Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Joy Division

The release, at the tail end of last year, of “Plus Minus”, brought Joy Division back into focus once more. Released on the 30th Anniversary of the death of lead singer Ian Curtis, this box set of singles was seen as a bit of a curio - quite how a band who had not released ten singles managed to put together a box set of ten singles was seen as quite a feat.

The brief lifespan of the band hides the fact that a reasonable amount of material has been released by the band, both before and after Curtis’ death. In this blog, I shall detail the band’s releases, the more obscure of which have been made widely available thanks to some impressive compilation releases.

The Albums 1979 - 1995

Joy Division released only two studio albums - 1979’s “Unknown Pleasures” and 1980’s “Closer”, the latter released after Curtis had committed suicide, but issued as originally planned (ie. It was not a posthumous cash-in release). Neither album featured the band name on the cover, although the sleeve of “Closer” did at least include the album title on the front. The former LP came in a famous sleeve, which - and I quote - “presents successive pulses from the first pulsar discovered, CP 1919”, whilst “Closer” garnered controversy as it featured a photo of the Appiani family tomb in Italy - some claimed that, post Curtis, the sleeve was deliberately chosen for shock value, but the artwork had in fact been decided upon whilst Curtis was still alive.

In 1981, Factory Records issued “Still” - literally an album of two halves. A double album, the first slab of vinyl consisted of studio outtakes plus a live cover of “Sister Ray”, whilst the second disc was a recording of a gig at Birmingham University in 1980 - the band’s last ever show. The album had a running time of just over 80 minutes, meaning that when it came to reissuing the record on CD, one of the live tracks from the second disc (“Twenty Four Hours”) had to be omitted in order to transfer the album onto a single compact disc. Even when “Still” has been reissued on two discs, this track has always failed to make the cut.

In 2007, all three albums were reissued as double-CD Deluxe editions, with a second CD consisting of live and sound check performances. Having appeared in slightly different coloured covers over the years with each subsequent reissue, both “Closer” and “Still” appeared in their original colours (white and grey, respectively).

In 1988, the band released “Substance”. The album shared it’s title with a New Order collection issued the year before (New Order had risen from the ashes of the group), and both offered up a collection based around the band’s singles. “Substance” included a selection of A-sides and EP tracks, plus some material that had been issued on Various Artists releases and a few B-sides, but only 10 songs were included. The Cassette and CD editions included seven extra tracks from the same releases, the idea of having bonus tracks on these formats was very popular at the time because of the extra playing time available on these formats. Not every potential track that could have appeared on “Substance” actually made the cut, even though there would have been space to include the missing songs.

Following the release of an album compiling their two John Peel Sessions in 1990, 1995 saw the release of a best-of collection called “Permanent”. A mix of singles, B-sides and album tracks, it’s selling point was the inclusion of a new mix of “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, called “The Permanent Mix”.

The Singles 1978 - 1995

By refusing to include any album material on any 45 releases, this meant that Joy Division were not that prolific in the singles department, especially not when compared to neighbours like Buzzcocks. The group only released three singles whilst they were an ongoing concern.

Although they actually made their debut on vinyl by contributing a track to the “Live At The Electric Circus” 10” mini album, the first Joy Division release is often regarded as being their debut EP, “An Ideal For Living”. Released on the band’s own Enigma label, 1000 copies of this 7” were issued in the now famous “Hitler Youth” sleeve. It included four tracks, the lead song “Warsaw” had been the band’s original name (an album of early Joy Division recordings, when they were still “Warsaw”, was issued in 1994). Both the band’s name and, of course, the cover of the EP had Nazi implications, and although some claimed the group were closet fascists, the choice of band name was chosen for exactly the opposite reasons. The EP was reissued on 12” later the same year, this time on the Anonymous label, with 1200 copies pressed. It came in a new cover, a photo of some scaffolding, apparently in an attempt to distance the band from the Nazi sympathisers claim. The single was re-issued because the band were unhappy with the sound quality of the original 7”, although the fact that the original pressing had apparently sold out soon after it’s release may also have been another factor.

