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By Mike Love
I went to quite a few gigs in the Autumn of 1979. Before the MEN Arena, or G-Mex, whatever, bands actually factored Liverpool into their tour itineraries and, over a period of a couple of weeks, I saw the Boomtown Rats at the Empire; likewise Siouxsie and the Banshees; and Buzzcocks at Mountford Hall. The latter was significant for the appearance of the then fledgling Joy Division as support. 'Support', eh? As misnomers go, that's a good 'un, and they absolutely blew Pete Shelley and his similarly fey cohorts right off the stage.
Ian Curtis cut a haunting figure, as this lanky streak of piss, in a bad shirt, flailed his way around the stage. He seemed to be in another world - maybe partly down to his epilepsy - and you couldn't take your eyes off him. Significantly, following Joy Division's set, a good quarter of the audience simply upped and left. Follow that, indeed. Less than eight months later, Ian Curtis was dead.
A grim Wednesday night in St Helens - pretty apposite, I suppose, for those wanting to see the acclaimed bio-pic of the aforesaid front-man. I expressed surprise, to the ticket-man, that such a mainstream cinema as Cineworld had elected to show the movie. He agreed, but said that it was finishing this week as "not many people have been to see it" (in a St Helens accent). In the event, there were about eight of us at the screening and, for once, I wasn't the only singleton. Now, whilst I go to watch movies, I never do any research, so I haven't got a bastard clue who played who (except Punk Poet, John Cooper-Clarke, who played himself), but the lad who was Curtis was incredible. Accent, moves, singin', the lot. Fair play.
Anyway, it was always gonna be a strange experience, as you knew the ending all along (unless you'd just gone 'cos it was two-for-one Orange Wednesdays), but - shot entirely in black and white - the film was a belter. Not so much the story of Joy Division, but, rather, of a bizarre love triangle, involving Curtis, his loyal teen bride Debbie, and his Belgian ice-maiden mistress Annik. The film took you through what you knew already. Bowie-freak Curtis as mild-mannered clerk in the Dole Office; joins Warsaw; become Joy Division; releases Unknown Pleasures; battles with epilepsy; and, as mentioned, the agonies he endured through the trauma of loving two women in equal measure. In the end, it got too much for him to bear. On 18 May 1980, the eve of Joy Division's first tour of America, he returned to his modest terrace house in Macclesfield. Putting Iggy Pop's 'The Idiot', on the turntable, he wrapped the old-style washing line, in the kitchen, around his neck, and slowly choked to death. He was 23 years old.
Go and see this film. Even though its now finished absolutely everywhere, locally, which renders my advice obsolete.
'If you could just see the beauty, of things I could never descibe'
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