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This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else: Joy Division: The Oral History

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The Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller Joy Division emerged in the mid-70s at the start of a two-decades long Manchester scene that was to become much mythologised. It was then a city still labouring in the wake of the war and entering a phase of huge social and physical change, and something of this spirit made its way into the DNA of the band. Over the course of two albums, The Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller Joy Division emerged in the mid-70s at the start of a two-decades long Manchester scene that was to become much mythologised. It was then a city still labouring in the wake of the war and entering a phase of huge social and physical change, and something of this spirit made its way into the DNA of the band. Over the course of two albums, a handful of other seminal releases, and some legendary gigs, Joy Division became the most successful and exciting underground band of their generation. Then, on the brink of a tour to America, Ian Curtis took his own life. In This searing light, the sun and everything else, Jon Savage has assembled three decades worth of interviews with the principle players in the Joy Division story: Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Deborah Curtis, Peter Saville, Tony Wilson, Paul Morley, Alan Hempsall, Lesley Gilbert, Terry Mason, Anik Honor�, and many more. It is the story of how a band resurrected a city, how they came together in circumstances that are both accidental and extraordinary, and how their music galvanised a generation of fans, artists and musicians. It is a classic story of how young men armed with electric guitars and good taste in literature can change the world with four chords and three-and-a-half minutes of music. And it is the story of how illness and demons can rob the world of a shamanic lead singer and visionary lyricist. This searing light, the sun and everything else presents the history of Joy Division in an intimate and candid way, as orchestrated by the lodestar of British music writing, Jon Savage.


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The Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller Joy Division emerged in the mid-70s at the start of a two-decades long Manchester scene that was to become much mythologised. It was then a city still labouring in the wake of the war and entering a phase of huge social and physical change, and something of this spirit made its way into the DNA of the band. Over the course of two albums, The Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller Joy Division emerged in the mid-70s at the start of a two-decades long Manchester scene that was to become much mythologised. It was then a city still labouring in the wake of the war and entering a phase of huge social and physical change, and something of this spirit made its way into the DNA of the band. Over the course of two albums, a handful of other seminal releases, and some legendary gigs, Joy Division became the most successful and exciting underground band of their generation. Then, on the brink of a tour to America, Ian Curtis took his own life. In This searing light, the sun and everything else, Jon Savage has assembled three decades worth of interviews with the principle players in the Joy Division story: Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Deborah Curtis, Peter Saville, Tony Wilson, Paul Morley, Alan Hempsall, Lesley Gilbert, Terry Mason, Anik Honor�, and many more. It is the story of how a band resurrected a city, how they came together in circumstances that are both accidental and extraordinary, and how their music galvanised a generation of fans, artists and musicians. It is a classic story of how young men armed with electric guitars and good taste in literature can change the world with four chords and three-and-a-half minutes of music. And it is the story of how illness and demons can rob the world of a shamanic lead singer and visionary lyricist. This searing light, the sun and everything else presents the history of Joy Division in an intimate and candid way, as orchestrated by the lodestar of British music writing, Jon Savage.

30 review for This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else: Joy Division: The Oral History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Jackson

    Only wished it had been a bit longer.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bill Hsu

    Pete Shelley's story of driving down to London with Howard Devoto in a borrowed car, hoping to come across a Sex Pistols gig, calling around, then finally meeting Malcolm McLaren at the store. Is that priceless or what? Can people still relate to that in the internet age? Sigh. That Terry Mason, OMG. It's pretty funny to read very different opinions from the band members of the same event, like the recording sessions for Unknown Pleasures. We are all unreliable narrators. (3.5 stars, rounded up) Pete Shelley's story of driving down to London with Howard Devoto in a borrowed car, hoping to come across a Sex Pistols gig, calling around, then finally meeting Malcolm McLaren at the store. Is that priceless or what? Can people still relate to that in the internet age? Sigh. That Terry Mason, OMG. It's pretty funny to read very different opinions from the band members of the same event, like the recording sessions for Unknown Pleasures. We are all unreliable narrators. (3.5 stars, rounded up)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tosh

    A very sad book toward the end, but a very good read of a band making the big time, or right before the huge acceptance. The first part of the book gives a lot of color to the Manchester life, and bands like Buzzcocks are very much part of the narrative. The last part of the book dealing with Ian Curtis' suicide is very sad reading. It's interesting to note that each surviving member of Joy Division had all written their memoirs - and I only read Peter Hook's book about the Hacienda. . This is t A very sad book toward the end, but a very good read of a band making the big time, or right before the huge acceptance. The first part of the book gives a lot of color to the Manchester life, and bands like Buzzcocks are very much part of the narrative. The last part of the book dealing with Ian Curtis' suicide is very sad reading. It's interesting to note that each surviving member of Joy Division had all written their memoirs - and I only read Peter Hook's book about the Hacienda. . This is the only book I have read on Joy Division, and I don't feel I have to read the others. Kimley and I will discuss this book in a future Book Musik episode.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ted Curtis

