Radiohead’s cover of Joy Division’s ‘Ceremony’ in 2007 is timeless
Back in 2007, following the release of their critically acclaimed album In Rainbows Thom Yorke and the rest of Radiohead didn’t go out on tour immediately.
No, instead the band opted for something, which at the time, may have felt a little strange—they broadcast a series of in-studio webcast performances via a stream. During it they delivered perhaps the best Joy Division and New Order’s cover of all time with their rendition of ‘Ceremony’.
Always technologically advanced the webcast was fairly revolutionary at the time and spoke highly of a band always looking to evolve beyond normality. But during these particular performances, they weren’t always striving for unfolding sounds of the future, sometimes they found inspiration in the past.
The band chose the webcast to enact some covers of their favourite songs. It means this small session contains some of the most delightful moments of Radiohead iconography. It features a sumptuous cover of Thom Yorke’s favourite song ‘Unravel’ by Bjork as well as a take on The Smiths’ ‘Headmaster’s Ritual’. Another of those inspirations for Radiohead would be Ian Curtis’s Joy Division.
Yorke and Co could have picked ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ as so many othershave done when covering JD, instead they picked one of the brilliant ‘Ceremony’. The track, beginning as a Joy Division song—in fact, it was one of the last songs Ian Curtis worked on prior to his suicide and was performed at their last ever gig in 1980—became a New Order track following their formation and featured in most of their live sets. It ranks today as some of both band’s best work.
The Radiohead cover, however, leans more directly on Ian Curtis’ version and feels both authentic and yet expertly curated to pay homage to the original composition. The rhythm is metronomic, the guitar pushed through the speakers with a sharper edge, the iconic lead line is given a distorted hue all while Yorke toes the line between tribute and taking the song out all on his own.
It’s a cover played with a raw passion, a lack of inhibition and with a deep appreciation for the artist who created it. Take a look below at the footage below and enjoy one of the greats paying homage to one of its inspirations.