On the 40th anniversary of Ian Curtis’ death, fans and colleagues of the legendary singer pay their respects and share their memories with Getintothis’ Banjo.
Time is a strange thing.
It passes far too quickly while we are preoccupied or getting on with things and then, before you know it, years and years have gone by.
But occasionally, something from your past can suddenly reappear in crystal clear focus and it throws the passing of time into sharp relief.
Such a thing happened to me recently when I realised that today, Monday 18th May 2020, marks the 40th anniversary of Ian Curtis’ sad, tragic death.
It seems incredible that 40 years have gone by since I heard John Peel pass on the news to his listeners.
But despite the passing of the decades, I can still recall with great precision the shock, the impact and the emotional fallout of the announcement.
It has become a cliché that we can remember what we were doing when we heard of the shocking news of a death, but like most clichés, there is truth at its core.
I was in my bedroom listening to John Peel on my battle-scarred radio, as was the habit of a generation of music lovers in those days. Peel sounded shocked as he told us the scant details he had, then he played New Dawn Fades.
I sat alone on my bed, listening to the voice of a man now gone singing “Directionless so plain to see, a loaded gun won’t set you free, so you say” as tears ran down my teenage face.
It was too late to call anyone, as we all still lived at home and parents had probably gone to bed, but when we got the chance to talk about it, we shared our shock at what had happened.
And so started the ripples from this seismic news.
It is also worth pointing out that the scale of this event was realised on only a small number of people, Joy Division were not a well known bad at the time, outside of the audience of John Peel‘s show and the music weeklies.
It seems strange to say this in these days of Joy Division’s legendary status, where their music has circled the globe and the band have achieved the immortality of fame, but Ian Curtis’ death was not mentioned on the news, it wasn’t mentioned in the papers and, outside of John Peel’s show, wasn’t covered on the radio.
The sole coverage was a few small paragraphs deep inside the next day’s Manchester Evening News, and even then they spelt his name wrong.
But for the people who knew Ian and Joy Division, this was a marker in our youth.
My own introduction to Joy Division came, as I have mentioned before, when I walked to the steps to the basement that was Eric’s, the legendary Liverpool club where punk and post-punk bloomed and a city’s musical heritage was seeded.
We had gone to see Glen Matlock’s Rich Kids play a matinee show and an unknown support band wandered on stage and announced that they were called Joy Division. This wasn’t long after the band had changed their name from Warsaw, so the announcement didn’t mean anything to us really.
But it was immediately apparent that Joy Division were something special. I didn’t really have a lot to compare them against, with this being only my second proper gig, but I was already a seasoned listener to new music and Joy Division stood out.
There and then we vowed to see them as much as was possible, something that was made easier by the fact that they played Eric’s matinee shows a fair amount.
We saw a further four Joy Division gigs at Eric’s and spoke to the band on a number of occasions. I took my Ideal For Living EP with me one day, with the intention of getting it autographed. On seeing Ian move through the crowd, I took my chance and followed him.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t realised he was headed to the toilets.
I waited and then almost pounced on him once he was done. Whether it was the surprise of being cornered in such a way or whether he was just unused to the way autographs work, he signed the sleeve in the centre, not next to his photo as the rest of the band did later.
I remember when Unknown Pleasures was released and, suddenly, Joy Division were getting good reviews in the likes of Sounds and NME.
It was great to see that other people were finally realising just how good they were, but they started getting away from me at this point. Until then, we had kind of thought of them as our band. They were the band I had seen the most until The Fall took that title some years later.
The last time I saw them was at the Futurama festival in 1979 and I noticed that there were more people watching them that day than in combined audiences of all the Joy Division gigs I had seen. Not hard when you consider that the first time I saw them headline there were less than 20 people in the crowd.
But I remember thinking then that I’d lost them, they were no longer our band, they belonged to the world now.