    The four of us didn’t know what we were doing, and the chemistry was unbelievable… but it was easy, it was easy writing those songs and playing that well, it was easy, and it only got difficult when he died. If you’re any kind of a Joy Division fan, then you doubtless know at least most of what you’re going to read in This searing light, the sun and everything else: Joy Division: The Oral History. But, the use of two colons in the title aside, it really is an excellent read. And it’s a great titl The four of us didn’t know what we were doing, and the chemistry was unbelievable… but it was easy, it was easy writing those songs and playing that well, it was easy, and it only got difficult when he died. If you’re any kind of a Joy Division fan, then you doubtless know at least most of what you’re going to read in This searing light, the sun and everything else: Joy Division: The Oral History. But, the use of two colons in the title aside, it really is an excellent read. And it’s a great title, despite its unwieldiness. So what’s not to like? What’s to lose in revisiting this most pivotal and brief little epoch in pop music, culture, and societal change? Beginning with the usual setting for Joy Division memoirs, the poverty and industrial decay of the English Northwest in the middle 1970s, Macclesfield and Salford and the psychogeographical talisman that is – and remains – the city of Manchester, we’re taken step by step through the ineffable moment in time and space that was Joy Division, emerging from the silly but life-altering pop chaos of punk rock, through to their heart-breaking demise with Ian Curtis’s suicide on May 18th 1980, on the eve of what would have been a breakthrough American tour. The oral history method employed turns out to be the perfect vehicle for this story, even more so than Paul Morley’s journalistic collection Joy Division: Piece by Piece, enjoyable as that was, bringing in numerous bystanders you may or may not have heard of, because the story of Joy Division is so much more than a tale of four young men who didn’t quite know what they were doing or why they were doing it, pulling magic from the air as they went. Although many of the quotes are taken from the incomparable Joy Division documentary (also put together by Jon Savage), there’s still much to learn from This searing light… a case in point being record sleeve and gig poster designer Peter Savile’s lengthy(ish) explanations of art history and graphic design techniques, and Terry Mason’s involvement in Joy Division right up to the recording of Unknown Pleasures and beyond, and Tony Wilson’s explanation of where the cars-on-highways backdrop for the eternally haunting Shadowplay came from (Langley in Virginia, home to the CIA, in case you’re wondering), from their first television appearance on Granada Reports in September 1978, famously introduced by Wilson. That’s their moment in time, from there to Curtis’s tragic death scarcely more than eighteen months later, their influence and resonance incalculable. The effect of the generally matter-of-fact delivery of personal histories and events to describe something so spiritual and visceral, so gut-wrenchingly pure and ordinary, is to simultaneously discombobulate and involve the reader, placing her both inside and at the very core of events related. As with David Nolan’s I Swear I Was There, the story of the Sex Pistols’ first gig at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall in June of 1976, we are left thinking, no, I wasn’t there, but I feel like I was, so I must have been. Sumner and Hook’s memories in particular seem to subconsciously describe our societal fall from grace over the past forty years, the obliteration of community and its replacement with the thoroughly atomised neoliberal money-and-status-are-everything individualist quagmire we find ourselves inescapably enmeshed in today. With this in mind, it seems the supreme irony that Curtis was a Margaret Thatcher fan, and that Sumner was a little bit obsessed with the Third Reich. Listen to Joy Division as you read This searing light, the sun and everything else: Joy Division: The Oral History. You’ll find yourself spirited away, immersed in and transported back to that wonderfully manky and halcyon time, when everything was grey and insipid and rock and roll still represented a possible path out of all the decay and hopelessness you found around you, when past, present and future all melded into one and art and pop became a singularity for that briefest of moments. You know what’s coming, you already know the soul-destroying end to this story. You know that it’s all history; and yet, somehow, it isn’t. Five stars.

  5. 5 out of 5

    liv larsen

    Love, love, love. Perfect format for a book about a band like JD. Great interviews from a wide range of people involved with the Manchester scene in the 80s. Loved the background on other bands (i.e. Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols). Provided great context for someone like me who doesn’t know much about that scene and wasn’t even alive at the time.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Trevor Seigler

    (Note: I'm doing a lot of five-star reviews lately, which seems excessive even on my part. But then again, I'm reading some excellent books, including this one) It's hard for me to overstate how important the music of Joy Division and New Order has been to my life. Honestly, JD is my second favorite musical group (the first being a foursome from a seaport just a few miles to the west of Manchester. You may have heard of them, tight little combo that got big and changed music forever. I speak, of (Note: I'm doing a lot of five-star reviews lately, which seems excessive even on my part. But then again, I'm reading some excellent books, including this one) It's hard for me to overstate how important the music of Joy Division and New Order has been to my life. Honestly, JD is my second favorite musical group (the first being a foursome from a seaport just a few miles to the west of Manchester. You may have heard of them, tight little combo that got big and changed music forever. I speak, of course, of Gerry and the Pacemakers...the Beatles, actually). I've read a lot of stuff about Joy Division, went through a pretty heavy idealization phase (including using the picture of Ian Curtis on the cover of NME to show my barber what I wanted my hair to look like), and I even flirted with the notion of starting a band similar in sound. I've grown up considerably since then, but I still retain such a deep and abiding love for the band and their sound that I couldn't help but be excited when I heard that this book came out. It only took me a year to get around to ordering it in paperback, but I'm glad that I finally got around to it. "This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else" is an oral history of the group by everyone involved (even Ian, via interviews conducted before his death), and it's a doozy. Jon Savage, who collected the interviews for the "Joy Division" documentary in 2007, presents plenty for the Joy Division fan to feast on, no matter how familiar it may be because of exposure to Grant Gee's film or other books about the band. It's true that no new ground is really broken here, but what the book does do is give a sense of context and history to the albums and singles that the band produced in their too-short lifetime, as well as the toll that Ian's epilepsy took on him and on the group. "Here are the young men," on the cusp of changing the world or at least making it more interesting, and they're unable to help their best mate as his life collapses in turmoil (much of it self-inflicted, as he conducted an intellectual affair with Annik Honore while being married to Deborah and fathering Natalie). Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner, and Stephen Morris were all the same age as Ian, and just as unable to reckon with the ramifications of his illness as he was. They look back with hindsight on events that should've signaled how bad things would get, but they never get a chance to go back and rectify it. That's the tragedy at the heart of the book. But the story of Joy Division is less steeped in misery and despair as you might think, especially as I thought when I first bought into the myth of Ian Curtis. The truth is that Joy Division fucking rocked, and they rocked because they had no fucking choice. Tony Wilson saw something in them, as did Rob Gretton and Martin Hannett, that made Joy Division stand out from the rest of the Manchester music scene. They had to perform because the only other option was oblivion, in a metaphorical sense (even Ian could've survived, perhaps, but he wouldn't be as happy as he was being the frontman of the most important band in his generation. Even if it ultimately killed him). Yes, a lot of the music is sad and depressing, but it's also cathartic. And so is this book. You know how it'll end. And yet the story remains important and essential to the history of popular music. This book is a delight for fans of the group, and I consumed it over a few days because I wanted to try and take my time with it. Pair this with Hooky's memoir and Deborah Curtis' "Touching from a Distance," and you'll have a really good idea of the story of Joy Division, of the toll it took on their lead singer even as they lit a fire underneath dour Mancunian faces and exposed the hidden power of great music that never gets old. Joy Division remain my second favorite band of all time, and this book is high on my list of essential reads.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Niklas Pivic

