The eponymous first full album by Joy Division, and the only one Ian Curtis was alive for, Unknown Pleasures was released on June 15, 1979 a on Factory records. The album was a more solid performance for newly renamed Joy Division. Warsaw, as they were previously called, changed their name to avoid confusion with another band, Warsaw Pakt.
Oddly, no singles from Unknown Pleasures were released, with “Transmission” released as a single separately that would attract attention to the album that was slow in selling. While sales were slow to begin with, since its release it has been named one of the best albums of all time by Spin, AllMusic and NME.
Produced by Martin Hannett, using some very un conventional production techniques (AMS Digital Delays, Marshall Time Modulators, and tape echo) The 10 track album lists some of the classic Joy Division catalog including “She’s Lost Control” and “Shadowplay”, a rerecording of a Warsaw song. Previously the band had self produced and released a EP An Ideal for Living after being released from a recording contract with RCA records. The band had three weekends to record for Unknown Pleasures at Strawberry Studios in Stockport.
The iconic cover art of radio waves from pulsar CP 1919 was adapted by Peter Saville, who worked on advertising and posters for Manchester’s Factory club 1978 (The Hacienda). The image is reversed from black on white, and was originally printed on the first editions in a textured card relief. The image has ben morphed and modded over the last 40 years as images for anything from mountain ranges to beer labels. It’s initial run was 10,000 copies, which sold at a very slow rate after the initial 5,000 sold in its first weeks, but copies sat around. After the single “Transmission” came out, the rest of the initial pressings sold out. Joy Division would go on tour supporting The Buzzcocks and a profit of £50,000 in album sales would finally result, being split between Factory records and the band. Sadly, Tony Wilson spent the profits mostly on other Factory Records projects and the band saw very little of it. It would not make it to the UK music charts until after singer Ian Curtis’ death in May 1980, and the release of the second album, Closer, lead to a rerelease of Unknown Pleasures. Finally the album reached No 71 on the UK Albums Charts. It did however reach No 2 on the UK Indie Chart.
Did you get your 40th anniversary Unknown Pleasures album on hot red vinyl on Friday June 14? I’m waiting for the import copy I special ordered. to arrive. Until then I’ll listen to my current playable Canadian molasses version, yeah it’s a vinyl that when you hold up to the sun looks like black strap molasses. How many versions of this album have I owned over the years, two vinyl, one tape, one CD….?