Saturday, July 15, 2017

Ode to Joy

The weekend brings a tasty birthday post, all about someone who didn't live awfully long yet who made a very significant impact.
He committed suicide two months shy of his 24th birthday a long time ago, in despair, among other factors, over the clandestine affair he had been having and terrified of hurting/losing his wife and their then-newborn daughter.
The band he helped start only made a handful of records while he was alive, all of them among the most beloved and influential of our lifetimes.
When he passed, his bandmates decided to carry on in a different, more purely electronic direction. Then they became one of the most influential groups ever, all over again, in their new domain.
Certainly one of the most unusual and uniquely, darkly riveting frontmen of any band ever, his broodingly paranoid lyrics, often amelodic speech-singing style, and spasmodic stage dancing cast a tremendous shadow, even now almost 40 years since his demise. More than one film has been made about his tragically short, but hugely impactful, life.
Listening back to the 90 minute live compendium I put together to honor what would have been his 61st birthday today, I can't help but be struck by how dangerous and unhinged he sounds, and how his hyper-intense, commanding style of performance couldn't help but become iconic because it wasn't an act.
I remember at the beginning of the 1980s, hearing Joy Division first come on WLIR-FM in Garden City, NY. Obviously Love Will Tear Us Apart was all over those airwaves back then, but I remember being most captivated by his ballad -- one of the only non-punkish, mellow JD tracks -- called Atmosphere.
That track, with its repeated plea to not walk away, sounds like it's about the extramarital situation that eventually contributed to him ending his life. It never has failed to reduce me to instant, blubbery tears from the first time I heard it in around 1981.
Not that that was the only reason he took that final step... there was also the mental illness from which he suffered -- and the increasing epileptic fits, which he feared might curtail or end his ability to perform -- plus the terror he apparently felt about Joy Division becoming big enough to have been on the eve of departing for their first US tour at the time, in 1980.
This is all water under the bridge, because for 23+ years Ian Curtis lived. And whilst he did, he left traces and tracks that will live on long after all of us are gone from this place. Joy Division -- still probably the most famous and adored of the Post Punk bands -- became New Order post-Curtis, and set about inventing modern electronic Rock music as we know it.
There isn't an awful lot, in terms of high-quality archival material, of the former, as they only existed for about three years. Of course they were taped from the audience a whole bunch of times, but most of those dubs, unfortunately, sound like they were recorded by a tin can positioned roughly four city blocks from the stage.
Luckily there are a few radio sets that got captured back in the day, several of them issued at the start of the 2000s in incomplete, somewhat shoddily-produced form. One in particular remains -- stunningly -- unissued officially, with an incorrectly-tracked, inferior sounding bootleg box set from 2001 its only above-ground appearance thusfar.
Even luckier, there five years ago surfaced in trading circles the (nearly complete) pre-FM reels of this performance -- recorded for Dutch radio -- and oh my goodness, is it the Holy Grail of JD shows as was always advertised.
For inclusion here, I have substituted the opening track (on the pre-FM tape it's a very incomplete fragment) from another oft-bootlegged French radio concert from three weeks previous, as well as bonus material from an infamous gig -- in which the band's equipment temporarily malfunctioned -- in the UK a month later. All three component performances that form my little mashup have been meticulously remastered by an audio-expert Joy Division obsessive, and are likely to be the best-sounding form in which these incredible documents may ever circulate.
Joy Division
live in Europe

01 Passover
02 Wilderness
03 Digital
04 Day of the Lords
05 Insight
06 New Dawn Fades
07 Disorder
08 Transmission
09 Love Will Tear Us Apart
10 These Days
11 A Means to an End
12 Twenty Four Hours
13 Shadowplay
14 She's Lost Control
15 Atrocity Exhibition
16 Atmosphere
17 Interzone
18 Colony
19 Incubation
20 The Eternal
21 Warsaw

Total time: 1:31:11

Tracks 01 & 18: Les Bains Douches, Paris FR 12.18.1979 fage FM remaster
Tracks 02-17: Paradiso, Amsterdam NL 1.11.1980 surfling pre-FM "Definitive Edition" remaster
Tracks 19-21: The Warehouse, Preston UK 2.28.1980 fage FM remaster

disc break goes after Track 11

Ian Curtis - vocals
Bernard Sumner - guitar, keyboards, vocals
Peter Hook - bass
Stephen Morris - drums
engineered by Terry Mason

an assortment of fan remastered pre-FM and FM captures
I truly cannot believe the Amsterdam, France and UK FM broadcasts of this utterly iconic and thoroughly uncompromising band are not available commercially from the most pristine sources, but that's the music industry for you on any day ending in "y". No matter, for that's what I am here for --  to fill in the gaps the suits are either too profit-motivated or too stupid to make right.
Ian Curtis -- surely one of the most beloved and imitated singers in all of Rock history on the basis of a mere three years of recording and performing activity -- deserves not one bit less, if you ask me. He was born this day in 1956 and didn't even make it to 1981, but as I said what he expressed and how he expressed it can never, ever die... not as long as people are still listening. I hope this hour-and-a-half of irreplaceably coruscating music helps keep you listening.--J.
7.15.1956 - 5.18.1980

don't walk away
in silence

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