Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division is the untold talk of the definitive post punk rock band that formed in Salford, Manchester in 1976, from the perspective of legendary bass player Peter ‘Hooky’ Hook.
Hooky recounts the story of the band from its beginning, when a trip to a Sex Pistols gig changed the life of him and best mate Bernard Sumner, right up to the untimely suicide of frontman Ian Curtis.
Let me start by saying that this really is an excellent book. It’s the second book published by Peter Hook. The First being ‘The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club’, which is a history of the iconic Manchester club that was funded by New Order and ended up hopelessly in debt and lost the band a fortune.
Like the first book Hooks narration is witty, charming and almost makes you feel as if you were there, which makes it a real pleasure to read. Unlike the Hacienda book, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division is incredibly dark at times, which considering the circumstances towards the end is to be expected. You can actually understand why Hooky decided to write the books in the order that he did. The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club is literally a laugh a minute from beginning to end, which is a stark contrast to this book, where you come away feeling quite unsettled. Peter Hook really is a great writer though and that fact is most apparent when he talks about Ian.
Don’t get me wrong there are some great stories in this book that you get to actually see through the eyes of the author, but there’s also a lot of tragedy and a hell of a lot of guilt on the part of Hooky, who feels that he never really accepted the severity of his lead singers condition and allowed him to soldier on in spite of his worsening condition. You actually wonder if he’s honest when he says that he debated calling the book ‘He Said He Was All Right So We Carried On’.
As Hooky says this book is as much about Ian as it is about himself and that sentiment shines through constantly. Ian Curtis is portrayed as a complex individual with many aspects to his personality and not the two dimensional character that has been portrayed on film. The reader gets to know the legendary frontman, just as much as they get to know Peter Hook.
Hooky takes us on a journey from his youth, through to the formation of the band that started out as Warsaw and never quite seemed to shake the Nazi references, that no doubt actually did wonders for Joy Divisions PR. We meet some great characters along the way, the enigmatic Tony Wilson, Rob Gretton their tough but fair manager and Martin Hannett, the wizard of a producer that was responsible for the bands unique sound, as well as many, many others.
A brief word of warning though. Do not read the last chapter if you happen to be in a tender state at the time, as to be honest I wasn’t, but I still managed to come away feeling emotionally drained by the end of it. A credit to Peter Hooks writing and narration though is the fact that after all this, the last line still managed to make me laugh out loud.
This is a must have for any fan of the band or any serious music enthusiast. And I personally can’t wait for the New Order book.