Northern Icons #1: Ian Curtis.

IAN CURTIS 1952-1980.

This weeks marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Ian Curtis. This event has inspired me to begin a new feature; Northern Icons. These are the men and women who have made the North of our Great Isle the place it is. So I will kick-off the feature with the boy from Macclesfield. Who will be next? Singers, soldiers, poets, politicians, painters, welders, pitmen, pop stars, footballers, fanatics…….. The choice is endless. Get in touch, write a piece and tell us who should join this illustrious Hall Of Fame.

Ian Curtis was born on the 15th of July 1956. He died on the 18th of May 1980. After only 23 short years he was gone. But his legacy has lived on way after his untimely death. From 1977 until his death he was lead singer and lyricist for Warsaw who grew into Joy Division.

They released two outstanding and influential albums; Unknown Pleasures (1979) and Closer (1980). They never bothered the charts until the release of “Love will tear us apart” after Ian’s death.

As a child at the time I had never heard of Joy Division until they were gone. I remember hearing the name being mentioned around 1981/1982 just as I was getting into “real” music. I bought “Still” partly due to the rumours I had heard, partly due to the fascinating hessian sleeve and partly due to the fact it was a new release. I was entranced. I then went and collected everything I could about this fascinating band. It was not until 1984 that I finally got to see the surviving members play live. New Order at Sunderland Mayfair is one of my all time favourite gigs. It was a balmy summers evening and they were on top form. I must have seen New Order more than 10 times since but the first was the best.

I recall seeing them at Liverpool Royal Court early in 1986. They were bottom of the bill behind The Fall and The Smiths. Despite their early showing they stole the show. Partly because The Smiths were still trying to work out how to play The Queen is Dead live (This was before Craig Gannon joined as 2nd guitarist) and because it was the first time I saw them perform a Joy Division song. They finished the set with “Love will Tear us Apart” a raucous version that had the venue in an uproar. The concert was billed as “From Manchester with Love” but there was little love on show as they stormed through their set. I think they were upset at having to go on first and that a number of the audience only arrived inside as they were finishing.

The next time was far better. The Festival for the 10th Summer at the GMEX in Manchester in July of the same year. This time they were on home ground and they headlined above The Smiths and The Fall and countless others. Ian “Mac” McCulloch from the Bunnymen even joined them for a sublime version of Ceremony. I have some great memories of New Order but my one regret is that I never got to see Ian in the flesh. Even 30 years later it is still something I would love to see.

By peter on May 20, 2010

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