forward to New Order’s electro-buoys up the often bleak
lyrics and vocals. It was also the group's most successful
record – reaching Number 6, UK in summer 1980 – by
which time it had been overtaken by events.
"It ended up with Ian having fits onstage”, says Bernard
Sumner. ‘In early April we did two gigs in one night: sup-
porting The Stranglers at the Rainbow, then the Moonlight
Club. At the first gig he started dancing, but he didn’t stop
at the end of the song. We were trying to stop the song,
and he was dancing faster and faster, went into a spin,
span into the drums and knocked the kit over. We realised
he was having a fit and we had to carry him offstage. By
the time we got him to dressing-room he’d come out of
it, and he just broke down in tears. He was so ashamed.
We didn’t know what to say, or what to do”.
Peter Hook: “For him to get up there, suffering from
epilepsy, perform like that, be exposed, must have been
absolutely awful. I think we were to blame for rail–roading
him into doing it. He was in a no-win situation: he didn’t
want to let us down, he didn’t want to let himself down,
and yet was making himself ill. It’s our own weakness, we
make ourselves ill. But to have the brains to realise that if
you carry on doing it, one day you’re not going to wake up.
That takes a lot of guts”.
Three days after the Rainbow concert, on April 7, Ian
attempted suicide with an overdose of phenobarbitone.
The next night, he was expected onstage, at Derby Hall,
Bury: “It was a complete disaster”, says Bernard Sumner.
‘We had to pull Ian out of psychiatric hospital. He came
to the gig, couldn’t go on, and Simon Topping of
A Certain Ratio went on instead. The crowd freaked,
and a full scale riot went on. A lot of people got bottled.
Ian saw this and of course thought it was his fault. He
just broke down again.
“He was in hospital for another four days. His wife
already knew what was going on. He needed to get out,
so he stayed at my house for two weeks. During that time
I tried to drum into him what stupid thing it was to take an
overdose. We came to an agreement. He wanted to leave
the band, he wanted to buy a corner shop in Portsmouth
or somewhere, he wanted to go off and write a book. We
didn't want him to, but we understood his predicament.
The agreement was that he wouldn’t do any gigs for a year,
we’d just write.
"But around this time, he’d agree to anything he told
him. His reaction to a problem had been rage: he was like
a human blowtorch and he’d burn you out of his way. Now
his other solution was that someone would come along
and play God, tell him what to do. You can’t do that with
a person's life. We were loath to advise Ian, because what
we’d have said, he’d have done it. I remain convinced to
this day if someone is going to commit suicide, they’re
going to do it, no matter what anybody says to them.
Ian was going to do it”.
During April, Deborah Curtis instituted divorce proceed-
ings. Ian stayed with Bernard and Tony Wilson, finally end-
ing up with his parents. He continued with his hospital and
therapeutic visits. It was business as usual for Joy Division
– some concerts were cancelled, but the group were busy
shooting a video for the forthcoming single, ‘Love will tear
us apart’, and preparing for their first visit to the US on the
nineteenth of May.
“The way they described Ian dying was so far from the
way I perceived it that it’s not worth getting annoyed
about”, Rob Gretton says in Johnny Rogan’s Starmakers
and Svengalis. “There was no great depression, no hint
at all. The week before, we went and brought all these
new clothes; he was really happy. A lot of his problems
were personal: we could advise him, but we couldn’t do
anything about it. I wasn’t worried as a manager; I was
worried as a friend”.
“I don’t think Ian was worried about the American tour",
says Bernard Sumner. “I would have been extremely wor-
ried. If we’d agreed that we were going to keep the band
together, but we weren’t going to do gigs anymore, how
come a month later we were going on an American tour?
It wasn’t right. People start getting all the wrong
priorities once you start becoming successful. They don’t know
when to leave you alone and give you a rest. You need
more than one kind of sleep in this profession'.
To the other members of the group there was no indica-
tion of what was to come. “If he was depressed, he kept it
from us”, says Peter Hook. “On the Friday I drove him