Unknown Pleasures Die - Debbie and Ian Curtis - Joy Division Video

Unknown Pleasures, Ian Curtis and Joy Division Video

It is thirty years after Joy Division’s lead singer and lyricist Ian Curtis took his own life. Unknown Pleasures, Ian Curtis and Joy Division are still important musically thirty years on. Three years ago famed rock photographer Anton Corbijn released a movie Control which was a biopic of Curtis’ brief and tormented life. The documentary, 'Joy Division' was also released. The 2002 Michael Winterbottom film 24 Hour Party People featured Factory Records and Joy Division.

Their final single ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, and the Joy Division video released around Ian Curtis’s death still features in classic songs lists. Joy Division is bigger now than when they played in the post-punk era.The three Joy Division albums, Unknown Pleasures, Closer and Still have all been reissued. Unknown Pleasures is the darker, sparse debut album. It is representative of the harsh industrial North of England of that time. A perfect background for Joy Division art.

Curtis's May 18 1980 suicide has propelled Joy Division into the legends of myth. Think Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain or Jeff Buckley. Brilliant talents all gone before their prime, Curtis died at only 23. Curtis’ death adds a certain poignancy and romanticism to his lyrics and to Joy Division's music. Curtis seemed to come from a mournful, sad place. His failings as a husband and father and the personal torment of uncontrollable dyslexia led him to take his own life. After his death his band mates went onto form New Order. They enjoyed commercial success, something Ian Curtis didn’t. Curtis though will be remembered in permanent youth like Jim Morrison and Jeff Buckley. Unknown Pleasures, Ian Curtis and Joy Division all remain important in their own interconnected right. When you watch your next Joy Division video recall Joy Division art, recall Ian Curtis.

Unknown Pleasures, Ian Curtis and Joy Division
Unknown Pleasures, Ian Curtis and Joy Division

Ian Curtis and Joy Division

Joy Division was formed in 1976 in Salford, Northern England. They were originally called Warsaw. They released their debut EP “An ideal for living” in 1978. Their debut album, “Unknown Pleasures” was released in 1979. They recorded their second album “Closer’ in March 1980. Martin Hannett produced both albums. In March they released the Licht und Blindheit single featuring "Dead Souls" and "Atmosphere" on the French indie label Sordide Sentimental. 

  • Ian Curtis - vocals and occasional guitar
  • Bernard Sumner - guitar and keyboards)
  • Peter Hook - bass guitar and backing vocals
  • Stephen Morris - drums and percussion

Joy Division made a pact that should any member leave; the remaining members would change the name of the group. When Ian Curtis died the band renamed themselves New Order. In the new band Sumner became lead singer and Stephen Morris's girlfriend Gillian Gilbert joined as keyboardist and second guitarist.

New Order's first single Ceremony was released in 1981. It included the last two songs they had written with Ian Curtis. 

  • In 1981 a compilation of live tracks and rare recordings called “ Still” was released.
  • In 1988 Factory released a compilation called “Substance’ in 1988.
  • In 1995 London Records released another compilation called Permanent. Factory Records went bankrupt in 1992 and London Records bought the Joy Division catalogue.
  • In 1997 London Records released the box set ‘Heart and Soul’
  • In 2008 another compilation album was released The Best of Joy Division.

 Debbie Curtis had the words ``Love Will Tear Us Apart'' inscribed on Ian's headstone.
Debbie Curtis had the words ``Love Will Tear Us Apart'' inscribed on Ian's headstone.

Joy Division DVD

Ian Curtis Epilepsy and Suicide

Ian Curtis suffered from epilepsy. The lyric "Get a taste in my mouth" from Love will tear us apart is likely a reference to his epilepsy. Just before a seizure sufferers say there is a strange taste in your mouth. Ian’s life began to be overtaken by epilepsy and depression took hold. The lack of sleep from touring destabilized his epilepsy. The seizures occurred more regularly and became more uncontrollable. He suffered seizures onstage. On the final European tour Ian was in very poor health. The lead singer of 'A Certain Ration' stepped in to replace him live a few times. 

On 7 April while in tour Curtis attempted suicide by overdosing on phenobarbitone. He recovered and returned to England. The depression was to engulf him again though. Curtis betrayal of his wife and daughter with this affair had caused him despair, grief and a terrible emptiness in his heart. The night before he was due to leave on Joy Division’s U.S. tour he sought reconciliation with his estranged wife Debbie. 

That evening Ian returned to his home in Macclesfield. He asked Debbie to drop the divorce. After she wouldn’t he asked her to leave the house while he prepared to leave for the tour. Ian hung himself in the family kitchen. His wife returned around midday May 18 1980 and found him. Love Will Tear us Apart was released in June 1980 as a posthumous single.

Ian and Deborah Curtis Teenage Lovers
Ian and Deborah Curtis Teenage Lovers

Ian Curtis a Poet of his Time

Unknown Pleasures, Ian Curtis and Joy Division come into focus when you read widow Deborah Curtis’ 1995 biography of her husband Touching from a Distance. Curtis was an intently private man, which has lead to much interpretation over his lyrics. The myth building has romanticized much of his work. Each Joy Division video emphasizes this. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is a good example of this. The excepted wisdom is the song is about Curtis’ relationship with his wife and his regrets about his affair.

