A Long Trip Indeed: A Joy Division Retrospective

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A Long Trip Indeed: A Joy Division Retrospective

Post by WebsterCMB » 09/21/13 13:39

Alternate History: Post-Punk WI - Ian Curtis Lives?
WATWD: A Long Trip Indeed

To sum up the story I'm about to tell, you have to go back to 1980 and the post-punk music scene in Britain. Joy Division, one of the more well-known post-punk bands of the day, were getting ready to make their inaugural tour of the U.S...but never did do so due to the suicide of their lead singer, Ian Curtis. Well, this story asks (and tries to answer in some way) a basic "what if?" that's floated through the music world: what if Ian Curtis doesn't commit suicide on 18 May 1980? What if Joy Division does make that inaugural U.S. tour?

Heady questions...and a long trip indeed. But first, their biggest moment...Cleveland, 2007, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.


---[Scene: the 2007 Rock & Roll Induction Ceremony]
"Live Transmission Indeed", NME 2007
--Almost three decades after releasing their first album Unknown Pleasures, those words of Joy Division's Ian Curtis were an apt description of how he felt on the stage in Cleveland after he and the rest of the band were introducted by Franz Ferdinand's frontman, Alex Kapranos. Though a bit grayer and more gaunt-looking than he had been in the band's early days, the 50yo Curtis still spoke as if he were the same man back in the band's early days in and around Manchester, England.

For many, though, the best sight of all was during the performance of one of Joy Division's signature songs, "She's Lost Control" as Curtis, who himself has suffered from epilepsy over the past three decades, took to the vocals once again, joined on-stage by the other members of the band - Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert - along with members of R.E.M. and Van Halen, all of whom jammed their way through the performance as if they had been performing together for years instead of just for one night. As music journalist and commentator Kurt Loder put it, "Somewhere, the rock gods are smiling at the sight of two of rock's influential bassists - Peter Hook and Mike Mills - on stage at the same time. It is as if the stars had aligned for one single night."

In a sense, Loder's right - 2007 was the year the stars aligned...but the journey to that night is a story worth telling.

note: the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted the following musicians into the Hall back in 2007...Grandmaster Five & the Furious Five, R.E.M., The Ronettes, Van Halen and Patti Smith

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Re: A Long Trip Indeed: A Joy Division Retrospective

Post by WebsterCMB » 09/21/13 13:45

Image
Joy Division - New York, 1981: Ian Curtis (front), Bernard Sumner (back left), Peter Hook (back ctr.), Stephen Morris (back right)

"In a sense, it all began with that Sex Pistols concert at the Trade Hall; if Hooky and I hadn't been there, who knows where we might be today." - Bernard Sumner, Joy Division in an interview with Rolling Stone, 1985.

To borrow the quote, "You ain't whistling Dixie there." In a sense, Sumner's correct: it did begin there. Now, to be fair to the music gods, only 42 people showed up at the Manchester Lesser Free Hall to watch that Sex Pistols concert but when you consider some of the people who were there, it makes you wonder how the music gods could've missed that bit of history...

Inspired and emboldened by the concert, Sumner and close friend Peter Hook decided to join together and form a new band; as Sumner already had a guitar, Hook (or "Hooky" to his friends) decided to go out and buy a bass, as noted by Hook in an interview with NME back in 1987:
Hook: After we saw the Sex Pistols that night in Manchester, we decided to try our luck at forming a band. Barney already had a guitar of his own, so I went out and bought a bass guitar to go along with him. Of course, the bass that I bought came with a speaker that was so cheap I had to turn the volume up really high just to hear my own bass. And of course, the reason I had to do that was because Barney played his guitar so bloody loud to start with that I couldn't hear myself playing.--Interview With Joy Division, 1987


However, they still lacked a few other parts of the musical puzzle that eventually became Joy Division: a drummer and a vocalist. While they started with drummer Terry Mason, soon dropping him from the band for various reasons, it wasn't until an advertisement at a Manchester record shop that the biggest piece of the puzzle came into place.

...A Riddle Wrapped In A Mystery Inside An Enigma...

Henry Rollins: The first time I ever met Ian was in D.C. in mid-1980 at the 9:30 Club, which back then was in the middle of Washington D.C. I was still with State of Alert at the time and we had just finished our set and they were introducing this English band named Joy Division and I went out and watched them and two things stay in the mind from that concert...one, that these guys know how to fucking play! and two, who the hell is that whirling dervish up there?

Years later, though, when I went to England, one of the first people I looked up and visited was Ian Curtis in Manchester; we had a very long visit and talked about a lot of stuff. Quite surprisingly Ian's a very friendly, well-spoken person. He just comes across to those who've seen him in concert as this unbridled mess of energy that just explodes out into the audience with waves of energy and passion; off the stage, he's quite the opposite. - A Mad Dash Of Music: Introspective Exhortations And Geographical Considerations 2008


Image
Joy Division's Ian Curtis in concert at the 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C., May 1980

Some regard him as one of England's premier independent and alternative music producers...some regard him as being one step removed from being England's version of Howard Hughes in regards to his introverted self and manic privacy streak, but whatever you say about him, Manchester native Ian Curtis has definitely left his mark on the British indie music scene.

