Tomorrow -May 18 – marks thirty years since the death of Ian Curtis, frontman of Joy Division. As has been documented numerous times, he died by his own hand at his Macclesfield home, aged just twenty-three.
Whilst there are unquestionably aspects of his life that make me uncomfortable (the fact he voted Tory, his treatment of his wife Deborah, to name but two), he was an unquestionably talented lyricist and performer. ‘Why is the bedroom so cold?’/You turned away on your side?’ seemed like someone had read my diary many years ago, on more than one occasion. His influence on the indie/alternative scene and all it spawned is undeniable; but The Cure and U2 took notes and set out to take his musical vision out of the dank clubs and onto the world’s stadia. Curtis was the inspiration behind The Crow comic and later film (with a few notes to Robert Smith and Peter Murphy, I think!) ‘Here are the young men, the weight on their shoulders,’ sang Curtis on ‘Decades,’ the closing track on their second and final album, Closer.
I was only three when he died; but just as kids I taught idolised Kurt Cobain, so the music of Joy Division’s brief career, burned so very, very brightly. Just as the lyric in Nirvana’s ‘Come As you Are’ ‘Well, I swear that I don’t have a gun’ was unbearably poignant when Cobain killed himself, so Curtis’ ‘New Dawn Fades’ with its’ icy ‘A loaded gun won’t set you free…so you say’ makes you wonder whetehr it was part of a gameplan.
This is my favourite song ever. A sound that encapsulates the sound that ice makes as it forms on water. Possibly.
As I get older, perhaps I find the way in which a young, tragic death is sold as a romantic ideal increasingly ridiculous; at best naive, at worst crass. But let’s say goodbye to the Cult of Ian Curtis: Young, Tragic Suicide and treasure him as the lyrical genius he so clearly was.
Joy Division -‘Atmosphere.’ mp3