    Bernard Sumner: I felt that even though we were expecting this music to come out of thin air, we never, any of us, were interested in the money it might make us. We just wanted to make something that was beautiful to listen to and stirred our emotions. We weren’t interested in a career, or any of that. We never planned one single day. Peter Hook: Ian was the instigator. We used to call him the Spotter. Ian would be sat there, and he’ d say, ‘That sounds good, let’s get some guitar to go with that Bernard Sumner: I felt that even though we were expecting this music to come out of thin air, we never, any of us, were interested in the money it might make us. We just wanted to make something that was beautiful to listen to and stirred our emotions. We weren’t interested in a career, or any of that. We never planned one single day. Peter Hook: Ian was the instigator. We used to call him the Spotter. Ian would be sat there, and he’ d say, ‘That sounds good, let’s get some guitar to go with that.’ You couldn’t tell what sounded good, but he could, because he was just listening. That made it much quicker, writing songs. Someone was always listening. I can’t explain it, it was pure luck. There’s no rhyme or reason for it. We never honestly considered it, it just came out. Stephen Morris: He was pretty private about what he wrote. I think he talked to Bernard a bit about some of the songs. He was totally different to how he appeared onstage. He was timid, until he’ d had two or three Breakers, malt liquor. He’d liven up a bit. The first time I saw Ian being Ian onstage, I couldn’t believe it. The transformation to this frantic windmill. Deborah Curtis: He was so ambitious. He wanted to write a novel, he wanted to write songs. It all seemed to come very easily to him. With Joy Division it all just came together for him. Tony Wilson: I still don’t know where Joy Division came from. This book is a continuation of sorts. Where some good Joy Division film documentaries—paired with Peter Hook's and Bernard Sumner's autobiographies, and Deborah Curtis's Touching From a Distance—has incorporated a lot of stamina and breadth as to how Joy Division were seen, this book focuses on providing Jon Savage's edited transcripts from interviews with members of Joy Division, people who were seemingly close to the band, Deborah Curtis's book, and gig reviews. Even though I've personally read much about Joy Division, this book is undoubtedly a fervent project to Savage, and the music, the intensity, youth, frustrations, depression, and, ultimately, Ian Curtis's suicide, all come through the pages. Most of the quotes provide plenty of allure for myself, mainly as they are provided by quick-witted people; I love the dry wit and curt humour. Stephen Morris: I’d get the train and go in to Savoy Books – before it was Savoy Books it was called The House on the Borderlands – and we used to have a right laugh at the old blokes looking at the porn. There was science fiction, weird books and over in a corner there’d be naked ladies, and surprisingly enough the science fiction had little appeal for the vast majority of the clientele, who were going over to the naked-lady corner. I’d just be trying to negotiate some sort of discount on a large, expensive book: ‘Yeah, have you got Michael Moorcock’s new book?’ Ian had The Atrocity Exhibition by Ballard, Naked Lunch, William Burroughs, and also a collection of Jim Morrison’s poems. I seem to remember that you could go to W. H. Smith’s and they had a lot of Burroughs and a lot of Ballard, and it was just mixed in with the rest of the stuff. Bernard Sumner: We eventually ended up at the famous Sex Pistols gig at the Free Trade Hall. It wasn’t that the Sex Pistols were musically brilliant and I thought, ‘Oooh, I really want to be like them.’ It was the fact that they were not musically brilliant and could just about play together and it was a right racket. I thought they destroyed the myth of being a pop star, or of a musician being some kind of god that you had to worship. In fact, a friend who was with me said, ‘Jesus, you could play guitar as good as that.’ Previous to that, in the seventies music was all based on virtuosity, Rick Wakeman playing a thousand-notes-a-second solo. A lot of that prog-rock and West Coast of America stuff was a bit soft and soppy: you were supposed to bow down. They were kind of gods, musicians: ‘Oh, he can play it so well, it’s amazing’ – almost a jazz mentality. When they came on, the Sex Pistols trashed all that. It was like, you don’t need all the crap, all you need is three chords, right? Learn three chords, write a song, form a group, that’s it. And that’s what we did, me and Hooky. I bought How to Play the Guitar, he bought How to Play the Bass. We went to my grandmother’s parlour, which was just across the Irwell. I remember we didn’t have any amps. She had an old gramophone from the forties, and I took the needle out of it and wired two jack sockets on it. It sounded good, plugged into the gramophone – we didn’t have any money, that’s all we could do – and then we just started writing stuff together. Bernard Sumner: We had about a week to come up with a name, and some guy at the animation place where I was working gave me a couple of books. One was called House of Dolls. I knew it was about the Nazis but I didn’t read it. I just flicked through the pages, saw this name Joy Division, and it was the brothel that the soldiers went to, and I thought, ‘Well, it’s pretty bad taste, but it’s quite punk.’ Everyone I told the name to went, ‘That’s a great name,’ so we just went for it. We knew it had connotations, but we just thought, ‘Well, we’re not Nazis, so fuck it, it’s still a great name.’ We were very determined, and it was a bit of ‘Fuck you, we’ll do what we want’ as well in our heads, but I guess it is pretty bad taste. Tony Wilson: It was all four of them, without any question. People talk about drummers being important to groups, and there’s no Joy Division without Stephen driving it that way and Bernard’s slash guitar, and clearly the core melodic element is Hooky’s high-fret playing of that bass, which no one had done before then. All of them had something to say, and they’d all been freed by the Pistols. And I don’t understand why that should glue together, that amalgam of those four people – it wasn’t just Ian, it was all four of them. Also, there's a lot of personality issues and wonders; anybody looking back at their inchoate youth can relate. Deborah Curtis: Then this glamorous Belgian turned up. She was attractive and she was free, and she had a nice accent. I don’t blame Ian. I think most people need a partner, and if you exclude that partner you have to find somebody else. It’s only natural. He must have been very lonely. Tony Wilson: My great memory was walking down some very large flight of stairs at some big club in Paris one night, and suddenly Rob shouting out, ‘Where’s your Belgian boiler, Ian?’ And Annik going, ‘I’m right behind you, Rob.’ I remember enjoying that enormously. Stephen Morris: He said he didn’t remember anything about it, that he had a blackout, which I can believe to a certain extent. But it’s more likely that he just got pissed and vented his frustration. The stuff he was taking anyway was pretty heavy. He was on Largactil. It must have been horrible. He was having more and more fits. The more successful we got, or the more you could see success beckoning you, the worse Ian’s condition became. It’s bleeding obvious really: if you’re going to carry on doing something that involves staying up all night, drinking, running about and acting like an idiot when you’ve got epilepsy, you’re not going to make it any better. The only way we could have sorted it out was just to say, ‘Right, that’s it, it’s over, let’s forget about it. We can’t carry on because he’s ill.’ But we very naively ignored that and went along with it. With Annik, it was part and parcel of the same thing, because you’re knocking about with the extra. He got himself in a situation. He was never a person who would say no; he would say whatever you wanted to hear. So he’d got himself into a situation where he was saying something that would make Debbie happy, and he’d met this other person who wasn’t one of the one-night-standers, and they’re saying, ‘What are you going to do?’ He’d say, ‘Well, whatever you want me to do.’ He’ d got epilepsy as well, and you can see it’s a disaster happening in very slow motion. Bernard Sumner: In Macclesfield there was a little Down’s syndrome kid that lived in a house with a garden. Ian grew up round there, and the kid would never be able to come out of the house, and the kid’s whole universe was the house to the garden wall. Ian said many years later that he moved back to Macclesfield and walked past the house, and by chance he saw the kid. Ian had grown up from being five to twenty, twenty-two years old; the kid still looked exactly the same, and his universe was still the house and the garden, and that’s what ‘The Eternal’ was about. Stephen Morris: I don’t think he really knew what he wanted. About a month before his first suicide attempt, he told me on the phone he was packing in the group and him and Debbie were going to go off and live in Holland, and open a bookshop. Which really surprised me. Annik Honoré: He tried to commit suicide, so it was obvious then that he wasn’t well, and he was saying so in the lyrics. He appeared very depressed during the recording of Closer, although in a letter he said how much he loved those three weeks of London because we could see each other regularly. But otherwise he appeared so very tired and depressed from his disease more than anything else. There’s no way out, there’s no escape. That’s probably what was depressing him the most. I had that tape of Closer, I had a Walkman and I was listening to it all the time and trying to understand, because I never saw any written lyrics. I could only understand from my hearing ‘I like watching the leaves as they fall.’ The ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ and all the lyrics on the LP are really depressing and sad, and it’s surprising nobody would pay attention. Maybe for the others it was more like literature, which it was in a way, but it was also coming from his depression. Tony Wilson: I was getting the train to London from Piccadilly for Granada, and as I drove to the station I saw Ian and Annik hand-in-hand traipsing the side streets near the station, and I said hello to them, and it was obvious they were walking the streets all night together. They got on the train, and I let them be together till Macclesfield, and then after we left Macclesfield and Ian had got off I went to join Annik. We got into conversation, and Annik expressed how worried she was, how fearful she was. And I’m all kind of, ‘No, no, it’s just art, it’s just an album, for God’s sake. It’s wonderful, I know, but it’s nothing to be frightened of.’ And she said, ‘Don’t you understand, Tony? When he says, “I take the blame,” he means it.’ And I went, ‘No, no, no, no, it’s just art.’ How fucking stupid can you get? This is a beautiful memory piece. And I remember that New Order came out of it all. Stephen Morris: Why did we decide to carry on? Well, we just carried on, we never even thought, ‘Should we carry on or not carry on?’ We went to the funeral, we went to the wake at Palatine Road, so ‘Monday, see you on Monday then,’ that was it. To this day we’ve never really sat down and said, ‘Well, we’re going to do this and we’re going to this and we’re going to do that.’ You just start and do it and hope for the best, because that’s the way we are.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Melanie H

