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.
Suggestion credit: 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.
Suggestion credit: 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.
Suggestion credit: 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.
Suggestion credit: 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."
Brigette from Melbourne, Australiai love joy division. its weird, when curtis was still alive, most of joy's songs were cynical and gloomy, but when curtis died and new order formed, alot of their songs were really happy and stuff. i dunno, just a thought lol
Samuel from Singapore, SingaporeDuring the recording of this song, a young Irish band arrived in the studio to discuss with producer Martin Hannett the recording of their single. What they witnessed of Joy Division's recording session influenced and inspired them heavily. That young Irish band would go on to become one of the most successful bands of all time, selling more than 145 million records worldwide and winning 22 Grammy Awards. The band's name? U2.
Jez from London, United KingdomThe reason (well, one reason) Love Will Tear Us Apart didn't climb higher than #13 in Britain in 1980 was that its release coincided with a strike on influential music show Top of the Pops, which would likely have helped it gain Top Ten status. That said, the song has been a Top 20 hit on three occasions, in 1980, 1983 (as suggested earlier) and again in 1995. Atmosphere also made the Top 40 in 1988. Ceremony - a song written by Ian Curtis - became the first UK chart entry for New Order a year after his death.
Chere from Lumberton, TxDuring practice one night, Joy Division came up with the riff for this song. Ian Curtis said, "I've got an idea for that." And in three hours, Love Will Tear Us Apart was born. It's obviously a beautiful song, but none of the other band members related it to his wife, Debbie, or girlfriend, Annik. They just thought, "Oh wow. Ian's done it again-rock on." But maybe from Ian's point of view, Debbie was his childhood love. We all grow and change, and so was he when he found Annik. Love brought them together, but tore his marriage apart. I kind of pick up "too little, too late" from the song as well. Like, a mistake was made and has been realized, but nothing can rectify the damage done.
Samuel from Singapore, SingaporeU2, who were heavily influenced by Joy Division's spacious sound, occasionally included a snippet of this song on live performances of With Or Without You.
Blake from Placentia, Ca24 hour party people, the best movie ever. i am sad though, that they dont have isolation or warsaw on here. :(
Pinkmonty from London, Englandeach note on the riff is like ice stabbing my spine.
Kai from PÃ¼ttlingen, GermanyAgree with Stephanie. "Love will tear us apart" was truely their finest moment, with "Warsaw" and "Leaders of Men" being more raw, "She's lost control" and "Twentyfour hours" more desperate, but always utterly brilliant. I am still stunned, how could they cover such vast areas with such little effort???
Troy from London, EnglandThe names Joy division and New Order are indeed inspired by the Riech, but are intended to be ironic, probably intentionally choses to piss off middle class liberals who are too scared of their own shadow to say boo to a goose.
Troy from London, EnglandMy mates girlfriend went to see Mark Owen (formerly of Take That) in concert. He performed a version of this song and then made a hanging gesture with his tie... I'm sure it was intended as a tribute to Ian Curtis, but if the audience wasn't full over ladies trying to rediscover their youth and actually had any fans of the original in the crowd I doubt he would have made it off the stage alive.
No One from Bodmin, EnglandAs precise as a surgeons knife, Curtis deconstructs the death of consensual love. Only regret and pain are left showing, after layers of false feeling are stripped away, like rotten wallpaper in a seedy flat. Underpinned by one of the great bass-lines of post punk, Love will tear us apart is a fitting tribute to the tortured genius of a cruelly underestimated existential poet.
Les from Chicago, IlI just saw the movie "24 Hour Party People". Great movie. The band Joy Division hated that people associated them with Neo-Facists. They chose the name "New Order" as a way of establishing that they had re-invented themselves while yet still remaining together - something that most bands never did following the death of a lead singer. New Order, as a band deserves a ton of credit for their work and thier ability to survive when most other bands would have folded. Rest in peace Ian. Your bands mates, friends and fans adored you even though you didn't live to see it.
Ben from Melbourne, Australiaanyone who believes that joy division or new order have links to anything remotly nazi hasn't seen '24 hour party people' and shows a fair bit about people not looking into things
Gerald Mueller from Woodstock, CanadaBeen a fan of Joy Division for almost 25 year's. At the time I had heard all kinds of great things about this band, so I picked up Unknown Pleasures and then Closer. After a few listens, I just did'nt get it, until one night I decided to smoke a joint and put on the headphones. WOW. I was hooked. Never really took a shining to Love will tear us apart, probalby my favourite is New Dawn Fades.
Rob from Santa Monica, CaOf all the authentic college rock we listened to in the 80s (The Fall, PIL, the Smiths), I could never understand the appeal of this song or any Joy Division. It sounds like a Casio fed through a reverb unit. The "singing" reveals no charisma (or inflection). My friends obsessed over it, but sorry, I don't get it.
The Prynce from Dillon / Hamer, ScThis song is mentioned in Thursday's song, "Ian Curtis" which is about... Ian Curtis. In the song, the lines "Love has torn us apart" are constantly repeated and the last line in the song is "We're falling apart together".
Nice tribute to this song and Ian Curtis.
Alanwhite from Macclesfield, Englandthis is a fantastic song, but is very sad to hear when thinking about ians tragic end. he died in macclesfield, where im from, and there is talk of a movie being made about his life.
Steve from Birmingham, EnglandSlightly dodgy links to the third reich- The Joy Division was the department that catered for the Gestapo's sexual desires, providing prostitutes, drugs etc. New Order, as a term, also has heavy links to Hitler's view of an aryan master race.
Stephanie from Aurich, GermanyWhy do everybody only know "Love will tears us apart?" What about" Walked in Lines" or "Ice Age"? Great Songs, too!
Chris from Manchester, EnglandIan Curtis written the song for his wife Deborah because he was having an affair with someone else at the time (Annik HonorÃ?), and they fact that he loved her as well as his wife ture them apart. make sense?
Simon from Leeds, EnglandThat makes the release of the single seem like a cynical act, which it wasn't. 'Love will Tear Us Apart' was released on April 20th 1980 but distribution problems prevented it from getting to the shops until May 12th. Ian Curtis committed suicide on May 17th. To say it was a hit is an overstatement too: Record label Factory's policy of minimal promotion saw it gain airplay on national and local radio and even kids' TV but this was a band who were about to break anyway - they were due to play their first major US tour the week after Curtis' death. The news of Curtis' death was slow to reach the public as journalists at the three main music magazines were on strike, so the single, with its plain grey sleeve (letterpunches on steel) that now looked like a tombstone, limped into the top 20 as people read the news in the first post-strike issues in mid-June.