If you are a fan of 80’s bands from England, there is some real  pleasure in reading this book. 

I knew about New Order way before I knew of Joy Division.  I was a huge fan of bands like New Order, Depeche Mode, etc.  I know it’s retro these days to listen to 80’s bands, but for me, it’s just nostalgia. 

Peter Hook, author of “Unknown Pleasures:  Inside Joy Division” (Harper Collins), tells the story of the genesis of Joy Division and the subsequent formation of New Order, in the aftermath of lead singer Ian’s suicide.  Hook’s writing is personable and casual, and makes you feel as if he is just telling you stories at the local pub.  Hook takes an obviously fond look back at the formation of two wildly important bands and their musical legacy. 

Hook details the minutia of life in a struggling band, before the band hits it big.  The members of the band struggle to get gigs; they make mistakes and they envy other bands that were big at the time– most notably the Buzzcocks & The Sex Pistols.  Just when Joy Division gets going, though, they suffer a tragedy.  Just as they were gearing up for their first American tour, Ian Curtis kills himself.

There is a note of guilt in Peter Hook’s writing when talking of Ian and his seizures; he says the band members buried their heads in the sand, didn’t want to acknowledge what was going on with Ian, and just kept going.  The signs were all there, obviously, but as often happens, the signs were minimized so as to seem smaller, more manageable. 

In the wake of Ian’s death, New Order was born, as was a new sound.  New Order were more successful than Joy Division, but both bands were hugely influential in many music genres, such as dance and techno.  I’ve never tired of listening to New Order, not after over 20 years.

This is the first memoir I’ve read written by a musician, and I have to say, my feelings are mixed.  I love Hook’s dialect, humor, his directness, but I do wonder at times who he thinks is reading this book.  It’s super difficult for me, at times, to read something without being critical of mechanics and grammatical things.  Again, if you think of this book as the author talking to you at your local pub over beers, then it’s very enjoyable.  Hook digresses at times, and the chronology is hard to follow, but the stories are good.  Some of the stories are quite amazing, coming from the perspective of musical history. 

One more thing about this book that I find amazing:  Hook mentions one of my all-time favorite 80’s movies, one that I never see on the teevee:  Letter to Brezhnev.  I’m not usually one to be impressed by any name-dropping, but when he mentions that he knew Margi Clark from the film, I was impressed.  80’s cold-war cinema?  Oh, hell yes.

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