I went to Manchester for 24 hours the other week and checked into the Manchester Arena Central Travelodge for the night. I was given Room 13 on the 3rd floor. The Joy Division Floor. The room was really nice and the bed and sheets totally fine with an en suite and so on. Joy Division are, of course, a famous band from Manchester so naming a hotel floor near a large venue after them makes sense in tribute [Gary Barlow has floor 4]. As a record shop kind of person with more than a passing interest in the group I felt a tad uneasy.
OK, why the unease? I maybe read too much into it at the time but frontman Ian Curtis came up with the name ‘Joy Division’ after reading that it was the name given to brothels in some Nazi concentration camps (women were forced to work there). Joy Division. Others think the name came from the gallows humour of those who had to fling the corpses into pits; calling themselves (the) Joy Division.
I actually played Joy Division’s Closer album in the shop during a bright Summer’s day last year and had to turn it off mid-way through side 2. They have some great upbeat songs… But not on Closer. The sun retreated over the tenements leaving darkness on the inside.
Ian Curtis of Joy Division hung himself, while/after listening to Iggy Pop’s The Idiot: An album recorded in Berlin before the wall came down. It’s industrial sounding, drudging in places and was recorded in glorious black and white. It’s one of his best but there’s a time and a place for this kind of thing. Not so good when you’re away on your own. I thought about the Black and White artwork on the Joy Division records (And the Grey of Still). I thought it was ironic in a way as they weren’t binary at all -You always hear 4 things listening to Joy Division. Guitar/synth, Bass, Voice and Drums. Each part distinct. You get the odd keyboard and other bits and bobs but there aren’t many bands like that; that have a different riff for each instrument. The Stone Roses [Floor 2] managed something similar 10 years later but it’s an uncommon feat and I wondered if that was a key to success.
I wondered what the surviving band members thought of this mundane tribute with no sense of style. A black and white sign would at least be a wee nod and a wink. I then imagined what might happen if they started piping Joy Division into the hotel bedrooms. A hotel manager trying to save money on the morning breakfasts.*
Finally I realised that I was in the wrong bloody hotel! The Manchester Central Travelodge is not the same as the Manchester Central Arena Travelodge. So I left and everything was fine.
In a 1987 interview with Option, Stephen Morris (JD Drummer) commented on how he would describe Curtis to those who asked what he was like: “An ordinary bloke just like you or me, liked a bit of a laugh, a bit of a joke.”
* There have been a few studies into hotel suicide. click here