However he could have been referring to his relationship with his Belgian mistress. Perhaps it is about his guilt about the absence from his young daughter. Less romantic is the uncontrollable epileptic seizures Ian Curtis suffered were just too much. This is more than palpable given the band was leaving on an American tour that day. Perhaps the lyrics were nothing but brilliant wordsmanship metaphorically speaking. This is the beauty of Ian Curtis’s iyrics they are open to interpretation and have brilliantly survived the passing of time. That is what makes Joy Division art.

Debbie Curtis’ biopic tells us of Ian’s’ emotional distance. His temperamental controlling nature is brought out in the book. His life reads like many of the great tragic poets with a tragic romance to boot. Joy Division begat New Order whom begat a whole new sound that became known as Madchester and then Brit Pop. One wonders where the post punk poet Ian Curtis would have fitted in over the ensuing years. Unknown Pleasures, Ian Curtis and Joy Division are remanded fondly and more romantically as the years go by.

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Comments on Unknown Pleasures, Ian Curtis and Joy Division 26 comments

RevLady profile image

RevLady 6 years ago from Lantana, Florida

I did not know Ian but this hub made for in interesting, if not sad, read. Thanks for sharing.

Forever His,

SomewayOuttaHere profile image

SomewayOuttaHere 6 years ago from TheGreatGigInTheSky

good hub! thanks for the reminder of his life and music.

creativeone59 profile image

creativeone59 6 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

Thank you Billy for a senastional hub on Ian Curtis, thank you for sharing. Godspeed. creativeone59

Joshua Kell profile image

Joshua Kell 6 years ago from Arizona

Cool hub. I had never heard of this fellow; sounds like a true artist with yet another sad story - I shall have to check out his work. Thanks. - J.

billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago Author

Thanks RevLady, he had a tormented life at the end but left a mark for someone who went so young. His lyrics and songs live on.

billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago Author

SomewayOuttaHere thanks for your comments, his life and music is definitely worth remembering. :)

tony0724 profile image

tony0724 6 years ago from san diego calif

Good call Billy ! Joy Division was a great band. That was the music of my era !

billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago Author

CreativeOne59 thanks for your feedback - I enjoyed writing the hub it took me back to all those years ago :)

billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago Author

Joshua thanks for your comments. Sadly yes Ian Curtis does represent another tortured artist casualty. Sadly he never got to experience his affect and legacy while he was alive. However in listening to his music I get the feeling that wasn't what was important to him.

billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago Author

Tony thanks for your feedback - they were a great band and I still enjoy listening to them. In fact love will tear us apart remains in my top five favorites to this day. Indeed I wrote hub about that. New Order did some brilliant music also, Ceremony was brilliant.

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cosette 6 years ago

what a tragic tale. i had heard that name Joy Division before but was unfamiliar with the music and musicians. thanks for writing about such an interesting young man.

billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago Author

Cosette thanks for your comments. It is a very interesting tale and worthy of the movies and books. It is amazing that it was 30 years ago last month that he died.

shazwellyn profile image

shazwellyn 6 years ago from Great Britain

Well... you know that I am mad about Joy Division. Thanks for sharing - I was only thinking the other day that a massive 30 years have passed since Curtis died. I have been watching Natalie Curtis grow and she looks sooo much like her dad. She is an amazing photographer in her own right - very dark and shadowed in her style.

Nice one Billy!

p.s. my favourite has to Digital - such a hum drum sound that parallels life in a Wintered Britain!

billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago Author

Shazwellyn I don't know to much about Natalie - though I have seen a bit of her work. I often think of her and Francis Bean Cobain as two very unfortunate girls to loose such talented fathers so young. Great to see you are a huge Joy Division fan. I remember meeting Mark E Smith who is from Salford years ago and we chatted forever about Joy Division and the Hacienda

50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 6 years ago from Arizona

Billy, old times! I had let this slip away but you have brought it back. A sad tale, indeed! It added to the mountain of artists I really loved that are now gone. I often wonder what they would have done given more time.

Thanks, 50

billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago Author

50 thanks for your comments - yes it does make you wonder what some of the great ones that went early would have put out. Curtis, Cobain, Parker, Morrison, Joplin, Parsons, Buckley, Scott..... the list goes on doesn't it.

Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

Great hub Billy! Just goes to show you- love will tear us apart!

billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago Author

Micky exactly - for better or worse.

tracykarl99 profile image

tracykarl99 6 years ago from San Francisco

This is a super nice hub ~ your thoughtfulness and love of the music really came through. I guess it's true, "only the good die young".

billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago Author

Thanks Tracy - it is great music and inspired so many more after him. Sadly so many go young.

Michel007 profile image

Michel007 6 years ago

Great work

billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago Author

Michel007 thanks for your feedback.

McHamlet profile image

McHamlet 6 years ago

Great hub, I love Joy Division and you've given a real insight here into the troubled soul of Curtis. Thanks for posting')

billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago Author

McHamlet thanks for your comments. Joy Division were a great vehicle for Ian Curtis just such a pity it was such a short lived life.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

How very sad about Ian Curtis and that song hauntingly lives on.

billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago Author

Peggy Love will tear us apart certainly does drag on and hauntingly when put into his life's perspective and Debbie and Ian Curtis rather than just a rock song.

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