John Savage's oral history of Joy Division is the last word on the band that ended with the suicide of Ian Curtis in Macclesfield on 18 May, 1980. It weaves together interviews conducted by the author, but never used in the making of the film Joy Division, as well as those of their peers, collaborators, and contemporaries.
By interviewing remaining members and those who bore witness, Savage’s oral history of the band carefully connects the dots ... how do four young men from the working class, in one of the toughest parts of a tough country, almost suddenly create not only some of the most enduring music from the late 1970s and early 1980s but also easily one of the most astonishing debut albums ever, Unknown Pleasures? In the pages of This Searing Light, we get many clues from the testimonies of those in close proximity to the band ... As matter-of-fact as the interviews are, and as carefully as Savage has laid out his case, the 'how' of the band's amazing music is all but impossible to put your finger on ... This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else brings us a little closer to understanding the band and its incredible music.
Joy Division are now a global brand. Here, Jon Savage restores them to the local – to the time, place and people who shaped them ... Whether or not the material is familiar, Savage’s thoughtful orchestration of the band’s oral history is illuminating. It muddies the clean lines of their now mythical narrative, chronicling the false starts, the ejected founder members, the different looks and names ... These interviews and anecdotes map what they came out of without forcing an explanation of how or why ... These interviews are a precious archive.
This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else...walks familiar ground, then. Yet the oral-history format lends a warmth and flexibility that prevents it becoming just another grim rattle of the ossuary. The band are natural raconteurs, dry, funny, self-aware, and the testimony of friends, associates and 'witnesses' adds new perspective ... What comes across strongly here, however, is how painfully young they all were, how ill-equipped to help, how deeply regretful afterwards ... This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else, though, once again lets the life back into the story. It’s all the more devastating for that.