Joy Division

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Joy Division Biography

Joy Division (formed 1976 in Salford, Manchester).

Joy Division was a post-punk band, signed to Manchester-based Factory Records. The line-up of the band consisted of Ian Curtis on vocals, Bernard Sumner on keyboards and guitar, Stephen Morris on drums and Peter Hook on bass guitar. Following Ian Curtis' suicide in 1980, Joy Division was no more. The remaining members of the band went on to form New Order.

Joy Division: Formation

In 1976, Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook both went to see the Sex Pistols play at Manchester's Lesser Free Trade Hall. Inspired by the punk rockers, Hook went out the next day to buy a bass guitar. After placing an advert in the local Virgin Records shop, Ian Curtis was hired as the band's vocalist.

On the advice of the Buzzcocks' manager Richard Boon, the band was originally named The Stiff Kittens. They changed it to Warsaw and it was under this name that they played with Buzzcocks, John Cooper Clarke and Penetration. The drummer in the band at this time was Steve Brotherdale. The rest of the band was unhappy with Brotherdale's aggressive personality. They fired him by pulling over at the roadside after a gig and speeding off whilst he checked a tyre. Stephen Morris was his replacement.

In early 1978, the band changed its name to Joy Division. Their first gig using the name Joy Division was at Pip's Disco, Manchester, in January 1987.

Joy Division: Music Career

At the Stiff/Chiswick Challenge concert at Manchester's Rafters Club in April 1978, Joy Division caught the eye of Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton, partners of Factory Records. Ian Curtis criticised Wilson for not including Joy Division on his TV show So It Goes. Wilson soon included them on a TV show and Gretton took the band on, as their manager.

Joy Division's first EP was entitled An Ideal For Living, which received a favourable review in Melody Maker. September 1978 saw Joy Division appear on Tony Wilson's Granada Reports, and then recording two tracks with Martin Hannett for the compilation A Factory Sample. The band was soon added to Factory Records' roster, joining the likes of A Certain Ratio, Durutti Column and Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark. A couple of months later, Ian Curtis suffered his first of many epileptic seizures.

In early 1979, Joy Division were featured on the front cover of NME, mainly due to the persistent efforts of the journalist Paul Morley. Later that month, Joy Division recorded their first session for John Peel's BBC Radio 1 show.

Joy Division's debut album, Unknown Pleasures, was recorded in April 1979 at Strawberry Studios in Stockport, with Martin Hannett at the helm once more as producer and with Peter Saville designing the artwork. The initial pressing of 10,000 copies sold out quickly and the success of the album helped turn Factory into a growing concern in the UK music business. Joy Division also released 'Transmission' as a single, though it was not included on the album.

The band set out on a European tour at the start of 1980, hampered by Curtis' increasingly frequent seizures. Upon their return, they began recording Closer, their second album. They also released 'Licht und Blindheit' on the French independent label Sordide Sentimental.

Ian Curtis unsuccessfully attempted suicide in April 1980 by overdosing on phenobarbitone. The band cancelled forthcoming shows but managed to film a video for their hit single 'Love Will Tear Us Apart', considered by many to be their signature tune. The band's final show was at University of Birmingham on 2nd May that year.

On 18th May 1980, Ian Curtis hanged himself in the kitchen of the home that he shared with his wife Deborah Curtis and their daughter Natalie. 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' was released one month later, followed by the album, Closer.

Joy Division's remaining members carried on as a three-piece, but under the name New Order. A compilation of rare Joy Division tracks was released, under the title Still, in 1981. In 1995, London Records acquired the rights to the band's material, after Factory Records went out of business. They then released Permanent, another compilation, followed by the 1997 box set, Heart and Soul.

Despite their brief existence, Joy Division's posthumous influence has been wide reaching, with bands such as U2, The Cure, Interpol, Editors and Bloc Party acknowledging Joy Division's importance.

In 2002, the film 24 Hour Party People portrayed the lived of a number of people involved in Factory Records. Tony Wilson was played by Steve Coogan and Happy Mondays were another of the Factory bands depicted in the film. In 2007, the film Control was released to great acclaim. The film was directed by Anton Corbjin, who had photographed the band early on in their career. Control was an adaptation of Deborah Curtis' biography of Ian, Touching From A Distance. Ian Curtis is played by Sam Riley, with his mistress, Annik Honore, played by Alexandra Maria Lara and Deborah herself being played by Samantha Morton.

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