Ian Curtis in 2010
What would have happened if Ian Curtis hadn’t taken his own life thirty years ago today? Let’s imagine that he actually got up the following morning, headed to the airport and took the plane with the rest of Joy Division …
What would have happened if Ian Curtis hadn’t taken his own life thirty years ago today? Let’s imagine that he actually got up the following morning, headed to the airport and took the plane with the rest of Joy Division to the United States for their first American tour.
Would Curtis have sought and received medical help for his epilepsy and depression? Would the band have continued to record and tour? Would we have been spared New Order’s fat years, Revenge, The Other Two and Peter Hook DJ-ing? Would Joy Division now be on their third lap of the reunion circuit with a date at the Crawdaddy tent at the Electric Picnic on their schedule for September?
Of course, all young, tragic deaths lead to similar “what if” ponderings. You can apply the same questions to artists like Nick Drake, Kurt Cobain or Jeff Buckley, others whose music enjoyed far greater attention after their deaths than at any time when they were alive. In the case of Curtis, many have claimed such a tragic ending was inevitable as this hugely talented and fragile artist sought to come to terms with the problems and pressure of his life.
Yet the death of the Joy Division singer at 23 years of age means the iconography remains untarnished. There were no dodgy solo albums, no terrible comebacks, no reunion tours to dilute the legacy. You’re left with the music he made with Joy Division and the bones of his life story – nothing more, nothing less. All musicians want to be judged on the merits of their music and, in this case, there were no squalid and unsatisfactory contractual obligation albums to take from the classics. Whether there would have been more classics to come after “Unknown Pleasures” and “Closer” will never be known.