Ian Curtis committed suicide/May 18th 1980


A short biography of Ian Curtis

Ian Kevin Curtis was born in Manchester on the 15th July 1956, the son of Kevin and Doreen Curtis. The Curtis family then lived at Hurdsfield, just outside Macclesfield, where Ian attended the local primary school. Later the family moved to a flat at Victoria Park, near Macclesfield town centre, which was Ian’s home until 1973.

At the age of 11 Ian won a scholarship to the King’s School in Macclesfield. Although he was reasonably successful at school, Ian had little interest in academic advancement, and his ambition was to get a job in the music industry. His love of music had developed from an early age, his teenage heroes including David Bowie, Iggy Pop and the Velvet Underground. The first step on his musical career was a job at Rare Records, a shop in Manchester city centre. This helped to expand his musical interests.

Ian Curtis had met Deborah Woodruffe while they were both still at school in Macclesfield. They were married on 23rd August 1975, at St Thomas’s church in Henbury, a few miles west of Macclesfield. Ian and Deborah lived first in Hulme and then in Chadderton, and in May 1977 moved into 77 Barton Street in Macclesfield. Their life together is described in detail in Deborah’s book Touching From A Distance. Their only child, daughter Natalie, was born on 16th April 1979.

Seeing the Sex Pistols perform in Manchester in 1976 had convinced Ian that he too could make it on stage. Ian had made abortive attempts to form a band with his friends in Macclesfield. His break came when he got to know Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook, who were trying to do the same in Salford but lacked a singer. When Ian contacted them to enquire about the vacancy, they were happy to join forces with him. The band history page tells the story of how things developed from there.

As well as being Joy Division’s vocalist, Ian Curtis also wrote the song lyrics. Lyrically he was inspired by, among others, W S Burroughs, J G Ballard and David Bowie. Many of Joy Division’s songs were written in the house in Barton Street, and Ian had a stock of notebooks into which he jotted ideas as they came to him. Many people assume that his lyrics must reflect his own feelings and problems, but perhaps they just reflect his talent for writing a meaningful song.

Ian’s first (and last) «proper» job was as a civil servant for the Manpower Services Commission, initially in Manchester and later in Macclesfield. His job required him to work closely with disabled people (see below for more details). He tried to juggle a full-time job with his life in the band until his musical commitments became too great for him to manage both.

While working in Manchester, Ian was a frequent visitor to the nearby office of the RCA record company. It was mainly Ian’s persistency which led to Joy Division being given a contract to record their first album, although this was never officially released. Ian is also famous for haranguing Granada TV’s Tony Wilson in order to get Joy Division an appearance on his TV show.

Ian had a volatile personality, and could show different sides at different times and with different people. He could sometimes be angry and spiteful, but more often was easy-going and generous. Although his health, his career and his personal life all brought many pressures, Ian is usually recalled by those who knew him as a fun-loving person, albeit a slightly eccentric one, with a good sense of humour.

In January 1979 Ian was diagnosed as epileptic. Although his fits varied in frequency and intensity, epilepsy was an ever-present concern from then on. Not only did Ian have to take regular medication, which seemed to make his mood swings more extreme, but fits could be brought on by strobe lighting in some of the clubs. His frenetic stage style mirrored the epileptic fits he suffered. Ian’s experience of epilepsy in himself and others inspired him to write She’s Lost Control. Ian was also a heavy smoker, possibly another sign of the stress he was under.

The pressures of working in a touring band played havoc with Ian’s health and his marriage. A number of Joy Division concerts were curtailed or cancelled when Ian was taken ill. Once he was hopitalised for a few days following an epileptic fit. His involvement with a Belgian girl named Annik Honoré further undermined his already fragile relationship with his wife Deborah. After Ian gave up his full-time job, he and Deborah had little money, so Deborah was forced to work herself despite having a baby to look after.

On May 18th 1980 Ian Curtis killed himself at his home in Macclesfield (see below for more details). His suicide came as a great shock to those who knew him. With the benefit of hindsight, many apparent clues to his frame of mind can be found, but no-one really knows what drove Ian to take his own life.

While Ian Curtis was clearly unusual in many respects, the popular «doom and gloom» image left by his suicide and by some of his songs is not recognised by most of the people who knew him. Although some people now remember only his suicide, we remember Ian’s key contribution to a talented band and to a musical era.

In the early hours of May 18th 1980, two months before his 24th birthday, Ian Curtis committed suicide at his home in Macclesfield.

Curtis’s last live performance was on 2 May 1980 at Birmingham University, a show that included Joy Division’s first and only performance of the song «Ceremony«, later recorded by New Order and released as their first single. The last song Curtis performed on stage was «Digital». The recording of this performance can be found on the compilation album Still.

Detailed in Debbie Curtis’s Touching from a Distance, Curtis was staying at his parents’ house at this time and attempted to talk his wife into staying with him on 17 May 1980, to no avail. Debbie left him in her house overnight while she left to do some errands. Genesis P-Orridge of Throbbing Gristle claimed in a 2006 interview that Curtis would sometimes phone him during the night and sing the Throbbing Gristle song «Weeping» — a song about suicide — to him.[6]

In the early hours of 18 May 1980, Curtis hanged himself in the kitchen of his house in Macclesfield.[1] He had just viewed Werner Herzog‘s film Stroszek


Bruno S. stars as an ex-mental patient who dreams of the so-called promised land of America. He aligns himself with like-minded prostitute Eva Mattes and elderly, near-senile Clemens Scheitz. Upon their arrival in Wisconsin, the three misfits find that they’re just as trapped in Dairy Country as they’d been in Germany–if not more so.”

and listened to Iggy Pop‘s The Idiot. At the time of his death, his health was failing as a result of the epilepsy and attempting to balance his musical ambitions with his marriage, which was foundering in the aftermath of his affair with journalist Annik Honoré. His wife found his body the next morning.

Wilson later said, «I’d been warned on a train to London two weeks earlier by Annik [Honoré]. I asked her, ‘What do you think of the new album.’ She goes, ‘I’m terrified.’ I said, ‘What are you terrified of?’ She replies, ‘Don’t you understand? He means it.’ And I go, ‘No, he doesn’t mean it — it’s art.’ And guess what? He fucking meant it.»[7]

Curtis’s memorial stone, which is inscribed with «Ian Curtis 18 – 5 – 80» and «Love Will Tear Us Apart», was stolen in July 2008 from the grounds of Macclesfield Cemetery.[8] The missing memorial stone was later replaced by a new one.[9]

Joy Division – Decades



~ από kapetank στο 18/05/2009.

2 Σχόλια to “Ian Curtis committed suicide/May 18th 1980”

  1. RIP

    (ούτε εσύ το ξεχνάς ε; )

  2. μπα καθε χρονο το θυμαμαι…συνηθως μια μερα πριν μια μετα…
    εχω και ενα καδρο με τον ιαν στο δωματιο που ακουω μουσικη που δεν μπορω να ξεχασω με τιποτα την ημερομηνια


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