Friday, April 5, 2013

New Release: Unknown Pleasures

When Peter Hook's book, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, showed up at my house, I squealed with delight at the gorgeous black cover, demi sleeve and black page edges. Then I noticed that the front of the book had faint lines imitating the pattern of Joy Division's first album. It blew me away before I even opened the book. (Well done, It Books.)

Then I began reading and was swept away by Peter Hook (bassist extraordinaire) and his conversational style of writing. It felt as if I was actually able to sit down with him for a friendly chat about Joy Division and to finally learn more of the story of a band that was forced to dissolve in their prime, one day before an American tour. This isn't a tell-all--many juicy stories are hinted at but not told--which I believe shows the respect that Hook still has for his former bandmates and colleagues. Still, there's enough meat in the story to make any reader feel like an insider.

Peter Hook, Ian Curtis, Stephen Morris and Bernard Sumner
I came to Joy Division a bit backwards as a New Order fan, the band formed by Hook, Morris and Sumner after Curtis' suicide in 1980. But, as I was five when this happened, it's not unexpected. And still, after discovering Joy Division, I only ever really listened to their most well-known songs -- "Love Will Tear Us Apart", "Atmosphere" and "Dead Souls". So one of the best experiences of the book was reading Hook's two chapters covering Joy Division's studio albums, Unknown Pleasures and Closer, with the instruction "I really recommend listening to the record while you read". I took his advice and listened to each track as I read his words about them and it was an amazing experience and I can say that I'm now truly a Joy Division fan.

If you want to learn more about Ian Curtis and Joy Division, you can watch the brilliant 2007 film Control by Anton Corbijn. Hook mentions it more than once in his book as being fairly accurate. It is, of course, sad as it deals with the death of a bright young man, husband, father and musician at the age of 23. Whatever caused him to do it (which nobody truly knows), it is obvious that it still haunts his friends and family. Hook doesn't even state it outright until almost halfway through the book, as if he can't bring himself to visit those painful memories until it is essential for the narrative. I also highly recommend this book for fans of British music as you will get numerous tidbits about other musicians/bands of the time like Sex Pistols, OMD (one of my all-time favorite bands, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark), The Cure, U2, Stephen Morrissey of The Smiths and more. It's also just a touching and funny story about four young men who put their hearts and souls into some of the most beautiful and haunting music ever written.

Don't walk away in silence,


  1. Oh man, as far as musical history goes I could have written your post. Clearly I need to listen to more Joy Division and read this.

    1. This book definitely gave me a better appreciation for the history of the music and the band. And listening to the music again, really listening, was fun!

  2. I think I might feel about this the same way I felt about Tori Amos's book - like I want to go back and listen to everything they ever recorded while I'm reading. Sounds like a good one.

    1. I definitely would prefer musical memoirs to biographies. I don't really need to know the details of the musicians' lives but would rather read about how they felt about certain songs and concerts and, well, each other. It's much more fun and it brings something extra to the music.