Ian Curtis: Why The Enigmatic Joy Division Frontman Remains British Indie’s Greatest Unknown Pleasure

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Every year, millions of fans shuffle up the Boulevard de Belleville in Paris and chart a course through the crumbling headstones and gothic mausoleums of the Pere Lachaise cemetery to pay homage at (and maybe pour a fifth of bourbon on to) the grave of Jim Morrison. Similarly, in New York, 72nd street and Central Park West is probably one of the city’s most loitered-on corners, jammed with tourists who stand in solemn contemplation at the spot outside the Dakota building where John Lennon was gunned down by Mark Chapman. And in Memphis, Tennessee, the Presley estate continues to turn a dime well over 30 years after Elvis’ death by traipsing busload after busload of Japanese tourists through the gates of Graceland.

On the face of it, there’s not a lot to differentiate Ian Curtis from any of those other dead rock stars, right down to the humble headstone in Macclesfield cemetery that attracts its own steady stream of disciples. The Joy Division frontman may not be a fully paid-up member of what Kurt Cobain’s mother once called “that stupid club”, his application having been expedited by his own hand at the age of just 23 rather than 27 – but he certainly deserves a certificate or something. Like many members of the club, he found far more success in death than he ever did in life – though admittedly he never gave himself much of a chance – and like all of them, he was a complex, tortured soul, who made some suspect choices, upon whose head deification does not rest easily.

All those aforementioned names are keenly missed of course, but thirty six years after his death, Ian Curtis remains possibly the most tragic figure of them all, a monumental waste of a once-in-a-generation talent.

Even by the standards of potted rock biographies, Curtis’ makes for depressingly brief reading. Born in Stretford in July 1956, he was a bookish youth who showed an aptitude for poetry, but ended up married at the age of just 19, with a job in the civil service. In 1976, he met Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner at a Sex Pistols gig and formed Joy Division. Two years later, the band signed to Tony Wilson’s Factory Records; a year after that, they released their seminal debut album ‘Unknown Pleasures’. After being diagnosed with epilepsy that same year, Curtis’ condition worsened with the pressures and anxieties of touring, and in April 1980, he attempted to kill himself with an overdose of barbiturates. The next month, on the eve of Joy Division’s first American tour and six weeks before the release of the band’s second album, ‘Closer’, he succeeded by hanging himself in his kitchen.

There’s an obvious answer as to why, three and a half decades later, Ian Curtis is still so mourned by so many. It’s because, unlike Lennon, Morrison, Hendrix, Jones or even Cobain, his flame was snuffed out before he’d really started. Joy Division’s final album and their first EP were separated by a gap of less than two years; that’s two years in which they managed to define British post-punk and change Manchester music forever. Had he lived even just a little bit longer, who knows what he may have gone on to accomplish. In any case, it seems a safe bet that we’d be writing these words in a very different musical climate.

But what-ifs aren’t enough to sustain the kind of legacy that Curtis has left behind. What endures about him isn’t some misplaced romantic notion of dying young enough to have never made a shit album, either. His suicide arguably amounts to nothing more than a default on an unlimited promise and – far more seriously – giving up on his young wife and child. Only ghouls and morons will find glory in that act; for the rest of us, it was merely the most selfish decision he ever made.

As far as ‘Realness’ – that most misunderstood of rock commodities – goes, Curtis meant it, alright. The pain and alienation he sang about, his explicit disgust and confusion with the world that drips from the lyrics of ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ and ‘Disorder’ like blood down a grey granite wall, is as authentic as rock and roll gets.

Lyrically, he held nothing back; his themes were wrapped in elegant, poetic phrasings, but even the most casual listener can discern the deep unhappiness and loneliness within them. Curtis placed no emotional distance between himself and the listener; listen to the lyrics of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and he paints you a picture of something as intimate and painful as the collapse of his own marriage, blowing the fourth wall to smithereens. The blunt honesty and brutal frankness of that song still sounds shocking no matter how many times you hear it – Curtis doesn’t even try to deflect blame; the only side he takes is against himself.

