Joy Division announced on their official Facebook fan page that June 15 marked the 35th anniversary of the release of "Unknown Pleasures," the British band's first full length studio album. The band was beset with woes when their lead singer, Ian Curtis, took his own life on May 15, 1980, just as they were about to tour the United States. No doubt fans in Los Angeles awaited the band's tour, having heard them on KROQ in its early days of glory. In its time, the album failed to chart in the UK.
As a result of Curtis's death, the band reformed as New Order with Bernard Sumner taking over as lead singer. Many New Order fans quickly learned of the band's beginnings as Joy Division, and Curtis's legend spread. "Unknown Pleasures" has become known as the seminal classic of the post-punk era, spawning the dominance of the singing bass line and sparse moodiness that dominated the 80s.
There are a number of things one can do to celebrate this important landmark. One favorite is to watch the film, "Control" starring Sam Riley who most recently starred in the film "Maleficent" as the crow human Diaval.
Reading the novel "Touching From A Distance," written by his widow, Deborah Curtis can prove insightful. Watching the movie "Control" based on this novel provides slightly different insight.
"Control" is directed by Anton Corbijn, the celebrated rock photographer who was well known for his images of the post-punk era. He photographed Joy Division in Manchester in 1978. The film is remarkable for its cinematography and fresh performances.
Filmed in black and white, it track Curtis's life from 1973 to his death in 1980. Remarkably, Riley sang on the soundtrack, having been a lead singer of a band himself. The band's only photographs as well as their cover art were always in black and white. The guys portraying the band learned the instruments of their characters and played live. The film distinctly captures the feel of a band struggling to make things happen.
Further, it's a sad comment on the state of mental health at the time, as well as a lack of understanding of how to care for oneself. Curtis was prescribed heavy barbiturates in an effort to control his illness. Adding drinking and a lifestyle in which one stays up late for concerts, and Curtis headed for quick burnout.
Even for those who haven't heard of the band, the story of struggle and the spirit of the times captured by the film make for compelling viewing. Each shot is carefully composed like an Anton Corbijn band photo. And, since Curtis's mental state is at issue, the lyrics are often develop the narrative.
The very least one can do is break out the "Unknown Pleasures" t-shirt which features radio waves of pulsar CP1919, designed by Peter Saville. Or have a listen to the band's works available extensively online.