The first posthumous Joy Division release: Love Will Tear Us Apart

Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart - Video (

Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart – Video


Some bands and/or artists are hard to write about, I think. On The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, others, also within my own circle of friends and acquaintances, are far more qualified than me. Joy Division is hard for another reason, although I can’t really pinpoint what it is exactly, there’s something that held me back. In this year, the fortieth anniversary of Ian Curtis’ self-inflicted death, it has become inevitable.

So, this month two articles on Joy Division. This article, about Love Will Tear Us Apart, is the first. The second will contain my personal top 10 best Joy Division songs.

My love for Joy Division started somewhat later, well after the suicide of singer Ian Curtis. I did have some of their music on cassette, but the first thing I can trace down is that I was given the 12-inch of Love Will Tear Us Apart by both my sisters, the song this article is dedicated to.

Joy Division

At the time of Ian Curtis’ suicide the band had only five releases to their name:

  • An Ideal For Living (independent release) on June 3rd, 1978
    Single recorded when the band was still called Warsaw: Warsaw, No Love Lost, Leaders Of Men and Failures
  • A Factory Sample (FAC 2) on December 24th, 1978
    A double sampler EP, containing two Joy Division songs on the B-side of the first EP: Digital and Glass
  • Unknown Pleasures (FACT 10) on June 15th, 1979
    The astounding debut album by the band, a classic post-punk album
  • Transmission (FAC 13) on October 7th, 1979
    First stand-alone single by the band, both songs not available on LP: Transmission and Novelty
  • Licht Und Blindheit, March 18th, 1980
    Single released in France only (on the Sordide Sentimental label), both songs not available on LP: Atmosphere and Dead Souls

Despite that very limited amount of released music, the band had already risen to astronomical heights among critics and music lovers, almost to the status of living deities. The band members themselves weren’t too bothered by it and didn’t really notice it. Bass player Peter Hook later stated: “People assume that when he [Ian Curtis] died it was like Nirvana but it wasn’t. The last gig we played, in Birmingham, we played to about 150 people. So we were not successful”.

The second album Closer had been recorded, as was the band’s (first) videoclip, for the song Love Will Tear Us Apart. On May 18th, 1980, hours before the band was off to America for its first tour there, Ian Curtis committed suicide in his own kitchen. He was 23 years old.

Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart - Video - Ian Curtis (

Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart – Video – Ian Curtis

Disbanding Joy Division / Founding New Order

With Curtis gone, Joy Division was disbanded immediately and the remaining band members would continue on as New Order.

However, there was still Joy Division material ready to be released, among which Closer and Love Will Tear Us Apart. More music was recorded, which wasn’t meant for release at this point.

The first posthumous release was the single Love Will Tear Us Apart in June of 1980. It became the band’s biggest success. It even reached the top of the charts in New Zealand.


As was the case with almost every Joy Division song, Love Will Tear Us Apart originated in the band’s rehearsal space. The first riff came from bass player Peter Hook, to which Ian Curtis responded immediately and came up with ideas for guitar and drums, followed by adding his lyrics. The result perplexed the band. This was a pop song, deviating from what the band had done before and would do after.

But the lyrics were dark and inspired by Curtis’ marital problems (his wife wanted to divorce him).

Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart - Video - Peter Hook (

Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart – Video – Peter Hook


Love Will Tear Us Apart became public knowledge when the band played it at one of the Peel Sessions for John Peel’s BBC radio broadcast. The song was aired for the first time in November 1979 and it quickly became a part of their live shows.

Love Will Tear Us Apart was recorded for the first time on January 8th, 1980, at the Pennine Sound Studios in Oldham (as was the B-side These Days). However, some band members were unhappy with the results, so the band re-recorded it in March 1980. These recordings were deemed satisfactory. Producer Martin Hannett spent a lot of time on the song, he knew it was something special. Factory owner Tony Wilson knew it as well and did something he usually didn’t: he released budget for a video.


