Tales of lost love and musings on Joy Division.
Torn Apart: The Life of Ian Curtis
Mick Middles & Lindsay Reade
Omnibus Press, 9781847725080, £9.95
The sheer and utter loneliness of existence: in about thirty of the most beautiful songs ever written Curtis compellingly laid it bare, cauterized the senses and left unprotected nerves stuttering in a sulphurous light. Two studio albums – ‘Unknown Pleasures’ and ‘Closer’ and a handful of devastatingly brilliant singles are the enduring, undying legacy of the band that was, briefly, Joy Division. After Curtis’s suicide at the age of 23 there were a hyperbolic few in the music press who proclaimed ‘this man died for you’. Well, he didn’t. He was no messiah. But lyrically, artistically he was a local genius, the leader of a band that in three years went from pastiche punk pretenders to post punk pioneers and whose influence can be traced in the work of myriads of today’s most talented groups (and many lesser ones). This book is a much needed foil to the pained, painful and biased version of his life told by his wife, Deborah Curtis, in ‘Touching from a Distance’. It traces Curtis’s early days in great detail and builds up a far more rounded and fuller picture of a gentle, caring but terribly troubled boy-man. In giving space for the words of the great love of his life, Annik Honoré, it also provides among the pain moments of immense tenderness. The more I read about Curtis the more links I find I have with him and the deeper his articulation of the alienation of the individual in an individualistic society resonates within me. Sometimes the details given are too much, piled on too high and the text is at times dense and repetitive. But I can forgive that for the picture of frail and tender humanity that shines through – of a man torn apart by epilepsy, a punishing work schedule, responsibilities to others, his own high standards and love.