It would help to put this period into some kind of per-
spective. Punk was primarily libertarian, anarchist even, but
there was a persistent right – wing trace that came from its
opposition to the power politics of the day – the end of
consensus socialism. In both English and American avant–
garde rock – whether it was The Ramones or Throbbing
Gristle – it had become important to say the unsayable,
to examine the right – wing, to try to come to terms with
the darker side of the human psyche. This is not a wise
thing to do in pop culture, which is notorious for flattening
Ian Curtis was a bundle of paradoxes; he was a Tory, yet
he liked the writing of bohemian authors like JG Ballard
and William Burroughs. At the same time as he wrote
haunted lyrics and gave mesmeric performances, he was
a great practical joker. He could be both a charismatic
leader and highly suggestible; he hated confrontation and
could be all things to all men. Even the people closest to
him will disagree; according to Peter Hook, "Ian was inter-
ested in the occult”. Summer says he wasn’t.
During 1978, Joy Division left their naivete behind; they
started to get good. In January, they played the infamous
Bowie/Roxy disco, Pips; “That was the first time I saw Ian
being onstage”, says Stephen Morris. "I couldn’t believe it:
the transformation to this frantic windmill”. Their appear-
ance at the chaotic Stiff Test/Chiswick Challenge battle
of the bands in April brought them to the attention of their
future manager, Wythenshawe native Rob Gretton, and
their most persistent propagandiser, Tony Wilson.
“Every band in Manchester played that night", Wilson
remembers. “I sit down and then this kid in a raincoat
comes and sits next to me and goes, You're a fucking
cunt: why don’t you put us on television? That was Ian
Curtis. At the very end of the night, Joy Division went
on and after about 20 seconds, I thought, This is it. Most
bands are onstage because they want to be rock stars.
Some bands are on stage because they have to be, there’s
something trying to get out of them: that was blatantly
obvious with Joy Division".
During the spring of 1978, the group recorded an
11–track album for RCA under the auspices of Northern
Soul DJ Richard Searling, but they were moving so quickly
that it was obsolete almost as soon as it was recorded.
“There was suddenly a marked difference in the songs”,
says Peter Hook. "We were doing a soundcheck at the
Mayflower, in May, and we played ‘Transmission’: people
had been moving around, and they all had stopped to
listen. I was thinking, what’s the matter with that lot?
That’s when I realised that was our first great song’.
Everything was coming together. Rob Gretton took
over the group’s management: his first act was to commis-
sion a sequence of designs from Better Badges – this
was era of the badge as underground communication.
Tony Wilson put them on Granada Reports, a local news show
(their performance of Shadowplay was overlaid with
negative footage from a World In Action documentary
about the CIA), and had them as headliners when the
new Factory club opened in Hulme. After the group had
sweated out their contract with RCA, they went into the
studios with Martin Hannett to record what would become
the Factory Sample.
“I’d seen them in Salford Tech”, Martin Hannett told
me in 1989; “They were really good", It was very big room,
they were badly equipped and they were still working this
space, making sure they got into the corners. when I did
the arrangements for recording, they were just reinforcing
the basic ideas. They were a gift to a producer, because
they didn’t have a clue. They didn’t argue. The Factory
Sample was the first thing I did with them: I think I’d had
the new AMS delay line for about two weeks. It was called
digital; it was heaven sent”.
“Joy Division had a formula, but was never premedi-
tated”, says Bernard Sumner. "It came out naturally. I’m
more rhythm and chords, and Hooky was melody. He used
to play high lead bass because I liked my guitar to sound
distorted, and the amplifier I had would only work when it
was full volume. When Hooky played low, he couldn’t hear
himself. Steve had his own style which is different to other
drummers. To me, a drummer in the band is the clock,
because he’s passive: he would follow the rhythm of the
band, which gave us our own edge. Live, we were driven
by watching Ian dance: we were playing to him visually”.
“Ian used to spot the riffs”, says Peter Hook. ‘We’d jam:
he'd stop us and say, That was good, play it again. We