Joy Division

joy division

One great post-punk band to emerge from the post-punk scene in the UK was a Manchester based Joy Division.  Originally labelled as ‘Warsaw’, Joy Division formed after being inspired by a concert performed by the Sex Pistols attended by Bernard Summer & Peter Hook in 1976.

Joy Division quickly rose in popularity with a debut album being released in 1978 by Factory records.  It was an immediate success with rave reviews citing them as a new generation of music.  Tours also followed.

In 1980 Joy Division was ready to release a new album, however, a setback was to devastate the band and their future.  On the first date of their American tour, Ian Curtis committed suicide.  Two months later the album was released and was met with critical acclaim.

But without their lead singer, the band were no more.  The remaining members continued, but under a new name.  More about this and how Joy Division rose to prominence below.

1976 – Formation & Warsaw

In 1976 Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook attended a Sex Pistols concert at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester.  Although they were not together when they saw the concert, not long after they were inspired to form a group of their own. 

Terry Mason, a friend who also attended the concert joined in as the drummer.  Ian Curtis joined after an advertisement for a lead singer in a record shop.  Warsaw was now formed, but there were to be a couple of changes the following year, including a name change for the group the year after.

1977 – Lineup Changes & Debut Performance

Warsaw made a few changes in the lineup in 1977.  Tony Mason was to be the band manager so Tony Tabac stood in as the drummer.  He also performed in their first live performance.  Tony Tabac would not last long though, he was replaced by Steve Brotherdale who had experience as a drummer whilst playing for punk band Panik. 

The other band members were not impressed with Brotherdale’s personality, he appeared to be aggressive, so they sacked him not long after they recorded their demo sessions.

Once again Warsaw was looking for another drummer, but this person would be the final one.  Stephen Morris joined after an advertisement was placed, this would be the final line up for the band’s short-lived tenure.

Going back to their first live performance, they debuted on 29th May as a support band to The Buzzcocks, Penetration & John Cooper Clarke.  The breakthrough for the band was the positive reviews by the magazines NME & Sound.  Warsaw was getting recognition for their performance, the following year would be more successful.

Warsaw was also beginning to record material for their first EP during December.

1978 – Joy Division & Debut EP

Warsaw to Joy Division

1978 would see a change of name for the band to avoid confusion with a punk band called Warsaw Pakt.  They now renamed themselves Joy Division.  This would be the final name for the band until 1980.  Joy Division was taken from a 1955 novel, House of Dolls.

They did, however, use the previous name for a little while to avoid confusion by their current fans.  Later on during the months of March & April Joy Division would spend much of their time writing material, rehearsing & performing live.

One particular live performance at the Rafters Club, a popular nightclub in Manchester would catch the eye of Rob Gretton who was later instrumental in the management of Joy Division.

Tony Wilson, who at the time was presenting ‘So It Goes’ on television would later have the band on the show, but only after Ian Curtis, who was a little drunk, had approached Tony Wilson near a pool table at the club and began a verbal attack on him.

Understandably, Wilson agreed to let them perform on his show.  They would later perform on the show in September.

Joy Division – An Ideal for Living

Later on in the year, Joy Division would release ‘An Ideal for Living’.  This was a four-track EP which was also their debut and was met with positive reviews.  The cover of the EP also brought some controversy regarding the cover and the name of the band, citing references to neo-nazism.

But this was explained that it kept memories of the sacrifices of their parents and grandparents during World War II alive.  The memories of the war were still fresh in those years for most people so it can be understandable.

September saw Joy Division buy themselves out of their RCA record contract including obtaining material recorded whilst under them.  The band, in general, were not happy with the direction that RCA Records & Grapevine Records were leading the band, more so because of the use of adding synthesisers to the mix of their style of play.  They would later buy themselves out and sign for Factory Records.

Later on, in December, Ian Curtis would suffer a serious epileptic fit.  It was the first of many to follow, but he would continue with his music career despite the setback.

1979 – Unknown Pleasures & Ian Curtis’s Health

In 1979 Joy Division beginning to make a prominent rise to being recognised as a great band.  January would see Ian Curtis appear on the NME magazine front cover with two others images.  Ian is leaning against a lamp post whilst smoking a cigarette with the headline ‘Manchester – New Sounds’.  Also during that month Joy Division would appear on Radio One’s John Peel sessions.

In April Joy Division began recording for their debut album ‘Unknown Pleasures’.  It was released in June the same year and sold out its initial 10,000 copies for retail.  It was an immediate success with rave reviews from critics and magazines.

What followed was a supporting act role for the Buzzcocks UK tour including a television appearance.  The single Transmission was also released in November the same year.