The band issued two singles for Factory, released inbetween “Unknown Pleasures” and “Closer” - “Transmission”/”Novelty” in 1979, and “Love Will Tear Us Apart”/”These Days” the following year. Both were issued on 7” only. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” featured an uncredited second track on the B-side, an earlier recording of the song, referred to as the “Pennine Version”, named after the studio in Oldham in which this version was taped. The length of material on the B-side meant that it had to play at 33rpm, but jukebox promos were issued without the third track so that each side could play at 45rpm. After Curtis had passed away, both singles were reissued during 1980 on 12” in new sleeves.

In the fall of 1980, Factory issued a AA side single in the form of “Atmosphere”/”She’s Lost Control”. The former had originally appeared on an ultra limited edition French 7” called “Licht Und Blindheit”, whlist the latter was an alternate mix of a track that had first appeared on the band’s debut LP. The single had been issued in the US, but with the tracks technically “reversed”, and the UK release was sanctioned to stem the flow of import copies. It seems strange to think that had this not happened, then “Atmosphere” - regarded by many as the band’s finest moment - might have become a long lost rarity.

Following the release of a pair of Peel Session EP’s in 1986 and 1987, “Atmosphere” was reissued in 1988 to tie in with the “Substance” collection. Various different formats were issued with different track listings, although the only one of any real worth in terms of rare extra material at the time was the CD, which included a previously unreleased live version of “Transmission”. This particular cut has now found a home by being included on the expanded reissue of “Unknown Pleasures”. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” was also reissued in 1995, to coincide with “Permanent”, and although there was once again much multiformatting in place, it was the 12” this time that was of most interest to collectors, featuring an Arthur Baker remix that has not appeared anywhere else since to this day. Both the 88 and 95 singles featured new sleeves in comparison to their original vinyl counterparts.

The Box Sets

And so to “Plus Minus”. How did a band who had released less than 10 singles in the UK end up releasing a 10 disc 7” box set? Well, the first two discs included the material from the first EP - the two tracks that had appeared on the A-side of “An Ideal For Living” were now the lead tracks on discs 1 and 2, with the original B-sides appearing on the flip of the same discs respectively. The reason for doing this was so that disc 1 could come in the original “Hitler Youth” sleeve, and disc 2 in the “Scaffolding” sleeve. “Transmission” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” were reissued in their original 7” bags, although because each disc in the box set was designed to play at 45 rpm, the “Pennine” mix of the latter was excluded from this disc.

Back in 1980, the band had given away a three track flexi disc, led by the track “Komakino”, and a reissue of this also made the box set. This makes five 7” singles so far. Disc 6 was a reissue of the “Licht Und Blindheit” 7”, and disc 7 was a reissue of the “She’s Lost Control” 12”. However, in order to avoid including “Atmosphere” twice, the box set used the “Pennine” mix of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” on the B-side instead.

The next two discs were “A Factory Sample” and “Earcom 2”. The band had offered up previously unissued material in 1978 and 1979 for these two EP’s, which were Various Artists compilations released by Factory and Fast Product respectively. The former, when first released, was a double 7” pack featuring three other bands, with 9 tracks in total - the latter, a 12” with three bands (including JD) doing two songs each. The versions in the box set use the same original sleeves, but - unsurprisingly - offer up the two Joy Division tracks from each release only. So, they are Joy Division singles that were never really Joy Division singles in the first place.

But it gets worse. Stephen Morris, the band’s drummer, oversaw the box set, and admitted that a box set with nine singles in seemed a bit “odd”. So disc 10 is the fantasy 45 - what might have the band released had Curtis not taken his own life? Well, you get a 7” with a pair of tracks from “Closer” (“Heart And Soul” and “Isolation”) inside a 7” sized version of the “Closer” sleeve. Utterly pointless. It would have been better if the live track from the “Short Circuit” mini-LP had been included with - say - the missing track from “Still”, but as I was never in Joy Division, and Morris was, that’s probably why my choice didn't happen. The box set has come in for a lot of stick - everything except the “Pennine” mix of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” was already available on 1997’s “Heart And Soul” 4-CD box set - with the decision to photograph the original sleeves, rather than to reprint from the original artwork, the subject of much grumbling (this had been done for the "Factory Retrospective" book a few years ago as well). Then there was the small issue of “deluxe” versions of the box (all of the tracks on a bonus CD, plus extra inserts) being ordered via the web, only for people to receive an un-deluxe version with the extra bits missing!

