Watch rare live footage of Joy Division performing in 1979
Joy Division are a band synonymous with rock and roll. Not because they had quiffs or created the kind of hysteria akin to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but because they saw the rules and tore them up, more so than anybody thought.
The band arrived in 1979 while many within the underground music scene were still trying to hold on to the tatters of punk and others began to apply make-up to escape the doldrums of their life; Joy Division stayed true and pushed a gritty realism into the face of the youth.
“Basically, we want to play and enjoy what we like playing. I think that when we stop doing that, I think, well, that will be time to pack it in. That will be the end,” the late and great Ian Curtis told Radio Lancashire in a 1979 interview.
Curtis, it’s safe to say, never wanted to recreate music. He wanted to be individual, unique. As part of what is now his final ever interview, the frontman was drawn in on the ‘current state’ of new wave, to which promptly replied: “Don’t know. I think it’s, a lot of it tends to have lost its edge really. There’s quite a few new groups that I’ve heard… odd records. Record or have seen maybe such as, eh, I like, I think it’s mostly old Factory groups really, I like the groups on Factory; A Certain Ratio and Section 25.”
Curtis continued: “I tend not to listen. When I’m listening to records, I don’t listen to much new wave stuff, I tend to listen to the stuff I used to listen to a few years back but sort of odd singles. I know somebody who works in a record shop where I live and I’ll go in there and he’ll play me ‘have you heard this single?’ singles by er the group called The Tights, so an obscure thing… and a group called, I think, er Bauhaus, a London group, that’s one single.
He adds: “There’s no one I completely like that I can say: ‘Well I’ve got all this person’s records’ or ‘I think he’s great’ or ‘this group’s records’ it’s just, again, odd things.”
Britain was a shit hole at the time of Joy Division’s breakthrough, and you can’t really imagine Salford being much better. But for some reason, the way these four artists curated and ultimately destroyed the ideals of working life reinvigorated an area and engaged the people.
How lucky we were, then, to find this extremely rare footage of Joy Division at their first-ever filmed live performance at Bowden Vale Youth Club in Altrincham in 1979. The venue itself couldn’t be more typically Joy Division, that is until they begin and hit us with something truly mesmerising.
The three songs featured are ‘She’s Lost Control’, ‘Shadowplay‘ and ‘Leaders of Men’ and all of them reek of potential. Potential to make good records, the potential to sell-out show but more importantly the potential to explode at any minute.