LONDON (Billboard) - Joy Division’s Ian Curtis never lived to see the influence his band’s legacy had on a legion of artists, critics and music fans. The enigmatic frontman took his life in 1980, at the age of 23, just as the British post-punk band was on the verge of a career crescendo.
Now, on the 30th anniversary of Joy Division’s creation, the spotlight is back on the Manchester-reared band. To mark the occasion, Warner Music Group (WMG) is reviving the act’s catalog with a flourish of projects, including an expanded reissue program, a special vinyl boxed set, download and ringtone releases and the soundtrack to “Control,” Anton Corbijn’s critically lauded Curtis biopic.
“The strangest thing is that when Ian died, our manager (the late Rob Gretton) said to us not to worry because Joy Division would be much bigger in 10 years, which of course wasn’t much solace at the time,” founding bassist Peter Hook says. “Up to Ian’s death, I think we’d sold about 10,000 records. But strangely his words have proved to be true 10, 20, 30 years on. It’s almost become a myth.”
WMG’s reissue specialist, Rhino, is driving the rerelease project in North America and internationally, and hopes are to give the band a sales spike like it has never enjoyed.
“In England, Joy Division has always been in the pantheon of independent, influential music, but in America it has always been more underground,” says Rhino senior vice president Robin Hurley, who has been closely involved in the campaign. “This project will help nudge it slightly more into mainstream public awareness, and they will sell more than they have ever sold before.”
Joy Division assembled in 1976, initially as Warsaw. The band released two studio albums, “Unknown Pleasures” (1979) and “Closer” (1980). The latter appeared two months after Curtis’ death, and was followed by a posthumous compilation of rare, unreleased and live recordings, “Still” (1981). The three albums appeared on the now-defunct Manchester independent label Factory Records, which was co-founded by the late entrepreneur Tony Wilson.
Rhino will reissue double-CD deluxe editions of those albums, expanded with rare and unreleased music, in physical and digital formats, beginning October 30. The first disc of each set features the original album remastered, while the second disc contains unreleased live performances.
A Joy Division vinyl box will be available September 11 exclusively at rhino.com, before rolling out as individual sets across all retail beginning September 25.
“Control” received glowing reviews after debuting at the Cannes Film Festival in May, collecting a Golden Camera special mention. It’s scheduled for limited stateside release by the Weinstein Co. starting October 10.
An accompanying soundtrack, due October 30, contains works from key acts of the period, including David Bowie, the Buzzcocks, Roxy Music, Iggy Pop and the Velvet Underground, and previously unreleased music including the Killers’ version of “Shadowplay.”
After Curtis’ death, the remaining bandmates regrouped and hit the big league as synth-driven outfit New Order. During its lifetime, Joy Division had only one U.K. hit -- “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” which peaked at No. 13 in 1980. As part of the new campaign, the track will be rereleased.
Although the group existed for just four years, its music has shown remarkable staying power. A current slew of bands can trace their sound to Joy Division, particularly New York act Interpol and British alt-rockers Editors.
“It’s one of the strangest things in the world that so many bands try to sound like Joy Division, but never seem to be able to pull it off correctly,” Hook quips. “Every single band in the world that is rocky and powerful seems to be compared to bloody Joy Division. It’s an incredible accolade, really.”