This was written as a cynical response to "Love Will Keep Us Together
" by The Captain & Tennille. Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis wrote the lyric at a horrendous time in his life when his marriage was breaking up. Deborah Curtis, in her biography of Ian Curtis, Touching From a Distance
, recalls her husband enthusing over the cover art for "Love Will Tear Us Apart" to her, although at the time he'd banned her from even coming to the band's gigs.
Joy Division were an influential and critically praised band, but didn't sell many records. This was released in April 1980, and like their other singles, it didn't chart. A month later, depressed over a broken marriage and poor health, Ian Curtis hanged himself. The single was re-released in June and became their first and only hit.
When Joy Division formed, they agreed the band would end if they lost any member. When Curtis died, the other three members formed New Order and became one of the most successful bands in Britain.
The lyrics could be heard as autobiographical. Ian Curtis's marriage was under strain at the time because of an ongoing affair with a Belgian woman.
The title of this song is inscribed as an epitaph on Curtis's tombstone.
Adrian - St. Louis, MO, for above 2
The band's bass player Peter Hook
told us in a 2014 interview that this song represents their best work. "That song has everything," he said. "A great bass line, wonderful synths, a great showcase of Steve's drumming, the simple yet effective guitar that became one of our trademarks."
In many ways an analog to Ian Curtis' personal life, this song evokes positive feelings, but with an undercurrent of heartbreak and depression. Peter Hook told us, "It's quite strange really, because the lyrics are very dark but I find the song to be very uplifting - no other Joy Division song works like that. People go nuts for that song when we play it live, but it really is quite dark."
In the book Destroy
by Isabella Santacroce (a famous writer in Italy), the protagonists listen to this song during a rainy night, standing naked at the window.
Paolo - Pisa, Italy
This was used in the 2001 film Series 7: Contenders
in a scene when the two lead characters discuss their high school dramatics and how they were new wave. It also plays at the party scene in Donnie Darko
- Donnie and Gretchen's last hour together.
Ian Fleeton - Doncaster, England
This was re-released in 1983, this time hitting #19 on the UK charts.
Speaking to NME June 23, 2012 about his memories of the track, drummer Stephen Morris said: "I just thought 'Yeah, this is a good song', someone might like it. It was a great period for the band, but Ian's personal life – that was all going badly. In retrospect, when you listen to it in light of what happened, it seems bloody obvious. I honestly didn't realise that he was writing about himself. I just said 'These are great lyrics, Ian'. That makes it a bit difficult to listen to now'."
Lead guitarist Bernard Sumner added regarding Curtis: "He'd got married very, very young. And by the time of that song, he'd come to a fork in the road, relationship-wise. His life had changed enormously, and he had to make a choice. We thought his headspace was OK. But Ian had two faces – the public face for the band and the private troubles he had at home and the way they came out through his lyrics. We didn't really listen to the lyrics. Joy Division was four people on pedestals, and we didn't communicate with each other about what the songs are about."
The NME named this as the greatest song of the magazine's 60 years of existence in their June 23, 2012 edition.
Joy Division bassist Peter Hook told NME in 2012 that he was "very, very shocked at how barbed and how vicious" Curtis' lyrics were when he first heard them. "It was written very quickly," he added. "I only really analysed the lyrics when I came to sing it again, to be honest. I certainly wouldn't like that song to have been written about me."
Fall Out Boy covered this on their acoustic EP My Heart will Always Be The B-Side To My Tongue
Katie - Woodland Hills, CA
The Boston band The Swinging Erudites did a parody of this song on their album Pretentious Crapola
, that was titled "The Captain & Tennille Meet Joy Division." The lyrics, sung to the Joy Division tune, are: "Love, love will keep us together-er...", then a repeat of "I will, I will, I will, I will, etc."
Margaret - Buellton, CA