10 Things You Never Knew About… Ian Curtis

Uncovering his hidden side

We uncover the hidden side of troubled Joy Division frontman, Ian Curtis, with 10 Things You Never Knew About…

1. Ian was a performer from an early age. He decided to be a stunt man and rigged up a wooden sledge as a landing pad. After drumming up support from local children he donned a crash helmet and jumped from the roof of a garage. The showman left his first stunt battered and bruised.

2. Despite the relative success of ‘Unknown Pleasures’ Ian was always strapped for cash. He’d often have to clean the studio building after recording to earn extra. When Factory pressed ‘Return Of the Durutti Column’ he ended up gluing the sheets of sandpaper to the sleeves to get cigarette money.

3. Ian was obsessed with music as a teenager but couldn’t afford the albums he wanted as well as the cigarettes and drink he’d taken a liking to, so often he would go to the indoor market in Macclesfield town centre and steal records underneath a large grey coat.

4. After finishing his A-Levels Ian thought about moving to London. He saw an advert in a newspaper asking for young men to apply and travelled down only to find out the job was for the position of a gigolo. Ian was asked if he’d be willing to ‘entertain’ old ladies.

5. A young Ian was forced to do ‘social services’ by visiting the elderly as part of a school scheme. Not one to miss an opportunity, he’d steal prescription drugs from residents and take them himself with mates. He once had his stomach pumped after taking too many.

6. Ian wrote an abusive letter to Tony Wilson to try to provoke him into giving the band a TV slot. He gave Tony the letter and called him a bastard for not having put them on – it worked. Tony got them to perform ‘Shadowplay’ and again for ‘She’s Lost Control’.

7. Suitably for a man idolised because of intensely introspective dark lyrics, Ian had a peculiar allergic reaction to the brightness of the sun’s rays. If he was exposed for too long his hands would turn crimson and swell up to resemble a huge pair of red rubber gloves.

8. Known for his distinctive on-stage moves, one night Ian pulled wooden tiles off the stage and threw them into the audience. “He dropped a pint pot on the stage, it smashed, and he rolled around in the broken glass, cutting a ten-inch gash in his thigh,” remembers Peter Hook.

9. The first embodiment of Joy Division were known as Warsaw, and took their name from the track ‘Warsawa’ on Bowie’s ‘Low’ album. The band played their first gig on 29th May 1977 at the Electric Circus, on a bill which also included the Buzzcocks and John Cooper Clarke.

10. Paul Morley nearly ended up producing Joy Division’s first EP, but a hangover prevented him from being there. He supported them in the press. Their first interview lasted two hours with the incredibly shy band barely saying anything. Morley pretended in writing that their silence was some kind artistic statement.

Words by Simon Butcher

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