10 Facts About Joy Division

The brilliant flare of the British postpunk scene.

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10 Facts About Joy Division

The band was originally named Warsaw.

Originally named Warsaw, the band consisted of singer Ian Curtis, guitarist and keyboardist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook, and drummer Stephen Morris. To avoid confusion with the London punk band Warsaw Pakt, the band renamed themselves Joy Division in early 1978. The new name was a reference to 1955 novel ‘House of Dolls‘ where ‘Joy Divisions’ were groups of Jewish women in the concentration camps who were held prisoner for the pleasure of Nazi soldiers.

The first Joy Division gig happened on January 25th, 1978 at the Pips Disco.

The first ever gig of the Warsaw took happened on May 29th, 1977 at the Electric Circus, on a bill which also included the Buzzcocks and John Cooper Clarke. After changing their name, the band played their first gig as Joy Division on January 25th, 1978 at the Pips Disco (55 Fennel Street, Manchester). The advert in the Manchester Evening news still called them Warsaw for some reason. Shortly after the band started their set a fight broke out, Peter jumped off stage and into the fray, and the club's manager tried to throw them off stage.

Ian wrote an abusive letter to Tony Wilson to try to provoke him into giving the band a TV slot.

He gave Tony the letter and called him a bastard for not having put them on - it worked. Tony got them to perform ‘Shadowplay’ and again for ‘She’s Lost Control.'
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Despite the relative success of ‘Unknown Pleasures’ Ian Curtis was always short on cash.

He’d often have to clean the studio building after recording to earn some extra money. When Factory pressed ‘Return Of the Durutti Column’ Ian ended up gluing the sheets of sandpaper to the sleeves to get money.
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The cover of Joy Division's album ‘Unknown Pleasures’ was found by Bernard Sumner in the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Science.

The final cover art was made by designer Peter Saville.

The image illustrates a Fourier analysis of the radio waves emitted by the Pulsar CP 1919. Pulsar is the remnant of a dying sun when it collapses in on itself.

Engineer Chris Nagle from Strawberry Studios recalls how Ian Curtis would listen to a song once before doing his vocal in one take.

Ian Curtis would also have sheets with his lyrics on, but he always recorded with the lights off.

Producer Martin Hannett used various recording techniques for the ‘Unknown Pleasures’ Joy Division album.

The techniques include: smashing a bottle, someone eating crisps, backward guitar, the sound of the Strawberry Studios' lift with a Leslie speaker inside, a toilet and Ian Curtis vocals recorded down a telephone.

On April 7, 1980, Curtis attempted suicide for the first time with a phenobarbitone (anti-convulsant barbiturate) overdose.

Despite Curtis' deteriorating health, the band recorded promotional footage to be used in the video for what is possibly their most famous song ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart.’ The song was later covered by many artists and featured in many movies including Donnie Darko, and an episode of the TV series Criminal Minds.

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Since Curtis' death assured Joy Division a place in the music history, two films have been made about the band's rise and fall.

‘24 Hour Party People,’ a 2002 British film about Factory Records and the Manchester Music scene and a black and white biopic Control (2007). The last one featured Curtis' daughter, Natalie, as an extra in the crowd during one of the gigs. Peter Hook stated, ‘Control is a hell of a lot more accurate than 24 Hour Party People.’

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In 2015 musician Hadar Goldman purchased the two-bedroom property where Ian Curtis lived and committed suicide.

Situated at 77 Barton Street, Macclesfield, the house was bought by the entrepreneur and classically trained musician for £190000. Goldman accepts that the house is not a piece of art in itself, but says that it possesses a ‘raw energy’ that he can now harness for good. He wants it to act as a Joy Division museum, and as a digital hub to support musicians and other artists across the world.

15 comments sorted by best / new / date

    i dont understand th part about the sandpaper? Phase 1:glue sandpaper Phase 2: ? Phase 3:profit 
    The original 3600 LP sleeves for the 'The Return of the Durutti Column' were made of coarse sandpaper, designed to scratch LPs which were placed on either side of it. The sleeves were assembled by members of the bands and label-mates Joy Division and A Certain Ratio.
    Using sand paper helps get out all of those problematic grooves out of you records that prevent them from being smooth, flawless, and more aesthetically pleasing. Normally you would want to start with a rough grit, maybe 50-80, then work your way up to a 200-250 grit before polishing the the record off. But back in the 80s young brits could only afford one sheet of sand paper per record due to the war effort, so they made due with what they could. Kids back then would tie an onion to their belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to buy a sheet of sand paper, it cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. "Gimme five bees for a quarter," you'd say. After sanding down your record until its glass smooth, they would finish off the surface with a few coats of wax to give it a good shine. The 1980s was truly a marvelous time. They appreciated music more then.
    True 'dat. I.C. was (Icey we called 'im) the one who coined the term "buck stinger" as he was so keen to keep as many if them as he could, and often it was painful for 'im too. The samdpaper was for removing all traces of identity, as the more you handled the slbum cover, the more you reduced your fingerprints, like the album was takin you over. Icey said, "That's how myths are born."
    I would contend that offing one's self does not necessarily assure a place in history for the band. Plenty of musicians from unknown bands have decided to pull the plug.
    My dad used to always that Unknown Pleasures shirt all the time when I was young. I had no idea what it was because I just thought it looked cool, until I realized that it was for a band. I wonder if he knows about the origin of Joy Division's name because of now that I know it's ridiculously messed up...
    Never heard of these guys. Maybe I'll take a listen. Probably won't though. 
    Do yourself an enormous favour and give them a listen... one of the best bands from that era, no question. 
    I like them but I always found this band to be a little overrated
    I never used to view them as a well-known or mainstream band until I got a Joy Division shirt and was shocked on how many strangers in public approached me and complimented my shirt. And I live in a small town in Indiana. 
    C-C Beatroot
    When Hannett thought a track was single-worthy, he'd make the drummer record each drum in a different take... he said his legs were black and blue from drumming on them to keep time while only hitting the required drum
    Absolutely adore this band, one of my favourite of all time! So dark, intellectual, mysterious and compelling. I always wondered what would've been had ian stayed alive... but then there never would've been a New Order.