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Joy Division: Piece by Piece by Paul Morley
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Joy Division: Piece by Piece

by Paul Morley

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In a sense this is the book about Joy Division that everyone was waiting for. Paul Morley had been their chronicler since the earliest of early days, back up North in wet, miserable mid-70's Manchester when they had almost been called Stiff Kittens but ended up being Warsaw before they became Joy Division. He was there at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in 1976 when the Sex Pistols played there and set in motion the chain of events that would lead various members of that audience to bend the world around them into new shapes. Buzzcocks, Magazine, The Fall and Joy Division all came into being directly because of that concert.

Morley saw something, some spark, some unearthly light in these four young men and the fierce, deeply emotional music they made. As the proto-punk Warsaw morphed into the post-punk Joy Division, as lead singer Ian Curtis found his true voice, as Hooky's bass shook the very foundations of Manchester, Morley was there to write about it. In a way he fell in love with the group or at least with the idea of what the group could become, given the right opportunities.

In the space of two years they created two extraordinary albums and a handful of truly inspired singles. They found a home at Factory records and a svengali father-figure in the mercurial Tony Wilson. And Morley was there to document it all.

He experimented with his journalism, trying to find a way to communicate the greatness of the group and their music with imagery and symbolism instead of the dry track by track analysis of conventional music journalism. This lead to accusations of pretentiousness, and yes his work can be obtuse but it can also be diamond sharp and poetic and tragic. It took him almost 30 years to write the definitive book on Joy Division, the book that Tony Wilson always thought he would/could write. Piece by Piece is that book and what it reveals is the complex relationship that Morley had not only with Joy Division but also with death. His own father had committed suicide in the late 70's as Curtis would do in 1980, as Joy Division stood on the cusp of stardom.

Baffled by these events Morley retreated but always there ran through his work, even the wild, chaotic, absurdist world of ZTT, that he helped create in imitation of Factory. The works here are not presented chronologically, but rather each piece tells the story as the story unfolded. Morley took 30 years to work out what he had to say and how he had to say it and why he had to say it and in what way he had to say it. There are live reviews here, record reviews, interviews, essays, not all of them about Joy Division, but all of them linked in some way to that dark, dramatic, passionate group and their dark, dramatic passionate music.

Slowly, over many years, as Joy Division were repackaged and resold and the story was spun by others into Myth, Morley wrote about them again and again and each time more pieces of the puzzle fell into place. Eventually he would write a book called Nothing that dealt with his father's suicide (even if it opens with him being shown, by Wilson, the dead body of Ian Curtis). With that done he then, it seems, had no choice but to write the book he had been waiting 30 years to write.

As Joy Division rose again in the public consciousness, with films and documentaries and the death of Tony Wilson (latterly Anthony H. Wilson) the time seemed perfect for this book. It is the definitive book on one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Because he was there. Because he understood what it meant even if it took him years to work it out. Because death couldn't stop them. Because to so many people Joy Division mattered. And still matter.

This is the way, step inside.... ( )
  David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0859654044, Paperback)

Paul Morley knew Joy Division intimately. He not only wrote extensively and evocatively of the “mood, atmosphere and ephemeral terror” that enveloped the group and their doomed front man, Ian Curtis, but he was present when Curtis suffered his life-changing epileptic seizure following a London concert in April 1980 and was the only journalist permitted to view Curtis’ corpse. Joy Division: Piece By Piece encompasses his complete writings on the group, both contemporary and retrospective. In addition to collecting all of Morley’s classic works about the band, the book includes his eloquent Ian Curtis obituary and hindsight pieces on the group’s significance, framed by an extensive retrospective essay, as well as his reviews of the films 24 Hour Party People and Control. Morley, who emerged from Manchester at the same time as Joy Division, effortlessly evokes that city’s zeitgeist and psycho-geography to tell the story of this uniquely intense group.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:55 -0400)

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