Revisit Joy Division’s game-changing performance of ‘She’s Lost Control’ in 1979
We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you a very special performance of ‘She’s Lost Control’ from the dynamic band Joy Division as we commemorate 40 years since the untimely passing of lead singer Ian Curts.
Joy Division was, above all else, a Manchester band (well, Salford actually). Everything they did was connected with the city, from their industrial sound to their greyscale visuals, the city was in their blood. It resonated through all their work and even reared its head in the technicolour joy of New Order.
The city loved them back, too. As well as being a mark of musical pride for all Mancunians to this day, the band sits alongside the great and the good of England’s second city, a place that has given music so many idols, as one of the most influential bands of all time.
The majority of the band’s influence can be traced back to their incendiary live performances, their comprehensive sound, and Ian Curtis’ enigmatic lyrics. But it was on television that the power of Joy Division really broke through the public consciousness.
The group were given their debut on television by none other than Anthony Wilson, the leading man of Factory Records and a TV personality capable of making a band’s career. When Wilson picked the band out of Manchester’s music scene to perform on Granada Reports in 1978, he gave them a wealth of exposure they could have only dreamed of sitting in their pokey rehearsal room.
That performance will go down in the hearts and minds of fans as possibly their first glimpse of the group. But for our money, we’d say that their return to the Granada studios in 1979 to perform ‘She’s Lost Control’ was by far the band’s most impactful moment on TV. You can watch the footage below to see for yourself.
The group had been welcomed to the studios as part of ‘What’s On’ segment and, while appearing on the show was a great opportunity, it still meant that the majority of viewers remained in the Greater Manchester area. The band’s seminal album Unknown Pleasures had been released only weeks prior and while the sales were certainly turning Factory Records into a bonafide record label, it was here that Joy Division’s everlasting influence over the nation began.
Whether it was the graphics at the beginning of the show on 20th July 1979, shrouding Curtis in a digital cobweb, or the performance of Joy Division’s iconic song, something after this performance changed the scene. You could no longer get away with just being angry over the mic, you now had to be a bit smarter with it—there was no use just getting the spotlight, now you had to use it.
Backed by Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris (alongside Martin Hannett’s revolutionary production), Ian Curtis’ creative brain was allowed to explore new lyrical territories. He wasn’t just saying obscene things or trying to grab the attention of the media, Curtis was trying to share his expression, his message. It resonated across the audience and confirmed Joy Division as saviours of the scene.
Within the year, sadly, Ian Curtis would commit suicide on May 18th, 1980 and bring a tragic end to one of the most influential bands Britain has ever seen. But while Curtis may have left this world too soon, he did leave behind an undying legacy of artistic brilliance.
And this performance, on a pokey show in the North of England, was just another moment where he, and the rest of the band, showed it.