The Rock’s Backpages Flashback: Joy Division in their Own Words
The late Ian Curtis, doomed singer with postpunk greats Joy Division, rarely opened his mouth to journalists. But in this NME piece from the summer of 1979, Curtis joins his bandmates in answering the questions of writer Paul Rambali. The article leaves you wondering, once again, just what Joy Division might have become if Ian had lived——Barney Hoskyns, Editorial Director, Rock's Backpages
Let me draw back the curtains on a probably wet and no doubt freezing night last winter. A mid-week night of no special significance, save that Joy Division had come marching into town.
It wasn't much of a welcome. It wasn't one of those hot jam-packed little-league sell-outs where you can't get in for the length of the guest list and where breaths are bated in anticipation of something about to turn big. Nothing of the sort. Down in the basement confines of a celebrated Islington watering hole it was relaxed and cool.
In front of the intimate stage, though, a gaggle of about a dozen or so modern boys staked out their territorial rights like there was some sort of conspiracy afoot. Minions were dispatched to fetch the pints. The space stage-front was jealously guarded. Their spick and span muted green tribal colours set them apart from the otherwise dowdy crowd.
They had come, heaven knows where from, for Joy Division. Another Manchester Band.
The last time somebody counted there were somewhere in the region of 72 musical aggregations in Manchester and surrounding areas. Can you believe that?
Since the Pistols played the Free Trade Hall with the fledgling Buzzcocks, Manchester's homegrown activity has bloomed. It's become a vital and rich part of the English music spectrum and will be more so with the increasing nationwide diversity of music and lifestyle.
But with the exception of passing enigmas such as Jilted John, The Fall and John Cooper Clarke, the main bearers of the Mancunian standard have been the Shelley/Devoto axis. And unless one of the snotty, smart, toothsome pop outfits that seem to populate the city lucks into a chart hit (most likely candidate: The Distractions), the band that looks dead-set to follow Buzzcocks out of merely local and underground acclaim and into the wider limelight — going not least on the rapturous critical reaction to their first album Unknown Pleasures — is called Joy Division.
A lone overhead spot floods the centre-stage microphone and spills out onto the heads of the aforementioned gaggle of sartorial hot-shots. Heads that start to bob furiously at the first pulse of streamlined rhythm, attached to bodies that lurch back and forth, attached to legs that jerk up and down at the knee and arms that swing in a loose crawl or elbows that flap madly. It's the modern dance that everybody will be doing in the coming months — the one that has succeeded the pogo — and it's a hybrid of the style that John Lydon copped from the Rastas and the one Mary Mekon of the Mekons invented for herself.