In many ways I was lucky in that I never saw any Joy Division gigs when Ian was struggling or when his epliepsy meant that when he went into his strange, frenetic dance on stage, he was sometimes unable to come out if it.
This means my memories of them are thankfully devoid of upsetting images such as these.
By the time Unknown Pleasures was released, Joy Division had already started working on Closer. The speed with which they progressed was incredible.
But before it was released, Ian Curtis was no longer with us. He was the first person a lot of us knew who had died. Yes, Sid Vicious had left this realm before, but he never really seemed like a real person, he was far away and untouchable, whereas we had met Ian Curtis and watched Joy Division develop and grow.
He was so young when he left us, nothing more than a kid.
Joy Division had only released three singles and one album when he died and had only done one single tour, as support to Buzzcocks.
He was taken far too soon. What would have happened if he hadn’t killed himself is something we will never know, and that is the thing that pops into my mind when I think of these things.
So as I sat in my teenage bedroom, mourning the loss of someone whose life and work had touched our own, there was a sense that things had stopped being purely fun anymore.
The people we admired meant the things that they were saying in a way that we hadn’t perhaps appreciated and the darkness that permeated some of our favourite records was revealed as being meant and serious, not just a pose or an affectation.
I’m not saying anything as corny as a bit our youthful innocence died that day, but perhaps a seriousness had set up camp in our youth that wasn’t there before.
As Ian Curtis sang in the song that accompanied the news of his death “a change of speed, a change of style, a change of scene.”
Things were different now. – Banjo, Getintothis features editor, Eric’s regular.
News of Ian’s suicide left everyone in our small Liverpool music circle in shock. Some of us had watched Joy Division evolve from their sloppy Warsaw gig at Eric’s in summer 1977, into a massively tight, powerful and credible band.
A fortnight after Ian’s death, Closer was released; its sombre-looking sleeve almost suggesting an invitation to the funeral.
Despite its July launch date, everything about Closer had connotations of winter; endings rather than beginnings.
Because of Ian’s recent passing, the album felt like it came with an enormous psychic weight attached to it; you just couldn’t help but allow the tragedy to inform the way you listened and absorbed the music.
It’s all about side-two for me. Every track feels like it’s submerged in an Bergmanesque fog.
The vocal reverb on Heart and Soul has a wonderful disembodied quality to it, with Curtis whispering to you like some Raskolnikov type character from the afterlife.
On Decades, the gorgeous, glacial string-synth combined with the opening lyric of – ‘Here are the young men, the weight on their shoulders’ was genius, securing its place as the soundtrack to every sensitive Northern kids’ depression for years to come.
The pinnacle of Closer for me is Twenty-Four Hours. That lyric – Just for one moment, I thought I’d found my way. Destiny unfolded, I watched it slip away is universal, and when Hooky’s bass rises up from the depths like some cold-war submarine and signals Stephen Morris to double up on the beat, it’s just sublime.
The whole track is transcendent. You are no longer just listening to musicians playing in a room, you are deep into the mythic ‘other’ – navigating the underworld at terrifying speed.
When, after four minutes the sonic tidal wave finally breaks for the last time, you find yourself suddenly awake and back in the room, feeling disorientated like you’ve just emerged from an epic K-hole.
I saw Joy Division five, maybe six times at various points throughout 1978/9 mostly at Eric’s, then again, one final time at the YMCA London in August 79 London with The Teardrop Explodes and Echo and The Bunnymen supporting.
Ian’s epileptic fits on stage were not uncommon, and it says something about the reverence they were held in, that even at the early gigs, when one occurred, everyone in the audience waited quietly and respectfully for him to recover and come back on.
Remembering Ian Curtis 15/7/56 – 18/5/80 pic.twitter.com/dgZGJuLW10
— Jon Savage (@JonSavage1966) May 18, 2020
One evening, a couple of months before Closer was released, I was sitting in the back of a cab when I heard Love Will Tear Us Apart for the first time ever, coming from the cabby’s radio on John Peel’s show.