While several mainstream British acts as The Police, Dire Straits, Billy Idol and others may have defined the Second British Invasion, a good swath of the music industry back in Britain will tell you that had it not been for Ian and Company back in the late 70's and early 80's getting their foot in the door of the American music scene, most of those other bands might never have made it in America themselves. Think of it in D-Day terms: if the Second British Invasion were the troops landing on the Normandy beaches, Joy Division were the pathfinders at the head of the line...

Born in Macclesfield, Ian's first contact with those who would eventually become a part of Joy Division was, like for the other 42 that night, at the Sex Pistols gig in Manchester...

Ian Curtis: The first time I met Bernard (Sumner) and Peter (Hook) was in Manchester back in '76 when the Sex Pistols played at the Trade Hall; I was still trying to sort out what I wanted to do with life at the time and was trying to balance my day job, my music and my marriage and we got to talking about possibly forming a band but I guess nothing (ever) came of it at the time.

Then, one day, I'm walking down this street in Manchester; I'd just been to a City (Manchester City) football match and decided to stop in this record shop - Virgin Records, as I recall - and on the wall as you walk in there's this job board of sorts. I spent a few minutes looking at it and there's this paper from a band looking for a vocalist. Well, I knew I didn't have much of a chance if I stayed with my own band, so I grabbed the paper and when I got back to my flat, I called the number and asked if they were still looking for a vocalist. Bernard was the one who answered and he said they were, so I said, 'where do you want to meet?' - Ian Curtis, An Introspective, 2012


After a brief conversation, Curtis was brought into the band without having to audition; the core of what eventually became Joy Division was now set. Of course, of equal importance as we continue along is how they came up with the name Joy Division in the first place...

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Re: A Long Trip Indeed: A Joy Division Retrospective

Post by WebsterCMB » 09/21/13 13:49

Wait...What's The Name Of Your Band Again? (Pt.1)

Image
Joy Division's Bernard Sumner at the Hollywood Bowl, 1985
Bernard Sumner:
At first, we were still known as Warsaw; that was the name Hooky and I had come up back in 1977 but what we didn't know at the time was that there was a punk band down in London that was going by the name Warsaw Pakt. Once we had heard of them, we - Peter, Stephen, Ian and myself - decided, out of the sake of not wanting to confuse anyone, to change our name to something different.

So, we're sitting in this pub in Manchester and we're all throwing up ideas on band names and there were some weird ones - Boys in Bondage comes to mind as a potential name for the band but that was one of them. *brief nervous laughter* Even after a couple of pints we still couldn't decide on a name; during a band practice later in the week, Ian comes up with an idea that...that, today, I think, you'd wonder if we were trolling our fans or something. He starts talking about this book that he's been reading called House of Dolls and he goes into it in meticulous detail; that's always been a hallmark of Ian's: when he reads a book or something, he really gets into.

And so, he's telling us about this book and when he mentions the part about the joy divisions, I think maybe the light bulb went off in Stephen's head and he says to us ever jokingly, 'that's not a bad name for our band, is it?' All the while I keep thinking about it during practice and at the end Ian asks us whether we want to become Joy Division. As I recall, the vote was unanimous - we were now Joy Division, yet when we played our first gig as Joy Division(25 Jan. 1978, Pips' Disco - Manchester), we were billed as Warsaw... -- --Interview With Joy Division, 1987
Wait...What's The Name Of Your Band Again? (Pt.2)

...continued from previous section...

Image
Joy Division's Stephen Morris prior to a concert, San Francisco, late 1989
Stephen Morris: *when asked by music journalist David Rapinoe whether there was any fascist sympathies in choosing the name Joy Division back in 1977* Oh, bollocks! I assume you never saw our concerts back then, huh, David? We knew back then in 1976 and 1977 that there were a few in the punk scene who were fascists and we hated them, Ian especially. Whenever we had a gig, if Ian saw them in the crowd, he'd throw a few beers at them, spit on them - I mean, just, absolutely go batshit crazy over them because all of us were opposed to fascism, to Nazism and all that yet every gig there'd be these few wankers who would think, 'oh, gee, here's Joy Division, a fascist band! Let's go see them.' *laughs uproariously* Boy, were they ever disappointed at our reaction.

Once, we - the band - were walking along the Canal (Rochdale Canal) and Ian looked over and saw this man and his son fishing; he looked back over at us and said, "See how he's trolling the rod along, trying to get the fish to bite? That's what we're doing to those fascist punk bastards that come to our gigs - we're trolling them along." As he's saying this, he has this Cheshire grin and pretty soon Barney starts laughing his ass off, then Hooky and finally I start laughing my ass off.

David: So, basically, you guys just picked the name to get a rise out of certain groups within the punk scene then?

Morris: Is the Archbishop of Canterbury Anglican?

