Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ian Curtis

Ian Curtis was the vocalist and lyricist, as well as occasional guitarist and keyboardist, of the band Joy Division, which he joined in 1976 after meeting with Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook at a Sex Pistols gig.

Curtis was born at the Memorial Hospital in Old Trafford, Manchester. He grew up in Hurdsfield, an area of Macclesfield, and from a young age he exhibited talent as a poet. Although awarded a scholarship to attend The King's School, Macclesfield, at the age of 11, Curtis never pursued academic success. As he grew older, his ambitions and hopes became focused on a pursuit of art and literature and, ultimately, music. Curtis was employed as a civil servant in Manchester and later in Macclesfield.

He was influenced by the writers William S. Burroughs, J. G. Ballard and Joseph Conrad (the song titles "Interzone", "Atrocity Exhibition", and "Colony" coming from the three authors, respectively), and by the musicians David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Jim Morrison.

In 1976, Curtis met two young musicians, Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook, at a Sex Pistols gig, who told him they were trying to form a band; he immediately put himself forward as a vocalist and lyricist. The three of them recruited, and sacked, a number of drummers before settling on Stephen Morris as their final member. Initially, the band was called Warsaw before changing its name to Joy Division in 1978, due to conflicts with the name of another band, Warsaw Pakt.

After starting Factory Records with Alan Erasmus, Tony Wilson "signed" the band to his label (although no contracts were ever signed, despite the story of Wilson signing a contract in his own blood).

While performing for Joy Division, Curtis became known for his quiet and awkward demeanour, as well as a unique dancing style reminiscent of the epileptic seizures he experienced, sometimes even on stage. There were several incidents where he collapsed and had to be helped off stage.

Curtis's last live performance was on 2 May 1980 at Birmingham University, a show that included Joy Division's first and only performance of the song "Ceremony", later recorded by New Order and released as their first single. The last song Curtis performed on stage was "Digital". The recording of this performance can be found on the compilation album Still.

In the early hours of 18 May 1980, Curtis hanged himself in the kitchen of his house in Macclesfield. He had just viewed Werner Herzog's film Stroszek and listened to Iggy Pop's The Idiot.

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