Monday, May 17, 2010

Ian Curtis

Tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of Ian Curtis' death.  Back then no one could know this event would still be marked today or that so many fans of all ages would still spend hours listening to his music late into the night.  Oh, yes, and there's the matter of all those "Unknown Pleasures" tshirts.

I remember being in the studio and hearing the news, devastating news. We'd all been looking forward to Joy Division's American tour.  They were coming to San Francisco in June. The Dead Kennedys and the Mutants each were to get a slot opening for their shows.  There was always anticipation for bands coming to town from Europe.  Bands were usually known mostly by their music, or the odd interview one might catch in a fanzine.  More often than not, the new music papers in the US (Slash, Damage, Search & Destroy, New York Rocker) didn't get their shot at interviewing foreign bands until they actually came to town, so not much was known locally beyond the music.  Information was scant yet we knew something great was on its way.

Factory Records was a bit of a mystery to me at the time.  They had great bands. Really great ones. Durutti Column. A Certain Ratio. Cabaret Voltaire. And they had Joy Division.  It was never clear who was in charge, at least to me. I am sure there were others in town who were connected with the Factory people who would get the facts explained to them.  For me that morning in the studio what I understood was that Curtis' mesmerizing voice was silent.  The notion that Joy Division's arrival would lead to a surge of new music was not to be, at least in May, 1980.

Today Joy Division has hoards more fans and devotees than it ever did back then.  Devotees who never saw Curtis perform or speak.  That's the power of music and art, to compel interest and attention for the ages.

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