    Coronavirus book review #6 – 4.25 stars Joy Division will tear you apart. Still. While I can’t take credit for writing that (Paul Morely did in his review of their April 16, 1980 show for NME) the sentiment rips into me, especially in these reflective times. I have to admit that without the current shelter in place rules, I probably would not have read Jon Savage’s touching work “This Searing Light, The Sun and Everything Else.” It had been languishing in my TBR pile for more than a year as I cha Coronavirus book review #6 – 4.25 stars Joy Division will tear you apart. Still. While I can’t take credit for writing that (Paul Morely did in his review of their April 16, 1980 show for NME) the sentiment rips into me, especially in these reflective times. I have to admit that without the current shelter in place rules, I probably would not have read Jon Savage’s touching work “This Searing Light, The Sun and Everything Else.” It had been languishing in my TBR pile for more than a year as I chased the next great read. With time on my hands and the need to be more deliberate with the words I was spending time with this spring, it seemed like the time. Fans, even casual ones, already know how this sad story ends. Two heartbreakingly gorgeous albums. Albums that predicted the loneliness and disconnection of a hyperconnected world. Epilepsy. Suicide. Dead at 23. And the band plays on. I don’t know if there’s a word for this (I’m sure there is but I’m just too lazy to look it up), but I have intense pangs of jealousy for specific slices of times and places that I missed. 1979 Manchester England is one of them. The birthplace of the Industrial Revolution limps along as man children bare their innocent hearts to the world. When people ask what I would do if I could go back in time, I know exactly where I would go, what I would do. October 16, 1979. Brussels. Williams S. Burroughs. Joy Division. Cabaret Voltaire. Sloppy with bad sound? Probably. Life changing inspiration? Undoubtedly. Savage gives the figures from this small sliver of time to have their say without judgement and will leave you pondering the concrete, the cold, the fog and all the conversations that happened when you were young. Enduring lyrics and one perfect pop song ... which of these songs pierces your soul, friends? “People like you find it easy Naked to see Walking on air Hunting by the rivers, through the streets, every corner” – Atmosphere “Here are the young men, well where have they been? …. Watched from the wings as the scenes were replaying, We saw ourselves now as we never had seen. Portrayal of the trauma and degeneration, The sorrows we suffered and never were free. Where have they been?” – Decades “Oh, I've walked on water, run through fire Can't seem to feel it anymore It was me, waiting for me Hoping for something more Me, seeing me this time Hoping for something else” – New Dawn Fades “When routine bites hard And ambitions are low And resentment rides high But emotions won't grow And we're changing our ways Taking different roads Love, love will tear us apart again”

