She's lost control?
April 11, 2005 6:11 PM   Subscribe

"I was just besotted." Rock music does not lack for tragic heroes; perhaps none more doomed than Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division, the post-punk precursor to Madchester's New Order. Debilitating epilepsy, depression, charges of Naziism, an impending divorce -- 25 years ago, the day before the start of a US tour, Curtis hanged himself in the kitchen of his flat while Iggy Pop's "The idiot" played. His widow Deborah speaks in this new interview in The Guardian; is she drumming up interest for the new starring-Jude-Law biopic?
posted by docgonzo (62 comments total)

 
Rock, the Terry Shiavo of music.
posted by HTuttle at 6:36 PM on April 11, 2005


Htuttle, I'm no Joy Division fan nor am I especially attracted to the tragic hero BS surrounding Cobain, Curtis and other rock and roll suicides, but every time rock has been declared dead, it's come back better than ever, perhaps just to spite the naysayers.
posted by jonmc at 6:46 PM on April 11, 2005


Jude-Law biopic--ugh!

interesting interview--i'm glad she's moved on (or has she?)
posted by amberglow at 6:47 PM on April 11, 2005


Curtis was 100% nazi and he did the world a favor by silencing himself.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:48 PM on April 11, 2005


oh, moonbird's link from the other day has a bunch of their videos--it took me way way back to see Love Will Tear Us Apart again.
posted by amberglow at 6:49 PM on April 11, 2005


laffo @ the nazi assertions.
posted by basicchannel at 6:53 PM on April 11, 2005


re: hanging ones self.. other than burning at the stake or misfireing on an electric chair this is a terrible way to go.
posted by stbalbach at 7:11 PM on April 11, 2005


Just for clarification: here's a more recent interview with the director of the new film--which is not going to star Jude Law.

Is there any actual evidence that he was "100% nazi"? I've certainly never heard or seen anything about it.
posted by josh at 7:33 PM on April 11, 2005


thanks for that, josh-i'm relieved now--no Jude, no Moby--sounds good.

I think it would be the National Front that they're referring to--very big up north back then (and still today among some lower class whites). There were so many references (if not more than just references) to fascism and Nazis back then. And wasn't there a big National Front fight in 24-hour Party People?
posted by amberglow at 7:47 PM on April 11, 2005


Mayor Curley, as many times as I have heard that since 1980, I have yet to hear that assertion either successfully supported or fully refuted, for that matter.

It's uncertain that the choice of the name was made for any other reason than to elicit a response (similar, I think, to the way 70s punks latched onto the swastika, for its shock value, rather than for its historical, racist or political meaning). Certainly, none of the content of their songs was in any racist or fascist, at least, not to my recollection.

Could be that I was willfully blind to it. I was no Nazi, but the bleak music of the Joy Division and Killing Joke kept me going through the oppressive "morning in America" pastels in the suburban 80s. Don't know that I could have done without them.
posted by psmealey at 7:48 PM on April 11, 2005


they were named for a Nazi rape squad, no? But lots of bands took names from that era--Spandau Ballet, etc. it didn't mean they believed or supported.
posted by amberglow at 7:50 PM on April 11, 2005


jonmc, if anything, Deborah Curtis's book and her interviews have ripped apart any idea of Ian Curtis as some sort of tragic hero. He was a troubled person, and not in the romanticized way. The new issue of Mojo magazine has a decent article including interviews with the rest of the band that shows exactly how somber they weren't.

The nazi crap is, for the most part, crap. There's a good article by Lester Bangs about the pseudo-facist affectations by New York bands circa 1980 that always seemed like it could apply to Joy Division as well. The risk in trying to shock or putting on such an act for show is that you might fall into the trap you've set. I don't think Curtis ever did, but he definitely was into the imagery more than his bandmates.
posted by mikeh at 7:51 PM on April 11, 2005


Morrissey has flirted far more with that whole thing, i think. Maybe it's unavoidable if you're northern and a certain age? Authoritarian/fascist imagery/names/etc...Gang of Four, Joy Division, Spandau,
posted by amberglow at 7:53 PM on April 11, 2005


mikeh, I imagine any clear look at the life of any suicidal celebrity would reveal the same thing. I'm more referring to fans than to Curtis himself, whom I don't know and only have a passing familiarity with Joy Division, since their musical stylings weren't my cup of tea.

I'm a fanatical Lester Bangs fan, and I have read the article you mention. It's pretty insightful.

