Joy Division are available on iTunes
by Walter Price
In 1980 you were pleased as pie that your life was seemingly in order. Love felt like it was the ultimate perfection and your young life was soundtracked by neat tunes from radio faves like Blondie, Michael Jackson, Irene Cara, and The Human League. Oh, the bland memories.
But something happened. You discovered a song that was full of heartbreak’s sadness, dark overtones, and delivered in a near haunting voice that would chill you to your core. At the time you hadn’t a clue that this post-punk track would go on to influence not only your way of deciphering your relationships but the impact and influence it would have on music as a whole.
The song is “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, by a little known UK outfit going by the name Joy Division. But sadly, by the time you wrapped your soul or it around yours, the band was almost no more. As vocalist; Ian Curtis, suffering the torments of a broken relationship and health issues, had taken his own life. Some would argue cementing the legend of such a classic song.
In an NME interview, drummer Stephen Morris said this about the track, “I just thought ‘Yeah, this is a good song’, someone might like it. It was a great period for the band, but Ian’s personal life that was all going badly. In retrospect, when you listen to it in light of what happened, it seems bloody obvious. I honestly didn’t realize that he was writing about himself. I just said ‘These are great lyrics, Ian’. That makes it a bit difficult to listen to now’.”
Guitarist Bernard Sumner added, “He’d got married very, very young. And by the time of that song, he’d come to a fork in the road, relationship-wise. His life had changed enormously, and he had to make a choice. We thought his headspace was OK. But Ian had two faces, the public face for the band and the private troubles he had at home and the way they came out through his lyrics. We didn’t really listen to the lyrics. Joy Division was four people on pedestals, and we didn’t communicate with each other about what the songs are about.”
And over the decades this track has become an anthem of sorts. A dark ode to the destructive natures of love, but is there a positive vibe? Joy Division’s Peter Hook teeters, telling Songfactzs, “It’s quite strange really because the lyrics are very dark but I find the song to be very uplifting – no other Joy Division song works like that. People go nuts for that song when we play it live, but it really is quite dark.” Absolutely, darkly-uplifting is a thing. Ask Morrissey.
Interpret as you well but you and I aren’t the only ones. Over the years the song has been covered, reworked and taken it down new sonic highways. Here are just three of what has been done to this emotional masterpiece.
When the routine bites hard
And ambitions are low
And the resentment rides high
But emotions wont grow
And were changing our ways,
Taking different roads
Then love, love will tear us apart again
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Susanna and the Magical Orchestra
Soul Asylum (live)
Ian Curtis 1956 – 1980
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