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Formed in the wake of the punk explosion in England, Joy Division became the first band in the post-punk movement by lateremphasizing not angerand energy but mood and expression, pointing ahead to the rise of melancholy alternative music in the'80s. Though the group's raw initial sides fit thebill for any punk band, Joy Division later incorporated synthesizers (taboo inthe low-tech world of '70s punk) and more haunting melodies, emphasizedby the isolated, tortured lyrics of its lead vocalist,Ian Curtis. While the British punk movement shocked the world during the late '70s, Joy Division'squiet ...read more
Formed in the wake of the punk explosion in England, Joy Division became the first band in the post-punk movement by lateremphasizing not angerand energy but mood and expression, pointing ahead to the rise of melancholy alternative music in the'80s. Though the group's raw initial sides fit thebill for any punk band, Joy Division later incorporated synthesizers (taboo inthe low-tech world of '70s punk) and more haunting melodies, emphasizedby the isolated, tortured lyrics of its lead vocalist,Ian Curtis. While the British punk movement shocked the world during the late '70s, Joy Division'squiet storm of musicalrestraint and emotive power proved to be just as important to independent music in the 1980s.
The band was founded in early 1977, soon after the Sex Pistols had made their first appearance in Manchester. GuitaristBernard Albrecht (b. BernardDicken, January 4, 1956) and bassist Peter Hook (b. February 13, 1956) had met while at theshow and later formed a band called the Stiff Kittens;after placing an ad through a Manchester record store, they addedvocalist Ian Curtis (b. July 15, 1956) and drummer Steve Brotherdale. RenamedWarsaw (from David Bowie's "Warszawa"), theband made its live debut the following May, supporting the Buzzcocks and Penetration at Manchester'sElectric Circus. Afterthe recording of several demos, Brotherdale quit the group in August 1977, prompting the hire of Stephen Morris (b. October28,1957). A name change to Joy Division in late 1977 -- necessitated by the punk band Warsaw Pakt -- was inspired byKarol Cetinsky's World War IInovel The House of Dolls. (In the book, the term "joy division" was used as slang forconcentration camp units wherein female inmates were forced toprostitute themselves for the enjoyment of Nazi soldiers.)
Playing frequently in the north country during early 1978, the quartet gained the respect of several influential figures: RobGretton, a Manchester clubDJ who became the group's manager; Tony Wilson, a TV/print journalist and owner of the FactoryRecords label; and Derek Branwood, a recordexecutive with RCA Northwest, who recorded sessions in May 1978, for whatwas planned to be Joy Division's self-titled debut LP. Though several songsbounded with punk energy, the rest of the albumshowed at an early age the band's later trademarks: Curtis' themes of post-industrial restlessnessand emotional despair,Hook's droning bass lines, and the jagged guitar riffs of Albrecht.
The album should have been hailed as a punk classic, but when a studio engineer added synthesizers to several tracks --believing that the punkmovement had to move on and embrace new sounds -- Joy Division scrapped the entire LP. (TitledWarsaw for a 1982 bootleg, the album was finallygiven wide issue ten years later.) The first actual Joy Division release camein June 1978, when the initial mid-1977 demos were released as the EP AnIdeal for Living, on the band's own Enigma label.Early in 1979, the buzz surrounding Joy Division increased with a session recorded for John Peel'sBBC radio show.
The group began recording with producer Martin Hannett and released Unknown Pleasures on old friend Tony Wilson's Factorylabel in July 1979. Thealbum enjoyed immense critical acclaim and a long stay on the U.K.'s independent charts. Encouragedby the punk buzz, the American Warner Bros.label offered a large distribution contract that fall. The band ignored it but didrecord another radio session for John Peel on November 26th. (Bothsessions were later collected on the Peel Sessionsalbum.)
During late 1979, Joy Division's manic live show gained many converts, partly due to rumors of Curtis' ill health. An epilepsysufferer, he was prone tobreakdowns and seizures while on stage -- it soon grew difficult to distinguish the fits from hisusual on-stage jerkiness and manic behavior. As the livedates continued and the new decade approached, Curtis grewweaker and more prone to seizures. After a short rest over the Christmas holiday, JoyDivision embarked on a European tourduring January, though several dates were cancelled because of Curtis. The group began recording its second LPafter thetour ended (again with Hannett), and released "Love Will Tear Us Apart" in April. The single was again praised but failed tomove beyond theindependent charts. After one gig in early May, the members of Joy Division were given two weeks of restbefore beginning the group's first U.S. tour.Two days before the scheduled flight, however, Curtis was found dead in hishome, the victim of a self-inflicted hanging.
Before Curtis' death, the band had agreed that Joy Division would cease to exist if any member left, for any reason. Ironicallythough, the summer of1980 proved to be the blooming of the band's commercial status, when a re-release of "Love Will TearUs Apart" rose to number 13 on the Britishsingles chart. In August, the release of Closer finally united critics' positivity withglowing sales, as the album peaked at number six. Before the end ofthe summer, Unknown Pleasures was charting as well.
By January of the following year, Hook, Morris, and Albrecht (now Bernard Sumner) had formed New Order, with Sumnertaking over vocal duties. Alsoin 1981, the posthumous release of Still -- including two sides of rare tracks and two of livesongs -- rose to number five on the British charts. As NewOrder's star began to shine during the '80s, the group had troubleescaping the long shadow of Curtis and Joy Division. "Love Will Tear Us Apart"charted for the third time in 1983, and 1988also proved a big year for the defunct band: the reissued single "Atmosphere" hit number 34 and adouble-album compilationentitled Substance reached number seven in the album charts. Seven years later, the 15th anniversary of Curtis' deathwasmemorialized with a new JD compilation (Permanent: Joy Division 1995), a tribute album (A Means to an End), and a biographyof his life (TouchingFrom a Distance) written by his widow, Deborah Curtis. In 1999, the Factory label began a program ofconcert-performance reissues -- all overseen bythe remainder of the original lineup -- with Preston Warehouse 28 February1980. « hide
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