Why is the bedroom so cold? :: VOTD

Love Will Tear Us Apart :: Joy Division
from the album, Substance
Directed by Joy Division

Love Will Tear Us Apart is a song by the British post-punk band Joy Division. It was written in August 1979, and debuted when the band supported the Buzzcocks on their UK tour in September and October 1979. It is one of the few songs in which Ian Curtis played guitar (albeit somewhat minimally).

The lyrics ostensibly reflect the problems in Ian Curtis’ marriage to Deborah Curtis, as well as his general frame of mind in the time leading up to his suicide in May 1980.

The title has been stated to be an ironic reference to Love Will Keep Us Together.

Deborah Curtis had the phrase “Love Will Tear Us Apart” inscribed on Ian Curtis’ memorial stone.

The song was first released in June 1980, and became the band’s first chart hit, reaching # 13 on the UK Single Charts. Later that Summer, Love Will Tear Us Apart peaked at # 42 on the American disco/dance charts. It also debuted at # 1 in New Zealand in June 1981.

The band postponed their US tour after Ian’s death, performed a few short sets as The No-Names, then finally renamed the group as New Order. Love Will Tear Us Apart was re-released in 1984, and reached # 19 on the UK charts and re-appeared at # 3 in New Zealand during March 1984. In 1985, the 7″ single was released in Poland by Tonpress in different sleeve under license from Factory, and sold over 2,000 copies. In November 1988, it made one more Top 40 appearance in New Zealand, peaking at # 39.

Love Will Tear Us Apart appears on Substance, a compilation album. It is the latter version that appears on Substance. The January 1980 version originally appeared as one of the single’s B-sides.

Speaking to NME June 23, 2012 about his memories of the track, drummer Stephen Morris said: “I just thought ‘Yeah, this is a good song’, someone might like it. It was a great period for the band, but Ian’s personal life – that was all going badly. In retrospect, when you listen to it in light of what happened, it seems bloody obvious. I honestly didn’t realise that he was writing about himself. I just said ‘These are great lyrics, Ian’. That makes it a bit difficult to listen to now’.”

Lead guitarist Bernard Sumner added regarding Curtis: “He’d got married very, very young. And by the time of that song, he’d come to a fork in the road, relationship-wise. His life had changed enormously, and he had to make a choice. We thought his headspace was OK. But Ian had two faces – the public face for the band and the private troubles he had at home and the way they came out through his lyrics. We didn’t really listen to the lyrics. Joy Division was four people on pedestals, and we didn’t communicate with each other about what the songs are about.”

Peter Hook went on to add that he was “very, very shocked at how barbed and how vicious” Curtis’ lyrics were when he first heard them. “It was written very quickly,” he added. “I only really analysed the lyrics when I came to sing it again, to be honest. I certainly wouldn’t like that song to have been written about me.”

The video (seen above) was shot by the band themselves as they recorded the song. At the start of the video the door that opens and shuts is carved the initials of the band members. The video has production errors, with color being ‘browned out’ at some points. Another production error led to Curtis’ vocals not sounding as intended. The song as originally recorded in the video sounds much more like their Peel Session version. Curtis later re-recorded the vocals separately with distinctive hint of melancholy. The oddly-shaped guitar played by Curtis is a Vox Phantom, often mistaken as the Vox Mark III.

Editor’s Note: I had a lover once who liked to put on music, turned up loudly, to use as words to speak to me when he was upset, or angry. When I would confront him about the song choice, asking if he was trying to say something, he would deny it, but I knew it was all part of his artistically tinged passive aggression. This was a song choice he played, loudly, when I came to pick up the rest of my stuff from our first apartment, when we had decided to call it quits. I remember singing-a-long to it, louder than the stereo’s volume, trying not to cry, half hoping he would say something, that he would ask me to stay.


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