What's odd to me is that many people who are intrigued at neo-fascist themes when explored by the likes of Joy Division and Morrissey decry them when they pop up outside of that subculture as in G&R, Motorhead and the like.
posted by jonmc at 7:57 PM on April 11, 2005


On a somewhat related note, I went out last weekend and picked up the latest New Order offering, Waiting for the Sirens' Call, and I must say, it's pretty good. It hearkens the more guitar driven approach they took on Low Life, but with an updated sound. Bernard Sumner still can't sing a lick (he's no Ian Curtis), but it is indeed listenable.
posted by psmealey at 8:01 PM on April 11, 2005


jon, when the brits do it, it's cooler--doncha know? ; >

(really tho--there's too little difference between a heavymetal or deathmetal band using nazi-inspired imagery and lyrics and a white supremacist band doing the same thing--it's too close, and too close to home)
posted by amberglow at 8:01 PM on April 11, 2005


(I'm loving Waiting, ps--much much better than Get Ready, i find)
posted by amberglow at 8:04 PM on April 11, 2005


Curtis was 100% nazi and he did the world a favor by silencing himself.

"100% Nazi?" Bullshit. Hitler, Eichmann, et al. were "100% Nazi". Ian Curtis was just the singer and lyricist for a late-seventies rock band who, in the course of making a very good debut album and a great second album, employed some Nazi imagery in order to communicate his primary theme of alienation.
posted by JeffL at 8:10 PM on April 11, 2005


This movie probably won't be as good as 24 Hour Party People (albeit highly fictionalized and stylized). And Sean Harris looks exactly like Ian Curtis.

Curtis was 100% nazi and he did the world a favor by silencing himself.

Has anyone accused Marilyn Manson of being a true serial killer or harboring Nazi Sympathies because of his stage shows and choice of pseudonym? Perhaps irony didn't exist in the late 70s.
posted by tweak at 8:15 PM on April 11, 2005


really tho--there's too little difference between a heavymetal or deathmetal band using nazi-inspired imagery and lyrics and a white supremacist band doing the same thing--it's too close, and too close to home

But there is when a Morrissey or Joy Division does? Isn't that an unfair assumption?
posted by jonmc at 8:22 PM on April 11, 2005


seriously, plenty of punk bands used neo-fascist/nazi imagery. It seems to be a pretty big leap to assume intentionsbased on musical genre.
posted by jonmc at 8:24 PM on April 11, 2005


It's beyond apples and oranges--neither Morrissey nor Joy Division were violent--not in their music, lyrics, or lives--they sang/sing of love and life and the disappointments and hurts life causes. You can't say that about heavymetal or deathmetal or any variety of those (or you can, but then you'd have to ignore the aggressiveness in the music, the antics, the imagery, and the lyrics).

It's like comparing REM to Pantera or something.
posted by amberglow at 8:29 PM on April 11, 2005


"100% Nazi?" Bullshit. Hitler, Eichmann, et al. were "100% Nazi". Ian Curtis was just the singer and lyricist for a late-seventies rock band who, in the course of making a very good debut album and a great second album, employed some Nazi imagery in order to communicate his primary theme of alienation.

Sorry, you are just not reading deeply enough. To take a random example, the lyric "dance dance dance dance dance to the radio" is clearly an exhortation to perform Leni Riefenstahlesque "Triumph of the Will" style physical culture moves to the tune of "Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles"

(At least, it is for those of us in the know, like me and Mayor Curley)
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:35 PM on April 11, 2005


Perhaps but to automatically assume that any references to fascism in heavy metal music is pro-fascist is an unfair assumption. Take Slayer's "Angel Of Death". It seems to me to be merely a portrait of the unspeakable, not an endorsement of Nazism (as should be obvious by the non-aryan origins of Chilean bassist/vocalist Tom Araya and Cuban drummer Dave Lombardo). Isn't it a bit unfair to assume that metal fans are not smart enough to see the song as such? As for aggressiveness, it's an ugly topic, Slayer might say that to respond to it demands aggressive, ugly music.

This is not an indictment of Joy Division, merely a plea for greater understanding of another point of veiw.
posted by jonmc at 8:36 PM on April 11, 2005


Sorry, you are just not reading deeply enough. To take a random example, the lyric "dance dance dance dance dance to the radio" is clearly an exhortation to perform Leni Riefenstahlesque "Triumph of the Will" style physical culture moves to the tune of "Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles"

That's a major stretch, chief.

