On this day in music history: July 18, 1980 – “Closer”, the second album by Joy Division is released. Produced by Martin Hannett, it is recorded at Brittania Row Studios in Islington, London from March 18 – 30, 1980. Originally formed in 1976 by Bernard Sumner (guitar) and Pete Hook (bass), the two friends decide to buy instruments and form a band after seeing The Sex Pistols perform in their hometown of Manchester. Along with their mutual friend Terry Mason (drums), they also ask Martin Gresty to sing lead. When Gresty turns them down, they go in search for a lead singer by placing an advertisement in a local Virgin Records store. The ad is answered by Ian Curtis, another childhood friend who is also an avid fan of the punk rock scene. Initially calling themselves Warsaw after the David Bowie song “Warszawa”, they play their first gig on May 29, 1977 along side The Buzzcocks, Penetration and John Cooper Clarke. Warsaw go through a succession of drummers after Mason steps aside to manage the band. Third drummer Steve Brotherdale is replaced by Curtis’ former school mate Stephen Morris in August of 1977. The band also abandon their original name after only three months when they discover there is a London punk band called Warsaw Pakt. They rename themselves Joy Division, after the name of the forced sex slavery wing of Nazi concentration camps, referred to the in the novella “House Of Dolls”. After releasing their first EP “An Ideal For Living” in 1978, they sign with Manchester based indie label Factory Records. Releasing their debut album “Unknown Pleasures” in June of 1979, the band increase their already loyal following and begin writing material for the follow up. With their rise in popularity, singer Ian Curtis’ personal problems also begin to overwhelm him. Suffering from epilepsy, Curtis begins having frequent seizures, becoming increasingly depressed as his marriage also is failing. He pours his emotions into the lyrics of Joy Division’s songs, most poignantly in the non-album single “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (#13 UK), and others like “Atrocity Exhibition”, “Isolation” and “A Means To An End”. The band complete the recording of their second album “Closer” in less than two weeks, at Brittania Row Studios in London, owned at the time by Pink Floyd. Two months before it’s released, Ian Curtis commits suicide on May 18, 1980, by hanging himself. He is only twenty three years old at the time. When “Closer” is released, it is very well received and is praised as a post-punk masterpiece. Surviving members Sumner, Hook and Morris (with his girlfriend and later wife Gillian Gilbert) form New Order out of the ashes of Joy Division, going on to even greater success during the 80’s and beyond. “Closer” hits number one on the UK Indie Album chart, peaking at number six on the UK Album chart, and is certified Gold in the UK by BPI.
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