Yet few artists do open themselves up so willingly on record, and it’s a sad fact that many of those people – like Kurt, Richey or Elliot Smith – end up taking their own lives, after making ours that bit richer. But instead of making a martyr out of Curtis and celebrating him as some sort of self-sacrificial lamb, it’s his honesty and fearlessness that he should be lauded for, not his devastating denouement.

Nevertheless, Ian Curtis continues to fascinate us because we inevitably want to know more about him than we’ll ever be able to. His is a well-preserved but enigmatic ghost; his pale, haunted eyes stare out at us from a finite number of starkly beautiful black-and-white Anton Corbijn shots, a handful of television appearances, one music video, and very little else. He never lived long enough to be overexposed.

Or to explain himself. Curtis was a man of deep, deep contradictions; a sensitive artist with a taste for bohemian writers like Burghs and Ballard, he was also a loyal Tory voter, who vehemently opposed immigration and flirted with fascistic imagery. In her 1995 biography Touching From A Distance, Deborah Curtis characterized her husband as a man who veered between good-natured generosity and selfish control-freakery, and who she once suspected of having homosexual affairs.

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He was certainly adept at living a double life, and not just from Deborah, who he was unfaithful to for long periods of time with Belgian journalist Annik Honore. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see Ian’s inner turmoil exert itself through his lyrics and manic performances, but away from the stage, his welling melancholy was well-hidden from the bandmates he didn’t want to alarm or disappoint. Even as he was planning to kill himself, he convincingly feigned enthusiasm for Joy Division’s upcoming American tour, so much so that drummer Stephen Morris has admitted that, “Looking back, I wish I’d helped him more. I think that all the time… But we were having such a good time, and you’re very selfish when you’re young. Epilepsy wasn’t understood then. People would just say, ‘He’s a bit of a loony – he has fits.’”

Peter Hook, meanwhile, was more characteristically blunt.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “He must have been a pretty good actor. We didn’t have a bleedin’ clue what was going on.”

Only Curtis himself can offer clarification of what went on in his head and well… Because when it comes to the past, the truth is often subjective, dictated by those with axes to grind or agendas to protect. We’ll never really know who Ian Curtis was. But that, of course, won’t stop us from wondering.

Even Anton Corbjin’s acclaimed 2007 biopic Control raised more questions than it did answers. The film was praised in many quarters for portraying Curtis in a distinctly human light and not as a tragedy waiting to happen. But for his daughter Natalie, the film didn’t go far enough. “Control’ doesn’t go far enough to convey my father’s mental health problems,” she says. “His depression and mood swings are simply not addressed. Given the fervor to discover why he killed himself, this is something of an oversight.”

Yet, for all the unanswered questions, for all the failings he may or may not have been guilty of, Ian’s legacy is one of rock n’ roll’s most fiercely guarded and respected, and rightly so. You certainly won’t see an Ian Curtis avatar spasming awkwardly around a pixilated stage to the strains of ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ in the next edition of Guitar Hero. Even something as well intentioned as Peter Hook’s decision to mark the 30th anniversary of his friend’s death by playing ‘Unknown Pleasures’ in its entirety with his new band at FAC251 in Manchester was met with tuts of disapproval – though having been there and lost something in the process, who are we do judge how Hooky choose to celebrate his friends life?

Ultimately however, we should be bothered about how Ian is remembered. If we didn’t the absolute worst-case scenario would be a wave of tasteless, commercialized nostalgia that cheapened his achievements.

Musically, Joy Division aren’t quite as in vogue as they were a few years back, when the likes of Interpol, Editors and Bloc Party mined their brand of kinetic new-wave guitars and baritone melancholy for ideas; paradoxically, it’s New Order who are the big thing right now. But such is Joy Division’s importance, they never stay out of fashion for very long. And with the gloom that’s currently enveloping this country (if you believe the daily papers at least), it surely won’t be long before another generation of pale, undernourished and disenfranchised youths in three quarter-length overcoats prick up their ears to the cataclysmic rumble of ‘Transmission’ or ‘She’s Lost Control’. They may well already have done so.

