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.'
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.
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.
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.’
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.