Joy Division were in existence between 1978 and 1980. They released four singles, three EP's (including compilations with other artists), and three full length albums – "Unknown Pleasures" (#71, 1979), "Closer" (#6, 1980) and the compilation "Still" (#5, 1981). Their best known song, "Love Will Tear Us Apart", reached number 13 in the pop charts during summer 1980: it has since become a 20th century classic.
Three young men from Salford and Macclesfield, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Ian Curtis – all of whom had seen the Sex Pistols play the Lesser Free Trade Hall in summer 1976 – formed a group. Immersing themselves in Manchester's Punk scene, they tried out different drummers and names – at first, Warsaw – and met their future collaborators. At the time Martin Hannett was arranging gigs for local bands as part of Music Force, and he took Warsaw onto his books. During June 1977, Warsaw played several dates at the Squat and Rafters: the resident DJ at Rafters was Rob Gretton, who had begun managing several local bands.
From the start, Warsaw set out to write their own songs. Their initial efforts were crude but enthusiastic, and did not remain in their set long enough to be officially released. As they practised they quickly began to move away from basic punk to something more sophisticated. Prompted by Ian, the band's musical influences and ambitions inclined more towards Iggy Pop, Kraftwerk, the Velvet Underground, and David Bowie's "Low" and "Heroes" than mainstream rock. Untutored but hard working, the group began to find space in their sound – first heard on "No Love Lost" from their late 1977 recordings at Pennine Sound Studio in Oldham.
By that time, they had settled on Stephen Morris (also from Macclesfield) as their drummer. With the finalised line-up they had played the Last Night of the Electric Circus as Warsaw and were recorded for the Virgin live album "Short Circuit". In January 1978, the group changed their name to Joy Division. In June, they played the first of several dates at the Factory at the PSV Club in Hulme, run by Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus. That same month, the group released their EP, "Ideal for Living" on their own Enigma label: four songs – including "No Love Lost" – that were marred by poor sound quality.
Ian Curtis interview, 1978
Soon after this release, Rob Gretton approached the group and became their manager: his first act was to repress "Ideal for Living" on 12" vinyl – for better sound – and to buy back from RCA Records the eleven songs that they had recorded at Arrow Studios in May 1978. In September, Joy Division got their first TV appearance, performing "Shadowplay" on Granada Television's Granada Reports: the visual backdrop included negative footage of cars and buildings from a report about the CIA, enhancing the group's obsession with William Burroughs' concept of Control and their inherent spatial qualities.
'To the centre of the city where all roads meet waiting for you': from this time onwards, Joy Division seemed to capture the post industrial space of Manchester – a city in steep decline during the mid 1970's. Joy Division were futurist – in the sense that they were alert to new technology wherever they heard or encountered it – and deeply emotional. An avid reader, Ian Curtis took from his fascination with science fiction – William Burroughs and J.G.Ballard – and Russian authors like Gogol and Dostoyevsky – to write lyrics that were both literary and emotional.
In October 1978, Joy Division recorded two tracks for the projected first release on Factory Records – run by Tony Wilson, Alan Erasmus and Rob Gretton. It was the first time that they had been in the studio with Martin Hannett, and he added a technological gloss to their two tracks, "Digital" and "Glass": 'the Factory Sampler was the first thing I did with them,' he said in 1989. 'I think I'd had a new AMS delay line for about two weeks. It was called Digital, it was heaven sent'. "A Factory Sample" was well-reviewed, and Joy Division became better known outside Manchester.
At the end of January 1979, they recorded their first John Peel session: four tracks including "She's Lost Control" that would become one of the most requested ever. In March, they went to Eden Studios in London to record with producer Martin Rushent as the first act of a potential deal with Genetic Records through Warner Brothers: this fell through when Rob Gretton decided to remain independent and based in Manchester. Any future Joy Division material would therefore be released through Factory Records.
She's Lost Control – Live from Bowden Vale , Youth Club, Altrincham, 1979
Joy Division did not play many shows in early 1979, as the group were dealing with the implications of Ian Curtis' epilepsy – which had manifested with a severe attack in December 1978 – and were recording what would be their first fully realised album. One show that they did play was the 14th March date at Bowdon Vale Youth Club, three songs of which were filmed by Malcolm Whitehead – the earliest Joy Division live footage to exist. In April 1979 they recorded sixteen songs at Strawberry Studios with Martin Hannett: ten of these were released as the "Unknown Pleasures" album in July 1979.
Transmission [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO]
"Unknown Pleasures" announced Joy Division as a major force in British music: the album was extremely well reviewed and sold very well in the independent charts. The group recorded a second appearance on Granada Television ("She's Lost Control") and began to play more dates during the summer: several in London, including the Electric Ballroom and the Nashville, the Futurama Festival in Leeds, and the Leigh Festival in Lancashire. In mid September, the group performed two songs live on the BBC2 youth programme "Something Else" – "She's Lost Control" and "Transmission" – while Tony Wilson and Stephen Morris were interviewed.