Following Ian Curtis’ death Love Will Tears Us Apart became the first posthumous release by Joy Division. In June 1980 it was released as a single, followed by a 12-inch release in August 1980. The song became a (modest) hit in England and a number of other European countries. In America it entered the Billboard disco (!) charts.

It’s a strange song in the band ‘s body of work. Guitar player Bernard Sumner traded in his electric guitar for a keyboard and acoustic guitar, resulting in an alienating, yet highly distinctive sound. The song’s riff’ is instantly recognizable and has a kind of sing along quality to it. The contrast between the lightheartedness of the music and the heaviness of the lyrics, dealing with (the loss of) love, is enormous. The song’s subject, love, was atypical for Joy Division.

It is quite remarkable for Joy Division to be loved and known for a song that really doesn’t represent the band at all, musically as well as lyrically. But still, it does fit the band and particularly the band’s future after Curtis’ death. Essentially, it’s a precursor to New Order.

Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart - Video - Stephen Morris (

Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart – Video – Stephen Morris


So, what are the lyrics about? Read them below.

When routine bites hard
And ambitions are low
And resentment rides high
But emotions won’t grow
And we’re changing our ways, Taking different roads
Then love, love will tear us apart again
Love, love will tear us apart again

Why is the bedroom so cold?
You’ve turned away on your side
Is my timing that flawed?
Our respect run so dry
Yet there’s still this appeal
That we’ve kept through our lives
But love, love will tear us apart again
Love, love will tear us apart again

You cry out in your sleep
All my failings exposed
And there’s a taste in my mouth
As desperation takes hold
Just that something so good
Just can’t function no more
But love, love will tear us apart again
Love, love will tear us apart again
Love, love will tear us apart again
Love, love will tear us apart again

© 1980 Joy Division

The song was written around August 1979, even before Ian Curtis would run into a Belgian reporter he became involved with. It would only add to the song’s meaning and Curtis’ feeling of guilt.


According to Curtis’ wife, Deborah, the original single cover was made by etching the song’s title onto a piece of metal that was treated with acid and laid out to weather. The 12 inch contains a photo of a mourning angel coming off the Ribaudo family grave at the Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno in Genoa.

Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart - Video - Bernard Sumner (

Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart – Video – Bernard Sumner


As stated above, the band was allowed to make a video. On April 28th, 1980, the band recorded a video themselves in their former rehearsal space at T.J. Davidson’s Studio. The video wasn’t really shot that well. Due to its bad production, the color on some of the tape had turned brown. Also, the sound on the playback was rather poor. This was corrected later on by the company that released the song in Australia, by placing the single track underneath the images. It did lead to some synchronization issues, but it turned into the official video to the song. It was the only video the band ever recorded, and for that fact alone it is a unique piece of film.

In hindsight it all turned out to be for nothing. When the single was released in June 1980, the main pop show in England, Top Of The Pops, was temporarily off air due to a strike, so the video wasn’t aired at the time.


Songs written by Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Bernard Sumner, produced by Martin Hannett and Joy Division.

  • Love Will Tear Us Apart
  • These Days

The 12 inch version also contained the first version of Love Will Tear Us Apart as recorded at Pennine Sound Studios in Oldham.

Ian Curtis - Gravestone (

Ian Curtis – Gravestone


After Curtis’ suicide his wife Deborah decided to have the words ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ engraved on his gravestone. In the night of July 1st/2nd, 2008, the original gravestone was stolen (and has never been recovered). In the night of August 3rd/4th, 2019, it was tried for a second time, but the attempt failed as the gravestone was cemented in.

In closing

Love Will Tear Us Apart is a beautiful, moving tale about the collapse of a relationship, in which love seems to have been replaced by discomfort and sorrow about its (own) failure and the knowledge that the one thing that brought the lovers together is the very same thing as what’s driving them apart now.

What’s your opinion on Love Will Tear Us Apart? Let me know!

This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: The first posthumous Joy Division release: Love Will Tear Us Apart. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.

Compliments/remarks? Yes, please!