I remember thinking ‘Fuck! They’ve done it’ They’ve said everything I, not only ever wanted to say in a song, but everything anyone could ever want or need to say in a song. I may as well give up.’
That song is an unparalleled masterpiece, the high water mark of post-punk. If all indie music was destroyed tomorrow, it would stand for us all. 40-years on.
Closer sounds just as vital and potent and valid as it did at the time. – Paul Simpson, Wild Swans
Thinking about Ian’s death is still difficult. My best mate Barney died 4 years after Ian, so, it’s all caught up with some very painful memories.
At no time did we ever think Ian would commit suicide. He was a good laugh, up for it, one of the lads.
I honestly can’t remember how I found out about his death, it must’ve been a phone call. We were devastated.
Through all this we obviously knew he was ill, we knew he was having ‘relationship’ problems, but you just expected he’d either leave or go back to Debbie. It happens all the time.
We were kids, what did we know?
Ian’s funeral was a bad day; there were loads of people there, all the bands. I can remember someone (we found out afterwards it was Ian’s sister) screaming as the doors closed on his coffin.
Tony Wilson wasn’t there, as he was apparently looking after Annik. We went into town & got pissed afterwards, just me & Barney.
I had followed Joy Division from seeing their 1st gig as Warsaw at the Electric Circus to their last gig in Birmingham, just less than 3 years.
We saw Joy Division 75 times altogether, plus 11 Warsaw gigs.
Warsaw were OK, there were a lot of ‘Punk’ bands were appearing every week at the time. We saw them mostly as the support band, it was either them or The Fall in those days.
I didn’t see their last gig at the Swinging Apple in Liverpool on NYE, as myself & Barney had gone to London to see The Ramones, for what turned out to be the It’s Alive album. I remember we saw Sid Vicious getting punched to the floor outside afterwards.
A couple of our friends went to Liverpool though and found out Warsaw were changing their name.
I saw Hooky in a Pub a couple of days before their 1st gig of ‘78 and he told us the new name was Joy Division. We saw their first gig at Pip’s, which turned into a mass brawl.
Ian’s lyrics (what we could make out) were getting better, more confident. Hooky’s Bass was becoming more distinctive.
It’s strange how many people think that Joy Division’s music was depressing, we found it very uplifting. Hooky’s bass cut through everything
They couldn’t have come from anywhere but Manchester, it was just the sound of our inner city, industrial, bleak, cold, violent, grey Manchester. They were ours & we loved them
Ian was so intense on stage, he gave it, and us, everything. Reading his words now, god knows how many years down the line we can see he was a true lyrical genius.
It’s such a shame Ian couldn’t have stayed to experience the love that there is still all around for his band
There were about 250/300 people were in attendance for what was to be Joy Division’s last ever gig in Birmingham. Ceremony was the opening number.
It was quickly apparent that Ian was ill. I can remember us talking, on the way home about how much longer he or the band would be able to carry on.
We also discussed what time we were going to Liverpool to see them, at Eric’s, the day after.
Never in a million years did we expect not to see them again. – Si H, Joy Division fan and friend
I saw Joy Division many times, they were the revelation of my eighteenth year, they stole everything I had and knew then re-arranged them in an order I may have been able to understand.
I was very fortunate to collide with them in that very important part of my life, that difficult period between 17 and 18 when the receptors are looking out for new things to thrill and bend your mind and are working a double shift to find them.
I met the guitarist by the cigarette machine in Eric’s one night in early 1979 after they’d just played. I told him my name was Bernard too, he gave me his phone number and told me if I wanted to go and see them to give him a call, he’d put me on the guest list.
Thus started a year of disappearing from Liverpool and turning up wherever they were playing, hitching and jumping trains to wherever I needed to be. It was magical time of wonder and unshakeable possibilities.
An entire generation later, it’s really difficult to convey what Joy division did to music during 1979. They had gone through a seismic shift in what they were all about, almost overnight.
