In the late 1970s, the punk scene exploded into mainstream consciousness with the aggressive sound of anarchy in the UK, namely, the Sex Pistols. But it seemed to die just two years later when the band broke up. From these ashes gracefully rose the more beautiful and finely groomed phoenix of post-punk. It was by this label that Joy Division would make themselves famous but, of course, the Manchester group started out as a punk group.
The earliest incarnation of Joy Division was formed by Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook. The two had attended the famously influential Sex Pistols gig at the Manchester Free Trade Hall in June 1976. Both were entranced and deeply inspired by the Pistols’ unique performance. The very next day, Hook borrowed £35 from his mother to buy a bass guitar.
“It was just about the attitude,” Hook said, discussing the Sex Pistols gig in a recent Far Out interview. “The fact that what they were doing was so different. The week before, I’d been to see Led Zeppelin, and that was great; they played fantastically, but they weren’t inspiring – as in, come along and change your life, inspiring. So, yeah, the Sex Pistols spoke to me and said, ‘pack it in’, okay, ‘give up your job, and get out and join the circus’.”
After playing a few small gigs in late 1976 with their friend Terry Mason, Sumner and Hook posted an advert at a Manchester Virgin Records shop in hopes of seeking out a vocalist. Ian Curtis, who knew the group from earlier gigs, responded to the advert swiftly, and by May 29th 1977, the band played their first gig under their new name, Warsaw, supporting the Buzzcocks. This early name was inspired by David Bowie’s song ‘Warszawa’ from his 1977 album Low.
Tony Tabac played the drums for a couple of shows before he was replaced in June 1977 by Steve Brotherdale, who had previously drummed for punk band The Panik. However, after just a month with Brotherdale, the group felt uneasy with his aggressive personality and ditched him on the roadside after asking him to get out and check the tyres on the drive home from the studio.
In need of a drummer, the three remaining members of Warsaw put another advert in a music shop window, this time seeking a drummer. The sole respondent to the advert was Stephen Morris, whom Curtis knew from his old school. With the addition of Morris, Warsaw became a “complete family”, as Ian’s wife, Deborah Curtis, remembered.
The early live recording of ‘At a Later Date’ below was taken during Warsaw’s performance at Manchester’s Electric Circus on October 2nd, 1977, four months before they changed their name to Joy Division.