As a limited edition, getting hold of the box is no longer that easy. But is it worth it? Well, if you ignore the three “cheat” discs, you can get a lot of this stuff for not much in secondhand record shops. “Transmission” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” can usually be picked up on 7” or 12” quite easily, whilst bagging the “She’s Lost Control”/”Atmosphere” will give you two singles for the price of one. “Komakino” tends to sell for about £15 - so the only stumbling block is getting an original “An Ideal For Living” EP. You probably won’t get one, and if you do, it will cost more than buying the box. But if you are not averse to “counterfeit” releases, then there have been a flood of semi-dubious US only “Limited Edition Reissues” of this single in the last few years, on both 7” and 12” (many on coloured wax, or as picture discs) for both pressings. Respected collectors sites like www.eil.com have offered these for sale, but they seem to have been released without the band’s knowledge.

“Heart And Soul”, meanwhile, is not without it’s critics. The first two discs were effectively “expanded” editions of the two studio albums, but with bonus tracks included before or after the relevant LP dependent on when they were first released. Disc 3 consisted of rarities from the aforementioned singles, plus other previously unheard recordings, whilst disc 4 offered up live material - a huge chunk of which later appeared on the 2007 edition of “Unknown Pleasures”. Despite the fact that the box set claimed it included everything the band had recorded, it didn’t. Not only was “Still” more or less ignored, but a lot of the Peel Session material was sidelined in order to make way for previously unreleased material from other radio broadcasts.

1999 - 2008

Over the last decade (ish), there has been a slow stream of new releases - although not always with new recordings. 1999 saw the release of the “official bootleg” LP, “Preston 28 February 1980”, issued in the UK by NMC Music. A second “bootleg”, “Les Bains Douches 18 December 1979”, was released by the same label in 2001. NMC later issued these releases in a pair of box sets, "Fractured Box" and "Refractured Box", the latter including a show from Amsterdam as a bonus third CD.

2000 saw the release of “The Complete BBC Recordings”, a CD cobbling together the two Peel Session EP’s and the two songs the band played on the TV Show “Something Else”. A greatest hits set, “The Best Of”, released in 2008, included the entire BBC album as a bonus disc in the UK.

In 2006, a Belgian only album, "Leigh Festival", was issued. It featured JD's set from a show on 27th August 1979, and also included material from other bands on the bill that day - OMD, Teardrop Explodes, and fellow Factory signings A Certain Ratio.

2007 saw the release of “Martin Hannett’s Personal Mixes”, on Interstate, a mish mash of outtakes and alternate versions, and later the same year, the same label issued “Let The Music Begin”, a mish mash of studio and live recordings, and interview excerpts. Coloured vinyl edtions of all of these (and the NMC releases) also exist. 2007 also saw another reissue of “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, but this time around, it appeared in the same picture sleeve as the 1980 original - although the 7” mirrored the original exactly in terms of artwork and music, the CD edition featured a different track listing, although there were no rare recordings this time around. 2008 saw another Martin Hannett "rarities" album, "In The Studio".

The band's profile has also been kept up thanks to the superb movie "Control", and a later "rockumentary" about the band, which was also shown in selected cinemas. The "Plus Minus" box is probably not going to be the last word on the band, and with a back catalogue of such astonishing quality, not to mention a slew of famous tribute bands (Editors, White Lies, Interpol), it's unlikely Joy Division will fade into the background at any point soon.


I have listed below all of the important Joy Division releases. In order to keep it simple, I have listed an “important“ release for each of the albums, and selected formats of each of the singles - any singles released that offer nothing of interest (such as the 1995 “Love Will Tear Us Apart” Cassette, which excludes the Arthur Baker remix) are not listed in the interests of clarity. It is also worth noting that “LWTUA” was reissued in 1983, presumably to try and deflect sales away from Paul Young’s atrocious mauling of the song which was also released as a single the same year, but was a straight ahead repressing of the 1980 original.


