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Joy Division: The Tragic Death of Ian Curtis

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Today we take a look at the tragic death of Ian Curtis of Joy Division

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Today’s story is about the life and death of Joy Division’s frontman Ian Curtis. Joy Division was a post-punk band first inspired by the Sex Pistols that formed in 1976 in Manchester, England. The band was made up of Vocalist Ian Curtis, guitarist and keyboardist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook and drummer Stephen Morris. The band had a short lived career only being active between 1976 and 1980 Bernard Sumner’s biography, described the band by saying “Joy Division sounded like Manchester: cold, sparse and at times, bleak.”

Joy Division was a band with a bright future, but they never really experienced the fruits of their labor during their four short years together. It’s members held down day jobs for several years while playing shows , and during the recording of their final studio record Closer, after they had quit their jobs, they were living on almost $70 per week.

Prior to the band’s formation, frontman Ian Curtis was practically a kid, It was 1975 and he was 19 years old and lived anything but a rockstar life working for the government and was married. His wife Deborah Woodruff described their pre-joy division years as “boring and a depressing existence that was somewhat offset by her husband’s musical dreams revealing

“Our existence had become boring and the fact that we both hated our jobs didn't help I became very depressed and and sometimes I was unable to stifle the tears on the long
bus journey home and we had mistakenly saddled ourselves with a mortgage and stability we weren't ready for and we were still only 19 years old and Ian's ideas of a musical career didn't really seem that extravagant at all so that really gave us something to look forward to" she'd say

Now Curtis had struggled with depression for a long time as at the age of 16 he had to get his stomach pumped after overdosing on prescribed medication used to treat a variety of ailments. While he was dealing with depression he found a glimmer of hope in his life with music, as he was soon inspired by David Bowie, The Velvet Underground and the Stooges. He would long for a day where he would become a rockstar.

While working at a dead end job and being married, Curtis began to follow the punk scene in manchester while at the same time meeting others who shared his passion for music. He would befriend future Joy Divison members, guitarist/keyboardist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook, who were childhood friends.

If it hadn’t been for this chance meeting and another important event in Curtis life, Joy Division may have never formed.

So, you're maybe asking, what was the other important event that happened?

In the Summer of 1976, the Sex Pistols were on tour and they played in Manchester where Hook, and Sumner were in attendance. Unbeknownst to the pair was that their future bandmate Ian Curtis was also in the audience that night. It was that pivotal moment in the trio’s lives that made them want to take up music. And the day following the performance, Hook borrowed £35 from his mother to buy a bass guitar while Sumner bought a guitar. And the pair would team up with drummer Terry Mason who was also at the Pistols show that night. All the trio needed now was a vocalist and they placed an ad looking for a singer in a local Manchester virgin records shop. Curtis who already knew Hook and Sumner applied for the vocalist job and got it without an audition. Hook and Sumner remembered Curtis from the local Manchester Punk Scene as the guy who wore a donkey jacket with the word “hate” printed on it. Sumner would reflect on Curtis saying that "we knew he was all right to get on with and that's what we based the whole group on. If we liked someone, they were in" he'd say.

And the band called itself Warsaw a homage to the David Bowie track “Warszawa” on his1977 album “Low.” This name reflected their bleak outlook and sparse sound.

And besides being music enthusiasts, the band didn’t have much practical experience as musicians. They’d generally jam until they found a riff they liked, and then worked on an arrangement from there.

Even though Ian Curtis could be deep and introspective, he also had a flip side to his personality that saw him turn on a dime.. At a 1977 performance at the Electric Circus, Morris remembers that Curtis could fly off the handle -

“He got really wound up and we got on the stage and all of a sudden he's turned into the whirling dervish he's ma

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