and Martin had coloured it in for us. We resented it, but
Rob loved it, Wilson loved it, and the press loved it, and the
public loved it: we were just the poor stupid musicians who
wrote it! We swallowed our pride and went with it”.
There were problems. “Ian was primarily a fun guy, a
good laugh”, says Bernard Sumner; ‘But in a weird way. He
wasn’t a straight person. Let me start with his moments of
intensity, which was when he got frustrated. I remember
him having this argument with Rob Gretton at our
rehearsal room, TJ Davidson’s. He got so frustrated that he
picked up the garbage bucket, stuck it over his head and
started running up and down the room, screaming at Rob,
and he was just completely mad. He had an explosive per-
sonality, but most of the time he was cool. He really was.
“His performance was a manifestation of this frenzy.
He was Ian, Mister Polite, Mister Nice, and then suddenly
onstage, about the third song in, you’d notice he'd gone
a bit weird, started pulling the stage apart, ripping up the
floorboards and throwing them at the audience. Then by
the end of the set he’d be completely and utterly manic.
Then you’d come offstage and he’d be covered in blood.
But no–one would talk about it, because that was our way:
we didn’t think he knew why he got himself worked up
"One day we were doing a gig at the Hope and Anchor.
I was really ill with ‘flu, and they had to come and drag me
out of bed. Every time Steve hit
the cymbals the whole
room turned upside down: literally, in my head, my eyes
turned upside down. It was horrible. There were only about
20 people there. We were driving back home in Steve’s
car: I was really ill, shivering, covered in a sleeping bag. Ian
just grabbed the sleeping bag and pulled it off. He’d been
moaning about the gig, the audience, the sound: he was in
a really negative mood.
"So I grab the sleeping bag back, and he grabbed it
back again and covered himself with it, and started growl-
ing like a dog. It was scary. He suddenly started lashing
out, punching the windscreen, and then he just went into
a full overblown red state fit, in the car. We pulled over on
to the hard shoulder, dragged him out of the car, held him
down. Then we did about a hundred miles an hour to the
nearest hospital, somewhere near Luton. We were in this
horrible casualty ward and the doctor said, You've had a fit;
you’d better go and see a doctor when you get back”.
This attack, which occurred in the early hours of
December 29, 1978, marked the full onset of Ian Curtis's
epilepsy. Throughout this demanding period for the group,
Curtis was receiving medical treatment for what was
becoming a serious condition: “With Ian it was the full
blown grand mal”, says Stephen Morris; “They put him on
heavy tranquillisers: the doctor told him the only way he
could minimise the risk was by leading a normal regular
life, which by that time wasn’t something he wanted to do.
He liked to jump around onstage, and to get pissed: it was
one of the reasons he got into the band in the first place”.
The pressures were building up at home, as Deborah
Curtis explains: ‘With Joy Division it all came together for
him. I told myself at first that it as all part of the act, but
it was all wrong. There wasn’t an Ian at home and an Ian
in the world, it became like that all the time. The trouble
started when my pregnancy began to show: he had that
first fit. It sounds awful, but he liked to have the attention.
One of the things he liked about me was that I did stand
behind him, 100 per cent, whatever he did. When I got
pregnant, everybody made a fuss of me, and I think he
was a bit jealous”.
Natalie Curtis was born on April 16, 1979. Just over a
month later, Ian had the most serious in a series of grand
mal attacks, which involved hospitalisation. His solution to
the pressures at home was, according to his wife, with-
drawal, but there was no escape from the momentum of
Joy Division’s success: ‘With being young, you think of
yourself as being invulnerable”, says Peter Hook; "We were
being driven by this thing called Joy Division, and basically
you just did your damnedest to keep it going”.
‘Unknown Pleasures' broke new ground in several ways.
In staying with Factory, the group showed that a non–
metropolitan, independent label sector was viable. There
was Peter Saville’s brilliant, baffling sleeve design. Despite
releasing a powerful record full of raging emotions, Joy
Division refused to open themselves up any further in
print: after a couple of mistakes, they did no interviews.
“Rob thought the music was such a beautiful notion that