I mean, it’s only now that I feel more relaxed. I think it’s because I’m doing what I want to do – Ian Curtis
Lately I’ve been researching Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division who, on the early morning of the 18th May 1980, hanged himself. He committed suicide the day before Joy Division were about to embark on their inaugural tour of America. He left behind a legacy, a dark poetry, an estranged and broken wife, a host of friends and acquaintances and a little girl barely into her first year.
He was twenty three when he died. Curtis, while suffering from depression, also suffered from crippling epilepsy. His epileptic fits onstage during performances are well documented. His spontaneous, whirling, dangerous energy during performances is certainly, if not naturally, inspired by his condition.
Joy Division in my opinion capture a moment in time. The post war, Cold War, fuck war recession – ravaged society at that time was fuelled and driven by despair and misery. Existentialism ran to the core of their music, their art and, certainly, Ian’s philosophy. Their music is bleak, cold and unstoppable. The slow, lumbering power of the sound itself ultimately encapsulates the roar of the cold blood pushing through the heart of Ian Curtis.
Some have quoted that he would regularly state he would not live past the age of twenty five. I have been trying to understand why.
Reportedly he immersed himself in literature focusing on the state of society and of the concept of the human itself. From his lyrics it is fairly easy to surmise that Ian Curtis had a fairly despondent view of the human condition. His songs regularly explore feelings of anonymity, the struggle to exist and the lack of control over his and indeed, our own lives.
I think the reason there is a fascination with Ian is because his journey into himself is documented through the music. We are all conditioned to be fascinated by death. We suffer through others.
And it saddens me to think that at that point he was a boy. A young man. I remember when I was young, when I was twenty three years old. I hated the world but never to that level. Never to that crippling, rib crushing annihilation of the self. Perhaps he saw the face of reality too soon, or too lucidly. The fizzing boredom of “She’s Lost Control” for me encapsulates the all too consuming embrace of self-hatred. Of pointlessness. Of the sheer cracking assault of life itself.
“Love will Tear us Apart” was released two weeks after Ian’s death. Joy Division swiftly parted ways and went on to form New Order. Joy Division, at the peak of their powers, had fallen.
A multitude of circumstances may have led to Ian’s death. Pressure from management, band mates and himself to perform, worsening health problems, a failed marriage, an affair with an amateur journalist and his general mind-set at the time all perhaps contributed to the icy melancholy of his departure. There are reports that Ian was incorrectly medicated in regard to treating his depression. In addition his reluctance to manage his epilepsy effectively was an indication that he was losing control of his physical self.
Regardless of this it’s important, and rather puzzling, to me, to notice that his feelings on fatherhood were never really documented. Certainly with my experiences of becoming a father I would have imagined Ian would have been affected to some degree. For a man with an inherent understanding of his very own existence I would think that becoming a father would have had some effect on his life.
Please note the following segment is based and paraphrased on information from a confidential source.
Ian was, as I’ve said, a genius. Passionate about what he did, but definitely inwardly tortured and had something of a God complex. Although he somewhat craved normality he also thought that various standard conventions were being pushed upon him to reel him in. He was quite paranoid in that sense.
When Deborah became pregnant, he didn’t tell anyone in the band or management until she was some seven months pregnant and they saw for themselves. He maintained (to the band, at a later confrontation) that he hadn’t said anything to shield Deborah from their disapproval and jibes. Perhaps this was projecting, we’ll never know. I know that he totally upheld traditional parenting roles, despite his seemingly obvious position of bucking the trend. He believed that the mother was the best person to stay at home and raise a child, and often used this belief to support his arguments about his frequent absences from the home, extra marital or otherwise.
However he truly did only have his daughter’s welfare at the front of his mind. The band commented on lots of photos of him and the baby, but he was always lying next to her, sitting next to her in her Moses basket. He was so terrified that he’d have an epileptic fit and drop and injure the baby that he almost never held her. Whenever he spoke to Deborah on the telephone when he was away, he’d always ask after his daughter even if he didn’t talk much to Deborah.
The absolutely tragic thing, apart from his death, is that unfortunately his daughter has quite a bitter view of Ian. If you’ve read Touching From A Distance, written by his wife Deborah Curtis, you’ll have seen the tone it is written in. It’s fair to think that the pain of rejection and betrayal of his suicide has had a life-long effect on Deborah, much as you’d expect.
Like I said, a very very tortured man.