Ian Curtis remembered


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

Sad songs say so much…2

Haven’t posted much here this week. It’s been kinda busy, and isn’t showing sign of letting up. How the heck did Tony Wilson manage to run a label and work in TV? No marking, I suppose.

Anyway, some songs for a cold winter’s day…

Johnny Cash -‘Hurt.’ (No there’s nothing wrong with me, just something in my eye…)

afterword: Johnny Cash’s wife June Carter Cash, seen here in the video, died shortly before him in 2003. Someone said that ‘she’d gone to get the house ready for him.’ I’m sure some would criticise that statement as sexism, but to me it makes my eyes almost as misty as watching the video.

The Cure -‘Charlotte Sometimes.’

Who would have thought a pop video could be so sad and creepy? I remember watching that video with my dad and the hairs on his arm literally standing on end. Also worth reading Penelope Farmer’s book Charlotte Sometimes which inspired the song. Charlotte Sometimes is my favourite song by my favourite ever band, and second only to this…

Joy Division -‘Atmosphere.’

My favourite ever song. Apparently the surviving members of the band hated this video but I love it. The bit when the synths ocme in sounds like the sound water would make if you could tape it forming on water (actually, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what Martin Hannett would have recorded). The bit where this is played in 24 Hour Party People is a misty-eyed moment as well…

David Bowie -‘Life On Mars?’

For many years, this was my favourite song and it’s still up there as one of my favourites. I’m sure I heard Flaming Lips do a cover of that on John Peel’s show in about 1993. If anyone can help, please let me know…

Billie Holiday -‘Strange Fruit.’

I was amazed but delighted to find footage for Strange Fruit. It’s a beautiful but harrowing song. Covered by many people including Robert Wyatt, Tori Amos, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and also by Nina Simone, who had to give up performing it as everytime she did, she broke down. There’s ingenious (IMHO) use of this in Ae Fond Kiss, a film that looks at sectarianism in Glasgow in the twenty-first century.

So…I’ll finish with a clip of Nina Simone, talking about how important it is to her as an artist to reflect the times. I found myself thinking it was a shame she hadn’t lived to see Barack Obama elected to be President of the US, but there’s millions of Americans who would have loved to have seen that.

thanks folks!

You folks are brilliant. Thanks to everyone who has sent me those requested tracks. I will post them here-and try and wade through all the other stuff in my mailbox.

In the meantime, a re-post of my favourite EVER song to say thank you to you all.

Joy Division -‘Atmosphere.’ mp3