(At least, it is for those of us in the know, like me and Mayor Curley)

< triumph> OK, now you're asking to be pooped on < /triumph>

Do tell, smart guy.
posted by Scoo at 8:50 PM on April 11, 2005


compare and contrast, jon: National Front Disco by Morrissey, of a kid lost to them.
posted by amberglow at 8:59 PM on April 11, 2005


If you can't wait for the Joy Division movie, check out 24 Hour Paty People, a very good dramatized version of the Madchester (Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays) scene.
posted by sophist at 9:03 PM on April 11, 2005


Not to belabor the point, but plenty of metal is vocally anti-fascist. Look up some lyrics by early Metallica*, Megadeth, Anthrax, Napalm Death, and countless others. And the audience is not brainless, no matter what popular cultural perception might have you think.

*mrs. jonmc (a schoolteacher) is currently using the lyrics to Metallica's "Disposable Heroes" as a companion piece to the principles illustrated in All Quiet On The Western Front.

on preview: I'm not denying what somebody might have found in Morrissey's lyrics, merely asking you to see that another audience might have found something equally illuminating in Metallica or Slayer.
posted by jonmc at 9:06 PM on April 11, 2005


nor am I especially attracted to the tragic hero BS surrounding Cobain

Kurt Cobain will always be my tragic hero.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:27 PM on April 11, 2005


That's a major stretch, chief.

I'm pretty certain that UbuRoivas was not being serious, ace. Maybe you weren't either. I can't really tell.
posted by cmonkey at 9:32 PM on April 11, 2005


Nice post, docgonzo. UbuRoivas, brilliant response.
posted by shoepal at 9:54 PM on April 11, 2005


There's no way Joy Division were part of the 'Madchester' scene.

Madchester = Happy Mondays, Northside et al, 2nd Summer of Love, 1988-89.
posted by the cuban at 1:48 AM on April 12, 2005


aye, the cuban speaketh the truth. Though I'll check out the 24 hour party people anyway, sounds good, ta sophist.
posted by dabitch at 2:32 AM on April 12, 2005


Do, dabitch - when Sean Harris is on screen, his resemblance to Curtis borders on the scary. (There's lots of fine performances, in fact, but the whole thing is marred rather by Steve Coogan's cartoonish Tony Wilson.)

And Curtis wasn't a Nazi, though he did vote Tory, which is close.

The new issue of Mojo magazine has a decent article including interviews with the rest of the band that shows exactly how somber they weren't.

I really enjoyed that piece too, mikeh, but the thing that really stood out were two images: one a triptych of Curtis on stage, looking like a fucking god, in all his arm-wibbling glory, the other a quick snap of him on the sofa at home, just another young suburban dad, wearing the same red shirt in both.
posted by jack_mo at 2:59 AM on April 12, 2005


You had me worried with that Jude Law crap.
posted by anagrama at 3:12 AM on April 12, 2005


I was really just making an allusion to FDR when I used the phrase "100% Nazi" (it's how he referred to Lindberg). But I don't like him:

If Curtis used fascism as an entertainment tool, he's a hack asshole. If he harbored sympathies, he's a lot worse.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:01 AM on April 12, 2005


jonmc: The whole thing is a problem of context. At the time that Joy Division were playing with Nazi imagery a lot of racists listened to punk and went to punk shows. And Joy Division were a part of that whole scene back in the late 70's early 80's. Same goes with Slayer, when they were plastering Nazi insignia on their outfits and equipment, a lot of racists were into heavy metal. In that context it's not strange to assume ill will of both bands. That being said, I don't think either bands were nazis. Neither do I think that most punks or heavy metal fans were either. Certainly less than 1% were actively in the National Front or other such organizations.

I'd like to point out that I listen to both Joy Division and Slayer. Also, I'd like to say that if you cleave the bad connotations away from it, Joy Division is one of the most killer band names ever.

Oh, and since the Smiths have been mentioned. The name comes from the lead investigator of the Moors murders (serial murders in and near Manchester) and the British media attacked them for using that name and singing about the Moors Murders (Suffer Little Children).
posted by Kattullus at 5:17 AM on April 12, 2005


from the poptones.co.uk interview:
Any other misconceptions you would like to clear up....?

Eckert:That we will not be doing a the "Rock'n'roll version of Shine." That was the quote of the original movie producers, not mine, in fact I stated in our first press release.


OMFG! I guess they aren't the first yanks to try and tell this story - Todd Eckert's predecessors sound as though they were straight out of la-la land. How was it that Shyalaman pitched 'The Sixth Sense' - 'Ordinary People'-meets-'The Exorcist'.

<sigh>

and to add to the art band-national front meme - most of thee British musicians are/were too fey to be Nazis - all of them would be more likely to be on the receiving end of a thuggery, rather than instigating one.
posted by vhsiv at 6:01 AM on April 12, 2005


"Just for clarification: here's a more recent interview with the director of the new film--which is not going to star Jude Law."