In October, Joy Division were added to Buzzcocks' autumn tour – a total of 27 dates around England, Wales and Scotland. The members of the group quit their jobs and became professional musicians. On the 16th of October, they played a one off date as part of an arts festival at Plan K in Brussels, which also included William Burroughs and Cabaret Voltaire. Michel Isbeque shot most of the set – during which they debuted "Love Will Tear Us Apart" – on video. On the two Manchester Apollo shows on the 27th and 28th of October, Richard Boon videod the group – the basis for the Ikon video release "Here Are The Young Men".
Three weeks later, Joy Division released their first stand-alone single, the audience favourite "Transmission". In December the group performed their second John Peel session, which included "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and "Sound of Music". In the new year, the group set out on a series of European shows: they had already played in Brussels (Plan K) and in Paris (Les Bains Douches on 18 December 1979, released on CD in 2001), but this was their first foreign tour, taking in ten dates in Holland, Belgium and Germany. Four songs from the Effenar, Eindhoven date were filmed in Super 8, and were included in "Here Are The Young Men".
Atmosphere [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO]
Joy Division kept on recording during this period: in October and November, they had recorded two songs for the stand-alone Sordide Sentimental "Licht und Blindheit" release – two of their best loved songs, "Atmosphere" and "Dead Souls" – and in January they made their first attempt at what was already thought of as their sure-fire hit, "Love Will Tear Us Apart", at Pennine Studios in Oldham. This session also saw the completion of live favourites "These Days" and "Sound of Music". The group were not convinced about this first version and rerecorded the song at Strawberry Studios in March 1980.
After two successful London shows at the University of London Union (released as the bonus disc of the 2007 reissue of"Closer") and at the Lyceum, Joy Division spent two weeks in March recording twelve tracks for their next album. These showcased the group's experimentation with synthesisers and their leanings towards contemporary dance rhythms and instrumentation. During the sessions, Jean Pierre Turmel's Sordide Sentimentale released "Atmosphere" and "Dead Souls" on a limited edition (1578) seven inch with a lavish package, including Turmel's essay 'Licht und Blindheit'.
With the completion of the "Closer" sessions, Joy Division played several dates in London at the beginning of April, but there were concerns about Ian Curtis' health. At the Moonlight, he suffered an epileptic attack onstage. A few days later, he made a suicide attempt and while recovering tried to perform at the 8th April Derby Hall show in Bury – which ended in a riot when he was unable to complete the show. Joy Division would only play three more shows: the last was at High Hall, Birmingham University, which was recorded for future use, and eventually appeared on "Still".
Love Will Tear Us Apart [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO]
At the end of April, a promotional video for "Love Will Tear Us Apart" was shot by Stuart Orme in the group's rehearsal space at T.J.Davidson's. Joy Division also rehearsed two new songs, "Ceremony" and "In A Lonely Place". As the group were preparing for their first US tour, Ian Curtis committed suicide on the morning of the 18th of May, bringing Joy Division's active life to a close. In June, Factory released both the "Komakino" flex (three songs from the "Closer" sessions) and the "Love Will Tear Us Apart" single – which went to #13 in the pop charts. Shortly afterwards "Closer"was released and went to #6 in the album charts.
After a few weeks, the three remaining members of Joy Division decided to regroup under a different name, New Order. Factory continued to release Joy Division records – including the September 1980 12" of the re-recorded "She's Lost Control" and the 1981 outtakes album, "Still". Interest in the group was reawakened by the 1987 issue of "Substance", which collected all Joy Division's non-album releases, and the reissue of "Atmosphere" with Anton Corbijn's iconic promo video. In 1997, London Records issued the "Heart and Soul" box set, which included all Joy Division's released studio recordings plus a disc of outtakes and live disc.
During the 21st century, Joy Division's reputation has grown. They have been the subject of several books, including Deborah Curtis' "Touching From A Distance", Peter Hook's "Unknown Pleasures", and Bernard Sumner's "Chapter and Verse". They have been depicted in three major feature films: "Twenty Four Hour Party People" (Michael Winterbotham, 2002), "Control" (Anton Corbijn, 2007) and "Joy Division" (Grant Gee, 2007).
Joy Division are now regarded as a keynote group from their time and place. Their intense fusion of music, words and performance, iconic sleeves by Peter Saville, Situationist-style promotion by Tony Wilson, passionate management by Rob Gretton and ground-breaking productions of Martin Hannett, conveying an authenticity and intensity that spans the generations. This site is an entry point into the Joy Division experience: this is the way, step inside.