"Every funeral I go to, they play bloody 'Atmosphere'": Joy Division's Peter Hook's contributes to an oral history of new wave

Hooky reveals Frank Sinatra’s influence on Joy Division and why he wishes he’d written Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’.

Joy Division’s Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner have contributed to a new oral history of new wave by authors Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein, looking back on the band’s unique chemistry with singer Ian Curtis and lamenting the prevalence of ‘Atmosphere’ at funerals.

“‘Atmosphere’ is a favourite with many Joy Division fans,” says Hooky in an excerpt published by SPIN:

“The reason it’s not my favourite song is it’s always associated with funerals. Every funeral I go to, they play bloody ‘Atmosphere’. The most popular song at weddings is ‘Angels’ by Robbie Williams [Ed. note – that’s not quite true] and the most popular song at funerals is ‘Atmosphere’. When I went to [Factory Records boss] Tony Wilson’s funeral and they put ‘Atmosphere’ on at the end, I wished we had written fuckin’ ‘Angels’.”

Hooky also reveals that Wilson foisted copies of Frank Sinatra records on Curtis, hoping he might be influenced by the Rat Pack crooner.

“[Before recording ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, Wilson] gave [Curtis] a double LP [of Sinatra’s] and said, ‘Listen to this.’ It’s plainly ridiculous at first sight, but now that I’m a fan of Frank Sinatra — as these things happen as you get older — I can see what Tony meant. He was referring to Sinatra’s soul and passion and the delivery. But I think Ian had that anyway, unless maybe he did get it from Frank.”

Commenting on the band’s writing process, Hook added that their singer “always had a bag of lyrics with him, scraps of papers with ideas written on them.”

“As we were playing, he’d just delve into this bag and pull something out, mumble it — at least, that’s what it sounded like to us — and then he’d elaborate, and it built up from there. The next minute, you had a song. The great thing about Ian was that you didn’t really need to hear what he was saying; you could just look at what he was doing and know that he meant it. That fire, that passion in his body language and his delivery, let you know that everything was okay.”

Read the rest of the excerpt over at SPINMad World: An Oral History of the New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s is out now.

A collection of Curtis’ lyrics is due to be published by Faber this year, which should distract us briefly from the online game based on ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’.

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