Between March 18th and March 30th 1980, Manchester post-punk legends Joy Division were in London with Producer Martin Hannett recording their second and final studio album Closer.
The session began following the previous two that involved the recording of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” at Pennine Studios on January 8th, and Strawberry Studios two months later in March.
Martin Hannett while working on the Closer sessions would continue his work mixing singer Ian Curtis’s vocals for Love Will Tear Us Apart, which had matured Curtis’ singing style which had taken to heart Factory Record’s owner Tony Wilson’s gift of Frank Sinatra records prior to these sessions.
During the Closer sessions, Hannett would go even further with his work refining Curtis’ vocals, working separately with in-studio with Ian. This took the music stylistically into something more somber, subtle, whose lyrical content was in hindsight indicative of what was to come to pass two months later.
It was not only the vocals captures during these sessions that make Closer a masterpiece, but the further integration of the hauntingly atmospheric synths courtesy of Bernard Sumner on tracks like “Decades” and “Isolation”, the masterful basslines by Peter Hook on tracks like “24 Hours”, Stephen Morris’ powerful and unsettling percussion on tracks like “Decades” and “The Eternal”, which along with the even darker and atmosphere overall in the Martin Hannett’s production ultimately to Closer being lauded as a gothic masterpiece, surpassing Unknown Pleasures which came out the previous year.
Even the production’s only glaring mistake—the mishap with a razor in editing the end of “Isolation”, adds to the beauty of this flawless album.
Closer would later be released on July 18th, 1980, posthumously through Factory Records, following the suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis two months earlier on May 18th, 1980.
The cover artwork was designed by both Martyn Atkins and Peter Saville. The photograph on the cover was taken by Bernard Pierre Wolff, and is an image of Jesus and Mary from Appiani family tomb in the Cimitero Monumentale di Staglieno in Genoa, Italy.
The tomb is from the same cemetery that was also chosen for the sleeve for “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. Bassist Peter Hook would later personally visit these tombs for the first time in 2015, thirty-five years after the release of both the album and single.