy worse. He would often have a seizure during a gig, which made him feel embarassed, ashamed and, ultimately, depressed. The audience often thought this behaviour was part of the act. On April 7th
Curtis attempted suicide by overdosing on sedatives. The band had a gig the following night in Bury. They had Alan Hempstall of Crispy Ambulance and Simon Topping of A Certain Radio to start off the set, Curtis to do a few numbers. When Topping came on after Curtis to finish the set, the audience started rioting, throwing bottles at the band. When Gretton jumped into the crowd, the police were called. Several other gigs in April were cancelled, but the group still filmed the promotional video for the upcoming single, "Love Will Tear Us Apart". On 2 May the band played what would be their final gig at the University of Birmingham's High Hall.
In May 1980 the group were due to begin a tour of America. Although Curtis expressed the wish to take time off to a few acquaintances, he faked excitement about the tour to other members of the band, because he didn't want to leave them down. At around this time, Curtis' relationship with his wife, Deborah, was failing. The contributing factors were: Curtis' ill health, his wife's lack of involvement with the band and their life on the road, and his relationship with a young Belgian woman, Annik Honoré. The evening before Joy Division were due to leave on their tour of America, Curtis went to his wife's home in Macclesfield to ask her to drop the divorce case between them. Curtis asked her to leave him in the house until his train to Manchester the following day. Early on the morning of 18th May 1980, Cutis hanged himself in the kitchen. He wasn't discovered until his wife came into the house around midday. Tony 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." Jon Savage, Melody Maker, wrote in his obituary for Curtis, "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, and in July Closer was finally released, peaking at number 6 in the UK album charts. The members of Joy Division made a pact long before Curtis' death that if any member left the band, then the band would carry on under a new name. Now named New Order, the band was initially a three-piece, with Sumner assuming vocal duties. After a while they were rounded out with the addition of Morris' girlfriend Gillian Gilbert on keyboards and second guitar. New Orders debut 1981 single, Ceremony (along with it's B-side "In A Lonely Place") were the final 2 songs written by Curtis to be recorded by the group. While the group struggled in it's early years, it went on to much greater critical success than it's predecessor.

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