The Making of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures

The Making of Joy Division’s <em>Unknown Pleasures</em>

It seems a bit perverse that I’ve gone, what, more than nine months writing a blog about post-punk and other things, and have yet to make any real mention of Joy Division, arguably one of if not the biggest and most important band of the genre. And that’s kind of why… I couldn’t imagine what I could have to say about them that doesn’t seem utterly redundant more than four decades after they dissolved and reformed into New Order.

But then, why do I have to say anything? They remain fascinating, their two official albums still untouchable, and there’s lots of good reading around them. So here’s some of it, focusing on the creation of their debut album Unknown Pleasures, which celebrated its fortieth anniversary two years ago.

We’ll start with an NME feature from June 2009 for the record’s 30th anniversary, re-published last Summer, wherein they talk to Peter Hook and Stephen Morris about their experience making the record and working with producer Martin Hannett:

In June 2019, The Irish Times compiled a history of the record and its impact from a number of archival sources:

Unknown Pleasures: Joy Division’s accidental masterpiece at 40 @ The Irish Times

Essential to the topic is the second episode of last year’s Transmissions podcast, which documented the story of Joy Division and New Order up through “Blue Monday” – probably too much to hope a second season is coming – but after disappearing online for a while, they’re all back and available to hear:

And also see – some of the interview segments with Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris were videotaped so you can see them reminisce. If that’s your thing:

Peter Hook was interviewed about his career by Yahoo back in 2017; here’s the clip of him talking about Joy Division and Unknown Pleasures:

Earlier this year, Happy got in-depth in the studio sessions of making Unknown Pleasures, taking particular delight in the well-documented madness of Martin Hannett but also getting sufficiently technical to be informative to the nuts-and-bolts-inclined:

Australia’s Mixdown magazine has a rundown of all the gear the band used in recording the record; shame about the broken images, but the writeups still work.

The Washington Post commemorated the anniversary not by looking at how the album artwork by Peter Saville became almost as culturally iconic as the music it contained:

How Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures image went from underground album cover to a piece of cultural ubiquity @ The Washington Post

And there’s a Transmissions clip featuring the band talking about choosing the artwork:

And because astronomers like music, the Jodrell Bank Observatory recorded the signal from the same pulsar that graces the album art 40 years later:

Joy Division: 40 years on from Unknown Pleasures, astronomers have revisited the pulsar from the iconic album cover @ The Conversation

If you want to get really deep on the making of the record, there are books on the topic. Peter Hook’s 2012 memoir Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division goes there, too – he talked about the experience of making the record with Rolling Stone in 2013 after the book came out:

“Now it pains me to realize what a genius he was. But I didn’t have the maturity to recognize the beauty in what he’d done. I was 21. I wanted the LP to rip your fucking head off in the same way that the Sex Pistols, Richard Hell and the Clash did. I didn’t want this mature, wonderful-sounding album that was going to last 30 years. . . I couldn’t see past that. I got it with Closer.  Although the bass was a little bit quiet, I thought [Martin] did a wonderful job on Closer. But by that time, Joy Division’s chapter was over. Martin was an absolute fucking lunatic, but his ideas were revolutionary.”

Q&A: Peter Hook’s Joy Division Book, Feuding with New Order

But if that’s too much work, there’s 24 Hour Party People.

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