Gone was the punky thrash of The Stooges and the Pistols, in its place were soundscapes of otherworldly future-punk. A whole new music, with a whole new set of rules.
And, without even thinking in that way, they were beginning to alter not only how people were perceiving music but how music would be played and performed in the future.
The future. That’s where Joy Division lived, in this science fiction greyness which reflected the dark satanic mills status that Manchester was still locked into, nearing the end of the 20th century.
Rest in Peace Ian Curtis who died on this day 1980. If only he'd known … pic.twitter.com/9zHPCPB2pQ
— Joy Division Central (@JD_Central) May 18, 2020
They seemed inextricably linked, the drab greyness of their surroundings informing the music they created and the new environment they were inventing.
And here are the young men, indeed. That sound. In the post punk universe where anything was possible, Joy Division took a route that set them out on their own, with no competitors in a field of one.
Those four young men created a sound that resonates in my head to this very moment, it’s difficult to even think for a moment how life would be without that awe inspiring wall of sculptured noise.
Yeah, I saw Joy Division many times; things spring up from place to place, I get confused as to which gig was which. One of the greatest spectacles in it all was the matinee performance at Eric’s in Liverpool in august of 1979.
It was one of the greatest because they were utterly magnificent and more importantly there were children as young as 12, 13 years old in that audience getting a first hand account of the miracle properties of music and giving them signposts as to what to do and where to go later.
Getting very towards the end they played at the original Factory club, the PSV, Royce Road, Hulme. They organised a coach from Liverpool, the place was packed. I have a vague memory that they began with The Sound Of Music and finished with Atrocity Exhibition (possibly the other way round).
In between was one of the most ferocious sets I ever heard them play. Everything that was to be loved about this band was there, ramped up to the power of a billion. The power, the unbending light, the sheer force of where music can and will take you if you just let go.
Towards the end, even during the encore, Ian Curtis was a spent person, the energy of the performance completely draining him, the steam drifting in wisps fro his red short sleeved shirt.
It was a truly astonishing performance, the creation of a new and viable world, right before your very eyes.
Five weeks later it was all over, forever. Joy Division were no more.
Yet, for a year in my formative story they were –and still remain- an uplifting wondrous force that gave me an understanding of an incomplete universe that had to be cracked so I could move forward.
Some of the members of Joy Division themselves were at odds with all that, of course. They still wanted to be The Stooges.
I’ll never forget the thrill. What you gonna do when the novelty has gone? – Bernie Connor, Eric’s regular.
Oh, those intense young men in grey overcoats. It’s easy to think of Joy Division as these four lightning rods of urban despair.
I know I used to. In my mid-teens I’d like back on couches and beds, arm hanging away in that faux despair only teenagers with a strong family background can pull off.
Really though? I first heard Disorder at the age of 9 at a school disco of all places. Obviously a vanity choice by a mobile DJ more used to Star Trekkin’ and The Locomotion.
It cut through my tiny synapses like a razor. The chiming guitars, straddling the treble and mids of the song with such ease. Ian Curtis providing this baritone, sonorous, anchor to proceedings. Peter Hook with his top end bass notes and low slung stance… It was all there. You could hear every note of it and it was like nothing I’d head before.
I didn’t know about Factory Records, Tony Wilson, The financial seppuku of The Hacienda. All I knew was that people were making music that I’d never heard and that I craved more of.
Since then, I’ve always wondered whether love would tear a couple apart due to the strength of feeling, or would love tear someone limb from limb mentally due to its unrequited, burning, strength.
It’s something that will sadly never be answered for sure, having lost Ian Curtis so young, but really – is the question not the very reason so many of us fell in love with them in the first place?
I have of course investigated further since. Their first album is a work of such stark nihilism in many eyes and a deceptively technicolour exercise in youthful exuberance.
