Jon Savage – The Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else: Joy Division – The Oral History (4 stars)

Jon Savage – The Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else: Joy Division – The Oral History

Compilation of interviews telling the story of the band in their own words

When does a compilation of offcut interviews – many of which have already been used to illustrate their subject in other media – become a vibrant, worthwhile and possibly destined to be classic document in its own right? When it has the double-lock of Joy Division: The Oral History, for one; as perfect fusion of immortal subject matter and perfect chronicler of that subject. With the proof of a rock group's influence and permanence only becoming apparent once some distance has been achieved from their settled legacy, it's fair to say Joy Division have stood the test of time both as composers of enduring music, and as a perfect evocation of their time and place in post-industrial Manchester and Cold War Europe.

Music writer Jon Savage, meanwhile, is known for his works on music in an anthropological context, including 1991's punk opus England's Dreaming and 2015's overview of a ground-breaking year 1966: The Year the Decade Exploded, and for his close affiliation with the Joy Division story; he provided the foreword for Ian Curtis' widow Deborah's biography Touching From a Distance and wrote Grant Gee's comprehensive 2007 documentary film. The bulk of the interviews here were done for that project, as well as Savage's past books and articles, and some fresh conversations.

On the first page the late Tony Wilson mentions 'psychogeography', and soon Joy Division's guitarist (later New Order's singer) Bernard Sumner is talking of the 'amazing yearning for things that were beautiful' which an urban upbringing of the time brought. Savage's curation of these words lays deep and immediate roots in Manchester, Salford and Macclesfield, but the members of Joy Division aren't rooted here; rather, they're the product of communities being torn down and replaced by a supposed post-war utopia. There's an intensity and a sense of detail to the lack of authorial moderation in the words of those involved (including Curtis, very briefly), and in the wider memories of the Buzzcocks' Pete Shelley, journalist Paul Morley and Factory Records founder Wilson, a breadth of context which brings Joy Division's time and place to life.

Out Thu 4 Apr via Faber.

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