By Paul Rigby
Unknown Pleasures is this month’s Classic Album Sunday featured album and will be played at 5pm on a state of the art hi-fi system this Sunday in New York and London. We’d love you to join in, have your own listening session and let us know your thoughts.
A 4-piece, post punk, band (they included increasingly fashionable synthesisers), Joy Division were moody and angst ridden, pioneering a vibe that would be developed within the indie movement of the later 80s. Combining power and desolation, this giant of an album is full of tension and the fear of the expected.
Peter Hook, Joy Division bassist. Remembered, during the creation of the album, how difficult it was to be part of the post-punk evolution, “I connect with Unknown Pleasures. It was our first, we were intensely involved, and I remember the awful disappointment when I listened to it. It didn’t sound the way I wanted it to. I wanted it to sound much like Sex Pistol’s Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. That was what Joy Division sounded like to me…in my head. [Producer] Martin Hannett gave it a fantastic production influence that took me 30 years to appreciate. He made it sound like a wonderful record made by wonderful people and I wanted the record to be made by angry young men. Looking back, I am really glad I didn’t get my way.”
One of the iconic features of the album is Peter Saville’s design of the cover. Design being a crucial aspect of the label, Factory, illustrating a transcription of a signal showing a star going nova, on a black embossed sleeve, “I think I probably asked the obvious questions to the band, ‘Does anyone want the title on the front?’,” said Saville. “It’s a thing that graphic designers have to ask. You know, ‘What would you like on your business card?’ That’s the job. The elements were given [by the band] but I seem to remember indifference about the rest of it. To the question, ‘Do you want the title on the front?’ I probably go the answer, ‘Not really.’ I asked, ‘Do you want Joy Division on the front?’ ‘Not Really.’ That’s the most revealing. It’s not very cool…to put your name on the front. It’s a sort of funny combination of shyness and arrogance. Putting your name on the front? It’s, like, trying a bit hard, isn’t it? None of it matters. The marvel of Factory was by not being a company, by not being a business, by not employing anybody, by not investing any money in anything except manufacturing, there was no agenda of commerciality.”
Stand-out track: New Dawn Fades
Peter Hook’s devastating bass lines will demand an intense sense of detail and clarity from the lower regions of your hi-fi to prevent the intro turning into plummy stodge while some delicate electric guitar work can easily be drowned behind the passionate Ian Curtis vocals. Instrumental separation will be sorely tested via this track.
Unknown Pleasures – A Recorded History
1979 LP Factory FACT10
1980 LP Factory FACT10
1983 LP Factory FACT10
1985 Cass Factory FACT10c
1986 CD Factory FACD10
1988 CD Factory FACD10
1992 CD London 520 016-2
1999 CD London 3984 28223-2
2007 CD London 2564 69778 9
2007 LP Rhino/London RHI1 73395