It seems ironic that it’s the date of Ian Curtis’ death – May 18th – that has been chosen to celebrate his life. As Peter Hook once said of his suicide, “It was a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” and an unfortunate decision that brought him the worst kind of immortality. You can speculate endlessly on how different things might have been had he lived, what kind of person he really was, or what his final thoughts were in his still-unpublished suicide note. But in the end, the man himself remains rock n’ roll’s greatest unknown pleasure. The music is all that’s left of him, and what a body of work he left behind.

© Barry Nicolson
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“Ian Curtis Still Rings True”: Dave Clarke on Joy Division’s Legacy

To celebrate Ian Curtis’ 60th birthday, DJ and electronic producer Dave Clarke takes us back to his teenage bedroom, where the “secret cult” of Joy Division changed his life.

July 15, 2016 would have been the 60th birthday of Ian Curtis (1956-1980), the iconic poet, singer and Joy Division frontman who chose to leave the world when he was only 23. Although his recorded legacy barely exceeds a couple dozen songs, Curtis’ work with Joy Division has remained beloved by many throughout the years and still echoes in today’s music. We’ve asked DJ, electronic producer and Waves artist Dave Clarke for his personal perspective on Curtis and Joy Division.

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Waves: What was Joy Division’s importance for you, and for your generation of music fans and musicians?

Dave Clarke: “It is hard for me to separate most underground music at that time from [BBC DJ] John Peel: I heard of this group because of him. There was also quite a big cultural north/south divide in England: for a kid from Brighton, the chance of hearing music from northern England was quite small without someone like Peel. So hearing this on crackly radio transmission was very special, like a secret cult, with a mono ear piece underneath the blankets. It shaped me immensely.”

What, in your opinion, made Curtis such an influential character?

“I always separate music from the cult of personality. I take music at face value, and also information was not so easily found in those days unless you actively sought it or read fanzines, so I just listened to the music. Only later in life did I find out about his life and why some of the songs were written. I think ‘She Lost Control’ was written from his perspective of working in situations that brought him close to a woman with epilepsy (I wonder if Grace Jones who covered the song ever knew). So for me, his life story only became apparent way after he passed away, through documentaries and films. But his lyrical ability was exceptional and fit the zeitgeist of post-WW2 England. Yet it still rings true today. I saw [Joy Division bassist] Peter Hook play Joy Division’s music live the other week, and the lyrics still touch nerves.”

Where do you hear the echoes of Joy Division in today’s music?

“All over the place, sometimes in bands like Interpol, Soft Moon, She Wants Revenge… When you have such a great reference, it’s hard not to ingest it and pay homage.”

And how important do you think was producer Martin Hannett’s contribution to Joy Division’s work?

“He made their sound in my opinion. A true catalytic convertor in the artistic sense. I think he may have had a deeper understanding of their sound than perhaps they did. Joy Division under Hannett’s guidance was a complete entity, a whole package – how rare is that?!”

© Waves

Vapours – Natalie Curtis

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VAPOURS (Early Works) is the debut photo book from Natalie Curtis. Spanning a four year post-university period through which she honed her photographic expertise and process. The work is a candid, chronological representation of her diverse personal and professional milieu, captured within environments ostensibly conventional, yet as disconcerting as the array of personalities that the images strive to depict. From band practice rooms in Manchester to the eerie vistas of Los Angeles, via the notorious bullrings of Madrid, this is the powerful and distinctive work from an artist at the very conception of her mode.

