Joy Division

27th December 1978: Hope And Anchor, London

Only 30 people saw Joy Division's first London performance - and paid 60p to get in.

NME advert thanks to Steve Benham

A miserable experience:

This was Joy Division's first London gig. Bernard Sumner had the flu and was dragged from his sick bed to perform in what turned out to be a cold damp basement with no heating.

After a long drove to London the band had lower their equipment down through a trap door and only performed for about 30 people. They spent 28.50 in petrol and earned 27.50 from the door.

In the car on the way home the mood was grim with talk of people leaving the band. Bernard was trying to keep warm under a sleeping bag and Ian grabbed it, ripping it away from him, and after a tussle, he wrapped it tightly round his head so Bernard couldn't get it back. Shortly afterwards he suffered his first recognizable epileptic seizure, lashing out and punching at the windows. 

Stephen pulled the car over and he Bernard and Gillian restrained Ian on the hard shoulder before taking him to a nearby hospital where he was given phenbarbitone tablets and referred to his doctor.

After this Ian suffered three or four violent seizures s a week before being diagnosed with epilepsy by a specialist at Macclesfield District and General Hospital the following January.
Photos (C) Jonathan Crabb and used here with permission

Jonathan Crabb took the photos above using an instamatic camera with an uncontrollable flashgun - so he only took these five out of respect for the performers.

Sounds review by Nick Tester:

Joy Division try to be a grim group, but I just grinned.

They stutter on-stage wearing sulky, long looks. The vocalist, Ian Curtis, seems intensely irritated but he doesn't say anything between songs other than to remark the band are going to tune up.

The music is matt coloured, fast HM, often flat and usually undistinguished. Guitarist Bernard Albrecht plays some looping minor chords but the monotonous rhythm charge of Peter Hooks (bass) and Steve Morris (drums) invariably over-rides such frills with sledgehammer grit. The perfect vehicle, it would appear, for the doom-laden slant of the lyric.

This retracted grimness is alienating, but not for intended provocative or creative reasons. I found Joy Division's 'tedium' a blunt, hollow medium, comical in its superfluous angst.

Hardly harrowing gloom, but facile parody of such, illustrated by the polite response from the festive few here tonight. Whereas say Gang Of Four poke genuine and disturbing bitterness through a subtle and refreshing approach, Joy Division communicate little of this tenseness or expansion via depression, since their angle is awkward, contrived and mundane to the point of being ridiculous.

They may have gathered a tight following in home town Manchester but they failed to ignite a similar impression in front of a new (though not necessarily more objective) audience. An off-night maybe, but Joy Division's lack of an enlivening approach could be improved by an all-round sharper articulate stance and musical method.

Joy Division could be a good band if they placed more emphasis on poise than pose.