Joy Division was the best band in the world in 1980—hand’s down, no questions asked, send all the other competitors home. Without doubt, the band encapsulated the burning punk spirit that came before them but with the intelligence and fresh forward-thinking that would see them transcend the grotty clubs of northern England.
Much of that was down to their enigmatic frontman Ian Curtis. What Curtis may have lacked in traditional vocal power he made up for in mood, expression and sentiment, both lyrically and in his vocal. Sadly, on the song ‘She’s Lost Control’ Curtis’ vocal offers up a sad foreshadowing of what would be Curtis’ all-too-short future.
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, Curtis 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 the burning post-punk scene and their album, Unknown Pleasures, undoubtedly still ranks as one of the greatest in rock history. One song on that record that will always hold a sharp moment of pain for the band’s fans is ‘She’s Lost Control’.
Before Curtis became the frontman of Joy Division and found fame with the band, he worked for the council. In his menial position, very little happened except one moment when he witnessed a lady endure an epileptic seizure and, in the immediate time that followed, Curtis later found out that she had passed away that day. It was a chastening experience for Curtis who caught a glimpse of the fragility of life.
Lyrically, the song, once understanding its conception, is stark and cold. It handles the arresting fear of witnessing such a thing with clinical brutalism. It’s one that would sadly offer a shocking vision of Curtis future. Written before Curtis’ first epileptic seizure, the song is a hard reminder of the illness which plagued the singer.
While the song may feel harsh, when you isolate Ian Curtis’ vocal performance of the song, his empathy rings out. In his inherently deep vocal, Curtis connects with not only his subject matter but, unbeknownst to him, also his own future.
Below listen to the sad foreshadowing of Ian Curtis’ isolated vocals on Joy Division’s ‘She’s Lost Control’.