Music: Joy Division

Joy Division in the late-'70s. From left to right: Bernard Sumner, Ian Curtis, Stephen Morris and Peter Hook.

"Love will tear us apart again."

A well-known English Post-Punk band.

Joy Division was formed after guitarist Bernard Sumner and bassist Peter Hook attended a Sex Pistols concert in Manchester on 4 June 1976, and were inspired to form a band. The additions of vocalist Ian Curtis and drummer Stephen Morris completed the line-up. Initially named Warsaw (under which name they recorded an unreleased album, later bootlegged), the band changed its name to Joy Division in late 1977, which got them in trouble at first because of its fascist overtones.

As Joy Division, they recorded an EP which was basically punk with literary lyrics. This and playing around Manchester brought the group to the attention of Tony Wilson, and they joined his record label Factory Records. After a month in the studio with producer Martin Hannett, who completely changed their sound, their debut album Unknown Pleasures was released in 1979. In between touring, their second album Closer was released in 1980. Both were critically acclaimed.

However, the relentless touring had a negative effect on the band. Vocalist Ian Curtis was an epileptic who sometimes suffered seizures during concerts, leading to their cancellation. His lack of sleep and alcohol abuse only added to his severe depression, and he committed suicide on 18 May 1980 (supposedly after watching Stroszek on TV and listening to Iggy Pop's The Idiot).

Since they had a made a pact to change their name if anyone left, the rest of the band members renamed themselves New Order, alongside Morris' girlfriend (now wife), keyboardist and guitarist Gillian Gilbert.

The band are portrayed by actors in the movies 24 Hour Party People and Control. The former is a biopic of Factory Records' head Tony Wilson, with Joy Division playing a major role in the first part of the film. The latter is a biopic of Ian Curtis himself, directed by photographer Anton Corbijn, who took a lot of the band's pictures during their early years.

Principal Members (Founding members in bold):

  • Ian Curtis - lead vocals, guitar, melodica (19761980, died 1980)
  • Peter Hook - bass, backing and lead vocals, guitar (19761980)
  • Stephen Morris - drums, percussion (19761980)
  • Bernard Sumner - guitar, keyboard, synthesizer, bass (19761980)

Studio and Live Discography:

  • 1978 - An Ideal For Living
  • 1979 - Unknown Pleasures
  • 1980 - Closer
  • 1981 - Still note 
  • 1990 - The Peel Sessions
  • 1999 - Preston 28 February 1980
  • 2001 - Les Bains Douches 18 December 1979

Non-album singles:

  • 1979 - "Transmission" / "Novelty"
  • 1980 - "Atmosphere" / "Dead Souls"
  • 1980 - "Komakino" / "Incubation" / "As You Said"
  • 1980 - "Love Will Tear Us Apart" / "These Days"

Dead Tropes:

