This time we’ve got a 2-for-1 on Throwback Thursday, and you’ll soon see why.
It was this week in 1980 when Ian Curtis, frontman for Manchester’s Joy Division committed suicide. It was an act which simultaneously closed the chapter on what became a highly influential band (Joy Division), gave birth to a musical martyr and icon (Curtis), and then gave birth to yet another eminent group (New Order).
Curtis had been battling ever-worsening epilepsy, which was compounded by his failing marriage, depression, and the band’s impossibly hectic schedule which had included a recent European tour. Plus, the all-night recording sessions characterized the making of their 2nd album didn’t help either. (Closer was made in less than two weeks; neither the band nor Factory Records had enough money for many days in the studio). After several seizures — some of which occurred on stage — and a deliberate overdose of his epilepsy medication in April, physicians and psychiatrists deemed that Curtis was not suicidal.
On the eve of their first ever North American tour, Ian asked his estranged wife to leave him alone in their house on the outskirts of Manchester until he departed for America. After watching the film Stroszek (by one of his favorite directors Werner Herzog) and listening to his favorite Iggy Pop record (The Idiot), Curtis hanged himself with a clothesline in his kitchen sometime after 1am.
The members of the band long had a pact that if anything ever happened to any one of them, Joy Division would cease to exist. So they had to a decision to make if they wished to continue in music. We’ll get to that after this performance of “She’s Lost Control.”
And now, the silver lining.
Many people who pick up instruments never go on to play shows or release records. Even less make a living doing so and still fewer tour the world. Now imagine the number who actually become massively successful. Take that minuscule number and then consider how many of those ever live on to transcend musical eras by essentially creating a genre, and inspiring new generations of countless artists in their wake. We’re talking about a ridiculously small number of people now.
Well, the three surviving members of Joy Division: Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris did just that….twice. Not only are indie rock bands compared to Joy Division to this day, but the entire movement of mixing rock and electronics and dance floor anthems which is still evolving today spawned from the ashes of Joy Division.
Upholding their pact, the three guys formed New Order. Arguably, there isn’t a dance-rock, syth-pop or electro act ever who didn’t owe a lot to New Order and their trailblazing style. If you don’t want to take our word for it in regards to their legacy, just ask the folks who booked this year’s line up for Coachella and Lollapalooza.
Demos for “Ceremony” were laid down during Joy Division’s last-ever recording session, and the song became the first single released by New Order.