That interview is with the producer. The film, 'Control', will be directed by photographer (and first time director) Anton Corbijn.

'Ze tall and famouz' Dutch photographer is probably best known for his work with U2 (he has recently published a beautiful 1982 - 2004 retrospective of his U2 photos) and Depeche Mode.

Corbijn worked with Joy Division shortly before Curtis's demise and shot this, some say 'prophetic,' picture.
posted by prolific at 6:35 AM on April 12, 2005


amberglow - The National Front fight in 24-hour Party People never happened - that fight was due to Tony Wilson's idea of carrying on with a show with a very ill Ian Curtis who sang three songs and then went off, to be replaced by A Certain Ratio I think. Watch the DVD's commentry.

The Nazi reference is supposed to be ironic. Either way, it sounds quite happy (lol). The band, like all bands under Factory, didnt support or play for Nazi's - they steared clear - the name of the band was controversy enough.

On a related note: a mate of mine once told me the story of a random European who had travelled from his home country, lets say the Netherlands - just to visit the home of Ian Curtis. My mate took him on a tour of Manchesters northern quarter and anywhere else of relevance in town before letting the random European go back home (I cant remember how they met - I assume Picadilly train station).
posted by 13twelve at 6:52 AM on April 12, 2005


Holy Eff! Corbijn is doing Control?! Hell Yeah! Thanks prolific!
posted by shoepal at 6:57 AM on April 12, 2005


That being said, I don't think either bands were nazis. Neither do I think that most punks or heavy metal fans were either.

Oh, I know. I was just a little rankled at the underlying assumption that any references to fascism in metal were bad because the metal audience is too dumb to understand that it's being critical. (FWIW, I don't think amberglow was saying this either, but it's an annoying cultural supposition.)
posted by jonmc at 6:57 AM on April 12, 2005


"oh, moonbird's link from the other day has a bunch of their videos--it took me way way back to see Love Will Tear Us Apart again.
posted by amberglow at 6:49 PM PST on April 11 [!]"

Just a heads up, that there's a big ol' obnoxious porno pop-up
if you're not using a blocker. I didn't see it before but someone I referred the link to did and was a bit P-O'd. So, beware. My Mozilla pop-up blocker works fine though. Great music vids though, thanks Amber.
posted by NorthernSky at 7:35 AM on April 12, 2005


Neither do I think that most punks or heavy metal fans were either.

True for the times, but it seems less accurate for current fans. Have you ever been on a scandinavian DC++ server? All death metal, Skrewdriver-style Nazi punk shit and Hitler archives.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:48 AM on April 12, 2005


I neglected to mention before that this proposed film would put a more (flawed) human face on the whole "tragic hero" which would contrast with the portrayal of Curtis in 24 Hour Party People. The purpose of that film was definitely to canonize a scene and create an enjoyable narrative out of Tony Wilson's memoirs. I liked it.
posted by mikeh at 7:50 AM on April 12, 2005


Curtis was 100% nazi

And you are 100% misinformed or 100% troll for making that asinine and thorougly incorrect remark. Jesus Christ, how long are the surviving members going to have to go on explaining this to the thickos who - for some possibly rather nasty little reason - refuse to get it?

Come on Curley, what have you got? That the name "Joy Division" referred to concentration camp brothels? That they used to be called "Warsaw" and later, "New Order"? Or something a bit more like, you know, real evidence that Curtis was a Nazi? If so, share it or shut the fuck up with the "Nazi" shit.
posted by Decani at 8:08 AM on April 12, 2005


Mayor Curley, I didn't say there was no neo-fascist metal. And there's plenty of neo-nazi music in all kinds of genres. I was just reacting to "neo-fascist moron," stereotype of the whole genre.
posted by jonmc at 8:10 AM on April 12, 2005


Come on Curley, what have you got?

I've got an impression that if you make music that people hold dear, those fans will absolve you for promoting yourself with lots of Nazi imagery. Because it's ideologically inconvenient for them to admit being fans of Nazis.

I'll side with Bernard Rhodes instead of Bernard "Albrecht".
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:46 AM on April 12, 2005


"Are you not aware of situationalism? Postmodernism? Haven't you heard of the free play of signs and signifiers?"
posted by interrupt at 8:47 AM on April 12, 2005


And there's plenty of neo-nazi music in all kinds of genres.

Oh, no doubt. And the artists who promoted the nazi imagery did it for shock value. But even with your tongue in cheek, it's promoting the ideas.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:51 AM on April 12, 2005


And there's plenty of neo-nazi music in all kinds of genres.

