Joy Division were the best band in the world in 1980. Without doubt, the encapsulated the punk spirit that came before them but with the intelligence and fresh forward-thinking that they need to go ahead of them. Much of that was down to Ian Curtis.
The singer was a mainstay of the Manchester music scene in the late seventies, watching bands like the Buzzcocks and Sex Pistols and idolising David Bowie, he was desperate to find fame with a band of his own. And he did. Joy Division quite quickly became one of the most highly rated bands around and their album Unknown Pleasures still ranks as one of the greatest in rock history.
In May 1980, with a US tour booked, Ian Curtis could not reconcile his externally perceived success with his internal sadness and took his own life at his marital home. The rock world was left in total shock. Though Curtis had struggled with epilepsy, a growing problem for his musical life touring, and his marriage was seemingly falling apart – nobody could have expected this.
Shocked and saddened, the remaining members of the band Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris pledged to make good on Curtis’ dream and continue on as a new band, New Order. But before that could begin they had to deal with the loss of their friend and singer.
One way of dealing with that was to release one of the greatest rock songs ever written. A song built on the intensity of language and emotion of sound. A song built on the fragility of a relationship and the suffocation of the mind it entrapped. ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ was released in June 1980.
It’s a song that not only allowed Curtis to play guitar (droning a D throughout) even though he didn’t like to, but allowed him to ditch his mild-mannered and polite demeanour for the surging power he mustered when behind the mic. But while the song remains a triumph, it is his isolated vocal which has given us chills.
With the benefit, or sadness in this case, of hindsight, we can add a little extra layer of emotion on this already highly-charged song. But it is hard not to when listening to Curtis vocals which are utterly beautiful if not entirely haunting.
We’ve said enough. It’s best you just listen to Ian Curtis’ isolated vocals on Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’