  • All Part of the Show: Curtis' on-stage seizures were mistaken for his frenetic dancing style at first.
  • Badass Beard: One of Peter Hook's visual trademarks.
  • The Band Minus the Face: New Order. Averted thanks to the band's success, although literally true as in New Order, Gillian was on the keyboards not vocals.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Producer Martin Hannett. Various legends state that Hannett forced drummer Stephen Morris to take apart his drum-kit and re-assemble it with toilet parts, made Morris continue recording for an hour after the rest of the band finished a song, set up his drum-kit on the studio's first-floor roof, and once went on a hill to record "silence" for an extended period of time.
    • So that's why Jello Biafra said in the beginning of the Dead Kennedys track 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off' "Nazi Punks Fuck Off overproduced by Martin Hannett take 4."
    • Hannett's heroin addiction is often cited as either crucial to his signature sound, or mysteriously irrelevant. Joy Division's legend nurtures profuse theories: Among the more popular is that epilepsy somehow kindled Ian Curtis' song-writing prowess (in this instance, the Trope Name might seem apropos: Until you give it a bit more thought, and realize it's irrelevant).
      • Even before he started seriously using heroin in the early '80s, Hannett was known to indulge in large quantities of hash, though his stoned behaviour was pretty much identical to his sober behaviour.
  • Cover Version: "Sister Ray" by Velvet Underground, on Still.
  • Darker and Edgier: Martin Hannett turned a thudding punk band into something remarkable, with the same songs.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: There are way more New Order albums, but look which band got a page first on this wiki... mostly because it'd be silly to discuss New Order without Joy Division. That's like discussing Foo Fighters without mentioning Nirvana.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: It can be surprising to see a picture of Ian in colour.
  • Den of Iniquity: Each studio-album-proper had a song describing one: "Day of the Lords" on Unknown Pleasures, and "Atrocity Exhibition" on Closer (a Shout-Out to JG Ballard).
  • Dreadful Musician: Bernard Sumner admitted that the band members were these in the early days.
  • Echoing Acoustics: Martin Hannett had a trademark reverb-heavy production style.
  • Follow the Leader: The Killers, Editors, and Interpol spring to mind.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Isolation."
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Bernard Sumner was an electronic hobbyist in the band's early days to keep himself occupied at night while suffering from insomnia. He built the band's first synthesizer.
  • Goth Rock: Trope Namer; their manager described their music as being "gothic" (to the band's displeasure) and the term stuck.
  • Hearing Voices:
    • Digital:
    Feel it closing in
    Feel it closing in
    Day in, day out, day in, day out
    Day in, day out, day in, day out
    • Dead Souls
    Calling me... Calling me...
    They keep calling me
    They keep calling me.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: The band's name comes from the prostitution wing of a Nazi concentration camp from the 1955 novel The House Of Dolls.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: If 24 Hour Party People and Control are any indication, the band's manager Rob Gretton seemed to have been one of these. He had an abrasive, aggressive personality, but also had his bands'/record labels' best interests at heart.
  • Jerkass: According to his widow, Ian Curtis was a huge one. The rest of the band members tend to disagree.
    • He may well have been a Jerkass Woobie, if his mental illness and physical illness are anything to go by. The biopic on his life, Control seems to endorse this viewpoint.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Disorder," and to a lesser extent, "Isolation."
  • Letting the Air Out of the Band: At the end of "Candidate" and "A Means to an End;" also used to chilling effect in "The Eternal."
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Isolation" is quite a bouncy Synth Pop tune really, as is "Love Will Tear Us Apart."
  • Madness Mantra:
    • "Day in, day out, day in, day out, day in, day out..."
    • "Calling me... Calling me..."
  • Mohs Scale of Lyrical Hardness: Usually 6-7, sometimes up to an 8. Their songs pretty much all had lyrics that were... Less than happy, but the level varied somewhat. However, a general lack of profanity or EXPLICIT references to sex or violence (not to mention the poetic nature of the lyrics) keeps them from reaching the highest end of the scale.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Averaged around 3-5, with some that drop down to a 2 and a few that arguably go up to a 6.
  • Oop North: Influenced by the crumbling Manchester of the 1970's.
  • Putting on the Reich: The cover for An Ideal for Living featured a Hitler Youth drummer.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Their sound was pretty much the opposite of joyful. It makes more sense if you know that it's an Intentionally Awkward Title.
  • Post-Punk: one of the most important bands of the genre, and the band that immediately comes to mind for many when the term is mentioned.
  • Punk Rock: In their earliest days (back when they were still called Warsaw), they counted as this.
  • Refrain from Assuming: No, the song is not called "Remember When We Were Young;" it's called "Insight."
  • Running Gag: The band name "New Order" has a fascist subtext, also, though the band claims this was unintentional.
    • It's possible that after the initial controversy the name "Joy Division" inspired, Sumner, Hook, and/or Morris were trolling people by deliberately choosing a fascist-sounding name.
  • Spiritual Successor: New Order.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Peter Hook sings lead on "Interzone."
  • Talent Double: Averted by the actors in Control; they played the songs themselves, helped by there being plenty of Three Chords and the Truth songs. Sam Riley (who portrayed Curtis) having been the lead singer of a rock band once beforehand may have helped also.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: An Ideal for Living's artwork, deliberately intended to create controversy over whether the band was a Nazi band, which they weren't (this is referenced in 24 Hour Party People as well). Also, Warsaw, one of the songs from this EP, is about Rudolf Hess.
  • Vocal Evolution: Compare Ian's voice on the Ideal for Living EP to when the band starting recording with Martin Hannett. Ian's voice lowers dramatically.
  • Worst Aid: Allegedly a contributing factor in Curtis' demise. Sumner has stated that he thinks the inadequate treatment given to Curtis for his epilepsy led to his suicide. Plus the scenes of Ian being dragged back stage while having a fit in 24 Hour Party People aren't far from the truth.
    • Adequate treatment would have entailed Ian refraining from live performance. He must have felt obligated to continue, regardless of whether he'd been explicitly pressured. For the still-developing band, not touring was not an option.
    • Also, much less was known about epilepsy back in The Seventies. All taken into account, Ian was probably lucky to a certain extent.
    • Control endorses this view as well, showing both Curtis being given phenobarbital for his epilepsy, which even by the 1970's was considered a less-then-ideal treatment option.