My biggest regret in life is not getting into Joy Division until my early 40s.
I’ve been a fool.
Joy Division is a band I purposely avoided listening to for 20 years. It was the band of choice of the jerky drama kids in high school who wouldn’t let me be in the Tennessee Williams’ play with the cigarette smoking on stage.
Same goes for The Cure and Bauhaus. Not that I would have been caught dead listening to any of these bands when I was 15. Too slow. No screaming. No macho posturing. Only lightning-fast punk and ultra-hostile hip-hop for this cowboy.
OK, so I was wrong.
Punk and hip-hop led to soul led to outlaw country led to cowpunk led to post-punk. Music genres are a whole lot of meaningless adjectives, perhaps, but I’ve had a ball loose in record stores and lost on YouTube.
It wasn’t until 2018 that I finally discovered the big, moody wonder that is Joy Division. It’s all thanks to Colorado Public Radio. It was 11 p.m. on a Friday, and I didn’t feel like feeling around on the floorboard for the case of CDs, not while I was tired and driving 65 mph on the highway.
Out of the speakers came a pulsing bass line, a dissonant reverberating guitar line soaked in reverb, and finally a singer who seemed like he wasn’t sure he really felt like it today.
“I’ve been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand. Could these sensations make me feel the pleasures of a normal man? These sensations barely interest me for another day,
“I’ve got the spirit, lose the feeling, take the shock away.”
“Wow, who is this moody bastard and why have I never had the pleasure of listening to him?” I asked the night. At least, I think it was the night.
I arrived home and told my girlfriend that I finally heard Joy Division.
“Oh, I love Joy Division,” she said.
She had beaten me to the punch. I’ll never forgive her.
Upon further inquiry, I learned that Joy Division’s lead singer, Ian Curtis, tragically killed himself at the age of 23. This tracked with my girlfriend’s taste in music, which at one time or another has included Elliott Smith and Jeff Buckley, both of whom exited the mortal coil prematurely.
My girlfriend is clinically depressed much of the time. One unintentional benefit, at least from where I’m sitting, springs from her lack of energy to take an electric hair straightener to that lustrous shock of wavy, midnight blue witch hair as so many Latina women are wont to do. I never understood that fashion choice. They have hair that shampoo commercials lie to white women about. Why straighten it? Why?
Settle down, John.
This year has been our summer of bonding over Joy Division. So far, I’ve managed to snag a greatest hits album, and our streaming service has gotten pretty morose lately. True to my tendency to overdo everything, I’ve also located a DVD copy of the biopic.
I think next I’ll buy a T-shirt.