Unknown Pleasures by Peter Hook
Book review by
I always have been a fan of Joy Division for as long as I can remember. Closer was and still is one of my all time favorite albums. I always thought Ian Curtis is one of the greatest lyricist ever. I saw ”24 Hour Party People” with an immense pleasure and I kinda liked ”Control” but always thought there was something missing still. I needed more. Finally reading Peter Hook autobiography I got to know everything I wanted to know and totally enjoyed the very bold style of Peter Hook. Once I started I could hardly put it down. For the first time I felt that my thirst to know more and more about Joy Division and the tragic death of their legendary frontman was satisfied at last although a mysterious aura will always remain.
It’s not because a lack of information or a marketing trick but simply because it’s within the very essence of Joy Division. You are given a variety of choices to resolve some of the enigmas surrounding JD but most of the answers are totally subjective and depends on the point of view you stand for. Nobody will ever know what truly led Ian Curtis to think that there was no more hope and what could have been done to save him from getting to this point of no return. We feel Hooky is constantly asking himself those questions. It’s as if they were written in the margins of every page. And that just a couple out of many others unanswered question but it’s easy to imagine that they are the ones that haunted Hook for many many oh so many sleepless nights….Ever since that tragic night of May 1980…Precisely on the eve of what could have been the ultimate achievement of his wildest dreams.
Peter Hook tells us the story from his point of view, very boldly, very honestly, not trying to save anyone’s image nor pointing an accusative finger at anyone either, just trying to set the record as straight as possible. Through him, we finally get to know the real story of Joy Division and Ian Curtis. The starting point of it still being a Sex Pistols concert….In fact Ian Curtis wasn’t at the first one but he did was at the second one and Hooky hardly remember him being there. From there, Peter Hook marches us very thoroughly and even if it isn’t always sad, one can still feel the tremendous pain and the disastrous effect of the forever burning hell that he was thrown, that they were all thrown in when Ian decided to put himself out of his misery in a very intimate book in which you get to like the boys from Joy Division and their entourage for what they really where as he recalls their boyish pranks on each other, the lousy venues, the fights and the jealousy and backstabbing that existed at the time between bands, the lack of organisation and knowledge, the overall misunderstanding and deception that would come from your family and your co-workers and their daytime job they had to keep for so long so that they wouldn’t have to make any compromise on their music. There is a lot that they had to put up with but we also realise that the DIY that comes with it has become an inherent trademark of Punk. Peter Hook also does his mea culpa as to the general lack of concern towards what additional mental and physical pressure that Ian had to deal with considering he was married with a first newborn baby, his illness and his affair with Annick Honoré. You get to realise that Ian’s persona and tragic end was far more complex than meets the eye but at the same time it is so very understandable when you always are reminded that they were so young and well, as it is said in the book ”they didn’t have a clue”. Joy Division was a band that started from nothing and had fought hard for every inch of fame and glory they managed to grab ahold of and they were having more and more success, the dream they all had was now becoming a reality and Ian, just like the others, didn’t want his illness to be in the way… They just wanted to keep on going and who can blame them…I think no one in particular is to blame, but maybe at the same time, everyone is, including Ian himself.
I didn’t like the movie ”Control” so much because I thought it was more about who Ian wasn’t then about who he was. I also thought it was a very biased vision since the writer was Ian’s unfortunate widow and mother of his daughter Nathalie. Now I do understand that Ian was far from being a good father, we all know that. Of course he should have been more responsible but I think despite the sad fact he wasn’t the father he should have been, we all want to know, more than anything, who he was as an artist. Debbie was the wife at home, abandoned and put aside by Ian who had married her at a very young age so she didn’t get much to know him as an artist. Ian Curtis to me is the singer, the captain of a band called Joy Division and to me that what’s matters the most. I’m not a fan of those gossip magazines and never have been so I have very little concern about people’s private life unless they have a very direct effect on their art. Unfortunately it did have a direct effect on Joy Division, his complex love affair, amongst other things, drove him to kill himself and put a very abrupt end to Joy Division who was bound to leave for a US tour the very next day so it does help me to understand but that is one of many aspects about Ian’s life and Joy Division but ”Control” nevertheless did left me unsatisfied. Now ”24 Hour Party People” did reveal a bit more about the boys and Ian. In the book, Hook says that in his opinion, the Ian they present in ”24 Hour Party People” is much closer to the real Ian than the one that is presented in ”Control” but the bit that is about Joy Division is just a small part of the movie so it did left me very unsatisfied too in this regard. I wanted to know how Ian Curtis was when he was on tour with his lads, how he was when no one was looking, what drove him, how did he write his lyrics, how big was his influence on Joy Division, how did the others saw his illness as it grew more and more important, how was the relation between members of the band, how come no one told him to rest, what the boys felt they should or could have done to help him… It turns out that Peter Hook did all that with a fresh, bold, honest look at it all. It is very well written and gives you a very clear picture about everything you want to know. Now Peter Hook himself is a character that you get to like from the get go… His boldness and honesty, his sensitivity or lack of, at times makes the book very real, funny, sad… You can feel the excitement, the ups and downs of Joy Division. He also gives a very detailed description of how the albums were recorded and a very good description of the larger than life character of their producer and technical engineer, the well-respected Martin Hannett.
