What Does Ian Curtis Mean To You?

I’ve found myself in some strange situations in my NME career. There was the time Bono touched by bottom. The occasion Kaiser Chiefs told Paul McCartney I was a dickhead. Not forgetting the time I interviewed a (thankfully long forgotten) Sheffield indie band while they spent the entirety of the time the tape was running stamping on the corpses of dead mice in their draughty practice room.

But taking two Italian goths to look at a stuffed giant panda in a museum in Macclesfield, as I did last Sunday, as part of a Joy Division walking tour of Ian Curtis’s hometown that I was writing about for this week’s special issue – well, NME don’t tell you might have to do that when they’re laying out the pension plan.

There are eleven pages of Ian Curtis tribute in this week’s NME, all edited and commissioned by my fair Features Editor hand, including my two page walking tour (picture of stuffed panda and all) tributes from all the surviving members, super fan Brandon Flowers, Curtis biographer Paul Morley, Control director Anton Corbijn, Johnny Marr, Pavement and Biffy Clyro. It’s been a labour of love putting it all together and I do hope you guys enjoy reading it all as much as I enjoyed putting it on page.

See, I’ve been a Joy Division fan as long as I remember – I love both the albums, I really love the live albums where they play the songs at 100mph, I love the words, those great, snowy Kevin Cummins photos. But more than that, I think there are five rock and roll bands in the entirety of the genre’s history that can stand alongside walking on the moon and the invention of cheese within the top echelon of mankind’s greatest achievements. These are The Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Velvet Underground, the Sex Pistols… and Joy Division.

Not necessarily my favourite bands ever, but five artists I do think made their music standing on the very brink of the unknown – where every move they made stepped upon virgin soil, where every thought and idea they had was essentially unique, and in tune with a changing world. I’ve often thought what it must have been like, being Ian Curtis, whether he ever got up in the morning thinking, “okay, so nobody has ever done what my band have done ever before, what newer ground will we plough today?”.

That said, I doubt he did, because that’s just the sort of bullshit theory only music journalists think of. He probably just thought, “Shit, we’re out of milk” and went back to bed.

Right, that’s what I think. But what is it about Joy Division and Ian Curtis that you lot find so enduringly special?