One worrying factor for Joy Division was Ian Curtis and his condition, which was now diagnosed as epilepsy.  It was getting worse.  He was being prescribed medication to help this, but it was not making him any better.

The months followed and with the pressures of being in a successful band along with the culture that comes with the fame such as sleeplessness, drinking & smoking was making his condition worse by the month.

His performances on stage were also changing which drew some concern from the other band members (this is evident in some old footage of them playing together).  Other events outside of the band were also occurring that was affecting his marriage such as a love affair with a journalist/music promoter.

1980 – Closer & Death of Ian Curtis

1980 saw Joy division set out on a European Tour in January.  It was to be a difficult time for the band in general now that Ian Curtis was not getting any better from his condition.  Also in the pipeline was the album ‘Closer’, their final album.

Some of the material was already written and played in 1979 but the remainder was finished and recorded in March.  The single ‘Atmosphere’ was also released.

Ian Curtis’s condition was also getting a lot worse, he was now collapsing from seizures on stage & acting strangely which fans who saw him thought was just part of the act.

In April Ian Curtis made his first suicide attempt by overdosing on his medication that would help his epilepsy.  Shows had to be cancelled whilst he was recovering.  Joy Division would play their final live performance on 2nd May.

Joy Division was due to depart on an American tour in May.  Ian Curtis was showing signs of looking forward to it until the night before he was due to depart to America.  Ian Curtis hanged himself on 18th May 1980.

The album ‘Closer’ was released two months after his death.  It was hailed as one the greatest pieces of works during the post-punk era of music.  The legacy of this album has run until today with many artists from varying generations hailing the album as an influence or inspirational.

Legacy of Joy Division

Joy Division disbanded after the death of Ian Curtis.  But the remaining members remained in music when they formed ‘New Order’ who were regarded a successful band of the 80’s & 90’s.

There has also been a lot of theories and speculation over Ian Curtis’s death and how it was caused.  It was simply his health.  The demand of tours and pressures made his condition worse.

But he still had the drive to carry on despite the setbacks.  Even if Ian Curtis was still alive, he would not have been able to continue for much longer, especially as his health was taking a severe turn for the worse.  A great singer and songwriter has and still will be missed.

Joy Divisions Music has been given various labels, but has been described as dark which touches on the boundary of the Gothic genre.  Ian Curtis’s tone of voice in many of Joy Division’s songs can also contribute to this.

joy division plaque
A commemorative plaque on Kenion Street Music Building, which mentions Joy Division.

Joy Division Discography

Joy Division, aside from their album & Single recordings also produced a bit of unreleased material which has been released over the years in various forms of compilations and remasters.  The complete list is below.

Joy Division Albums

Unknown Pleasures (1978)

The debut album for Joy Division.  It did not reach the charts but was hailed as one the best albums from the post-punk era.

  1. Disorder
  2. Day of the Lords
  3. Candidate
  4. Insight
  5. New Dawn Fades
  6. She’s Lost Control
  7. Shadowplay
  8. Wilderness
  9. Interzone
  10. I Remember Nothing

Closer (1980)

The second and final album for Joy Division.  It was released two months after Ian Curtis’s death.

  1. Atrocity Exhibition
  2. Isolation
  3. Passover
  4. Colony
  5. A Means to an End
  6. Heart and Soul
  7. Twenty Four Hours
  8. The Eternal
  9. Decades

Joy Division Extended Plays

Joy Divison released one EP in their career.  Another two were released in 1986 & 1987.

An Ideal for Living (1978)

  1. Warsaw
  2. No Love Lost
  3. Leaders of Men
  4. Failures

The Peel Sessions (1986)

  1. Exercise One
  2. Insight
  3. She’s Lost Control
  4. Transmission

The Peel Sessions (1987)

  1. Love Will Tear Us Apart
  2. 24 Hours
  3. Colony
  4. Sound of Music

Joy Division Singles

Joy Division released a number of Singles when the band was in existence and also after Ian Curtis’s death in 1980.

  • Transmission (1979)
  • Atmosphere or ‘Licht und Blindheit’ (1980)
  • Love Will Tear Us Apart (1980)
  • Komakino (1980)
  • Atmosphere/She’s Lost Control (1980)
  • Love Will Tear Us Apart (1983)
  • Atmosphere (1988)
  • Love Will Tear Us Apart (1995)

Joy Division Compilation Albums

Mainly a collection of songs from Joy Division.  Each album contains rare unreleased songs or live performances including sessions that were never heard.