  9. 4 out of 5

    Molly Mccombs

    Ate it up!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jaz

    If you already know anything about Joy Division, you probably won't learn much from reading this. Although it's mostly assembled from new interview material, most of the ground therein is so well-trodden that it reads like a re-hash of all the other books/sleeve notes/articles you ever read about the band. That said, it's nice to hear the rarely-related perspective of Terry Mason, who was close to the band throughout it's entire, short existence, but in a variety of minor capacities that usually If you already know anything about Joy Division, you probably won't learn much from reading this. Although it's mostly assembled from new interview material, most of the ground therein is so well-trodden that it reads like a re-hash of all the other books/sleeve notes/articles you ever read about the band. That said, it's nice to hear the rarely-related perspective of Terry Mason, who was close to the band throughout it's entire, short existence, but in a variety of minor capacities that usually gets him ignored. I'm left wondering why Genesis P-Orridge was not interviewed for the final chapter, which deals with Ian Curtis' suicide. The two of them had been corresponding for some time, and Gen has long asserted that he was very likely the last person to speak to Curtis. This feels like a pretty big omission, especially from a book that has very little new material of any consequence on Joy Division.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sophie Barloc

    Love Heartbreak This book reminded me why I love Joy Division Why I love Tony Wilson Why I love Manchester Why I love Jon Savage Why I love Kevin Cummins Why I love Michael Winterbottom And Patti Smith, and Burroughs and Iggy and Bowie Why I love London and Europe Why I love music journalism Why I love music photography Why I love punk Why I love concerts Why I love my friends Why I love my family Why I love Buenos Aires And record shops and books Why I love art People Places Human “You just start and do it and Love Heartbreak This book reminded me why I love Joy Division Why I love Tony Wilson Why I love Manchester Why I love Jon Savage Why I love Kevin Cummins Why I love Michael Winterbottom And Patti Smith, and Burroughs and Iggy and Bowie Why I love London and Europe Why I love music journalism Why I love music photography Why I love punk Why I love concerts Why I love my friends Why I love my family Why I love Buenos Aires And record shops and books Why I love art People Places Human “You just start and do it and hope for the best. Because that’s the way we are”

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kersi

    Wow, what a fascinating book! I've loved Joy Division since listening to 'Love will tear us apart' for the first time and I will forever love their music. That's why I bought this book and I'm very glad I did. I really liked the style of the book (I loved 'Daisy Jones and the Six' - which is a fictional book, also told completely in interviews), it made me understand the city Manchester in these times way better than one narrator could have. Sometimes it was hard for me to understand the full cont Wow, what a fascinating book! I've loved Joy Division since listening to 'Love will tear us apart' for the first time and I will forever love their music. That's why I bought this book and I'm very glad I did. I really liked the style of the book (I loved 'Daisy Jones and the Six' - which is a fictional book, also told completely in interviews), it made me understand the city Manchester in these times way better than one narrator could have. Sometimes it was hard for me to understand the full context because this story took place 20 years before I was born.. Sadly, it also is the story of a physically and mentally ill young man who wrote history as Mister Ian Curtis - over 40 years ago.. Also my first book in the 2021 #ayearathon: 11th to 17th of January: Underrated/Non Hyped Books

