Wednesday 17 May 2023

Love Will Tear Us Apart

Ian Curtis' original handwritten lyrics for Love Will Tear Us Apart

Cover version of the month #85

Hot 8 Brass Band cover Joy Division

Recorded in March 1980 and released that June, just a month after singer Ian Curtis had committed suicide, Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart is a bonafide classic single that has has come to define the band.

Curtis' lyrics of loneliness, sadness and heartbreak pack are bleak, honest and devastating, telling the tale of his marriage falling apart. Yet, somehow, the chorus and keyboard riff are in complete contrast, almost euphoric. I think that has been heightened over time; the way the song has become an anthem and the way New Order sing the chorus when they play it live. 

The pop aspect is reflected in the length and structure of the song. Intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse, chorus x 2 all delivered in 3-minutes 30 seconds.

When you read Curtis' lyrics without listening to the song, you'd expect Love Will Tear Us Apart to be slow, mournful and lengthy. 

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

Ouch! Three lines that tell so much. Curtis' vocal is slow and mournful, yet drums are pulsating and Hooky drives the song along with his bass, the keyboard echoing the melody of the chorus sounds hopeful, even when Curtis is singing love, love will tear us apart again.

Photo by Kevin Cummins

Curtis dives deeper into his pain, deeper into his story in the second verse. Despite his marriage, their love falling part, he tries to make a move but there is nothing in return. There is still an appeal, an affection, an attraction ... but it's not happening.

Ian Curtis' skill as a writer is phenomenal. His poetry, heartache and feelings speak volumes in just 3 lines.

Why is the bedroom so cold? You've turned away on your side

Is my timing that flawed? Our respect runs so dry

Yet there's still this appeal, that we've kept through our lives

In the third verse Curtis comes to his conclusion, there is nothing left. 

Do you cry out in your sleep, all my feelings exposed?

There's a taste in my mouth as desperation takes hold

Just that something so good, just can't function no more

A double chorus leads to Joy Division locking into a guitar, keyboard, bass and drum groove for 40-seconds to play the song out. Love Will Tear Us Apart is glorious, timeless, perfect. It's poetry, music and pop combining to tug on your heartstrings and move you to tears. Somehow, it can also make you want to punch the air, sing to the chorus, hug your mates and dance. The power of music!

The accompanying video of the band performing the song in their old rehearsal room only helps add to that timeless feeling the song has. It's like a time capsule and must have inspired countless post-punk bands to meet up in garages and warehouses worldwide in the belief they could create something equally as special. Few, if any, have.

So how on earth do you approach covering Love Will Tear Us Apart? Well, if you follow a couple of my other regular features you might have an idea. (NOTE - it's not Paul Young's 1984 cover!)

I first highlighted Hot 8 Brass Band's version in October 2021 when I added it to my Never Ending Mixtape and then again in March 2023 when I included it in my Anything Goes & Everything Flows DJ Mix 22

I've been sitting on this blog for a while. Then, at the weekend I was searching through Glasgow music listings and discovered that Hot 8 Brass Band were playing Saint Luke's in Glasgow on 31st May! I immediately bought a couple of tickets!

Hot 8 Brass Band transform Love Will Tear Us Part into a high energy song with infectious rhythms, bundles of brass, handclaps and a communal chorus. New Orleans jazz with dashes of funk and soul.

The hook is teased and then released, broken down hip hop style into a vocal chorus and slowly built up again before a freestyle trumpet solo. The chorus just keeps coming and Bernard Sumner's keyboard riff sounds incredible when played by horns.

Check the official videos for both songs below plus a 1979 Peel session by Joy Division, their original abandoned recording from January 1980 and live versions by New Order and the Hot 8 Brass Band on Later.

All previous cover version of the month blogs are listed below. To listen on Spotify, search for Everything Flows Cool Cover Versions playlist, featuring all of the songs below, or CLICK HERE

Official video - Joy Division

Official video - Hot 8 Brass Band

1979 Peel Session version

January 1980 Pennine Sound Studio version

New Order live at Finsbury Park

Previous covers of the month

13. Hurt
39. ABBA-esque
40. Jumpin' Jack Flash
64. Lola
82. Drop

No comments: