From Warsaw, to Joy Division, to New Order, Joy Division acted as a “voice of the underdog” for many people in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Their ability to redefine themselves over and over is a tribute to their originality in song, lyrics, rhythm, and beat. They stumbled onto a sound that fit in perfectly with their era, but somehow stood out as one of the most influential bands of all time. They originally started as ‘Warsaw’, an English rock band in Manchester who formed after being ridiculously inspired at a Sex Pistols concert. In 1976, the band consisted of singer Ian Curtis, guitarist and keyboardist Bernard Sumner, bass player Peter Hook, and drummer Stephen Morris. Warsaw was a band name created by Sumner and Hook, referencing David Bowie’s song “Warszawa”, but they later changed their title to Joy Division to avoid being confused with a similarly titled band in the area. Their influences included legends like a Berlin-era Bowie, The Talking Heads, The Clash, The Velvet Underground and Iggy Pop.
Joy Division made music that people didn’t know they needed, not by emphasizing anger as most punk bands did, but by emphasizing mood and expression.Joy Division was the first band to bring the melancholy feel into the post-punk period. Inspired by punk energy, their music is full of loopy drum patterns, soothing guitar riffs, and odd bass rhythms, topped off by Ian Curtis and his liquid gold voice, acting as a combination of Jim Morrison, Joe Strummer and Lou Reed. Their undistinguished punk-infected rock was a quality that only could be appreciated as the songs got slower and continued on, making their live shows, where they played loudly and aggressively, some of the most attended events of the 1970s. Each show had it’s own heart and soul and no two shows were ever the same.
After Joy Division recorded their most famous album, Unknown Pleasures, their career soared. Their first-of-its-kind melancholy lyrics and punk musical vibe took the world by storm. In May of 1980, while on tour for their second studio recorded album, “Closer”, Ian Curtis, lead guitarist, committed suicide. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” was performed in honor of Curtis, at the last Joy Division show.
After Curtis’ death, the remaining band members unanimously agreed that Joy Division should be figuratively put to rest in honor of Curtis himself. They continued with a different name, and brought new wave into the 80’s. New Order, which had a few new additions, became one of the most influential bands of the 80s for their combination of punk and electronic dance music. Their first single, “Ceremony” was performed in several Joy Division concerts, but officially was released through the new band. New Order continued into the 80s and 90s, gaining new fans as they released dance music that had depressing lyrics. They brought a new sound into a new era, and their aesthetic was to do whatever the hell they wanted. They didn’t give many interviews, encores, and released numerous nameless albums. New Order holds the best-selling 12-inch single of all time, for their song “Blue Monday”.
As a group of people who didn’t struggle to remain relevant, Joy Division lives on through New Order. Although each member of the band took turns experimenting with vocals, instruments, and new types of patterns in their music. Sumner eventually took over as lead vocal, but he refused to do interviews out of respect for Curtis. The band lyrics heavily are influenced by the death of their friend, and still insanely popular, “Low-life”, an album released in 1985, was just remastered and re-released in 2015.