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Ian Curtis, Joy Division And The Real Meaning Of Control

Nov 25, 2007
The latest film by Anton Corbijn has received some interesting reviews in Indy film magazines. It chronicles the life of late post punk rock star Ian Curtis. This bio-pic sheds new light on the tortured life of Curtis and follows his brief rise into stardom as lead front man for Joy Division. This movie has a lot of complex layers to it. In fact, upon second glance these intricacies will hit you a bit harder. There is a lot to take in when you watch this incredible film.

One thing that may not be obvious is that this rise to pop status really takes place in a brief period of only two years. By the end of the Sex Pistols brief but destructive reign Joy Division took on a new life as the one band to watch. The theme here is momentum. I find myself walking out of the theater shaking my head over the whole spectacle of Ian Curtis and his destructive life/suicide.


The Sex Pistols had paved the way for the UK Punk movement in 1976 - 1978. Joy Division picked up right after that era and was the leading proponents into the new wave movement. Keep in mind that when they did this they never asked for anybody's permission. In fact, they didn't even wait to be classified as being as a new wave group or even qualifying as such. They simply arrived. When they arrived on the music scene they were darker and more introspective than the attention getting punks. The debut was somber and unrelenting and came in under the name Warsaw. That music is power driven, bass heavy and has thundering and crashing drums carrying the rhythm.

Warsaw dropped its name after doing some very powerful demo tracks. By the time they entered the studio they were named Joy Division - taking on the name of a German Nazi prostitute section in a WWII ghetto.

As the film progresses, you will see that the local media helped out to an extent by featuring them on television. Although you get a sense of constant touring there are no exact dates listed throughout the motion picture. But when you do a search on the biography of Ian Curtis but you should see the grueling tour schedule. I have to admit I was somewhat stunned when I saw how much this guy was on the road. One minute they were in London and the next they were off to Manchester delivering their howling sound at the Electric Circus, (a venue which no longer exists). There were many venues in between and radio interviews and insightful comments to the NME, (New Music Express).

So what has this to do with your business?

As a business coach, and an online marketer I am often appalled at how little the business owner will devote to his money making vehicle. In fact, it often seems as if the owner of the business goes way out of his way to do the bare minimum. And these are individuals who have sunk $150 - $250K into them. The budgets I have seen to promote these businesses have had as little as $100 bucks a month to promote them. They often balk at having to get off the couch and get the word out about their business. The goal seems to do as little as possible.

Since Joy Division had such a unique sound it is important to see what they did to get it out to the public. The mood was already set for discontent with all the political turmoil in the UK. Kids were looking for new heroes as the music scene lost direction from the punk movement. If you remember your history the Sex Pistols didn't last long after they signed up with Virgin Records. Bassist Sid Vicious died of a heroin overdose and record labels signed up many other bands who rushed in to take their place, (The Buzzcocks, X-Ray Spex etc.). To help usher in a new brand of music they had to go toe to toe with the kids directly from town to town and try to win them over.

Keep in mind that when they debut in London they were met with only a handful of curious kids in the crowd. Some say it was a little over ten potential fans others place that number closer to three. Whatever the number one thing remains consistent - Joy Division took their vision to the streets. During this bleak and destructive campaign the entire assault was centered on confrontation. I just didn't know that this was done so consistently in such a short time. It's noteworthy to add that the sound of this band had become more desperate and at times more brilliant than earlier recordings. It sharpened up and in turn made them more interesting.

Constant booking and touring enabled the band to pick up a name for themselves in other countries. Since they were centered in the UK they became well known in Germany, France, Netherlands, and demand global attention. They were invited to come to the US. Rumor had it they were to appear on Saturday Night Live although I have yet to see this fact confirmed. Ian Curtis took his life around this time due to problems with prescription medication, epilepsy and depression.

The heart of Rebel Marketing is confrontation and never waiting for permission. The other component for being a Rebel Marketer is not waiting to be classified by an organization or a committee. How this relates to you as a business owner is get rid of all procrastination. Don't worry about what the public will think about your product or service. There is a real danger in over thinking and over analyzing your outcome.

So what is the goal of failure?

Failure is inevitable in business and you should embrace it and learn from it. This is how you are going to become stronger in your field. The goal of failure should be to do it quickly and get it over and done with. Analyze your position and results and then change your game plan.


Ian Curtis and Joy Division only put out two studio albums and a handful of singles. These days they have become collector's items. Since 1980 many reissues have surfaced and they contain many live tracks and rare interviews. I find a compelling sound to the studio creations as well as the live performances. Each of these albums communicates to me differently. Seeing this new black and white film by Anton Corbijn really adds a complex dimension to the story. In many ways the story of Ian Curtis is now complete. The fact that film director Corbijn claims to remember things in black and white added more strangeness to this tale. Anton Corbijn was a rock photographer who was present during some of Joy Divisions chaotic performances. Curtis had notable epileptic seizures while he performed on stage in front of concert goers. Corbijn recreated those shows through memory and the scant amount of pictures taken during their heyday. These shocking black and white shots helped create the cinema of the recent release, "Control".

Donald Trump describes momentum as a magical force that enables you to cultivate powerful deals and attain monetary satisfaction. It is something that you self generate when you feel good about yourself. In short it is the power of the self in action. The most obvious thought should be did Joy Division ever at any point feel good about themselves? I think they did. I don't think any of them ever dreamed that Ian Curtis would destroy himself. But I do think Joy Division felt good enough about their work as a band to push their act out into the public eye. I don't think it was a positive energy but they definitely felt confident. That energy was in fact momentum. It was enough to drive them into the history books and become a rock critic's favorite.

There was only one real way to put an end to this movement. The demise of Ian Curtis definitely did that. Joy Division later regrouped and formed New Order. This band picked up where the old band left off but it was more positive in many ways. The earlier work of Joy Division fell into cult status.

The goal for many of these UK punk and post punk bands had a lot in common. They all stood up against the status quo, they all rallied against convention, they all represented change. All of these bands worked in a tight timeframe. They created history in a 48 month period. These acts reached international popularity and stardom and became memorable in rock history. The Damned, The Clash, Sex Pistols, Souixsie and the Banshees, and Joy Division ushered in a new era of rock music. They stamped out a blueprint for many other bands to follow worldwide. They helped launch a new type of sound that revolutionized the music industry. This is notable.

I find myself somewhat enamored by what these bands accomplished. I keep going back to the early recordings and analyzing them over and over again trying to find the seed of the creation. Each time I come up empty handed. After years of collecting punk and post punk music I am left with one thing and one thing only. That one thing is momentum - a truly powerful source of inspiration.

That type of energy comes from within. You have to have that vision and its got to come out of you from deep inside. It has a fearless edge to it. This type of energy never flinches and you have to defend your position. Once you understand this type of power it can become truly addicting. Personally speaking I find it useful and I am beginning to understand it. To get that type of reaction out of people you have to be truly unrelenting and hold your position.

You have to have control.
About the Author
Ted Cantu runs an online marketing company, SEO Search Quest. This innovative firm creates top search engine rankings, web video, killer sales copy, and can be found at http://www.1seomichigan.com
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