All Posts,Old Music,Radio — Dan on November 8, 2007 at 3:42 am

I know I haven’t been updating my Viva Radio shows as often as I should, but at least for the last few weeks I have good excuses. First, I got caught up in 2 epic shows devoted to the glory years of 120 Minutes, and I’ll be writing about them shortly. But more importantly, I had an important call to duty. To commemorate the release of Control, Anton Corbijn’s biopic of Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis, Viva-Radio decided to create Complete Control Radio, some special playlists and original programming, and who better to help out then somebody who owned 4 Joy Division t-shirts (and 1 New Order shirt!) in High School? So for a few weeks I once again lived and breathed Joy Division.

I honestly don’t remember exactly when I first heard Joy Division. I know you’re supposed to remember those things, but I don’t. I remember seeing the video for New Order’s True Faith on MTV, buying their Substance compilation on tape, taping the j-card to my locker. I may have caught videos for Love Will Tear Us Apart or Atmosphere that started running when Joy Division got their own Substance compilation. Then I got a CD player and one of my first CDs was Substance as a hanukkah gift. I think it had just come out and I was 13 or 14. I remember that with a clarity and nostalgia that is unparalleled in my life. I remember other gifts I was excited about, which mostly had to do with horror movies or James Bond, and lying on my bed surrounded by new books and listening to Substance.

With this introduction to Joy Division, I didn’t know anything about their history, I didn’t know that those early punkier songs weren’t often regarded as highly as what would appear on their LPs. I think perhaps as I’m part of a generation who was exposed to Joy Division primarily through Substance, I’ve always seen them as a certain kind of smart (post) punk band, and a singles band at that. I don’t know how many young american kids were getting into Joy Division in the mid 80s, but did they have access to that first ep, An Ideal for Living? What about all the other great songs on Substance? I can imagine picking up copies of Unknown Pleasures and Closer and having a certain relationship to their music, but maybe its not the same. I love those LPs and spent as much time with them during those high school years, but for the life of me, whenever people talked about Joy Division as a gloomy, dour band, I could only think of songs like Digital, Transmission, Dead Souls, These Days…songs whose energy cut straight through me.

I know I spent my share of days and nights, mostly nights, listening to some of the darker stuff, feeling sorry for myself, all alone, like every other teenager, though mostly alone in not knowing anybody else who actually liked Joy Division. But the songs I preferred were more effective at lifting me out of my depression, they were a call to arms, Ian kept calling me, to do the Ian Curtis dance, to move, to take those crappy teenage feelings and point them outwards instead of inwards, to be alive, because love of life, makes you feel, higher.

Of course like any relationship, it didn’t last. I became a cyberpunk (ok, I read Neuroamancer and made illegal telephone calls). I declared, as previously mentioned on this blog, that the Severed Heads had overtaken Joy Division as my favorite band. And I did the unthinkable–I gave away my Joy Division CDs, even that amazing bootleg of them live at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. I got into Detroit Techno and Steve Reich. I went to college. And at some point I started collecting old post-punk singles, and at some point Techno lead me back to New Order, and at some point I re-bought all those Joy Division records, and I made my peace. I felt like here is a special band, a band who’s career is so perfectly encapsulated, who threw away songs that were often light-years better than the best efforts of their peers and followers. A band who made the punk to post-punk progression that has always fascinated me so much, a story told so clearly from listening to Substance. How do you go from Warsaw to Love Will Tear Us Apart in 3 years or less? I had a lot of questions, and Viva-Radio gave me the opportunity to explore this a bit by helping compile a series of playlists and some “original programming” that is comprised of interviews. All of this is archived and available to listen to through the month of November at Viva-Radio’s Complete Control page. So here’s what we came up with:

Part 1: Known & Unknown Pleasures of Joy Division and New Order. Favorites, obscurities, demos and live. Pretty much as advertised. I had my old records and CDs, got the new reissues from Rhino, downloaded some bootlegs and live stuff and made a pretty interesting sampler. I have to post something here. I don’t usually do this but this is one of those mostly forgotten outtakes, a sound they quickly moved on from, but as a basic class of 77 punk song, this is just awesome…

The Drawback

Part 2: Lust for Life; Joy Division influences, Peers and Followers. In this playlist we tried to create a better context for such a unique band. The musical influences, some well-documented, others perhaps imagined. We know they covered the Velvets, we know seeing the Sex Pistols changed everything everywhere, we can hear reflections of Iggy’s Berlin records and we know the Idiot was the last thing Ian Curtis listened to. There are the Manchester bands they shared bills with and New Zealand bands who’d carry the torch. There’s even a song by V-3, who’s Jim Shepard also killed himself, but it wasn’t chosen for a morbid parallel, but because it’s an amazing song and something you could imagine Joy Division would’ve written had they come up in Columbus, Ohio in the 80s. And there’s Galaxie 500s sublime cover of Ceremony.

