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ODES TO JOY

WITH 2019 MARKING THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF JOY DIVISION’S UNKNOWN PLEASURES, PETER HOOK TELLS JONATHAN WRIGHT ABOUT THE “WONDERFUL OUT-OF-CONTROL EXCITEMENT” OF MAKING ONE OF THE BEST DEBUT ALBUMS OF ALL TIME
Unknown Pleasures’ iconic cover artwork was designed by Peter Saville, using a data plot of signals from a radio pulsar

Over the course of their brief career, Joy Division made just a single appearance on national television. In September 1979, the band performed Transmission and Shes Lost Control on a BBC2 proto-yoof show, Something Else. All of the elements that made Joy Division so compelling are in place: skittish drum patterns, the swapping of lead lines between guitar and bass, and a collective demeanour pitched somewhere between nerdy and belligerent. And then there’s Ian Curtis, first twitching as he gets lost in the music before dancing like a man possessed, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings.

The contrast between the band’s first regional TV appearance, a performance of Shadowplay introduced by Tony Wilson for Granada Reports a year previously, is slight yet telling, a matter of more confidence, more experience, better clothes even. The Joy Division of autumn 1978 are reaching, rich in promise, but by 1979 they’re the finished article, scarily good. With 2019 marking the 40th anniversary of the release of Unknown Pleasures, it seems an apposite moment to ask, what alchemy made this possible?

“The thing is, probably the worst person you could talk to about it is me because for us it was such a struggle,” laughs bassist Peter Hook, speaking down the line from Portugal, where he’s playing dates with his band, The Light. “It was a struggle to get on Something Else at that time. It was a struggle to survive as a group. It was a struggle to get every gig. There was nothing about it that was easy.”

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About Classic Pop

This month, we have a world exclusive with Adam Ant as he prepares for a full-album tour of his experimental solo debut Friend Or Foe. It’s a must-read interview packed full of surprises. The pop mavericks keep on coming elsewhere, too – our classic album is The KLF’s seminal LP, The White Room, and we catch up with the inimitable Wendy James as she unveils new double album Queen High Straight. We meet the people behind Pet Shop Boys’ dazzling new stage show Musik, a return to the world of Billie Trix; playwright Jonathan Harvey and star Frances Barber fill us in on what to expect. Peter Hook tells us the story behind Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures – 40 years on, the band’s debut is still a work of staggering genius. In our album-by-album feature, we take an in-depth look at the recording career of Eurythmics and we meet Will Young to find out how he’s beaten his anxiety issues to create new studio album, Lexicon. Legendary producer Stephen Street talks us through his life in vinyl and we take a peek inside a new book on Soft Cell to uncover unseen photos of the synth-pop duo. Our packed new album reviews section includes Gary Daly, Shura, Friendly Fires, Mabel and more. On the reissues front, we serve up a selection including The Lightning Seeds, Belinda Carlisle, Big Country and Bonnie Tyler. In our live reviews section, we round up our Glastonbury Festival best bits plus check out gigs by Spice Girls, Elton John, Tears For Fears, Pink and more.