We dive into the Far Out Vault to take a look at some rare footage of Joy Division putting their spin on The Velvet Underground song ‘Sister Ray’, a recording which remains a fan favourite because it sees two of the most inimitable acts clash in one perfect song.
While we’re no strangers to hearing covers of our favourite artists, it’s not every day you unearth a gem that features one of our favourite bands covering another—but that is just what we’ve found with this truly incredible discovery. Largely regarded as one of The Velvet Underground’s most iconic songs, it takes on a brand new shape under the guidance of Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris as Joy Division.
Before the world was blessed, or cursed, with the ability to record and capture concerts and live performances, occurrences like this hung in the ether. They were the kind of moments where you would find yourself constantly having to confirm the story only to be swatted down in equal measure. The idea that a band like Joy Division would take on such a landmark song is a sign of their class.
Taking place at London’s Moonlight Club on April 1980, Joy Division were beginning to close out their tour, a run of shows that would be their last with their frontman Ian Curtis who took his own life on May 18, 1980. A momentous and historic night for a number of different reasons, the show also marked the time that they chose to cover one of the bands who inspired them the most.
Taking on The Velvet Underground’s epic ‘Sister Ray’, a track which belongs on the White Light/White Heat album, the number was taken into an entirely different direction by Curtis and Co. who added a deeper sense of dread and darkness across the tune. Joy Division made a sound that was typically Velvet Underground into something that is, by definition, classically Joy Division.
There are a lot of comparisons to be drawn between Joy Division and Velvet Underground. While the New Yorkers were at the centre of a bubbling art scene, Manchester was expecting a similar glut of creativity when Curtis and the band broke out. When Lou Reed, John Cale and the band had Andy Warhol to rest on, Joy Division had Tony Wilson—but where they both excelled was being utterly unique.
Take some time out, relax, and have a listen to the below clip.