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39 | Top 100

Love Will Tear Us Apart
Joy Division
Recorded a mere two months before lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide but released a month after his death, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is the sound of despair in musical form. At the time of writing the song,
Joy Division
Song facts
Composer Joy Division
Genre  Rock 
Album  n/a 
Released 1980 
UK Chart Position 13 
Curtis’s marriage was under considerable strain, due in part to his ongoing affair with a Belgian woman. And whether autobiographical or not, the lyrics are clearly the work of a troubled soul.

Backed by a spectral keyboard refrain, Stephen Morris’s robotic drumming and Peter Hook’s trademark mournful bassline - all enhanced by Martin Hannet’s glacial production - Curtis pretty much croons the lyrics, which are among the most painfully intimate you’ll ever hear: “Why is the bedroom so cold?/ You’ve turned away on your side/ Is my timing that flawed - our respect run so dry?”

Even without the chilling postscript, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” would stand proud as one of the most moving songs ever written, as well as being the group’s most accessible moment. With it, the track becomes almost too harrowing. And in a final, fitting tribute, Curtis’s tombstone was inscribed with the title as his epitaph.

Comment from Tony Wilson
Tony Wilson
Tony Wilson signed Joy Division to his Factory label in 1978. Here he talks about how their biggest hit owes as much to producer Martin Hannett as it does to Ian Curtis.


Other versions
Paul Young
 Paul Young gives the song an air of 80s disco sophistication, free from all portents of despair, on his oddly jaunty version.  

It sums up emptiness and sadness and yet is both enchanting and intoxicating.

Darran Clarke

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Songwriting tips

Joy Division's disctinctive sound owes much to the production genius of Martin Hannett. Find out more production and arrangments.
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