Musical chalk and cheese

I'm an avid collector of songs, in fact my head is chockful of songs I'd forgotten I ever learnt, all jostling for places and waiting to spill out when the right cue comes along. A couple of weeks ago I heard Love Will Tear Us Apart for the first time and immediately loved it

Originally written and performed way back in 1979 by the British post-punk band Joy Division, its lyrics seem to reflect the troubled personal life of lead singer Ian Curtis, both in his marriage to Deborah Curtis, and struggling with depression in the time leading up to his suicide at the age of 23 in 1980. His widow poignantly had Love Will Tear Us Apart inscribed on Ian Curtis's memorial stone and the sad story is played out in the 2007 film Control.

The lyrics read like a wise and beautiful poem written with an emotional maturity which belies the youthfulness of the band at the time.

When routine bites hard,
And ambitions are low,
And resentment rides high,
But emotions won't grow,
And we're changing our ways,
Taking different roads.

Then love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.

Why is the bedroom so cold?
You've turned away on your side.
Is my timing that flawed?
Our respect runs so dry.
Yet there's still this appeal
That we've kept through our lives.

But love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.

You cry out in your sleep,
All my failings exposed.
And there's a taste in my mouth,
As desperation takes hold.
Just that something so good
Just can't function no more.

But love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.

I heard the song while listening to the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Here we had an altogether different, but nonetheless moving version sung by June Tabor and Oysterband, who between them won four awards - Folk Singer of the Year, Best Group, Best Album for Ragged Kingdom and Best Traditional Track with Bonny Bunch of Roses from that album.  

I loved the song, lyrics, melody, the whole package, but thought no more of it until I realised a couple of days later it was playing on a loop in my head. My musical soundtrack is constant - sometimes one that I'm not particularly fond of that's wormed its way in because it's got a catchy tune - but this one was a welcome visitor.

I got curious and decided to do some detective work and in the process listened to Joy Division's version, and although I found the echoes of punk hard to listen to at first, after reading more about the background and listening a few times, I liked it more and more.

June Tabor & Oysterband's version is a totally different animal - emotional, haunting, musically a treat with cello and strong vocals. I read somewhere that they were the best pairing since Sandy Denny sang with Led Zeppelin and I certainly wouldn't argue with that. I'll always prefer this version as at heart I'm just an old folky, but I think it's a great tribute to Ian Curtis and Joy Division that the song is as relevant today as it was in 1979.


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