 

Get To Know: Natalie Curtis

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Natalie Curtis is an emerging conceptual artist and photographer, currently known for her abstract exhibits at Galarie Arnaud in Paris and Recontre Photograhique d’Arles in Arlon Belgium. Both exhibitions include portraits of bands such as Elbow, The Charlatans, Doves and actors Sam Riley, Samantha Morton from the film Control, a rather poignant film for Natalie. If her surname rings a bell it should, she’s the daughter of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis. However word to the wise, don’t ask about him.

Instead, Natalie talks to Hunger TV about her own work, from creating abstract art to sending Chloe Sevigny a Valentines card .

WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO RECENTLY? 

I haven’t been away since the end of last year, but there’s quite a lot going on in Manchester to do with music which I’m involved in. I’m currently listening to a band called Naked On Drugs they’re my favourite, and I am actually doing something with them next month. I also recently did an interesting shoot with SWAY Records, it was for a Valentine’s Day card that they sent out to supporters of the label – it involved naked guys wearing only knitwear and brandishing my horse riding whip and a Samurai sword.

HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA? 

SWAY had taken some naked photos previously and they tweeted the pictures to me to ask what I thought. So we had a meeting and I thought, fuck it, let’s do a shoot in my flat. I came up with the ideas as we went along, it was all very spontaneous.

DO YOU PLAN YOUR IDEAS IN ADVANCE?

It’s quite often a spur of the moment thing and in this case I was just using the space we had. All they knew was that they wanted to do something where they were naked and the Samurai sword was involved. I started to think it could be used as an interesting Valentine’s Day card so that’s why it was used for that concept. I didn’t want the images to have a comedy effect but to be more serious, it was interesting seeing who we heard back from and who we didn’t.

WHAT WAS THE REACTION TO IT?

People seemed to like it, but then there’re the people we didn’t hear from, so I don’t know what their view was! Inside the card stated ‘Manchester Is Paradise’. We sent one to the actress Chloe Sevigny because she had a really terrible time in Manchester, there were people in Manchester that didn’t like that she had done all these interviews saying how shit it was. Generally we sent cards to people who had bad Manchester experiences just to let them know that it is in fact good again really!

WHO HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE MUSICIANS TO PHOTOGRAPH LATELY? 

Myself and a character called Atrocity Boy who writes a blog – he writes reviews of gigs and I take the photos – have been working together quite closely recently shooting the local Manchester scene. There is a bigger project that we’re working on, the whole concept is that the reviews we do are out of the ordinary, so I made the conscious decision not to do live shots but instead taking photographs inside within a small space. They’re not regular reviews and so I have a lot a freedom and don’t necessarily have to take shots of the bands performing, in fact last time I consciously decided not to. The collaboration has developed into a bigger project that we’re currently working on, and we’ll announce more details soon.

WHY DON’T YOU WANT TO DO LIVE SHOTS?

A lot of the  time I find it quite boring unless it’s a special set of circumstances. I don’t like doing shots for the sake of doing gig shots.

YOU EXHIBITED YOUR CONCEPTUAL WORK AT GALERIE ARNAUD IN PARIS AND ALSO RECONTRE PHOTOGRAPHIQUE D’ARLES IN ARLON BELGIUM- HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?

Paris was organised by a friend, film producer Michael H Shamberg, he connected lots of people together and so we put on the exhibition for a charity that Michael had set up. And with the Arlon exhibition, the organisers contacted me and I loved my initial ideas. In terms of the pieces I contributed it was all photos performers, but they were in situations the public normally wouldn’t see them in, people in their private spaces. I had pictures of the band Elbow with armchairs on their heads.

DO YOU THINK OF IDEAS FIRST AND THEN DECIDE ON THE MEDIUM OR DO YOU PICK UP THE CAMERA AND LOOK FOR A SUBJECT?

That’s a good question, a bit of both really, I mean sometimes something just happens and it needs photographing while other times I have an idea of something that I want and go about making it happen.

HOW MUCH ARE YOU INFLUENCED BY THE EXTERNAL?

