Rock and roll suicide
TOUCHING FROM A DISTANCE Deborah Curtis Faber pounds 9.99
Saturday 20 May 1995
He was the Macclesfield Keats, half-in-love with diseaseful death, who sang of his end in his sepulchral, muffled songs: "Hangman looks around as he waits/ Cord stretches tight then it breaks/ Someday we will die in your dreams". She was the Cynthia Lennon of the story, the teenaged girl-next-door married early to a man who grew up to be a pop star and left her behind in every sense.
What's unusual about this rock and roll suicide is that it had nothing to do with rock and roll; it's about an untreated schizoid depressive being unable to decide whether to stay with his wife and baby or run off with his mistress, and killing his way out of the dilemma.
It turns out that Curtis's frenetic, limb-twisting dances on stage were copies of real epileptic fits. These usually happened at home with only Deborah to deal with the frightening contortions of his body; understandably, it sickened his wife to see him plunder their domestic traumas for balletic effect, but music journalists were fascinated to see mock fits develop into real ones that sent him crashing into the drums.
It's clear from Deborah Curtis's book that Ian had spent most of his life preparing for death. He was suicidal from early adolescence, when he first attempted to overdose. Deborah describes him wearing black nail varnish and crying over Oscar Wilde fairy stories as a moody teenager. He deliberately cut and burnt himself. He stole pills out of the bathrooms of elderly people (once, dazed with Largactil, a schizophrenia drug, he was sent home "drunk" from school). He was also fixated with Nazi imagery. Deborah never clears up the mystery of Curtis' politics, other than to reveal he "always voted Conservative". With bizarre naivety, she ascribes his morbid interest in fascism to a childhood pleasure in drawing soldiers.
Deborah felt jealous of Ian's close-knit, boysy relationship with the other members of Joy Division. She may have understood "the Ian I married" (dread phrase), but appears to have been completely suffocating to the artist he became. "He appeared to resent my cheerfulness", she says unselfconsciously, complaining how the band began to "erode" the man (despite admitting his career was the only source of self-confidence and strength in his life).
After 15 years, she still appears to think that she was rejected by Ian for not being glamorous enough, and because he was disturbed, rather than because she offered a lifestyle (the old "pram in the hall" syndrome) antithetical in every way to the kind of artist he wanted to be. Was his skinless life with Joy Division really free-wheeling self-destruction, as she thinks? Perhaps, in dedicating himself to the poetry of self-immolation, he was making a valid creative decision.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Home Office says Nigerian asylum-seeker can’t be a lesbian as she’s got children
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 4 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
- 5 Apple and Google users being spied on for a decade because of 'Freak' security flaw
Glastonbury 2015: Coldplay will not headline but Florence Welch might play, says Emily Eavis
Kurt Cobain's life and death: Montage of Heck film uses unseen footage to tell Nirvana frontman's story
Mal Peet dead at 67: Tributes to children's author who was 'universally adored'
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin