Joy Division’s Peter Hook & Stephen Morris celebrated 40 years of ‘Closer’ on Tim’s Twitter Listening Party
Since the beginning of quarantine, The Charlatans' Tim Burgess has been hosting his series, Tim's Twitter Listening Party, on a regular basis, allowing artists to share anecdotes and chat with fans about one of their records via Twitter while everyone listens along.
Saturday, July 18 was the 40th anniversary of Joy Division's iconic second (and final) album, Closer, which was also just reissued on vinyl. and the Listening Party discussion featured bassist Peter Hook and drummer Stephen Morris, as well as photographer Kevin Cummins and writer/DJ Dave Haslam. It was a special occasion indeed, as Hook has not really been on speaking terms with the rest of Joy Division / New Order since 2007 -- though they did not reply directly to each other.
You can check out the whole replay here, which plays out in real time if you want to listen along to the album, and you can read highlights from it below.
"I really do feel like this LP is Ian's masterpiece," Hook said, referring to Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis who took his own life two months before Closer was released.
The track-by-track discussion began with "wild opener" "Atrocity Exhibition," and Hook noted that he and guitarist Bernard Sumner switched roles on this track (as they also did on a few other tracks, like Joy Division's "The Sound of Music" and New Order's "Murder" and "Confusion"). "I guess we just fancied doing something different!" he wrote. Kevin Cummins then posted a picture as proof:
As the discussion revealed, many of the tracks on the record were inspired by sci-fi and fantasy. "Atrocity Exhibition" was inspired by a JG Ballard book, and "Colony" was inspired by a Kafka story in which the narrator "described the origins and use of an elaborate torture device at a prison colony," as journalist Dave Haslam tweeted. Hook noted, though, they never asked Curtis what he was singing about -- "Of course, after Ian's death, everybody looked at the lyrics and they almost read like a story of his life," he said. "But it really didn't feel like that at the time."
As for "Isolation," Hook calls it "One of my best riffs & probably the closest we get to my actual live bass sound on either album. Contrast to the previous track ["Atrocity Exhibition"] in that we now have an effect on Ian’s vocals. Great chorus - this should definitely have been a single." Hook also praised Morris' playing and style on "Isolation": "I love how half the song is played on the drum pads & then for the third verse Steve brings in the full kit. This takes the whole song up another gear & is very effective live." Halsam shared a picture of Curtis' handwritten lyrics for the song:
Stephen Morris also said that the drum riff on "Colony" is the "one drum riff [he] was really proud of," saying it was inspired by a Captain Beefheart song. Peter called Morris' drumming on the song "brilliant," adding "More of a traditional Joy Division rock song - probably the straightest on the LP. One bass riff from start to finish, with only a few variations. Brilliant drums throughout. The guitar is very loud but it really works on this track."
For "A Means to an End," Hook describes it as "a bit more poppy than Colony" and notes it's "musically weird as it has major and minor chords at the same time. I didn’t even know what that meant at this point. A great example of the chemistry between the 3 of us as players." He added that "The bass is centred around octaves - something that I nicked from disco songs. We would also later use that same octave technique on the synths for Blue Monday."
Flipping the record over, Peter Hook says Side 2 opener "Heart and Soul" "still sounds fresh 40 years on" and featured subdued bass. "The keyboards come into their own here. The guitar doesn’t come in until late in the track, which makes it very powerful. That will have been overdubbed later. Great snare rolls." When asked about how he kept those snare rolls so tight, Morris said, "Listening to it now I’ve no idea how I did it either."
On "Twenty Four Hours," Hook notes it was one of the last songs the band wrote together. "Amazing song, if I do say so myself," said Peter Hook. "The feeling of what could have been is heartbreaking."
Hook said penultimate Closer track "The Eternal" "features the grand piano that was in the studio at Britannia Row. We were reluctant as it went against our punk ethos but Martin insisted that it would work for this track and he was right." He also said that the "noise at the end is the TV in the rec room where Rob [Gretton, the band's manager] would always be sat."
On the record's final track, "Decades," Peter Hook says that it felt as though it describes "the story of Joy Division" and that, here, "Ian has found his voice" (though label head Tony WIlson was "forever trying to get him to sound like Frank Sinatra"). "It really does sound like an end point," he said.
As for the album's classic artwork, Halsam said "designer Peter Saville found this in a magazine called ‘Zoom’" " which was "a photo by Bernard Pierre Wolff of the Appiani family tomb in the Staglieno cemetery in Genoa, Italy. Saville showed the band photos from the cemetery in the magazine; they picked this one.
Haslam noted that "after the death of Ian Curtis, Saville suddenly realised the implications, pointing out 'We have a problem. The album cover has a tomb on it.' But the band said, ‘We decided it together, Ian chose it.’ It was a coincidence, not a cash-in."
Hook said that he was able to visit the Italian tombs featured on Closer's album artwork, noting that he "Can't help but think Ian would've loved to see [them]."
After the discussion of Closer wrapped up, there was a little discussion of Joy Division singles "Atmosphere," "Transmission" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart" which were all also just reissued on vinyl. On "Atmosphere," Hook said, "We didn’t like to put singles on the LPs as our punk ethos was that we didn’t want to sell fans the same thing twice. Michael Shamberg however thought that this was too good to be ‘wasted’ on a limited edition French release. He was right." As for "Love Will Tear Us Apart," he said, "I wouldn't like this song to have been written about me, put it that way."
You can check out a few more pictures that were shared on this edition of Tim's Twitter Listening Party, below.
Check out the full replay of the Closer Tim's Twitter Listening Party.
To pay tribute to Curtis on the 40th anniversary of his death back in May, there was a two-hour livestream, "Moving Through the Silence: Celebrating The Life and Legacy of Ian Curtis," and Hook shared a three-hour concert video of when he and his band The Light performed Joy Divisions' entire catalog.
You can also watch a video of Joy Division performing at Manchester Apollo in 1979 and 1980 below.