Maybe that first intense encounter while ignoring all the other shell suited 80s kids has coloured my perception, but Unknown Pleasures has twenty odd years of experience for me.
A constant companion and thudding, metallic background hum to a life that I can’t bring myself to regret. Here’s to it. – Graham Fandango, Getintothis writer.
My favourite Punk album of all time has always been Another Music In A Different Kitchen by Buzzcocks.
A steely, cold, clinical, amphetamine-fuelled journey into the future, the songs and production still leave me breathless to this day.
I even had the chance to meet with them when I worked part-time in Virgin Records, St. John’s Precinct. On the day of release of said album, the band came to the shop and signed autographs. They had fans fill in cards with their names and addresses and attach them to silver balloons.
The band and we staff then went up to the roof and released the balloons (This appealed greatly to my love of Warhol). The idea was that when the cards were found, a copy of the album, complete with silver plastic bag, would be dispatched to the addressee.
Nothing matched this album’s vision, for me, until I heard Digital and Glass by Joy Division, on the superb double 45 Factory Sampler EP. The lean production and sense of space was a million miles away from the punk days of adrenalin-fuelled rock ‘n’ roll.
I had seen the band live at Eric’s club, Mathew St. in their previous incarnation: Warsaw. I was not particularly impressed.
One night, after the band changed their name to Joy Division, Will Sergeant of Echo & The Bunnymen came up to a group of us at the bar and said “you should come and see these” (we were being somewhat standoffish, as it was, after all just Warsaw under a different name).
“Something has happened to them” he said. He was right.
They played a new set of songs, who’s power and discipline were unlike anything around at the time. Ian Curtis’ stage presence was both mesmerising and quite terrifying: a soul possessed, lost in the moment of the electrifying songs the band played.
I spent my 18th birthday in Hulme, Manchester at the Russell club Factory night with Teardrop Explodes and Joy Division.
Everything turned black and white when they took the stage.
No one was quite prepared for their debut album Unknown Pleasures. It shook everything up. Both the songs and production were completely alien in the landscape of 1979.
The sleeve by Peter Saville was as mysterious as the album’s contents.
There was a slew of amazing bands in the Post Punk period, but Joy Division and their debut had a certain austerity and authority and mystery that quite simply left everybody catching up.
We all know the tragic story as it unfolded, so I will not repeat it.
Their other releases were of equal or greater importance, Atmosphere being a particular favourite of mine, and who knows where other later releases would have taken them. – Yorkie, Moongoose
Joy Division were the band that brought me into the darkside.
The world of the bootleg.
It was Reading Festival in 1987 and I’d finished with exams forever and was flush, for a student, with spare cash. Yet to have a mortgage and living at home with my parents rent-free.
The summer was mine and a few of us decided Reading Rocks, as it was then called, was the place to be.
The line up was less than spectacular, with The Stranglers being about the best of a poor bill, headlined by Status Quo. But matter not, we were young and this was our first festival experience. And we were there to drink it all in, literally.
Although The Stranglers set was notable for the inclusion of No More Heroes, a song they’d largely abandoned from gigs, and The Georgia Satellites turned out to be surprisingly good, there is little of the music I remember from that weekend.
What still remains to remind me of that lost weekend is the Joy Division bootleg I’d acquired from one of the merch stands.
These outlets were a revelation to me, full of stuff that wasn’t available in mainstream stores – where did it all come from?
And so, the Joy Division double album of a recording of their gig at Amsterdam Paradieso in 1980 was winking at me.
At an eye-watering £15 it was a tough call and with no way to know how good it would be I had to go back and ponder a few times before I decided to go for it.
Of course, it was pretty shite, but I loved it. Here was Joy Division in their raw form and an entry for me to a world that, hitherto had been a complete mystery.
I don’t need to be told about the morals surrounding buying, or later downloading, bootlegs. I defend myself by protesting I spend plenty of money on official recorded output.
