On this day. One of the brightest stars in the British post-punk scene Ian Curtis, lead singer of the band Joy Division commits suicide aged 23. He had been suffering with severe bouts of epilepsy while recording the bands second album Closer. As well as suffering from depression and living apart from his wife Deborah after she had started divorce proceedings, Curtis tragically ended his life in the early hours of May 18, 1980. In Deborah Curtis’ book Touching from a Distance she describes how Curtis had been staying at his parent house and he had told her the night before to leave him alone in the house until he caught his train to Manchester the next morning. In the early hours of 18 May 1980, Curtis hanged himself in the kitchen of his house in Macclesfield after watching Werner Herzog’s Stroszek and listening to Iggy Pop’s The Idiot. It was Deborah who found Ian’s body the next morning, he had used the kitchens washing line to hang himself. She also later claimed that he had confided to her on several occasions that he had no desire to live past his 20’s.
Joy Division. After a Sex Pistols gig in 1976, Curtis met guitarist/keyboardist Bernard Sumner and bassist Peter Hook and formed the band in Salford, Greater Manchester. After several unsuccessful attempts to recruit a drummer they eventually selected Stephen Morris to the band. Originally called Warsaw they eventually changed the name to Joy Division. The band took the name from a 1955 novel called the House Of Dolls, which featured a Nazi concentration camp with a sexual slavery wing called the “Joy Division”. The band transcended their punk roots to develop a sound and style that made them one of the pioneers of the post-punk movement. Their self released 1978 debut EP, An Ideal Living caused controversy for it’s depiction on the cover of Germanic imagery and political implications. They did however draw the attention of Manchester television personality and owner of independent record label Factory Records Tony Wilson. The band recorded their debut album, Unknown Pleasures in April 1979 at Strawberry Studio’s in Stockport. Despite there early acclaim from the British music press, Curtis was struggling with epileptic seizures, severe depression and personality difficulties, as well as a broken marriage at the time of his suicide in 1980. Music critic Simon Reynolds said of Curtis’s suicide that it “made for instant myth” and Melody Maker Jon Savage’s obituary said “now no one will remember what his work with Joy Division was like when he was alive; it will be perceived as tragic rather than courageous”. The members of the band had made a pact before Curtis’s death that if any member should leave, the rest would change the name of the group, eventually renaming themselves New Order.