Except for ambient electronica. We're pretty easy-going folks.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:11 AM on April 12, 2005


Wow, I'm imagining neo-nazi indie-pop.
I'm being facetious, but I'm sure that someone will now link me to the neo-nazi equivalent of Belle & Sebastian.
posted by 235w103 at 9:53 AM on April 12, 2005


Curley, I've seen someone who I considered a friend slide down that slippery slope from making "shocking" comments and racist jokes as a farce to actually being a bigoted asshole. There's a danger in being sarcastic or shocking, but if you're claiming that Joy Division was an open hazard or that they bought into any idiology, you're off base.

Besides, Manchester is an industrial town, and there's something fitting when the people who are part of a large machine of the industrial age go to see a band named for the pleasure of another, darker industrial machine. Remember, the original "Joy Division" weren't the Nazis, they were the ones being taken advantage of.

You can read whatever you feel like into New Order. I'm too lazy to refute any claims of third reich-worship on their account, at the minute.
posted by mikeh at 10:39 AM on April 12, 2005


there's something fitting when the people who are part of a large machine of the industrial age go to see a band named for the pleasure of another, darker industrial machine.

There's something foul about people saluting the foes their fathers fought. Except when my girlfriend wears black pajamas.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:21 AM on April 12, 2005


Curtis was 100% nazi and he did the world a favor by silencing himself.

The Metafilter absurd statements bag continues to fill up.

There's something foul about people saluting the foes their fathers fought.

There's also something foul about missing the point. No saluting whatsoever.
posted by juiceCake at 11:55 AM on April 12, 2005



Bernard Sumner still can't sing a lick (he's no Ian Curtis), but it is indeed listenable.
They say Ian's live singing voice, monotone baritone, had a large impact delivering the poetic lyrics in concert. Never seeing him actually sing, I’m taking it from reviews about the live performances. Which say very moving and well liked.

In 1979 Warner Brothers offered Joy Division a 1 million dollar label contract which was declined and then again in the early 80’s with the contract offer now including the full musical control. Showing the band had found popularity by its live shows. Also the band’s performance impacted a concert by physically draining the crowd. Then also when as a headliner’s opening act, the crowd would leave after seeing the JD set feeling that was all to see. Not New Order.

New Order’s live performances make them, the worst late 80’s band to be seen in concert. It’s a well known fact among their listeners and a radio station that sponsors the concert. They forget the lyrics and have stoppages on their instruments. During a sound, a mike handed out in the crowd will produce better vocals. I’ve also heard people using a touch tone phone for an instrument playing the song’s sound better. Best thing NO did live may have been starting a large food fight at the LA Coliseum.

Because Ian's epilepsy was affected by bright lights, JD played their shows with very little lighting in it. Morbidly, his hanging hung up the popularity of NO’s performances in concert, imho. Though Ian is gone his performance is still seen when NO’s studio recordings are played out in public. In a darken room, loudly, moving a person to dance which is how Ian sung in public; darken room, loud and dancing.

What happen that a band known for seeing live is not that way today but its recordings are enjoyed? Could a possible cause of his death be cursing the band’s live performances? Seeing as NO’s live performances are not liked. Which may mirror Ian’s suicide hanging’s reason to do it, not liked.

Ian’s live singing and poetic words definitely made the band and maybe even left him visible in it by its current status; not liked, live.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:16 PM on April 12, 2005


New Order’s live performances make them, the worst late 80’s band to be seen in concert.

Doesn't stop them from charging $294729847 a ticket on this most recent tour.
posted by interrupt at 1:12 PM on April 12, 2005


joy division weren't specifically nazi, i don't think...but ian's manner of persuasion in his music was distinctly evil.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 1:45 PM on April 12, 2005


New Order’s live performances make them, the worst late 80’s band to be seen in concert.

You never saw the Cure did you?
posted by juiceCake at 2:19 PM on April 12, 2005


It appears there is a (very minor) tourist industry developing around Ian Curtis. I'm from the same town and went to the same school as him. He was the local boy made bad.
posted by Holly at 5:00 PM on April 12, 2005


Except for ambient electronica. We're pretty easy-going folks.
Don't forgot Burzum.
posted by hellbient at 6:49 PM on April 12, 2005


Don't forgot Burzum.

Wow, my jaw just dropped. You've just found the opposite end of the political spectrum of Terre Thaemlitz's ambience. /speechless
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:50 AM on April 13, 2005


« Older I told you Ecstasy was good for you....  |  How do you make a “trusted sys... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments