I was talking to my daughter the other day and the inevitable subject of new music came up, I find we're constantly trying to turn each other onto the new, the odd, and the different.. the more underground, the better. This time of year I always reflect back on Ian Curtis and the lost promise of Joy Division. By my junior year in high school my musical palette was fairly well formed, always catching the local monsters Max Creek, I was a huge Deadhead, though the typical '70s era band were well represented. Led Zep, Jeff Beck, Floyd, Deep Purple, Hendrix, The Who and their ilk made up the remainder of my listening, though by 1979 there came a siren call from across the Atlantic.
In 1979 the post-punk revolution had thundered in; full force along with the new-wave/no wave sound. The Clash, The Jam and Gen-X and were its kings, but none held the fascination for me that Joy Division did. Here was a band mentioned in whispers and scant notices, an anomaly; their album art was stark and moody as was their music. At the center of this mysterious group was guitarist and vocalist, Ian Curtis, an ex-navy family man, prone to epileptic seizures who would dance like a broken dervish, arms and legs akimbo as he poured out tortured lyrics backed up by the most amazing band.
Keeping track of this UK band meant trips down to Capitol Records in Hartford to pick up the newest import singe and perusing copies of The Trouser Press. This band was the first that I could claim as my own.. I felt I had discovered this dark jewel, an unknown pleasure as it were. On May 18 1980, the flight of Joy Division crashed to earth with the suicide of Ian Curtis, though like a phoenix, the surviving members of the band rose again as New Order, we had lost something great and something special. In this era of youtube and facebook, it's so easy to familiarize yourself with a band and even I take this ease for granted, but back then it was much harder to do. The death of the rock idol had become almost a parody of itself in the late 1960's and '70's, Hendrix, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, the list went on and on, but to me, here was a contemporary, in a sense a loss I couldn't help but take a little more personally.
As I type this I can't help but feel a bit anachronistic, as though trying to recapture a lost time, a time that really didn't exist even back then, a flimsy bubble of life in motion. We can't take any of this for granted, for the future is a propellant, pushing us forward and whether we notice it or not, we have to stop and take a breath..
..this is the way, step inside....