Part 3: Interviews with Jon Savage, author of England’s Dreaming and writer of the upcoming Joy Division doc, and Matthew Higgs of the White Columns Gallery in NY, who hung out with Joy Division as a teen. This is where I apologize in advance for my interview skills…I’m no journalist or interviewer or writer or whatever, just a fan who had a pretty cool opportunity to talk about a subject I’m passionate about with some people who may have some insight. I got in touch with Savage through my friend John from Caroline True Records and was excited to talk to somebody who saw Joy Division when they were still called Warsaw. Matthew Higgs, meanwhile, had some amazing experiences as a young teenager working on a zine, corresponding with Tony Wilson, and walking around Manchester knocking on doors looking to find the people behind Object Music among others and stumbling into Joy Division’s rehearsal space. I spent as much time talking to him about the Manchester electro-funk scene after the tape recorder was turned off, but that’s another post for another day.

Part 4: Interviews with Simon Reynolds, author or Rip It Up and Start Again: PostPunk 1978-1984, and Peter Hook, bass player of Joy Division and New Order. I met Simon a few years ago in NYC during the heyday of the post-punk revival as Simon was working on his book and I was playing 23 Skidoo records to an empty bar in the East Village. I thought it would be interesting to talk to him about their influence, both good and bad, as post-punk turned to new pop and Joy Division turned to New Order. Peter Hook we got in touch with through the nice folk at Rhino. The chance to go right to the source was incredibly exciting and a bit scary. He thought we were calling from Beaver Radio, probably as good a name for a radio station one could have. I had to remind myself that I had actually met him before so this shouldn’t be the scariest thing ever. I DJ’d after him at Hiro in NYC a year or three ago. He played a very eclectic set and as it get closer to the end I kept freaking out trying to figure out what to play to follow him up…he’s playing the Sex Pistols, ok I’ll grab something punky, wait, now he’s playing some club bangers, ok, I’ve got something for that. Kept switching it up till finally he ended. There was such an encore that it was a minute before I even put on my first record, so all that worrying was useless. For the record, I opened with Situation by Yaz, but within minutes everyone pretty much left.

Part 5: Nightshift: More vintage post-punk from Joy Division’s peers and followers. This is actually an updated version of a playlist I had originally presented for myself on Pyjamarama. Cheating, I know, but it’s really great. My original description was “What hath Joy Division wrought” or something like that. Lots of great moody post-punk tracks, some obvious some obscure, some pale imitations, some maybe, for a brief moment or two, even better than Joy Division. Have you heard “Into the Garden” by Artery?

Part 6: All of This for You: More Joy Division and New Order favorites and rarities. Digging a bit deeper and filling some holes left by the first playlist. Some of those killer Warsaw sessions and early punk tracks. New Order’s demo of Ceremony with Stephen Morris singing.

Part 7: A Factory Sample: Digging through the Factory catalog. Selections from the first 100 or so releases on Factory Records. Some of those dour Joy Division-esque bands but also a wide range of sounds showing the breadth of the label, from pop to dance to artier sounds, and a sense of humor of course. A lot of these are from my collection, but a large amount of them have been reissued by LTM records, who’s catalog is well worth buying and who recently made most of their releases available on iTunes+, which is very convenient.

In the midst of all of this, I of course saw the movie, which I loved. I sat down an hour or so ago with the intention of briefly discussing my own interest in Joy Division and plugging the Viva-Radio playlists and as usual had no intention of going on this long. Thanks for bearing with me, but sometimes you get lost in this stuff, and its only then you suddenly revisit something from the distant past, like a bootleg copy of the original Factory Sample and realize how cool the weird early Durutti Column as a full band material is, or how astonishingly beautiful the extended industrial drone of the live in Preston version of Joy Division’s the Eternal is, even if it was “the worst fucking gig we ever did”, and for that, those with patience are surely rewarded!


  1. […] i not only received a sweet thank you response, but a link to the viva radio blog and the dj behind the control compilations- read his interesting joy division journey here. […]

  2. I agree with you: Joy Division were not just a “depressing” band. Neither were Nick Drake, the Cure or Bauhaus; they all had their calmer, happier, more upbeat moments. The main problem I had with the Control movie was that it seemed to pigeonhole Curtis and JD into the tortured artist mode.