My work is about my environment and what is going on with me so there’s no point thinking about other places because when things are great elsewhere it can be easier to think ‘Oh I should be here or there’, but I don’t think it’s good to get in that mind set when what’s important is around you. I’ve got friends all over the place in other countries, so I am connected to other places, in terms of what generally is going on in the world. I’m not looking at issues head on, but then again I don’t think you can make work that isn’t influenced by what is going on in the world in some way.

WHAT QUESTION ANNOYS YOU THE MOST? 

When people ask me family questions.

TELL US WHAT YOU’RE WORKING ON THIS YEAR?

My website is my next big project, and i feel like I’m going through a transition this year, it’s the first time I’ve really been sure of what I want.

© Hunger TV

She’s in control: Snapper proves she’s more than just Ian Curtis’ daughter with striking photos around Manchester

If you’ve caught the Metrolink from Piccadilly Station recently you may have seen some striking photographs lighting up the underground stop.

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They are the work of Manchester photographer Natalie Curtis, who is not only famed for her striking photos but as the daughter of legendary Joy Division singer Ian Curtis.

Natalie wants to bring ‘a remembered dream of summer’ to the autumn commute to cement her status as queen of the underground.

Sways Stills, a collection of black and white photographs documenting a night in the life of Salford-based Sways Records, are the current exhibits in the light boxes studding the backdrop of the Metro station. Natalie took the photos while staying in a Chorlton flat with friends from the independent record label.

In an interview with MM, Natalie said: “Because the light boxes are in a public place, and in particular somewhere that visitors to Manchester might see, it was important to me that I produced photos that relate to Greater Manchester.

“My starting point was to choose a subject that would give a sense of something that’s happening here.

“I didn’t want the images to be a literal take on events, as I’m interested in fictional versions of reality. Although I’ve worked a lot in colour recently, I went with black and white because, as well as thinking it would be more suited to the installation space, I wanted to create something more dream-like; a remembered dream of summer.”

The Sways Stills exhibition came about when Natalie was approached by creative events agency The Hamilton Project, who manage the light boxes on behalf of Transport for Greater Manchester.

“They’d seen my work and thought it was a good fit,” said Natalie.

She has a close relationship with Sways Records after working with Macclesfield rock band Marion during their brief reunion in 2011 and 2012.

“There was an album launch and exhibition at Kraak, and Sways were in attendance. They recruited me Mormon style and did in fact save me as prior to that I was seriously considering leaving Manchester.”

Despite these previous thoughts of leaving the city, Natalie remains inspired by Manchester and its inhabitants.

“It’s a place that can be whatever you want it to be. It’s open and closed,” she said.

While discussing her style Natalie reflects on the role of photographers. “On the one hand I like to document, yet at the same time I don’t aim to provide a strict representation.

“I like to leave room for the viewer to imagine what may or may not have happened. But that’s the nature of photography generally – it’s a version of the truth.”

She shoots in film, and her camera of choice is a Nikon F100. By scanning the negatives and doing the darkroom stage on a computer, she blends old and new technology.

The 34-year-old photographer has been snapping since she was a kid. “I always took photos for fun growing up,” she told MM.

However it was her enrolment on an Art Foundation course at Macclesfield College that she really embraced the photographic medium, and subsequently studied at Manchester Metropolitan University’s School of Art for a BA in photography.

In 2009 Natalie was shortlisted at the Best of Manchester Awards for her intimate photos of bands such as Doves, the Paris Riots and Silversun Pickups, which were displayed at Urbis.

© Judith Hawkins

Natalie Curtis: Fear & Memory

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What happens when one British citizen, decides to give a direct response to the ongoing culture of fear perpetuating throughout our times? M.K is a London born and raised arts curator, photographer and writer (The Hollywood Reporter/Rankin’s Hunger tv/Film 3Sixty: The Times),born to a Pakistani ceramic artist mother, she is doing exactly that – by bringing together the established & emerging artists & documenters of our time from the U.K/U.S/Italy/Israel – Palestine and Pakistan, to discuss not why we should be fearful but why we must all be fearless and united – – – As time evolves and as the layers of history have shown, each era has created its own evolution’s and memories.