But there’s something magic about having a dodgy recording of a gig from one of your favourite bands.
And for that, I have Joy Division to thank for introducing me to this murky world of the bootleg. – Peter Goodbody, Getintothis live editor
Truthfully I cannot remember where or who I first heard the tragic news of Ian‘s suicide.
I probably responded with saying or thinking FUCK OFF and denying I was affected by it, then got drunk and talked about it with friends, because that is what we did every weekend.
Not always happy drunk and not without police or ambulance involvement by the way.
Joy Divison recordings were tame compared to the more enjoyable aggressive live gigs we saw at Eric’s. A problem a lot of bands seem to have.
So the message there is if you want the real deal see the band live because the studio recording is just a little memento.
We met the band backstage at Eric’s after their first two powerful performances and we were confident they weren’t going to be another one hit wonder punk band.
Ian’s suicide was difficult to comprehend. We often talked about them and other bands like they were our mates and felt somewhat connected.
On 18.05.80, Ian Curtis died at home in Macclesfield.
"Never again will I weep
And wring my hands
And beat my head against the wall
Me nolentem fata trahunt
When I have had enough
I will arise
And go unto my Father
And I will say to Him:
Father, I have had enough" pic.twitter.com/d96fdf4LrF
— Kevin Cummins (@KCMANC) May 17, 2020
Perhaps a little too much because some friends and myself had troubles too which showed in our self-harm behaviour, cutting ourselves with razor blades.
We unknowingly took onboard bad feelings from other sources, so I am not blaming Joy Division for this, or music in general.
When Unknown Pleasures was released the album made me feel that it was ok and the right moment to grow and harvest more depressive behaviour.
After the death of 3 people I was very close to including a good friend I was in a band with, a girlfriend and my brother, I was struggling to cope with how it made me feel and all the questions in my head and many many sleepless nights.
I searched for answers in books, went to college to study Psychology (no internet in those days) to learn what the fuck was making people do this suicide thing.
Caution: Some self-help books will work and some will make you more pissed off.
I remember The Dickies‘ song I’m OK You’re OK, I presume the song was inspired by the book written by Thomas Harris.
I can honestly say that it was very easy to read and very helpful for me. – Paul Lobley, Joy Division fan
I first got into Joy Division in around 1987, a very fertile time in my musical discoveries, as I was in the sixth form at school, and simultaneously exploring the latest music being championed by the music papers, John Peel and my peers, as well as investigating the classics of the past.
Then, the time of the Mancunian band seemed a lifetime ago, although it was only seven years since Curtis’s death.
Still, that was seven years in which punk had pretty much retreated, post-punk had bloomed, with goth rising to prominence, followed by the arrival of the C86/shambling scene, amongst a myriad of other musical developments.
By this time, of course, the band were long gone and Curtis long dead, with New Order one of the contemporary bands I was buying records by, and eventually seeing live. However, the band were still amongst the most revered, especially in the likes of the NME.
My best mate acquired Unknown Pleasures on vinyl, which meant I immediately had a copy of it on tape, as that’s how these things worked. I bought him the double outtakes and live set Still for a birthday or Christmas.
I got recordings of their Peel Sessions in early 1988, while second and final LP Closer was amongst the first small handful of CDs I received for my eighteenth birthday in February of that year.
It didn’t take me long to fill in the gaps in my Joy Division collection, including a few bootleg tapes and the Short Circuit – Live At The Electric Circus compilation that featured the band alongside two very early Fall songs.
Joy Division sounded both timeless yet utterly contemporary.
They had initially appeared to my ears to be the halfway house between post-punk and goth, but their influence on the latter should not be held against them, as their sound remains unique to this day, heavily (but far from entirely) due to the wonderful vocals and lyrics of Ian Curtis.
However, the brilliance of Stephen Morris’s drumming, Hooky’s inimitable bass-work and Barney’s underrated guitar playing are sometimes forgotten behind the rush to canonise their lead singer.