Still (1981)

  1. Exercise One
  2. Ice Age
  3. Sound of Music
  4. Glass
  5. The Only Mistake
  6. They Walked in Line
  7. The Kill
  8. Something Must Break
  9. Dead Souls
  10. Sister Ray
  11. Ceremony
  12. Shadowplay
  13. A Means to an End
  14. Passover
  15. New Dawn Fades
  16. Transmission
  17. Disorder
  18. Isolation
  19. Decades
  20. Digital
  21. Substance (1988)

Substance (1988)

  1. Warsaw
  2. Leaders of Men
  3. Digital
  4. Autosuggestion
  5. Transmission
  6. She’s Lost Control
  7. Incubation
  8. Dead Souls
  9. Atmosphere
  10. Love Will Tear Us Apart
  11. No Love Lost
  12. Failures
  13. Glass
  14. From Safety to Where…?
  15. Novelty
  16. Komakino
  17. These Days

The Peel Sessions (1988)

  1. Exercise One
  2. Insight
  3. She’s Lost Control
  4. Transmission
  5. Love Will Tear Us Apart
  6. Twenty Four Hours
  7. Colony
  8. Sound of Music

Warsaw (1994)

  1. The Drawback
  2. Leaders Of Men
  3. They Walked In Line
  4. Failures
  5. Novelty
  6. No Love Lost
  7. Transmission
  8. (Living in the) Ice Age
  9. Interzone
  10. Warsaw
  11. Shadowplay
  12. As You Said
  13. Inside The Line
  14. Gutz
  15. At A Later Date
  16. The Kill
  17. You’re No Good For Me

Permanent (1995)

  1. Love Will Tear Us Apart
  2. Transmission
  3. She’s Lost Control
  4. Shadowplay
  5. Day of the Lords
  6. Isolation
  7. Passover
  8. Heart and Soul
  9. Twenty Four Hours
  10. These Days
  11. Novelty
  12. Dead Souls
  13. The Only Mistake
  14. Something Must Break
  15. Atmosphere
  16. Love Will Tear Us Apart (re-mix)

Heart and Soul (1997)

Disc One
  1. Digital
  2. Glass
  3. Disorder
  4. Day of the Lords
  5. Candidate
  6. Insight
  7. New Dawn Fades
  8. She’s Lost Control
  9. Shadowplay
  10. Wilderness
  11. Interzone
  12. I Remember Nothing
  13. Ice Age
  14. Exercise One
  15. Transmission
  16. Novelty
  17. The Kill
  18. The Only Mistake
  19. Something Must Break
  20. Autosuggestion
  21. From Safety to Where…?
Disc Two
  1. She’s Lost Control
  2. Sound of Music
  3. Atmosphere
  4. Dead Souls
  5. Komakino
  6. Incubation
  7. Atrocity Exhibition
  8. Isolation
  9. Passover
  10. Colony
  11. A Means to an End
  12. Heart and Soul
  13. Twenty Four Hours
  14. The Eternal
  15. Decades
  16. Love Will Tear Us Apart
  17. These Days
Disc Three
  1. Warsaw
  2. No Love Lost
  3. Leaders of Men
  4. Failures
  5. The Drawback
  6. Interzone
  7. Shadowplay
  8. Exercise One
  9. Insight
  10. Glass
  11. Transmission
  12. Dead Souls
  13. Something Must Break
  14. Ice Age
  15. They Walked in Line
  16. These Days
  17. Candidate
  18. The Only Mistake
  19. Chance
  20. Love Will Tear Us Apart
  21. Colony
  22. As You Said
  23. Ceremony
  24. In a Lonely Place
Disc Four
  1. Dead Souls
  2. The Only Mistake
  3. Insight
  4. Candidate
  5. Wilderness
  6. She’s Lost Control
  7. Disorder
  8. Interzone
  9. Atrocity Exhibition
  10. Novelty
  11. Autosuggestion
  12. I Remember Nothing
  13. Colony
  14. These Days
  15. Incubation
  16. The Eternal
  17. Heart and Soul
  18. Isolation
  19. She’s Lost Control

The Complete BBC Recordings (2000)

  1. Exercise One
  2. Insight
  3. She’s Lost Control
  4. Transmission
  5. Love Will Tear Us Apart
  6. Twenty Four Hours
  7. Colony
  8. Sound of Music
  9. Transmission
  10. She’s Lost Control

The Best of Joy Division (2008)

  1. Digital
  2. Disorder
  3. Shadowplay
  4. New Dawn Fades
  5. Transmission
  6. Atmosphere
  7. Dead Souls
  8. She’s Lost Control
  9. Love Will Tear Us Apart
  10. These Days
  11. Twenty Four Hours
  12. Heart and Soul
  13. Incubation
  14. Isolation

Other compilation albums have also been released over the years including songs that were added to compilation albums when Joy Division was formed.  Many of these will contain the same tracks as the ones listed above.

Joy Division Links

Other sites and books of interest with plenty of information on Joy Division.

BBC – Information about Joy Division & archive footage.

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