The history of one song /// Joy Division ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’


Even though they weren’t the best-selling band and never boasted high chart positions, Joy Division played a major part in the development of UK music. In late 1970s Joy Division became one of the pioneers of post-punk and played a considerable part in shaping the genre. Their career was bright, but short and tragic – just like a flame that flared up glaringly, but extinguished quickly and suddenly. One of the last chords in the band’s life was ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ – a dramatic song full of melancholy and pain.

Ian Curtis wrote ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ in August 1979.  It was one of the few songs where Curtis played the guitar. Joy Division played it live for the first time in the autumn 1979 during their tour with Buzzcocks. The track encapsulated all the pain Ian Curtis was going through at that moment in his personal life, which was connected with his failing marriage and the state of depression, even despite Joy Division’s becoming very successful. This song was the mirror of his feelings, as he always made sure not to make them too prominent in life, but chose to pour all the emotions into his songs instead. The track was officially released in June 1980, two months after Ian Curtis committed a suicide and the era of Joy Division came to an end, following their promise that the band would end if someone of the comprising musicians died.

Developing slowly and smoothly, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ has got the sense of impending doom in it brought by deep, droning, solemn bass and anxious drums. Ian Curtis’s vocals are calm with heartbreak felt acutely in every word and echoing in listeners’ souls. Positioning ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ as a sad love song is a bit superficial, as this track is much more than that. It’s a confession, a cry of heartbreak and pain, an outlet for bottled up agony, depression and, in a way, an entreaty for help…

Joy Division were a band for only four years, but for this period of time they managed to achieve more and make more impact than many other bands in longer periods. Their legacy still lives and music lovers all around the world still admire their gloomy, haunting music full of honesty, personal experience and heartbreaking life stories.

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