However the idea of ‘Fear’ is not just exclusive to the field of socio-political areas, nor as the eligere condition, it is something that each person feels within their own context and nuanced life, no matter where they live – and so I ask our leading cultural figures and emerging artists and documenters to pause and reflect, on their own lives, and if we are able to reach an old age, how will we want to recall our lives and memories and therefore, what exactly does it mean to be fearless?

Natalie Curtis is an emerging conceptual artist and photographer, currently known for her abstract exhibits at Galarie Arnaud in Paris and Recontre Photograhique d’Arles in Arlon Belgium. Both exhibitions include portraits of bands such as Elbow, The Charlatans, Doves and actors Sam Riley, Samantha Morton from the film Control, a rather poignant film for Natalie. If her surname rings a bell it should, she’s the daughter of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis.

What are the things that you believe you should be fearless and unapologetic about as an artist of our times?

Natalie Curtis: I think I should not be scared of the kind of work I want to do, it’s difficult because someone is paying you and so you want to fulfill briefs, so it’s finding a way to be yourself and also do the job. The other thing is, recently I’ve been working with people who have given me a lot of freedom, I think that has progressed my work because I’ve been given the freedom to do  whatever I want to do, it has changed everything. So now I think I need to be brave enough to keep on doing things my way, maybe it’s arrogance to think like that, but to hopefully keep meeting like-minded people  who like what I do. It’s so much more fulfilling being given the freedom to do what I want, it’s still within parameters, it doesn’t feel like a job it feels like doing proper  work.

If the aim is to alter or make a difference to people’s thinking about the world or a specific subject, what have you learned so far?

NC: That you have to be honest, having freedom of when to produce work makes it easier to be honest. I never set out to change what people think but if you want people to look at the work and get something from it; I look at the work that means something to me and has changed how I think or has inspired me or has taught me about something, it’s work that was made honestly. The need to earn money can be a trap because you’re trying to earn to buy food and stay warm, but it’s finding the balance but now I have the belief that you can do it your way and still survive.

How do you describe the life you are living now?

NC: Really great actually, better than ever. The quality of my life is really good right now, I’m enjoying living in Manchester, there’re  people from where I grew up that probably say ‘She can’t drive, she doesn’t drink’ but when I have money I spend it on horse riding, I don’t drink but I lead quite  a sociable life. I’m happy with how things are, the fact that one day I could be having a horse riding lesson. So in the last few weeks I’ve assisted on a friends music video shoot, working with people that I’ve worked with before, it’s the brilliant side of the music world, working very hard through the night and the next morning I came home at 7.30 am and the elderly people that saw me, it was like I was doing the walk of shame, walking home at 7.30 am wearing last nights clothes.

What is the current memory you will always want to remember?

NC: I suppose the things that I don’t photograph, it was really great making the visits to Parliament, I tend to forget things once I’ve photographed them, sometimes it’s healthy to not take photographs. It felt like a really good thing to have seen so much of and not photographed it. To just watch something and take it all in, I think it will make my work better, it’ll inform my work in a different way, standing at the dispatch box pretending to be Prime Minister.

 

Ian Curtis Remembered by Joy Division and His Loved Ones in Their Own Words

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Exactly 36 years since Ian Curtis, the frontman of post-punk band Joy Division, committed suicide, music fans are remembering the singer who, despite being all of 23 years at the time of his death in 1980, has forged a lasting legacy.

Born in Lancashire, Curtis pursued his musical dreams, forming Joy Division with Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris in 1976. They released just two albums, Unknown Pleasures, in 1979 and Closer, which was released in July 1980, two months after Curtis’s death.

He had suffered from epilepsy and depression and as Joy Division bassist Peter Hook recalled in a piece written for The Guardian in 2011, Curtis was “very ill” while recording the band’s second and final studio album. He wrote: “There was one horrible occasion where he was missing for two hours in the studio. I went in the toilet and there he was spark out on the floor–he’d had a fit and split his head open on the sink. There were a lot of occasions like that.”