If you are a Joy Division fan you absolutely have to read this book. You will fall under the spell of this such unusual band that have at heart everything tiny thing they do and have it at heart to own even their worst mistakes because it is part of who they are. They are not for sale and always have managed to do what they wanted, how they wanted it. They could deal with the shitty venues, sleeping on the floor, the fights but they would never indulge in being a sell out. Here is an extract of the book I have chosen for you. In fact they are 2 separate extracts. It was very hard to choose because it depends on what aspect you want to insist. Hooky talks about them all, I picked this one simply because I thought it told a lot about many aspects and you can really read the word ”honesty” between the lines…
So here is a chosen bit of Peter ”Hooky” Hook autobiography called Unkown Pleasures,Inside Joy Division:
”Ian had responded by trying to kill himself (…) sometimes I wonder if it wasn’t the gigging break that did him in in the end. At least when we were playing we were away, our minds were distracted. With the gigs canceled and us staying close to home. Ian also ended up staying much closer to the source of all his domestic problems.
Not that we were aware of all these troubles, the depth of his problems, at the time, mind you. It’s only recently, since the explosion of interest in Joy Division, you might say, and while I’ve been researching the book, that I’ve really started to get a clear picture of the kind of shit Ian was going through and the very short timescale involved.
At the time he kept mainly to himself. as far as we were concerned he was dead excited about going to America, really looking forward to it. Yet you read about him telling people that he didn’t want to go. According to Genesis P-Orridge (from Throbbing Gristle), Ian said he’d rather ”die” than go on tour, and maybe he did say that, but not to us, he didn’t: no way. With us Ian was bang into the idea maybe if he’d been spent more time with us, and less at home, and less talking to the likes of Genesis, then he’d have been buoyed up by it all. I think he’d have gone to America, where, looking at it, the schedule wouldn’t have been exhausting, and I think he would have loved it.
I’m not saying his problems would have gone away, of course. Just that they wouldn’t have been crowding in on him quite so much. I really think that if he’d made it to America he’d had lived.
Or maybe I’m just talking out my arse again. Barney always said that it was his medication that made him suicidal, and that could have happened anywhere; Macclesfield or New-York.
(…)Our ultimate aim was to be ourselves, to do things the way we wanted them doing, and we’d insist out of sheer bloody-mindedness. Rob was always in our corner. Tony was always on our corner. You might call them mistakes but at least they were mistakes made on our own terms. Mistakes that then became legends.
A few days later we played Birmingham. We didn’t know it then, of course, but it would be our last-ever gig as Joy Division.
It was a good one too. We later released it on the album ”Still”. Ian had a bit of a wobble during ”Decades” but was fine for ”Digital”. Even so, it was one of those gigs-like all of them were around then-where you were looking at Ian wondering if, or when, it was going to happen, and that was because it was now happening at every show. With hindsight you can look back and say he probably wasn’t going to be right at any gig, whether in America or outer space. Even so, the idea of cancelling or rescheduling America never came up.
We were so excited about going, so wound up about it and desperate to do it. Ian, the fan of the Doors and Lou Reed and Iggy Pop and Burroughs, especially. I don’t care what Genesis P-Orridge says, he was looking forward to going. I mean, we had so much going for us then. The word was getting out that we were a great group to see live. We had ”Love Will Tear Us Apart” up our sleeve. We were on the way up.
That’s what always gets me about what he did. Sometimes you can see just why he did it, and it makes a kind of sense.
Other times, it just makes no fucking sense at all”