Dips O’Donnell
Teenage bedroom, Montmorency, early 1980s.

The album cover is brilliant. Simple yet complex; iconic. The pulsing image is lonely on the stark, black background.

It was the early 80s. Very early. I was lying on my bed gazing at the poster of Clint Eastwood that was plastered to the wall. Clint, in the laconic, lazy stance of Josey Wales.

Josey Wales – “You a bounty hunter?”
Bounty Hunter – “A man’s got to do something for a living these days.”
Josey Wales – “Dyin’ aint much of a living, boy.”

The clock radio was fixed to Triple RRR. The DJ, as they did in those days, was trying to sound as bored and cool as he could. I wasn’t paying attention all that much. Then he spun the record: Shadowplay. The rumbling bass rolls through the introduction, the tight symbol in tinny contrast. I waited. It built. Then the lead guitar brusquely smashes into the song trashing the peace, propelling the listener into the song’s message, whether you want it or not.

To the centre of the city where all roads meet, waiting for you.

Ian Curtis singing. The disturbingly deep voice of a man battling with himself. A man who combatted deep depression, epilepsy and bi-polar disorders, but who still wrote lyrics with a profound depth. His dance moves between lyrics were stilted and mechanical and completely unique. There were times that his dances on stage morphed into epileptic fits, but the audience only realised when he hit the floor. His arms flung out sideways and up, loose and jaunty, but somewhat disturbing. There was torment in his movements, like a bloke thrashing around inside a giant plastic bag.

To the depths of the ocean where all hopes sank, searching for you.

The song powered on. It touched everything in the room. Even Clint shifted his stance. Who are these blokes?

I was moving through the silence without motion, waiting for you.

I was ready for this music; young, adventurous and angry for no reason. Not violent angry, just teenage angry. Energetic angry. The anger that builds through a lack of expression. I needed to shout a few things out. I was trying to find my own teenage tightrope to walk along.

In a room with a window in the corner I found truth.

This bloke was yelling for me. Genius. This was Joy Division. The album was Unknown Pleasures.

It was one of those albums that dared you to hate it; that invited you to investigate its layers. It was built on stealth; each hearing drew you closer.

Day of the Lords
New Dawn Fades.

Flip it over. Put on side B.

She’s Lost Control (mind blowing song)
I Remember Nothing.

The album was released in November 1979. It caught people off guard. Ian Curtis caught people off guard. His end was tragic and predictable. The music lives on.


© Damian O’Donnell.  Dips O’Donnell loves music, sport, red wine, a great oil painting, and water-skiing. He is a frequent contributor to our partner site The Footy Almanac.


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