    My first exposure to Joy Division was actually through the Komakino bootleg. I was record shopping, and the clerk (taking note of my new wave singles) asked if I liked JD. I’d never heard them, but had surely heard *of* them. For the next 18 months or so, my only exposure to Joy Division was through this bootleg LP with no track listing and muddy sound. This was 1981 or 1982; “Love Will Tear Us Apart” wasn’t yet well known, and I knew exactly no one (even the punks in my school) who’d ever heard Joy Division. It’s exactly this mystery that’s missing from music nowadays, for better or worse.

    Comment by mike — November 8, 2007 @ 4:30 pm
  3. I felt like the movie had no choice other than to treat him that way, it’s a delicate balance, on one hand you want to show what the band and others always said, that Ian was normal, funny, if intense “lad”, but you want to show the pressures that may have led to his end, BUT you don’t want it to be too melodramatic in doing so? It definitely walked that line. But the movie was more about his life then it was the music, if you can seperate the two.

    Discussions about the mysteries of music discover are certainly an obsession of mine, I feel like I had to work hard, but compared to some people, maybe I had it easy. I mean, MTV actually showed a Joy Division video…that’s enough to reach a 14 year old in the Jersey suburbs!

    Comment by Dan — November 8, 2007 @ 4:45 pm
  4. Brilliant stuff Dan, thanks a lot. Joy Division have a special place in New Zealander’s hearts for some reason – and they made a big impact on the pop charts – 2 number one hits! Even the reissues around Substance did well:

    Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart – #1 – 21 June 1981 – 7 weeks in chart
    Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart – #3 – 2 March 1984 – 7 weeks in chart

    Joy Division – Atmosphere – #1 – 16 August 1981
    Joy Division – Atmosphere – #17 – 20 July 1984 – 2 weeks in chart
    Joy Division – Atmosphere – #5 – 21 August 1988 – 3 weeks in chart

    Joy Division – Transmission – #2 – 13 September 1981 – 2 weeks in chart

    Keep up the good work!

    Comment by Bill — November 8, 2007 @ 8:30 pm
  5. Thanks. It seems like a lot of the DNA of certain strains of NZ stuff come from either the Fall or Joy Division. I know the Fall toured there, and released the Fall in a Whole live record documented that, but who knows about Joy Division. I just now Roy Montgomery’s carried the JD influence through his career, from the early Pin Group material, when they were referred to as “Roy Division”, to later solo stuff like one of my faves, even beyond the musical influence it’s the voice. Even more significantly is Peter and Graeme Jefferies old punk band Nocturnal Projections, who have a strong Joy Division influence and sound like a more direct logical progression of the Ideal for Living ep.

    Comment by Dan — November 9, 2007 @ 12:27 am
  6. This graffiti ( has been there in some form for many years. When Peter Hook came here to DJ last year someone filmed an interview with him for a documentary about it. Hasn’t been shown yet AFAIK, I must track down the interviewer again.

    The Fall made the top 20 here too:

    The Fall – Lie Dream of a Casino Soul – #17 – 8 August 1982 – 2 weeks in chart

    It helped a lot that they toured here as not many overseas punk/post-punk bands did – the Birthday Party & New Order were notable exceptions.

    There’s an excellent book that you might be interested in which covers the local NZ punk & post-punk scenes (tho’ it leans more heavily on the punk end of things):

    Churton, Wade Ronald (1999, 2001).
    Have You Checked The Children? Punk and Postpunk Music in New Zealand, 1977-1981 Christchurch, New Zealand: Put Your Foot Down Publishing. ISBN 0-47306-196-1

    I don’t know how available it is (whether it’s in print or not, even), as I had to order direct – I think it’s the author’s own publishing company & there’s very little info around about it.


    Comment by Bill — November 9, 2007 @ 3:48 pm
  7. Hah what a coincidence, my bus to and from work goes past that graffiti, earlier today i was reflecting on how long it’s been there. It was funny when it was changed to ‘Ian Curtis(G)r.i.p(s)’ ‘Wank in silence’, and awesome when it was changed back and left alone ever since. I reckon it’s been there at least 10 years. I just talked to my flatmate about it, he has a clipping from a local paper from a couple of years ago which has some ‘history’ about that graffiti. If he finds it, i’ll scan it and post it if anyone is interested:)

    Comment by Jeremy — November 16, 2007 @ 10:32 pm
  8. looks like i don’t have to scan it after all.

    yikes it’s been there much longer than i thought….1981! makes sense…..

    Comment by Jeremy — November 17, 2007 @ 4:45 am
  9. Haha nice work! Looks like the battle has been won!

    Comment by Bill — November 18, 2007 @ 5:55 pm
  10. […] work on some Viva-Radio playlists tied-in to the release of the movie Control. I beg you to read it again. One thing that’s always been funny about my passion for Joy Division is how every few years, […]

    Pingback by Acute Records Blog » UPDATING — May 18, 2010 @ 11:53 am

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