Why So Serious?

photo (43)Oh, poor Ian Curtis. What happened in your life? What made you hang yourself in your kitchen? Anyone taking their life is such a sad, lonely, and desperate thing to do. For those that call it cowardly, I say good day to you sir or ma’am. You’re obviously living a life void of any real existential heaviness. The act of suicide isn’t cowardice. It’s a last act in a life that can’t find footing. We all deal with heaviness from time to time. We all go through some heavy shit once in a while. Sometimes, that heaviness doesn’t seem it will ever lighten up. But fortunately a good portion of us are built with enough of the tough stuff that we can endure the emotional strain. We take it in stride. We “suck it up” as so many emotionless neanderthals like to say. And eventually we see a light at the end of the tunnel, or at the very least we set fire to some needless crap in our lives and get warmth and comfort from it. “There will be better days. Just wait”, we tell ourselves. But there are those that are built with fragility. There are those that are easily bruised, broken, and beaten. There are those that don’t heal up so quickly. That can’t can’t just brush it off their shoulder. Some folks can’t find a way out of the darkness, and don’t have a guide in their life to help them out.

Was Ian Curtis one of them? I don’t know. I bought this copy of Closer for $7 recently. The sleeve is beat up, as you can see. It looks stained, and someone cut the bottom right corner off completely. Maybe a vindictive act to get back at the previous owner by some jilted friend or lover? Maybe a little kid got crazy with the scissors? I don’t know, but despite this being an original pressing it cuts the value down to next to nothing. The vinyl, however, is in great condition. After I cleaned the record with some of my solution it sounded great. Some pops and cracks here and there, but otherwise it’s a great copy. The outside all beat up and ragged, but inside it’s perfect.

I know Ian Curtis suffered from epilepsy, and it was only getting worse. Was that what finally did him in? He had friends, a family, a daughter. What couldn’t be fixed inside this guy that he had to take his own life? Joy Division isn’t what you call uplifting music, for sure. But the guys making the music weren’t ghouls. I think the music is just a product of their surroundings. Dark, gritty, visceral, and desolate. You write what you know, and to my knowledge Manchester, England at the time was a dark, grey place, much like the photographs of the band that were taken by Anton Corbijn. They were just four guys that wanted to play music. Curtis was fronting what ended up being one of the most influential bands to come out of England in the late 70s. How could he kill himself?

We’ll never know. The reason leaves with the soul. The life force. The essence. All I have to go on is this album I’m listening to. I think I’ll play “Heart And Soul” again. See what it has to say.

8 thoughts on “Why So Serious?

  1. I’d recommend his wife’s book (Touching from a Distance?), not a nice fella by all accounts. The music sounds like the place – I’m not a huge fan of either!


    1. I will find the book. Sounds like something I’d want to read.

      Obviously I’m seeing and hearing the place and the band from far off in the badlands of the Midwest, so I appreciate a (somewhat) local’s perspective on the guy/band/city. Never really got into Joy Division till just a few years ago after hearing a live version of “Heart And Soul”. Call it a morbid curiosity. Or just a penchant for post-punk. Or both.


  2. You see the movie “Control”? I thought it was quite good. Depressing, but good.

    Who knows why he did it. The people left behind in Curtis’s legacy continue to live in the shadow of that question… like everyone – including me – who has lost a loved one because of suicide.

    Like 1537 said, I have also heard Curtis was not a decent man; cheated on his wife, for one. Whether it be medical or social – whether he was a good man or not…obviously he had secrets he could not share with anyone and now he’s gone.

    This might be cold comfort, but out of his death came one of my favourite bands ever – New Order. And funny, I discovered NO before I knew anything about the band’s origins.


    1. I did see “Control”. I thought it was a good movie, and I think one that might have informed my view of Curtis a little too much. I think I need to read the book his wife wrote.

      I, too, have had to deal with suicide more than once in my life. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would ever take their own life. They just can’t see a way past the void, where as most of us can.

      I’m listening to Power, Corruption, and Lies at this very moment in fact. Such a great band. Talk about a phoenix rising from the ashes.


      1. Apart from odd tracks by both artists they have always left me cold and not in a cool way.

        That grey Manchester does exist for sure, but I preferred it when it went all Technicolor with Happy Mondays/Stone Roses etc.

        I think someone used this LP to protect themselves during a machete attack, that’s my theory.


      2. I’m going with the machete theory. I quite like that.

        I think the real problem is that there’s not enough guitar wankery for you, hence your preference for the Madchester scene.

        I just used the word scene to describe music. Groovy.


      3. I don’t think you’re wrong at all, but it was all very dancey too and I do like a bit of a bop too.

        You’re clearly a groovy, happening cat.


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