A slightly delayed post, but I have a ton of stuff to write about and, when that happens, I sometimes end up doing nothing. But, as I’m refreshed after a wonderful week in Scotland, I’m back on the blog trail 🙂
Last year, I was lucky enough to get along to see Peter Hook and his band giving a performance of Unknown Pleasures, the debut album by Joy Division released in 1977. He did two nights; 18th and 19th May, the 18th being the 30th anniversary of singer Ian Curtis’ death. That was sold out, so, they added another (the one I went to). Fast forward a year to May 18th, 2011 (I made sure I got tickets before it sold out this time!), 31 years after the death of Ian Curtis, Peter Hook and The Light performed Joy Division’s second and final studio album Closer from start to finish.
Well Fac 251 is not my favourite venue, but it was packed and the music was…well…let’s just say, for me, Closer is one of the best album’s ever written, though it took a little while to gain that heady place in my heart and mind. I still remember the warped vinyl I bought in about 1988, it’s undulating plastic probably only adding to the sense of distortion heralded by the music itself. Musically, I thought it was brilliant. Killing Joke garnered my love for keyboards in music, so hearing Joy Division, particularly Closer was a dream come true. From the eerie mourning of the keys in Heart and Soul (my fave) to the synth laden desolation of Decades, Closer has a glacial beauty about it that little else has ever come close to. But it was only after reading the lyrics, though, that the album just took off to another plane altogether.
I know a number of Joy Division fans felt that in Ian Curtis they’d found someone who effortlessly expressed their disaffection with growing up in the modern world, a modern world which we were supposedly meant to find happiness in but whose veneer was brutally thin and ‘all falls apart at first touch‘ (Passover). Hence the isolation and the descent into ‘the darkest corners of a sense I didn’t know‘ (24 Hours). And what of the young, carefree mind coming to terms with the horrors that man inflicts upon each other; in the trenches of WWI or in the concentration camps of WWII, where ‘we saw ourselves now as we never had seen‘ ? (Decades). Curtis was obviously inspired by much of what he read, usually dealing with man’s suffering. Not a good idea if your depressive and I’m reminded of the Friedrich Nietzsche observation that ‘When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you‘. Nietzsche also happened to be an author Curtis had read.
Though some of Curtis’ words may only ever be understood by him alone, they do (or did for me, at least) touch the soul in a way that’s hard to define, much like the best poetry, almost as if they are long lost keys to hidden doors within ourselves. When that happens, you cannot help but feel a deepening of your own experience as a human being in this life. I still remember the beauty of that.
Back to the gig. Hooky forgot the words numerous times (he promised to re-read them all the next morning). In fact, I think he was quite nervous and I seem to remember that was why he said he was forgetting words. After all these years in front of an audience, you’d think that maybe those nerves had long gone. Anyway, hearing Closer live was great (pity the other two remaining members of Joy Division, Sumner and Morris, weren’t a part of it) and the audience were bouncing by the end. I was just left with a little sense of loss, imagining as I was what it must have been like to see Joy Division live back in the day, amidst the excitement of the birth of such a legend. I have this cool idea that, after we die, we can travel to any point in time and experience anything that has occurred throughout history. What would you like to see? Out of the numerous things, I know one thing I’d like is too see Joy Division live (and the few gigs they headlined with a nascent Killing Joke as support would do nicely :)).
Here’s the afore mentioned Decades, in case you haven’t heard it (I’d love to hear it again for the first time).
Well, here’s the one photo I took at the gig (yup, I think that’s Hooky), and I think it’s rather cool. It’d look good as a Joy Division cover. Peter Saville, look out!
I’m outta here,