Although it’s been 36 years since he died, Curtis’s surviving bandmates and his widow have been instrumental in keeping  his memory alive. Here is what they’ve said about Curtis in the years since:

Deborah Curtis, widow

Deborah Curtis married Curtis in 1975 when she was just 18 and he was 19. They had one daughter, Natalie. In 1995, 15 years after her husband’s death, Deborah wrote an autobiography about her marriage to Curtis titled Touching From a Distance —a reference to Joy Division’s song “Transmission.”

“No, no I don’t feel angry now,” Deborah said of Curtis’ suicide in 2005. “There’s too much time passed. You have to think about how unhappy he must’ve been and he must have honestly not been able to see a way out or he wouldn’t have done it.”

In 2014, she admitted it hurt to discover the Joy Division song “Love Will Tear Us Apart” was written about her and Curtis’s crumbling marriage in his final years. The song’s title was famously inscribed on his gravestone.

“How did I feel when [Joy Division manager] Rob Gretton told me ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ was about me? Angry, humiliated. I scoured his manuscripts looking for evidence that it wasn’t so,” she wrote in 2014 memoir So This Is Permanence: Ian Curtis, Joy Division Lyrics and Notebooks (via NME).

Peter Hook, Joy Division bassist

Hook wrote in 2011 that Curtis had attempted suicide twice recording the band’s second album, Closer . Each time he would return to the studio as if nothing had happened. “ We’d ask: ‘Is everything all right, mate?’ and he’d reply: ‘Yeah, fine, let’s carry on.’ As an adult and a father now, I feel guiltier than I ever did then,” he said. “If that had been my son, I’d have gone round there and headbutted Rob Gretton, our manager, and taken him home. But there were doctors, consultants, psychiatrists, and not one of them was able to sort it out. Unbelievable.”

Reflecting on the final body of work those recording sessions produced, Hook said “listening to Closer ” is “heart-rending.” “Ian created a wonderful testimony of how he felt at the time: apprehensive, fearful, but powerful.”

Bernard Sumner, Joy Division guitarist and keyboardist

In his 2014 autobiography Chapter and Verse (via the Independent), Sumner vividly described his disbelief upon hearing about Curtis’s suicide while at a friend’s house in Blackpool. He got a call from the band’s manager, Rob Gretton. “I was just about to launch into what a great day I’d had when I heard him say something about Ian committing suicide. ‘Oh, bloody hell,’ I said. ‘He’s not tried it again, has he?’ The room swam in front of my eyes and I was hit full on by a wave of shock. I said again, ‘What, he’s tried it?’ ‘No’ Rob said. ‘He’s really done it, Bernard. He’s dead. Ian’s dead.’”

Sumner had previously tried to talk Curtis out of committing suicide after an unsuccessful attempt. Walking by some gravestones on the way back from a rehearsal, he said, “‘It’s fucking stupid, Ian. Imagine what it would be like to see your name on one of them. I can’t tell you which way to go in your life, but killing yourself definitely isn’t the answer.’ I was trying to make him see what a waste of a life it would have been if he’d succeeded, but I didn’t get much of a response.”

Annik Honoré, Curtis’s rumored girlfriend

As Curtis’ marriage to Deborah struggled, he was alleged to have had an affair with Belgian journalist and record label boss Annik Honoré. In 2010—four years before her death—Honoré insisted they had a “platonic relationship.”

“It was a completely pure and platonic relationship, very childish, very chaste,” she told Belgian publication Focus Vif (roughly translated to English by Joy Division Bootlegs). “I did not have a sexual relationship with Ian, he was on medication, which rendered it a non-physical relationship. I am so fed up that people question my word or his: people can say whatever they want, but I am the only person to have his letters. One of his letters says that the relationship with his wife Deborah had already finished prior to us meeting each other.