John Peel Wiki
(This page is about the band. For the film documentary of the same name, see Joy Division(2)).

Joy Division LIVE 9-15-1979 transmission&she's lost control

Joy Division live on the BBC's Something Else, 15 September 1979.

Career Outline

Joy Division were a post-punk band formed in 1976 in Manchester from an earlier congregation called Warsaw. They took their name from the prostitution wing of a Nazi concentration camp (actually from references in the novelized account of life in such a camp, House of Dolls), and the lyrics of their songs constantly detailed broken relationships and the futility of existence: the music was often suitably minor key and highly emotive. The line-up consisted of Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Bernard Sumner (a.k.a. Albrecht, guitar), Peter Hook (bass) and Stephen Morris (drums). Throughout their relatively short lifespan, they released stark, rhythmic singles, at first independently and then on the Factory label (the myth propounded by late owner Tony Wilson that he signed them and Durutti Column in his own blood was no more than that; what is true, however, is that he invested £8,000 of his own money in the recording of their debut LP) and two LPs, Unknown Pleasures (1979) and Closer (released after Curtis's death in 1980).

Their proposed American tour was aborted after Curtis took his own life on May 18 1980, as a result of overwhelming depression caused by the breakup of his marriage and diagnosed epilepsy. Many of the songs he wrote contain references to his ill-fated life, and his widow Deborah had the line 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' engraved on his memorial stone. The band decided not to continue as Joy Division without him, and the remaining members subsequently formed New Order.

Links To Peel

The genesis of JP's relationship with the band can be gleaned from this extract from 1987's Peeling Back The Years, in which Peel and John Walters discuss their effect on music:

JOHN WALTERS: Here’s somebody I certainly didn’t get onto at the start, but you did…Joy Division, that are still, in a sense, a lasting force, Joy Division/New Order, of course, and I see we had a session in January 1979. The kids got onto it quite quickly…I remember walking by a big place like the Lyceum, and saying, ‘Who’s on tonight?’, there were crowds outside, and they said, ‘Joy Division’. I thought, ‘Joy Division?!?’…What was it? Was it the sort of gloom that attracted you?

JOHN PEEL: Well, they weren’t initially of course all that gloomy, their early things, some tracks on the Factory sampler and so forth…they had some tracks on a 10″ LP from Virgin…They weren’t by any means punky, and they’d moved away from that sort of thrashy…
  JW: Do you know what I mean by gloom?…There is an aspect of teen life which is looking moodily into your bedroom mirror…and seeing yourself as gloomy, kind of as a rebel without a cause…Isn’t that almost something you’ve carried on into middle age in your own life, and…I wonder if it touched a chord as it did with the kids who went for Joy Division…with you?
  JP: I suppose it might have done, I mean, it wasn’t something I was aware of particularly at the time…I always think of them in a rather romantic way as being introspective and rather Russian, although I have no Russian ancestry at all that I’m aware of…I read somewhere that that kind of introspection was classed as Russian…it always makes me feel at least slightly central European if I get into one of these what most people would describe as feeling sorry for myself…
  JW: Did you get onto Joy Division because you thought, ‘Hello, there’s a bit of a buzz’, or did you hear some and think, ‘I don’t know who this lot are, but this goes’? What did your ears say to Joy Division?
  JP: …The first of the post-punk bands did seem to be coming out of Manchester, which is something I deeply resented…I didn’t at the time think that Joy Division were a band that I was going to prefer above any other…they were just one of a whole handful of bands whose work I was quite enjoying at that time.
  JW: They were not punky in the noise they made as I remember it, but they became a sort of seminal band just after, the first real seminal post-punk band…they influenced so many other people.

JP: Well, that’s true and obviously the death of Ian Curtis sort of mythologised them to a degree to which I think the surviving members of the band must have found very difficult to cope with…a very melancholy thing to have to live with. I still get demo tapes from America and from Europe by bands which are quite clearly influenced by nothing as much as they’re influenced by Joy Division. You get a bit fed up with it, really.

The band featured in the Festive Fifty constantly between 1980-1982, and scored several entries in the All-Time 2000 chart. Curiously, although John championed them via the sessions and constant track airplay throughout 1979, none of their songs featured in that year's chart. During the repeat of their first session on 05 April 1979, Peel bemoaned the fact that the group weren't getting enough attention, outside the Manchester area at least. By marked contrast, the All-Time Chart of 2000 had 'Atmosphere' at number 1.

John played 'New Dawn Fades', from Unknown Pleasures, near the start of his show on 19 May 1980, in tribute to Ian Curtis, and a year to the day of his suicide, played it again without comment at the start of 18 May 1981 and 'Decades', from the posthumous release Closer, at the end.

JP mentioned during the 1982 FF that his favourite Joy Division track was probably '24 Hours', from Closer.

Festive Fifty Entries


  • Joy Division recorded two sessions for Peel's programme, both in 1979, and both of which are available on The Complete BBC Recordings (Strange Fruit).

1. Recorded: 1979-01-31. First broadcast: 14 February 1979. Repeated: 05 April 1979, 31 July 1979, 23 June 1980, 01 September 1983 and 30 September 1986.

  • Exercise One / Insight / She's Lost Control / Transmission

2. Recorded: 1979-11-26. First broadcast: 10 December 1979. Repeated: 22 January 1980, 23 June 1980, 01 September 1983 and 04 February 1986.

  • Love Will Tear Us Apart / 24 Hours / Colony / Sound Of Music

Other Shows Played

  • 03 March 1978: 'Failures (EP-An Ideal For Living)' (Enigma)
  • 16 March 1978: 'No Love Lost (EP-An Ideal For Living)' (Enigma)
  • 23 June 1978: At A Later Date (v/a 10" - Short Circuit - Live At The Electric Circus) Virgin

Joy Division Documentary - John Peel & Atmosphere

Peel plays Atmosphere, with limited success

  • 13 June 1988: Love Will Tear Us Apart (LP - Substance) Factory
  • 25 June 1988 (BFBS): Love Will Tear Us Apart (CD - Substance) Factory
  • 05 July 1988: Leaders Of Men (LP - Substance) Factory

Top Of The Pops

Cover Versions

Several artistes recorded a Joy Division cover for a Peel session, perhaps reflecting the influence of the band on subsequent musicians. In addition, as a fan of cover versions in general Peel would occasionally play a cover out of interest, especially if the song was recorded in a different style to the original.

(List is incomplete - please add more if known)

See Also

External Links