Certain Songs #820: Joy Division – “Disorder”

Album: Unknown Pleasures
Year: 1979

Side one, track one of Joy Division’s landmark debut — featuring a cover that might even be more iconic than the music — is one of those “hey world, check out this whole new thing!” career-openers that very rarely come around.

I guess that it isn’t a pure career opener — there had been an EP — but, spiritually, “Disorder” is the song that kicked off what turned out to be long, extraordinary careers for nearly everybody involved.

I say “nearly,” of course, because — as you know if you’re reading this — Ian Curtis didn’t even make it out of 1980, having hung himself over a year before any of their music made its way to me.

So my timeline of discovery of Joy Division is all jumbled, of course. I don’t remember when I first read about them, though it was probably in Trouser Press, or even when I first heard their music, though I was probably at some point in 1981 while I was learning how to be a DJ at KFSR before it went on the air.

The only thing I know for sure is that I bought “Unknown Pleasures” on Christmas Day 1981 and was instantly arrested by “Disorder,” and I can only imagine what it must have felt like to hear them in 1979.

Opening with Stephen Morris’ already-danceable backbeat, Peter Hook’s redefinition of the role of the bass guitar and Bernard Sumner’s guitar circling around itself while moving ever forward “Disorder” grabs you instantly, even before Ian Curtis opens his mouth.

And his ridiculously deep voice — even at the top of his range, which was where he pitched “Disorder,” — was always a disconnect when I looked at pictures of him, but sure as shit matched his words.

I’ve been waiting for a guide
To come and take me by the hand
Could these sensations make me
Feel the pleasures of a normal man?
These sensations barely interest me for another day
I’ve got the spirit, lose the feeling
Take the shock away

With producer Martin Hannett tossing in mysterious pulsar noises from the album cover and feedback from the spheres, “Disorder” utterly soared when Bernard Sumner took off on a long guitar break. It wasn’t exactly uplifting; more like soaring with the Nazgul than the eagles, but it was emotional and affecting.

That’s the thing about Joy Division: they were one of the most outwardly emotional bands that ever existed. And the end of “Disorder” when Ian Curtis screams “I’ve got the feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling!” as the song itself comes crashing to a halt, you have no idea what’s going to happen next.

“Disorder”

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