Flawed Timing

Gun metal poison pill for the Cold War generation. 'Is it something so good/Just can't function no more?'
Gun metal poison pill for the Cold War generation. 'Something so good/Can't function all alone.'

Joy Division, Peel Session 1979-01-31

Exercise One/Insight/She’s Lost Control/Transmission

Joy Division, Peel Session 1979-11-26

Love Will Tear Us Apart/24 Hours/Colony/Sound Of Music

It’s time to admit it to the world: I’m terrified of death. The thought of an eternity of nothingness fills me with a cold dread that grips my heart in an ugly vice. The two high profile celebrity deaths that have filled the headlines this week have done nothing to allay that. Yet I also admit to a fascination with music that attempts to portray it or deal with it. Instead of doing what I should have been doing in the early 1980s,  i.e.  recording Peel shows on chrome C120 tapes and then keeping them in a shoebox until 2009, I was morbidly obsessed with Shostakovich’s 15th Symphony, which ends with a depiction of him lying in hospital waiting to die and hearing nothing but the slow ticking of the drip he was attached to.

So why am I telling you all this? It’s because an age-old question I posed early in this blog’s history (and then dealt with in an embarrassingly cavalier manner) has been answered to my eventual satisfaction by John himself. Ian Curtis committed suicide in the early hours of  18 May 1980, thus inaugurating a period of  ghoulish posthumous celebrity: the following day, John’s second record was Joy Division’s New Dawn Fades and, if the Peel mailing List members had not provided the aural proof, I should have gone on wondering if all those people, from London Lee onwards, who told me it was so were right. The nagging doubt has been removed and all apologies to those concerned.

This was not the end of the Joy Division story, however.  They managed to score a UK chart hit three years after the band voluntarily dissolved with  Love Will Tear Us Apart (FF 1980 #3, 1981 #3,  All-Time  1982 #3 and All-Time 2000…errr…#3), Ian’s vocals for which my sister characterised rather unkindly as ‘a drunk Noel Coward’. That this is seen in many quarters as the final statement par excellence of the band’s rationale somehow misses the point: it was an intensely personal statement by Ian commenting on the deterioration of his relationship with his wife Deborah, and she had the lyric inscribed on his tombstone. Their remaining work leaves a sense of a mission fulfilled, strangely enough, since the music was an end in itself, no matter how many copied it subsequently.

Joy Division, Love Will Tear Us Apart

Do not overlook the fact that it had already been recorded as part of their second Peel session a year earlier. Bernard Sumner commented that ‘Ian’s influence seemed to be madness and insanity’, yet the timeless melancholy of this adds regret and longing to the list. The video (the only one the band made, done in drab home-made fashion) captures a moment on the edge of the precipice that was looming, but led to a new beginning.

3 thoughts on “Flawed Timing

  1. An utterly essential song. Many great cover versions out there by, amongst others: Squarepusher, Honeyroot, Susanna and the Magic Orchestra, the Swans did two versions…it’s heartbreaking no matter how many times I hear it. The line ‘Why is the bedroom so cold?/You turn away on your side’ is so painfully on the money for at least one breakup I have had. Have to say I haven’t heard Paul Young’s version – but then again, I haven’t burned in hell for all eternity (yet) and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to do that either,,,

  2. Godlike post Steve!

    Check out the next part of Room 101 which I should be posting on Monday, Peel gives his thoughts on the subject of death.

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