  13. 5 out of 5

    Elliot Chalom

    Took a little time to really get into it (Savage could have done a better job organizing in the beginning) but quickly it really hit its stride. Not a ton of new material in here, but I trust Savage and believe in the way he portrays the band members' and other's views of the band and the time and so much of this is worth rehashing anyway. Ultimately any comprehensive book about Joy Division is going to be a very good, and very heart-wrenching, read. Of note, it does not put Debbie Curtis in a v Took a little time to really get into it (Savage could have done a better job organizing in the beginning) but quickly it really hit its stride. Not a ton of new material in here, but I trust Savage and believe in the way he portrays the band members' and other's views of the band and the time and so much of this is worth rehashing anyway. Ultimately any comprehensive book about Joy Division is going to be a very good, and very heart-wrenching, read. Of note, it does not put Debbie Curtis in a very good light; I came out of this quite angry with her and impressed with Annik.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    If I could be a fraction as talented as Jon Savage, I would be happy with my music writing. This is a brilliant account of Joy Division, told through interviews with band members and eye witnesses. It's beautiful, basically. The way the interviews have been pieced together is a work of art and I loved this. If I could be a fraction as talented as Jon Savage, I would be happy with my music writing. This is a brilliant account of Joy Division, told through interviews with band members and eye witnesses. It's beautiful, basically. The way the interviews have been pieced together is a work of art and I loved this.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tom Boniface-Webb

    If you’ve seen Grant Gee’s film Joy Division then you’ve heard all this before, but it’s still one hell of a story...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mac

    I've read a number of books about Joy Division, and I feel comfortable saying this is the best one. I always lean towards oral histories anyway, but this kind of cuts the crap and just lets the people tell their own story, all at once - you know, like an oral history is supposed to do. If you're only going to read one, read this one. I've read a number of books about Joy Division, and I feel comfortable saying this is the best one. I always lean towards oral histories anyway, but this kind of cuts the crap and just lets the people tell their own story, all at once - you know, like an oral history is supposed to do. If you're only going to read one, read this one.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Slow start, but once it gets going, it’s going.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Maggie A

    Part of me wanted to rate this lower because I knew a lot of the story going in as Joy Division is one of my favorites. However how they talk of Ian Curtis and handle his death was very lovely and interesting to read. They never mention New Order, but I love the idea that after it was all said and done, they just decided to keep going and maybe that’s what Ian knew what was best all along. Not even marking this as a spoiler even if my boyfriend continuously “spoiled” the ending for me as I read Part of me wanted to rate this lower because I knew a lot of the story going in as Joy Division is one of my favorites. However how they talk of Ian Curtis and handle his death was very lovely and interesting to read. They never mention New Order, but I love the idea that after it was all said and done, they just decided to keep going and maybe that’s what Ian knew what was best all along. Not even marking this as a spoiler even if my boyfriend continuously “spoiled” the ending for me as I read by telling me “Ian dies in the end”.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Alice Castle

    After being a fan of the band for many years this book really sets the scene for now and where they made their incredible music. I highly recommend it to anyone that has ever liked Joy Division as you will come away loving them even more.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte Stonehouse

    Such a good read, so interesting and engaging - not just for joy division but for understanding the history of 80s punk, defo recommend for anyone who is even slightly a fan

  21. 4 out of 5

    Paula Hartman

    I've been a fan of Joy Division and New Order for years and although I knew about Ian Curtis's death by suicide, I didn't really know much about the band itself. Jon Savage, best known for his book "England's Dreaming," gathers interviews from band members Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner and Stephan Morris as well as other major players. He creates a book that not only gives you the history of the Joy Division but also allows you to see how the city of Manchester (the "concrete gulag" as CP Lee called I've been a fan of Joy Division and New Order for years and although I knew about Ian Curtis's death by suicide, I didn't really know much about the band itself. Jon Savage, best known for his book "England's Dreaming," gathers interviews from band members Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner and Stephan Morris as well as other major players. He creates a book that not only gives you the history of the Joy Division but also allows you to see how the city of Manchester (the "concrete gulag" as CP Lee called it) was a driving force in the creation of their sound.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Autumn

    The perfect way in which to tell this story about a band with a big fat mystery at the center of it. Who named the band? How should Unknown Pleasures really sound? Why did Ian Curtis commit suicide? Who knows? I appreciate the kaleidoscopic lens approach for all these questions with no answers. Also, the graphics and photos fans have never seen before add tons of visual appeal. Also, 9000 stars for the line (view spoiler)[ He danced like that before he had epilepsy. -- Deborah Curtis (hide spoi The perfect way in which to tell this story about a band with a big fat mystery at the center of it. Who named the band? How should Unknown Pleasures really sound? Why did Ian Curtis commit suicide? Who knows? I appreciate the kaleidoscopic lens approach for all these questions with no answers. Also, the graphics and photos fans have never seen before add tons of visual appeal. Also, 9000 stars for the line (view spoiler)[ He danced like that before he had epilepsy. -- Deborah Curtis (hide spoiler)] !

  23. 4 out of 5

    Prudence

    Having just seen Peter Hook in Boston recently at The Paradise I was very motivated to read this book. I am a huge JD fan. Having read almost every book published about the band, this one can be a little tough going at first. The interview excerpts are slightly disjointed and one has to stop and check the names of the participants and research a bit at the beginning. But as you go along and get into the flow it all seams together and is quite impactful. Worth it for fans of Ian and the band. A f Having just seen Peter Hook in Boston recently at The Paradise I was very motivated to read this book. I am a huge JD fan. Having read almost every book published about the band, this one can be a little tough going at first. The interview excerpts are slightly disjointed and one has to stop and check the names of the participants and research a bit at the beginning. But as you go along and get into the flow it all seams together and is quite impactful. Worth it for fans of Ian and the band. A flash of creative inspiration that still haunts to this day.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jay Gabler

    Not for the casual fan...but is there such a thing as a casual Joy Division fan? I reviewed This Searing Light for The Current. Not for the casual fan...but is there such a thing as a casual Joy Division fan? I reviewed This Searing Light for The Current.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michael Legge

    Shame he dies in the end.