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Re: A Long Trip Indeed: A Joy Division Retrospective

Post by WebsterCMB » 09/22/13 02:56

1978: The Year The Pieces Fit

Image
Joy Division's Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook & Ian Curtis prior to going out on stage at Manchester's Band On The Wall, 4 Sept. 1978

When 1978 rolled around, Joy Division looked set to begin climbing the music charts; having changed their name from Warsaw in order to avoid confusion with the London-based punk band. After a period of confusion due to the name change, the band hit the ground running in early 1978, playing gigs throughout the Manchester area, including a battle-of-the-bands showdown at Rafters in April 1978.
Ian Curtis: We had gone to this place in Manchester for a gig and we knew going in that both Rob (Gretton) and Tony (Wilson) were going to be there. Up to that point we hadn't been able to get them to notice us... ----Interview With Joy Division, 1987
Peter Hook" *picking up on Ian's comments* ...so Ian, being the cheeky bastard that he could be at times back then, goes over to where they - Rob and Tony - were, and just starts haranguing Tony about not putting us on his show and not letting us go last in the order so that our music would be freshest on everyone's minds. Eventually, we get out there on stage and we just play our bloody hearts out, like someone had jolted us with a bunch of live wires beforehand.--Interview With Joy Division, 1987
While history fails to record who won the battle there, Joy Division certainly made a contribution there for it was at this gig that they caught the eye of both Manchester-area manager Rob Gretton and TV presented Tony Wilson, who worked for Granada TV. By the end of the night, both Gretton and Wilson were impressed and Gretton soon signed on as Joy Division's manager, a partnership which lasted for just over 2 decades.

Image
Joy Division's Bernard Sumner and Factory Records producer Martin Hannett discuss various things during one recording session for Joy Division's debut album, Unknown Pleasures, Dec. 1978

Meanwhile, things were looking up for Joy Division as the year progressed along. After having been signed by Tony Wilson to a contract with Wilson's Factory Records, they began working a debut album for the Manchester label. Although an early attempt at an album failed after creative differences sprang up between the band and producer Richard Searling, they nonetheless continued on, buoyed by several performances around Manchester and gigs in both Liverpool and Leeds.

Eventually, their work paid off as they finally performed live on Granada TV in mid-September 1978; by all accounts, their performance was a memorable one as both the starkness of the Granada set and the song they chose, "Shadowplay", combined to give them a bit of a unique stature in the music world at the time. It was also around this time that Manchester itself was introduced to what eventually became a home base of sorts for the band - The Factory, where Factory Records would eventually be headquartered.

Image
Factory Records' collective braintrust: Peter Saville, Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus stand in front of The Factory, Manchester

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Re: A Long Trip Indeed: A Joy Division Retrospective

Post by WebsterCMB » 09/22/13 20:41

1978: The Year The Pieces Fit

Image
Joy Division's Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook & Ian Curtis prior to going out on stage at Manchester's Band On The Wall, 4 Sept. 1978

When 1978 rolled around, Joy Division looked set to begin climbing the music charts; having changed their name from Warsaw in order to avoid confusion with the London-based punk band. After a period of confusion due to the name change, the band hit the ground running in early 1978, playing gigs throughout the Manchester area, including a battle-of-the-bands showdown at Rafters in April 1978.
Ian Curtis: We had gone to this place in Manchester for a gig and we knew going in that both Rob (Gretton) and Tony (Wilson) were going to be there. Up to that point we hadn't been able to get them to notice us... ----Interview With Joy Division, 1987
Peter Hook: *picking up on Ian's comments* ...so Ian, being the cheeky bastard that he could be at times back then, goes over to where they - Rob and Tony - were, and just starts haranguing Tony about not putting us on his show and not letting us go last in the order so that our music would be freshest on everyone's minds. Eventually, we get out there on stage and we just play our bloody hearts out, like someone had jolted us with a bunch of live wires beforehand.--Interview With Joy Division, 1987
While history fails to record who won the battle there, Joy Division certainly made a contribution there for it was at this gig that they caught the eye of both Manchester-area manager Rob Gretton and TV presented Tony Wilson, who worked for Granada TV. By the end of the night, both Gretton and Wilson were impressed and Gretton soon signed on as Joy Division's manager, a partnership which lasted for just over 2 decades.

Image
Joy Division's Bernard Sumner and Factory Records producer Martin Hannett discuss various things during one recording session for Joy Division's debut album, Unknown Pleasures, Nov.. 1978

Meanwhile, things were looking up for Joy Division as the year progressed along. After having been signed by Tony Wilson to a contract with Wilson's Factory Records, they began working a debut album for the Manchester label. Although an early attempt at an album failed after creative differences sprang up between the band and producer Richard Searling, they nonetheless continued on, buoyed by several performances around Manchester and gigs in both Liverpool and Leeds.

Eventually, their work paid off as they finally performed live on Granada TV in mid-September 1978; by all accounts, their performance was a memorable one as both the starkness of the Granada set and the song they chose, "Shadowplay", combined to give them a bit of a unique stature in the music world at the time. It was also around this time that Manchester itself was introduced to what eventually became a home base of sorts for the band - The Factory, where Factory Records would eventually be headquartered.

Image
Factory Records' collective braintrust: Peter Saville, Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus stand in front of The Factory, Manchester

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