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Paul Morley on Joy Division (2008) May 29, 2009

Posted by sjroby in Book reviews, Music.
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Paul Morley: Joy Division: Piece by Piece

Paul Morley: Joy Division: Piece by Piece

Paul Morley was starting out as a Manchester-based writer for the leading UK music weekly, the New Musical Express (better known as the NME), at the same time as Joy Division started their musical career; he helped promote them in the pages of the NME and elsewhere, and has written about them a lot over the decades, as CD reissues and movies reignite interest in the band. He has a deeper, tragic connection to the band: his father committed suicide in 1977; Joy Division’s Ian Curtis committed suicide in 1980.

Joy Division only recorded two proper albums (and another CD or two’s worth of singles, compilation tracks, and whatnot) before Curtis’s death. His suicide undoubtedly helped create the cult following the band has had over the decades, but there’s a timelessness to the music that has been every bit as much as important as the stories behind the music.

The Joy Division story’s been told in a number of books, in the first half of the movie 24 Hour Party People, and in the recent movie Control, about both of which more soon.

Anyway: this book. It’s everything Morley’s written about Joy Division. Articles, liner notes, memoirs, everything. Sometimes it’s repetitive, sometimes it’s annoyingly self-indulgent, but it’s always thoughtful and driven by a very real connection to the band and their music. It’s not a great book for reading cover to cover, though that’s how I read it. The repetition would seem less noticeable if I’d read the book in bits and pieces over a longer period of time.

This is not the book for someone new to the band, but then there are a few of those already. Touching From a Distance, written by Deborah Curtis, Ian Curtis’s widow, is a better starting point. There’s also a 33 1/3 book on their first album, Unknown Pleasures. But if you’ve read those or know the basics, there’s a lot of great stuff here, some of it written at the time all this was new and just happening, some of it written with a different perspective years later.



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