Sunday Book Review: The Unknown Pleasures of Joy Division

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Sunday Book Review is a recurring feature devoted to bridging the gap between music fans and music books. We aim to give you a taste of new and classic books that dive deep into the psyches of musicians. Tweet requests @nmcalone

This week's book: Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, by Peter Hook
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Joy Division is a band that has existed primarily in retrospect. The members built the band through several iterations in the Manchester punk scene before capturing something timeless in their 1979 debut full-length album, Unknown Pleasures. By the end of 1980, the lyrical heart of the band, frontman Ian Curtis, had committed suicide. After his death, the other members “disowned” Joy Division, recognizing it couldn’t exist with Curtis, and continued on as New Order, creating mega-hits of their own like “Blue Monday” and “Bizarre Love Triangle,” while at the same time building the posthumous popularity of Joy Division and solidifying its legacy as one of the most influential rock bands of all time.

With his 2013 book, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, bassist Peter Hook captures that creative moment in a way few authors do. While many of the artists we’ve featured in this column describe their rise to success, Hook does the best job at transporting the reader to the time and place it occurred. The book drops you into the Manchester punk scene that spawned Joy Division and makes you understand what it would have been like to be part of it. Though the adherence to a strict timeline (this show, that show) can bog down the narrative at points, most of the time this comprehensiveness serves to illuminate the inner workings of Joy Division and explain what factors combined to make it such a phenomenon. In an era where a DIY musical aesthetic is again taking hold, this book also showcases how you can build a band through hard work (the members all had day jobs through much of their early music careers) and smart choices. If you’re drawn to the idea of sitting next to Peter Hook at a pub and having him explain what Joy Division was to him, read on.

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