Unknown Pleasures (2xCD, 2007 reissue, originally released May 1979, Factory FACD 10)
Closer (2xCD, 2007 reissue, originally released July 1980, Factory FACD 25)
Still (2xCD, 2007 reissue, originally released October 1981, Factory FACD 40)
Substance (CD, released July 1988, Factory FACD 250. Vinyl copies were pressed on Red Vinyl)
Peel Sessions (CD, released 1990, Strange Fruit SFRCD 111)
Permanent (CD, released August 1995, London 8286242)
Heart And Soul (4xCD, released December 1997, London 8289682)
Preston 28 February 1980 (CD, released 1999, NMC Music FACD 2.60)
The Complete BBC Recordings (CD, released 2000, Strange Fruit SFRSCD 094)
Les Bains Douches (CD, released 2001, NMC Music FACD 2.61)
Martin Hannett's Personal Mixes (Red Vinyl LP, released June 2007, Ozit Morpheus OZITLP 8797RED)
Let The Music Begin (Red Vinyl LP, released July 2007, Ozit Morpheus OZITLP 8795RED)
In The Studio With Martin Hannett (Red Vinyl LP, released 2008, Ozit Morpheus OZITLP 8798RED)
The Best Of Joy Division (2xCD, released March 2008, Warner Brothers 5144273022)
Plus Minus (10x7", some with bonus CD, released December 2010, Rhino 5186595937)

Whilst the catalogue numbers shown for the first three albums relate to the "double disc" reissues, it is worth noting that the original CD pressings from the 1980's use the same numbers.


An Ideal For Living EP: Warsaw/No Love Lost/Leaders Of Men/Failures (7", June 1978, Enigma PSS139, fold out sleeve)
An Ideal For Living EP: Warsaw/No Love Lost/Leaders Of Men/Failures (Reissue 12" in "scaffolding" p/s, October 1978, Anonymous ANON 1)
Transmission/Novelty (7", October 1979, Factory FAC 13)
Komakino/Incubation/As You Said (7" flexidisc, April 1980, Factory FAC 28)
Love Will Tear Us Apart/These Days/Love Will Tear Us Apart (Pennine Version) (45/33rpm 7", April 1980, Factory FAC 23)
Love Will Tear Us Apart/These Days/Love Will Tear Us Apart (Pennine Version) (Reissue 12" in "outstretched" p/s, June 1980, Factory FAC 23.12)
Atmosphere/She's Lost Control (12" Mix) (12", September 1980, Factory FACUS 2/UK)
Transmission/Novelty (Reissue 12" in "blurred" p/s, December 1980, Factory FAC 13.12)
The Peel Sessions EP: Exercise One/Insight/She's Lost Control/Transmission (12", November 1986, Strange Fruit SFPS 013)
The Peel Sessions EP: Love Will Tear Us Apart/24 Hours/Colony/Sound Of Music (12", September 1987, Strange Fruit SFPS 033)
Atmosphere/The Only Mistake (7", June 1988, Factory FAC 213/7)
Atmosphere/The Only Mistake/Sound Of Music (12", June 1988, Factory FAC 213)
Atmosphere/The Only Mistake/Sound Of Music (Cassette, June 1988, Factory FACC 213)
Atmosphere/Transmission (Live)/Love Will Tear Us Apart (CD, June 1988, Factory FACD 213)
Transmission +3 (CD, 1991, Various Artists Split EP released as "Palatine: The Single", Factory FACD 304)
Transmission +3 (12", 1991, Various Artists Split EP released as "Palatine: The Single", Factory FAC 304)
Love Will Tear Us Apart (Permanent Mix)/(Original 7" Version)/(Arthur Baker Remix)/Atmosphere (12", 1995, London YOJX 1)
Love Will Tear Us Apart/These Days/Love Will Tear Us Apart (Pennine Version) (7" in "original release" p/s, 2007, Factory FAC 23)
Love Will Tear Us Apart (Original 7" Version)/(Permanent Mix)/Atmopshere (CD in "original release" p/s, 2007, Factory FAC 23 CD)

The two "Peel Sessions" EP's were also issued in identical sleeves on CD in 1988, and Cassette in 1989.

Further reading:
Joy Division Central: http://www.joydiv.org/
Joy Division Discography: http://www.gerpotze.com/joydivision/jddisco1.htm

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