Revisiting Joy Division…Through Peter Hook’s Eyes

I came into Joy Division in the mid 80’s. A friend lent me his Closer vinyl; which was immediately transferred to a Maxell XLII (cassette tape); which was then played over-and-over again. I later bought “Unknown Pleasures” and “Still” for myself.

Joy Division was one in a cadre of bands I was getting into at the time that included Bauhaus, Tones on Tale, Siouxsie, The Cure, Throbbing Gristle and the like. Joy Divisions music…Ian Curtis’ lyrics…the overall left an enduring impression.

It was with a bit of trepidation that I picked up this book. I’ve listened to some interviews with Peter Hook and read some of his comments online. Have not always been enamored with his no holding back demeanor, so I went into this book knowing that this is but one of many sides to the Joy Division story.

I don’t normally place Joy Division as part of the emerging punk scenen in England in the mid 1970s. But that is where they belong. Most of the band were in attendance at the first Sex Pistols gig in 1976. That’s where the tale begins. Sadly the Joy Division story ends with Ian Curtis’ tragic suicide on May 18, 1980 (which left two albums worth of material, “Closer” and “Still,” to be released posthumously.

Hook’s voice is very distinct. He writes much as he speaks. And his voice is clearly speaking as I work through the pages.

Joy Division was birthed at a very interesting time in England. When youth in many borroughs were bathed in the spit of the Sex Pistols. That ethos carried into the venues. Over those five years of existence Joy Division not only rubbed elbows with The Pistols, but also touring mates The Buzzcocks, The Stranglers, The Fall, Throbbing Gristle (Genesis was an influence on Ian), The Monochrome Set, Echo and The Bunnymen, OMD, Durutti Column, A Certain Ratio, Cabaret Voltaire, The Undertones, and others.

I find it interesting that hook cites the movies “Control” and “24 Hour Party People” multiple times over the course of the book: where the movies got things spot on; and where they miss the mark.

The book is from Hook’s point of view. It is about the band. It is about Ian. But it is about a particular facet of Ian. It is not about the intellectual Ian. The poet Ian. But rather hook liked Ian “the bloke.”Laughing at potty humor. Playing pranks on other bands. Drinking and cussing and cavorting with girls and talking about punk rock and the scene and the band and making it big. That’s the Ian presented in this book. Ian the husband; Ian the lover; Ian the artist tend to get in the way of Ian being “one of the guys.”

There are two sections that offer track-by-track breakdowns of “Unknown Pleasures” and “Closer.” Not a lot of commentary here. Some insights into who was playing what, the mixes he likes, and the like. Ironically, Hook was not cued into Ian’s lyrics at the time. It wasn’t until much later that he dialed into what was being said in those songs. Which is a bit odd to believe.

Hook offers a unique view of this now legendary musical outfit. What it was. What it could have been. Now he needs to write the companion book “Blue Monday: Inside New Order.”

Unknown Pleasures by Peter Hook

Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division by Peter Hook
Hardcover, 416 pages (Published January 29th 2013 by It Books)

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