|| Print ||
|Written by Mike Cullen|
|Tuesday, 18 May 2010 00:00|
Thirty years ago on this day, the lead singer of a post-punk band committed suicide by hanging himself from a laundry rack in the kitchen of his home just outside of Manchester, England. Ian Curtis was only twenty-three years old at the time of his death and on the threshold of much success in his life.
His band, Joy Division was on the verge of mainstream success. The recording sessions for their second album, Closer, had been completed. Their latest single, "Love Will Tear Us Apart," had just been released, and the band was about to embark on a small US tour. They were finally getting the recognition that reflected their hard work.
What happened in the months and weeks leading up to the death of Curtis played a major role in his suicide. Married at a young age, Curtis was having an extramarital affair with Belgium journalist Annick Honore. He was feeling the pressures of being the front man of a band while also providing for his young family, and most importantly he was facing declining health due to an increasing number of violent spells of epilepsy. Others have written about Ian Curtis' final days a lot better than I can (see recommendations at the end of this article), but what I do want to relate to you is the influence, the impact, and the legacy that Ian Curtis and Joy Division have had on the music world in the three decades since Curtis' death.
The impact Joy Division had on the post-punk and nascent new wave movements were not immediately known, but in the last thirty years it seems that anyone involved in either of those movements, or in their recent revivals (circa 2000) have cited Joy Division as a major influence on their works. Sometimes it's easily heard, as with music by The Editors, while in other cases the influence is far more subtle, as perhaps heard in the lyrics of Kele Okereke, front man for Bloc Party. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other bands have name-dropped Joy Division as key influencers: The Killers, Interpol, U2, The Cure along the many others.
Then there is the more obvious impact with the creation of New Order out of the ashes of Joy Division. A promise, reportedly in a tongue-in-cheek manner, between the four members of Joy Division stipulated that if any one of them could no longer go on with the band, the others would cease using the name and form a new band. That's what exactly happened in the weeks after Ian Curtis' death. Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris formed New Order and went on to have a critically successful career with releases such as "Ceremony" (the last song Ian Curtis wrote), "Temptation," and the classic "Blue Monday."
The influence of Joy Division on New Order is instantly recognizable. With Joy Division's second album, Closer, the band started to go into direction of early electronic music, utilizing a synthesizer for many of the songs. This would be taken to the next level with New Order, as the synthesizer dominated much of their music from the mid-1980s onward, but it would not stop there. During a New Order hiatus, lead singer Bernard Sumner would go onto form another group with members of The Smiths, calling themselves Electronic and released three moderately successful albums, while New Order bassist Peter Hook went on to form two bands of his own, Monaco and Revenge (these endeavors met with less success than New Order). Whatever the commercial or critical successes these later bands earned, it is undeniable that Joy Division impacted each of the members significantly.
While Ian Curtis' death is still a tragic event in music history-even thirty years later, there is no denying the impact his lyrics and the music of Joy Division has had in the last three decades. Their music shaped a generation of artists. Whether you're a fan of the original post-punk/new wave movements or a fan of the recent revivals, the influence of Joy Division permeates the sounds you hear; they have influenced a wide-reaching genre of music. Rest peacefully, Ian Curtis.