Curtis featured on many a student bedroom wall when I was at university – a staple alongside Che Guevara, Betty Blue and The Smiths.
Those two original albums possibly still reside in my all-time Top 100, if I ever got around to compiling such a thing. They are records I don’t listen to all the time, but like many records first devoured intensely in the later ’80s, they remain scorched into my memory.
Their legacy is in the early 80’s doom merchants of goth and the overcoat brigade like Echo And The Bunnymen, and onto more recent explorers such as Radiohead and Low.
But more than anything, it’s in the sheer life-affirming joy and dark beauty contained within the despair in their music. Will Neville – Getintothis writer.
In September ’79, just 8 months before Curtis‘s suicide, I remember watching Joy Division play on Granada TV’s Something Else show.
It is my first memory of the band although I had doubtless heard them earlier on John Peel.
I was mesmerised and also confused. It wasn’t punk rock but there were no displays of virtuoso musicianship or self-indulgence either.
There was so much that was familiar: the monochrome dress sense was in lockstep with the school uniform I was wearing, dour greyness with zero American influence. I
knew the instruments; Albrecht‘s cheap English Shergold guitar, Morris‘s Syndrums and Hook‘s Rickenbacker bass. But it was also very unfamiliar, and the unfamiliarity focused on the singer.
Curtis wasn’t strutting or “performing” in the way I was used to seeing on telly; this wasn’t show business. He was laying himself bare for us all to see.
It wasn’t a pretty sight but it was utterly compelling; a tragedy unfolding, although I had no idea how tragic it would become in just a few months.
The Jam, John Cooper Clarke, Tony Wilson, Paul Burnett and even the later shamed Cyril Smith, hiding his “interest in youth” in plain sight, are on the same show.
This is the culture that Joy Division sprang from, an absolute gold mine. – Jono Podmore, Getintothis sub-editor.
Ian Curtis was gone before I discovered Joy Division.
Only recently passed but still no longer there; the obituaries written without my knowing.
A holiday in Newquay, early summer 1980, the year that I’d completed my O Levels, the summer I got a Saturday job in KwikSave, Walton Vale, the summer Bowie brought out Ashes To Ashes.
And Love Will Tear Us Apart was everywhere.
And I had no frame of reference for this completely alien thing I was hearing; the keyboards, the drums, suggested disco in some strange manner. The vocals very definitely didn’t.
But I had no idea whether I was supposed to like it. I don’t think I was picking up the weekly ‘inkies’, Top Of The Pops was, if I recall correctly, on strike. So there was this music that was hitting me in some way but I had no idea what way that was and whether I was ‘right’ to get it or not.
That same summer, not long after, my mate pulled this album from a white sleeve with what appeared to be a tomb of some kind on the cover, said, “You’ve got to hear this, but you’ve got to hear it with the lights out.”
I’d never heard anything like Atrocity Exhibition.
I’d never heard anything like Closer. Never known an album where you weren’t even sure whether you were playing the two sides in the order they were supposed to be played.
That weekend job in KwikSave? Paid wages. And Tudor Records was a couple of hundred yards away.
There was this day that I stood there with two albums in my hands; one held Josef K’s The Only Fun In Town, the other half this matt black embossed sleeve with an image that I had no idea had anything to do with a dying star.
I put the Josef K album back and changed my own life.
Joy Division have been with me every day since 1980. Working for a long time in record shops, I made a lot of people listen to them, pointed out to Nine Inch Nails fans that the version of Dead Souls they were listening to was only a shadow.
Ian improved people’s musical lives, whether he realised it at the time or not. Even if they still haven’t, one day they will. It will sink in. It will sink in that this haunted, haunting music was utterly unique, totally without precedent.
I don’t know what Joy Division’s standing is now; I don’t really move in circles where they’re discussed that often.
It doesn’t matter. I know what they are.
They’re immortal. – Ian Salmon, Getintothis writer.