  26. 5 out of 5

    A gin and orange, a lemon squash, and a scotch and water, please!

    For me, this is, without doubt, the best music bio that I’ve ever read. Jon Savage has done an amazing job of portraying the history of Joy Division in a very readable and viscerally exciting way. There is something special about this: he’s conveyed the ineffable reality of time and place; a concrete assertion of memory in a warts and all string of narratives. Describe it how you will, this book really is something special. First things first: I am not a fan of Joy Division – not in the sense tha For me, this is, without doubt, the best music bio that I’ve ever read. Jon Savage has done an amazing job of portraying the history of Joy Division in a very readable and viscerally exciting way. There is something special about this: he’s conveyed the ineffable reality of time and place; a concrete assertion of memory in a warts and all string of narratives. Describe it how you will, this book really is something special. First things first: I am not a fan of Joy Division – not in the sense that I’ve ever listened to them very often, and certainly not in the sense that many of their diehard fans are. So, you’re getting no rose-tinted adoration of the magi here (though I’m beginning to realise that probably that’s my loss. Plus, weren’t there only three magi…? Anyway…) I spent the punk revolution enjoying it, but looking down on it in a benevolently superior and condescending way. I was into Jethro Tull, Zeppelin, Purple, Shawn Phillips, folk rock, you know, the usual late 60s early 70s stuff. Punk was ok, a diversion, something for a change, Quo with aggression, maybe? – not for serious listening but at least they were mostly politically and culturally aware and I liked that. I’d heard Unknown Pleasures in passing, thought the lyrics were great but it was trying too hard to be Krautrock (why?) and I moved on. Closer, then: much better, but still not really my cup of tea. But at least, in amongst the plethora of new bands, here was something with substance that demanded I think about the music and the lyrics, that wasn’t just wallpaper or pastiche. I recognised it as something different, a bit special. Yet still I smiled benignly and moved on. Cue Blue Valentines or Zeppelin IV…. I’m not saying this to denigrate their music in any way, but to show that these comments aren’t composed of two-parts glorification and one-part hero-worship. They’re composed of two-parts reality and one-part ignorance, so in writing about this (trying hard not to let slip any spoilers) I’ve no particular axe to grind, either for or against. The fact that I’m now most certainly “for” says a lot for Jon Savage’s work. I was immediately transfixed with how well the book conveys the atmosphere and psychogeography of a disintegrating area. It transported me back to my youth, growing up in an area of industrial and commercial decline whose infrastructure needed immediate life-support but which was plainly being ignored by Westminster and openly reviled by successive Tory governments. There was no way up; the only way was out: in this case, Manchester; in my case, the Heads of the Valleys in South Wales. Even better is the narrative of those experiencing Manchester’s struggles and how I could identify to varying degrees with the people involved. So, you can see this book took me in and made me feel right at home from the off. Once in, the insight the book offers into the rise of Joy Division was fascinating, a fabulous joyride of characters and events underscored by the sad decline, the struggles and the death of Ian Curtis, related in such an (at times) brutally honest way by the main characters. The end, of course, is poignant; the fact that the band continued after everything they’d been through is to their credit. One final point: about the paperback’s cover. (I do like a good cover, me 😊) The design fits perfectly both the band and the story it tells. The black background reflects the dark and the density of their music, the almost Greco-Roman style font of the front cover implies permanence and a devotion to culture, a stylistic decision perfectly in keeping with the events within; the spine is beautifully formatted. Nice on, Faber. Whose idea it was I have no idea, but whoever, bloody well done: it is, in itself, a work of art. Cheers, Jon Savage.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Roy Peak

    Joy Division was an English rock band from the late seventies who made dark soundscapes of electric poetry, intense punk rock, and gothic slabs of noise pop. They formed after the individual members were witness to an early show by the Sex Pistols and, despite not knowing how to play any instruments, were inspired enough to start their own band. They came up with their own unique sound, unmatched since, and quickly became one of the bands to see in Manchester as well as the north of England. On Joy Division was an English rock band from the late seventies who made dark soundscapes of electric poetry, intense punk rock, and gothic slabs of noise pop. They formed after the individual members were witness to an early show by the Sex Pistols and, despite not knowing how to play any instruments, were inspired enough to start their own band. They came up with their own unique sound, unmatched since, and quickly became one of the bands to see in Manchester as well as the north of England. On the eve of their first tour of America and right before the release of their second album, Ian Curtis, the band's charismatic and mysterious lead singer and lyricist, killed himself. The band soldiered on later with a new name, New Order, but were never able to find lightning in a bottle like they had the first time. Writer Jon Savage has done an exemplary job of putting together this oral history of the band and the tumultuous times they sprung from. Numerous interviews with the band as well as nearly everyone associated with them have been edited into a chronological history, not just of Joy Division, but Factory Records, the music scene in north England at the time, and of the city of Manchester itself. For me, as someone who's been in countless bands, the best parts about this book are the stories from the band members themselves detailing their start. None of them were seasoned musicians when the band got together, they could barely play their instruments, they had no experience getting gigs, no knowledge of how to make it all work, yet they continued to work hard until they became a viable piece of the music scene in Manchester, creating a singular monument of original creativity unmatched to this day. Joy Division sounds like no other band before of after them. The true mark of originality. Their songs are difficult to successfully cover, as Joy Division's personal stamp is all over the material. Yes, these songs are simple, this does not mean they are easy to pull off. I appreciate that Savage didn't regulate his interviews to merely the band members. We also get insight and memories from several photographers who took the iconic photos which were several peoples first introduction to the band in magazines the world over. The wives and girlfriends of the band, the roadies, manager, record company personnel, and the sound engineer who guided them in the studio all get their say in this book, as well as other journalists who wrote about the band back in their day. The collective memories and various viewpoints in this history are essential to the story. What's obviously missing in this book is the voice of Ian Curtis, the doomed singer and front-person to this iconic, revolutionary band. His suicide put the brakes on the band and devastated its fans. He does get his say in snippets from older interviews, but it's the other band members who get to reflect on their legacy, while Curtis's are more forward looking and hopeful. Savage does his best to represent Curtis's viewpoint but it's exactly that lack which has haunted the Joy Division story for decades and this book is no exception. Don't get me wrong, as this is a fantastic book, very insightful, and even necessary. If you're a Joy Division fan, this book is a must-read, if not, then reading this excellent tome just might make you one.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Armin

