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Originally published Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 5:31 AM

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An insider’s take on rise and fall of Joy Division

Peter Hook’s memoir chronicles the history of Joy Division, reveals a much lighter side to lead singer Ian Curtis and provides needed insight into the myths of Manchester’s legendary post-punk band.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Book review

‘Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division’

By Peter Hook

It Books, 386 pp., $27.99

“When legend becomes fact, print the legend,” is a quote from the old western “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” and it accurately describes the legacy of Joy Division.

Bassist Peter Hook’s memoir chronicles the rise and too-soon fall of the dark and gloomy Manchester band that transformed punk music, but was cut short by lead singer Ian Curtis’ suicide on the eve of its first U.S. tour. Hook, along with bandmates Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris, would later achieve massive success in New Order.

The legend of Joy Division is that of a band led by an enigmatic lead singer who’s torn between a failing marriage and a mistress, and plagued by crippling epileptic fits — often brought on by the strobe lights above the stage.

Hook’s retelling of this dark and difficult time is surprisingly upbeat.

Sure, Curtis was troubled by all of those things, but in Hook’s version there was also a playful and humorous side not seen by those on the outside looking in.

There were groupies chased, ashtrays urinated in and plenty of high jinks — standard fare for a band made up of four average lads.

In one epic evening Hook writes about dumping maggots on the unsuspecting heads of the Buzzcocks as they played live. Hook and the band’s crew followed that by releasing live mice on to the Buzzcocks’ tour bus. Throughout these shenanigans Hook contends that Curtis was either a willing participant or the butt of the joke.

Hook also goes into great detail about the band’s recording sessions, providing an insightful track-by-track breakdown of each album. The bassist reveals that he initially hated the sound of “Unknown Pleasures” and its spacey, echoey ambient sound. The latter he admits is what he loves most about it today.

There’s also a comprehensive timeline of the band’s live shows, including a gig with author William S. Burroughs where Curtis attempted to snag a free book, but was bluntly told off by the Beat legend.

The myth of Joy Division may not always square with the facts of the past, and Hook’s attempts to push back against that is why “Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division” is such a rewarding read for fans of the band.

Jeff Albertson: 206-464-2304 or

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