Joy Division (band)

Joy Division was a post punk band formed in 1977 in Manchester, England. The band dissolved in May of 1980 after the suicide of its lead singer Ian Curtis. The remaining members reformed as New Order a couple of months later.




Inspired by a Sex Pistols gig at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall on July 20, 1976, guitarist Bernard Sumner (also listed on labels as "Bernard Dicken", "Bernard Albrecht" and "Bernard Albrecht-Dicken") and bassist Peter Hook formed a band with friend Terry Mason, who attempted to play drums but didn't last long in the band.

They placed an advertisement in a Manchester record store, and recruited singer Ian Curtis, who also attended the Sex Pistols gig with his wife Deborah and already knew Bernard, Peter, and Terry from previous gigs.


Though not much of a punk drummer, Tony Tabac joined the group in early 1977. They began practicing on a regular basis but did not have a name. Just before their first gig (Electric Circus 29 May 1977), supporting The Buzzcocks and Penetration, the band decided on the name Warsaw, though they had already appeared on the bill as the Stiff Kittens, a name suggested by Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks and Richard Boon. After this gig, they immediately dropped it in favor of Warsaw.

Five weeks and half a dozen gigs later, Tony Tabac was replaced by punk drummer Steve Brotherdale from another band called Panik. They recorded The Warsaw Demo on 18 July 1977, consisting of five crude punk songs.

After the demo, Brotherdale was fired after being asked to fix a flat tire while on the motorway; the remaining band members drove off without him. Brotherdale tried to get Ian Curtis to join Panik but Curtis refused. Stephen Morris, who responded to an ad in a music store window, was hired as a replacement, he was hired thanks to the fact that Curtis remembered him from his school days as Morris attended the same school two years below Curtis. Unlike the previous drummers, Morris clicked well with the other three. His metronome-like drumming owed more to krautrock than the aggressive bombast typical of many punk drummers. In late 1977, Warsaw renamed themselves Joy Division to avoid confusion with London punk band Warsaw Pakt. It was also around this time that their music began to mature. Sessions recorded in December of 1977 sound considerably different from The Warsaw Demo.


The group played their first gig as Joy Division on 25 January 1978. They then played regularly in the north of England throughout early 1978, and recorded enough material for a debut album. However, after the studio engineer added synthesizers to several tracks, the band scrapped it. It would be released as a bootleg in 1982 and then officially 10 years later.

Joy Division's debut on vinyl was on a compilation in the summer of 1978 called Short Circuit. Though listed as Joy Division, it was actually a track from the Warsaw days recorded live on 2 October 1977. In June 1978 their December 1977 sessions were released as a 7" EP under the title An Ideal for Living. In late 1978, An Ideal for Living was remastered and re-released as a 12".

On 20 September 1978, they performed on the TV show Granada Reports and in December 1978, they appeared on the compilation EP A Factory Sample, contributing two tracks recorded a couple months earlier. This EP sold out within a couple months and was the first release to document the haunting and atmospheric sound that Joy Division had been developing since that past summer.


Early 1979 saw Joy Division gain more publicity. Ian Curtis appeared on the front cover of the New Musical Express. Joy Division recorded a radio session in January (aired on BBC Radio 1 on 14 February by the respected indie DJ John Peel). On 4 March, they supported the Cure at the Marquee Club, a major venue in London.

In April 1979, the band began recording their landmark debut album Unknown Pleasures. The record was far bleaker and darker than most contemporary rock music, featuring Hook's bass as the lead melodic instrument, drums soaked in icy reverb, Albrecht's jagged guitar and Curtis' baritone vocal style. Whereas punk rock had been extroverted and aggressive, Joy Division were more introverted and personal. The album cover, designed by Peter Saville based on a graph of 100 consecutive pulses from the pulsar CP 1919, is regarded a classic of minimalist sleeve design. Unknown Pleasures was released in June while Joy Division were recording five songs for Piccadilly Radio.

They performed on Granada TV again in July, made their first and last nationwide TV appearance in September on BBC2, supported the Buzzcocks in a 24-venue UK tour during October and November, and performed again on John Peel's BBC radio show in December.

While Unknown Pleasures sold well and received good reviews from the music press, all was not well. Curtis suffered from epilepsy. On stage he would often have tonic-clonic seizures that resulted in unconsciousness and convulsions, or absence seizures that would cause brief trancelike pauses. Even after disposing of their lightshow, Curtis would still have these problems and the band decided to rest over the Christmas holiday.


In January 1980, Joy Division set out on a European tour. Several dates were cancelled though due to Curtis' deteriorating health.

With Martin Hannett, who also produced Unknown Pleasures, the band began recording their second album Closer at the end of the European tour in March. They released their most famous song "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (voted the number 1 single of all time by the New Musical Express in a 2003 poll), in April. Despite receiving brilliant reviews, the single failed to move beyond the independent charts.

On April 8 the band played a gig at the Derby Hall in Bury. Curtis sang only a few songs, the rest being sung by Alan Hempstall of support band Crispy Ambulance. The audience reacted badly to this, and the gig disintegrated into a riot in which Hook fought with angry onlookers.

Following a one off gig in early May, the band took two weeks' rest before their first American tour was scheduled to start. At the time, Curtis' relationship with his wife Deborah Curtis was collapsing due to his infidelity with a Belgian woman, Annick Honor, who he had met on tour. Alone in his Macclesfield home, on 17 May 1980, Ian watched a movie called Stroszek about an artist who commits suicide. On 18 May 1980, Ian Curtis was discovered by his wife Deborah in their kitchen, hanging by his neck, the victim of suicide. He had reportedly been listening to The Idiot, Iggy Pop's debut solo album.


