On June 15th, 1979, Joy Division released their legendary debut album Unknown Pleasures, featuring the tracks “She’s Lost Control”, “New Dawn Fades”, “Shadowplay” and more classics from this watershed work of art.
“Unknown Pleasures” was recorded at Strawberry Studios in Stockport in April 1979, with Martin Hannett as the producer, and was released 2 months later through Factory Records.
Hannett’s production on the record is legendary, such as on the track She’s Lost Control, where each drum was recorded completely separately, with no “bleed through” (when one drum’s sound is added to the signal of another drum unintentionally).
The 2002 film 24 Hour Party People includes a scene recreating a popular legend about the recording of the song, where Morris had recorded the drumbeat on the roof of the studio at Hannett’s insistence, as well as continuing to play the beat long after the other band members had left the studio.
As for the lyrics for the song, Curtis essentially took inspiration for “She’s Lost Control” from a young woman with whom he had known through his work as an Assistant Disablement Resettlement Officer at a Macclesfield occupational rehabilitation centre between 1978 and 1979.
The woman had epilepsy and had been desperate to find work, yet would often suffer seizures when she came into the centre. Eventually, she stopped coming in, and Curtis would later find out that she had passed away from her epilepsy.
The song “Interzone” showcases Curtis’ noted love of Beat Generation and a postmodernist author William S. Burroughs. Interzone is a dreamlike place in Burrough’s 1959 novel Naked Lunch.
For Unknown Pleasures iconic cover, it was suggested to graphic designer Peter Saville by guitarist Bernard Sumner, that he use an image from The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Astronomy for the band’s LP. Saville took the image of Pulsar CP 1919, reversed the colors to be white on black, and then had it printed on a textured card.
This ultimately resulted in the creation of one of the greatest sleeves of all time, for one of the greatest albums of all time.
But…exactly what is Pulsar CP 1919? It has more significance than most people realize. In fact, It was actually the first Pulsar observed! On November 28th, 1967 Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Antony Hewish observed pulses of radio waves separated by 1.33 seconds that originated from the same location on the sky in the constellation Vulpecula. Looking for explanations for the pulses they determined it could not be a man-made radio frequency interference, or instrumental effects. Despite doubting they found a radio signal from an alien civilization, they nicknamed the signal LGM-1, an abbreviation of “little green men“. Their pulsar was officially dubbed CP 1919 (Cambridge Pulsar 1919, with the “1919” being the Pulsar’s right ascension).
The word “pulsar” is a contraction of “pulsating star”, with the star in this case being a Neutron Star, a tiny city-sized star comprised primarily of neutrons resulting from the gravitational collapse of a massive star during a supernova. The pulsing occurs because the electromagnetic radiation is projected in beams (not unlike a lighthouse) emitted from the highly magnetized, rapidly rotating star, which are only visible when they are in our line of sight on Earth.
Because of this discovery, In 1974, Antony Hewish became one the first astronomers to be awarded the Nobel Prize in physics. Sadly, Jocelyn Bell, who made the initial discovery while she was Hewish’s Ph.D student, was not awarded the prize.
The image that we now see representing CP 1919 in the 1977 edition of The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Astronomy is a stacked timing profile used to analyze the subpulse structures for patterns, which to the credit of Peter Saville and Stephen Morris, is expression of lonely beauty touching from a distance.
- “Disorder” 3:32
- “Day of the Lords” 4:49
- “Candidate” 3:05
- “Insight” 4:29
- “New Dawn Fades” 4:47
- “She’s Lost Control” 3:57
- “Shadowplay” 3:55
- “Wilderness” 2:38
- “Interzone” 2:16
- “I Remember Nothing” 5:53
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