    As someone whose life has been profoundly altered and enriched, thanks to the shockingly original and mysteriously beautiful music of Joy Division, this was a must-read. What could Jon Savage contribute to the existing scholarship on the band, the post-punk movement, and the tragic brilliance of Ian Curtis? Well, quite a great deal of nuance, it turns out. Most of the story told in this book is not new, but Savage does a very fine job of shaping the chronology of the band's rapid evolution throu As someone whose life has been profoundly altered and enriched, thanks to the shockingly original and mysteriously beautiful music of Joy Division, this was a must-read. What could Jon Savage contribute to the existing scholarship on the band, the post-punk movement, and the tragic brilliance of Ian Curtis? Well, quite a great deal of nuance, it turns out. Most of the story told in this book is not new, but Savage does a very fine job of shaping the chronology of the band's rapid evolution through nearly fourty witnesses. However, I was less interested in things like the dispute over the band members' collective guilt or culpability regarding Curtis' deteriorating health. My interest is in reading about why the music of Joy Division is so deeply alluring and actually positively joyful at times, and Savage delivers. A perfect example is the contribution from Jon Woxencroft in chapter 10: "The cliché of Joy Division has been very dark and depressing. For me, that was not the case at all: they were joy-bringers, and I felt charged as a result of that concert. These things are not understood or recognised in our culture, and it's important to acknowledge where we find them in our own lives." This quote captures my emotions more accurately than I've ever been able to articulate them. The art and artistry behind this short-lived band has had such an out-sized cultural impact, and Savage really helps to decode why this is the case. There are very few rock bands whose music only grows in complexity and profundity over the year. Joy Division's music always sounds fresh and important, and it always sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday. This book helps mightily in explaining why.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kurt

    I really liked this book. I love oral histories, they hook me in and then I breeze right through. Obviously, if you know the history of this band at all, it has a very sad ending. Everyone around Ian seems to say the same thing: that we should have seen this coming, but didn't. I don't think any of them should hold themselves to blame, or feel guilty about what happened. Ultimately, it's a sad loss and a tragedy, what happened, but I don't think it could have been prevented. It seems like our aw I really liked this book. I love oral histories, they hook me in and then I breeze right through. Obviously, if you know the history of this band at all, it has a very sad ending. Everyone around Ian seems to say the same thing: that we should have seen this coming, but didn't. I don't think any of them should hold themselves to blame, or feel guilty about what happened. Ultimately, it's a sad loss and a tragedy, what happened, but I don't think it could have been prevented. It seems like our awareness of depression and mental illness is more prevalent nowadays, but with the current homeless, and addiction situation, access to help is still in dire straits. Back to the story. The parts I liked best are when the members are describing their creative process, and how the songs came together organically, as an offshoot of their personalities, which, now knowing them (their personalities) better, I can hear reflected in the music. It was great to get some context, as well, in regards to Manchester, and its history and the environment at the time Joy Division were forming and coming up. It was also great to hear people wax poetic on the effect that the band and their music had on them. I like reading about how art impacts people, and I find it moving. All in all, even though it's sad, I recommend this book highly, not just for those that are or aren't fans of Joy Division, but for anyone that enjoys reading about music history and the creative process, and what it's like to be in a band or go on tour, etc.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joey Molloy

    “If Joy Division matter now more than ever, it's because they capture the depressed spirit of our times. Listen to Joy Division now, and you have the inescapable impression that the group were catatonically channelling our present, their future.” - Mark Fisher, “No Longer the Pleasures: Joy Division” Joy Division are without question my current favorite band. Ive been listening to them since I was 15, and they continue to resonate more deeply with me as time has gone on. While Ian Curtis’ tragic s “If Joy Division matter now more than ever, it's because they capture the depressed spirit of our times. Listen to Joy Division now, and you have the inescapable impression that the group were catatonically channelling our present, their future.” - Mark Fisher, “No Longer the Pleasures: Joy Division” Joy Division are without question my current favorite band. Ive been listening to them since I was 15, and they continue to resonate more deeply with me as time has gone on. While Ian Curtis’ tragic story of suicidal genius has been wildly mythologized, Jon Savage’s collection of interviews with the key players demystifies things, effectively setting the record straight. But THIS SEARING LIGHT isn’t just the story about Ian Curtis and his band. This is the story of their haunted, industrial, indie-birthing home city— Manchester. This book pulls you into the magic and maelstrom of the unknowing progenitors of gothic rock. Laced with equal parts punk (a la Buzzcocks, Cabaret Voltaire, etc) and literary (Burroughs, Ballard, Dostoevsky) history. Ultimately, Ian Curtis is an even bigger mystery to me. A true marvel of history, from another dimension seemingly...

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