Friday, July 17, 2015


Joy Division approached the last stand at the abyss of destiny with the painstaking permanence of this gothic procession.    Although their debut album 'Unknown Pleasures' had reached the top of the British independent album chart, the band was unsatisfied.  Lead singer Ian Curtis continued to suffer epileptic seizures, which compromised their live shows and left him increasingly depressed.  They recorded their final studio album at Britannia Row Studios in Islington, London with producer Martin Hannett.   The sessions featured Ian Curtis on lead vocals, guitar, and melodica;   Bernard Sumner on guitar, bass guitar, and synthesizers;   Peter Hook on bass guitar, guitar, and six-string bass guitar;   and  Stephen Morris on drums, electronic drums, and percussion.  

Hook:   "It was quite odd with 'Closer', because Martin Hannett had gotten into this sort of nocturnal recording, and Ian went along with it heartily. So they were in the studio late at night on quite a few occasions. Don’t forget, “Closer” was done, lock, stock and barrel in three weeks ... We were all enjoying ourselves, and this meant that the songs kept getting better and better.  If you listen to one of our first ever tracks like ‘At A Later Date,’ and then listen to ‘Decades,’ the final track from ‘Closer’, you can already see a clear progression there — we had become much more sophisticated as songwriters." 

Morris:   "We'd start a beat and then just jam.  And Ian was good at picking up bits, saying' You play that four times.'  The great thing about Joy Division was you could write a song very quickly.  Ian had all these lyrics and he'd just start singing on top, and all of a sudden you had a song ... Martin went and bought an AMS, which was made in Burnley.  A delay line.  You could do reverb with it and stuff like that.  Another hting you could do wih it was you could feed a sample into it.  It was the first sampler, shortly before a Fairlight.  We did it a few times - put a noise into it and hit a switch, and it would play back the sound you put into it.  We used that quite a lot on 'Closer'.  It was his box of tricks and he'd paid a fortune for it and he brought it to the studio, so we had to use it!"

Curtis confessed:  "I’ve got a little book full of lyrics and I just fit something in. I have a lot of lyrics in reserve so I’ll use them when the right tune comes along. The lines are usually made up of all sorts of odd bits. Leaders of Men, for example – some of the lines are two or three years old...I don’t write about anything in particular, I write very subconsciously...I leave it open to interpretation.”

On May 18, 1980, on the eve of the band's departure for their first American tour, Curtis hung himself in his kitchen.  The warning signs had been there with an overdose of his anti-seizure medication just a month before.  

Hook:   "A poetic, sensitive, tortured soul, the Ian Curtis of the myth — he was definitely that.  But he could also be one of the lads — he was one of the lads as far as we were concerned...He had three personas he was trying to juggle: he had his married-man persona, at home with the wife; the laddish side; and the cerebral, literary side. By the end he was juggling home life and band life, and had two women on the go. There were just too many Ians to cope with...I must admit, that if you look back on the lyrics of 'Closer', you could derive that. You could come to that conclusion, right? But the thing is, that  was in complete contrast to him, how he was acting as a person. He wasn’t there on the floor, curled up in a ball, with his head in his hands. He was actually, most of the time, acting quite normal. Quite nice."

Sumner:   "It's a heavy album.  It was a voyage into the dark side of yourself...We wanted it to be more powerful.  The madder the music sounded, the more pleased [Ian] would be with it ... We’d go to rehearsals and sit around and talk about really banal things.  We’d do that until we couldn’t talk about banal things any more, then we’d pick up our instruments and record into a little cassette player. We didn’t talk about the music or the lyrics very much. We never analysed it."

Curtis would express:    "I just want to carry on the way we are, I think. Basically we want to play and enjoy what we like playing. I think when we stop doing that I think, well, that will be the time to pack it in. That’ll be the end."

'Closer' reached number wenty-three in Australia, six on the UK pop chart, three in New Zealand, and number one on the UK independent album chart.

"Heart and Soul"

Instincts that can still betray us,
A journey that leads to the sun,
Soulless and bent on destruction,
A struggle between right and wrong.
You take my place in the showdown,
I'll observe with a pitiful eye,
I'd humbly ask for forgiveness,
A request well beyond you and I.

Heart and soul, one will burn.
Heart and soul, one will burn.

An abyss that laughs at creation,
A circus complete with all fools,
Foundations that lasted the ages,
Then ripped apart at their roots.
Beyond all this good is the terror,
The grip of a mercenary hand,
When savagery turns all good reason,
There's no turning back, no last stand.

Heart and soul, one will burn.
Heart and soul, one will burn.

Existence well what does it matter?
I exist on the best terms I can.
The past is now part of my future,
The present is well out of hand.
The present is well out of hand.

Heart and soul, one will burn.
Heart and soul, one will burn.
One will burn, one will burn.

Heart and soul, one will burn.


In fear every day, every evening,
He calls her aloud from above,
Carefully watched for a reason,
Painstaking devotion and love,
Surrendered to self preservation,
From others who care for themselves.
A blindness that touches perfection,
But hurts just like anything else.

Isolation, isolation, isolation.

Mother I tried please believe me,
I'm doing the best that I can.
I'm ashamed of the things I've been put through,
I'm ashamed of the person I am.

Isolation, isolation, isolation.

But if you could just see the beauty,
These things I could never describe,
These pleasures a wayward distraction,

This is my one lucky prize.

"Twenty Four Hours"

So this is permanence, love's shattered pride.
What once was innocence, turned on its side.
A cloud hangs over me, marks every move,
Deep in the memory, of what once was love.

Oh how I realised how I wanted time,
Put into perspective, tried so hard to find,
Just for one moment, thought I'd found my way.
Destiny unfolded, I watched it slip away.

Excessive flashpoints, beyond all reach,
Solitary demands for all I'd like to keep.
Let's take a ride out, see what we can find,
A valueless collection of hopes and past desires.

I never realised the lengths I'd have to go,
All the darkest corners of a sense I didn't know.
Just for one moment, I heard somebody call,
Looked beyond the day in hand, there's nothing there at all.

Now that I've realised how it's all gone wrong,
Gotta find some therapy, this treatment takes too long.
Deep in the heart of where sympathy held sway,

Gotta find my destiny, before it gets too late

full album:

00:00  Atrocity Exhibition 
06:03  Isolation
08:59  Passover
13:42  Colony
17:38  A Means to an End
21:48  Heart and Soul
27:38  Twenty Four Hours
32:05  The Eternal
38:11  Decades

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