The band had long decided that if any one of them left or was unable to perform for any reason, they would end the band. In the summer of 1980, a reissued "Love Will Tear Us Apart" hit number 13 on the British singles chart, their biggest commercial success to date. In July 1980, Closer was finally released to overwhelmingly positive reviews and also charted, peaking at number 6 on the British album chart. Sales of Unknown Pleasures were also robust.

At first glance Ian Curtis' suicide appears to be exclusively the product of his own depression and ill health. Deborah Curtis' book Touching from a Distance gives the impression that Ian always wanted to die young. Ian Curtis has been an inspiration for numerous musicians including Kurt Cobain, Billy Corgan, and Trent Reznor (who, as Nine Inch Nails, covered "Dead Souls" for The Crow soundtrack).

The surviving members formed the electronic band New Order, often cited as one of the leading synth pop, techno and dance music groups of their era.

The continuing importance of Joy Division was shown at the turn of the Millenium when John Peel asked his listener's to vote for the all time Festive 50. At number one was the haunting Atmosphere, whilst Love will tear us apart sat at number 3. Another three songs from the band sat in the list.

Influence on "Goth" subculture

Joy Division were described as "gothic" by their management in 1979, comparing them with the pop music of the day. Some consider them to be precursors of the Goth genre. Despite the fact that Joy Division did not dress in what would today be considered a Goth style, this genre was nascent in the period of Joy Division's career, and had not at that point become so closely associated with any image. Other than the gothic description, the band and its highly original sound were categorized alongside numerous other bands of eclectic styles under the umbrella of post punk and new wave.

Origins of the name

The name Joy Division is a reference to the groups of women in Nazi concentration camps who were used as prostitutes, as described in Ka-Tzetnik 135633's 1955 book The House of Dolls.

Because of this and other issues, such as Bernard Sumner's adoption of the surname Albrecht, their previously being known as Warsaw and, later, New Order's choice of name (another reflection of Nazi German history), the band were dogged by accusations of neo-Nazism, which they strenuously denied.

Line up



  • An Ideal for Living: Warsaw/No Love Lost//Leaders Of Men/Failures (Jun. 1978, 7" EP, Enigma Records PSS 139, 1,000 copies; Sep. or Oct. 1978, 12" EP, Anonymous Records ANON 1, 1,200 copies)
  • Transmission/Novelty (Oct. 1979, 7", Factory Records FAC 13; Dec. 1980, 12", Factory FAC 13.12)
  • Licht und Blindheit ( Atmosphere/Dead Souls (Mar. 1980, 7", Sordide Sentimental SS 33022, 1,578 copies)
  • Komakino ( You Said (Apr. 1980, 7" flexi disk, Factory FAC 28, 10,000 British copies, unknown number of American copies w/ The Other Sound fanzine)
  • Love Will Tear Us Apart//These Days/Love Will Tear Us Apart version (Apr. 1980, 7", Factory FAC 23; Jun. 1980, 12", Factory FAC 23.12)
  • Atmosphere/She's Lost Control (Aug. 1980, 12", Factory US FACUS 2)
  • The Peel Sessions broadcast for Feb. 14 1979: Exercise One/Insight//She's Lost Control/Transmission (Nov. 1986, 12" EP, Strange Fruit SFPS 013)
  • The Peel Sessions broadcast for Dec. 10th 1979: Love Will Tear Us Apart/24 Hours//Colony/Sound Of Music (Sep. 1987, 12" EP, Strange Fruit SFPS 033)
  • Atmosphere/The Only Mistake (Jun. 1988, 7", Factory FAC 213-7)
  • Atmosphere/The Only Mistake/Sound Of Music (Jun. 1988, 12", Factory FAC 213)
  • Atmosphere/Transmission (live)/Love Will Tear Us Apart (Jun. 1988, CD, Factory FACD 213)
  • Video 5 8 6 by New Order/As You Said (Jul. 1997, 12", Touch TONE 7.1)


  • Unknown Pleasures (LP, Factory FACT 10, June 1979)
  • Closer (LP, Factory FACT 25, July 1980)
  • Still (rare tracks, outtakes and live) (2×LP, Factory FACT 40, October 1981)
  • Substance, Joy Division 1977–1980 (compilation) (CD, Factory FACD 250, June 1988)
  • The Peel Sessions (LP, Strange Fruit SFRLP 211, 1990)
  • Permanent (compilation, 1995)
  • Heart & Soul (4 CD complete works, 1997)
  • Preston Warehouse 28 February 1980 (live)
  • Les Bains Douches 18 December 1979 (live)


  • Here Are The Young Men (VHS, Ikon FACT 37V; Beta, Ikon FACT 37B, August 1982)

Compilation appearances

  • Short Circuit: Live At The Electric Circus (10" LP, Virgin VCL 5003, June 1978) — "At a Later Date"
  • A Factory Sample (2×7", Factory FAC 2, January 1979) — "Digital", "Glass"
  • Earcom 2: Contradiction (12"EP, Fast Product FAST 9B, October 1979) — "Autosuggestion", "From Safety To Where ...?"

There are also a tremendous number of bootleg recordings, both live and studio.

Reference: [1] (


See also

External links and references

de:Joy Division es:Joy Division fr:Joy Division it:Joy Division ja:ジョイ・ディヴィジョン nl:Joy Division no:Joy Division pl:Joy Division pt:Joy Division sv:Joy Division


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