Love Will Tear Us Apart

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"Love Will Tear Us Apart"
Love Will Tear Us Apart song.jpg
7" cover
Single by Joy Division
B-side"These Days"
ReleasedJune 1980 (1980-06)[1]
RecordedMarch 1980[2]
StudioStrawberry, Stockport[3]
Joy Division British singles and EPs singles chronology
"Love Will Tear Us Apart"
Alternative cover
12" cover
12" cover
Music video
"Love Will Tear Us Apart" on YouTube

"Love Will Tear Us Apart" is a song by English rock band Joy Division, released in June 1980 as a non-album single. Its lyrics were inspired by lead singer Ian Curtis's marital problems and struggles with epilepsy.[7] The single was released the month after his suicide.

The song was certified platinum in the UK, selling over 600,000 copies, and has an ongoing legacy as a defining song of the era. In 2002, NME named "Love Will Tear Us Apart" as the greatest single of all time, while Rolling Stone named it one of the 500 best songs ever in 2004, 2011, and 2021.


"Love Will Tear Us Apart" was written about Ian Curtis' troubled relationship with his wife, Deborah Woodruff, whom he married in August 1975. Additionally, it deals with his own struggles with epilepsy, which he was diagnosed with in 1979, and the overwhelming stress of holding down a day job and his growing career as a singer.[8]

At a Joy Division gig in October 1979, Curtis met Belgian journalist and music promoter Annik Honoré and the two began a relationship, which caused further distress between Curtis and Woodruff.[8][9]

Speaking about her relationship with Curtis in a 2010 interview with Belgian magazine supplement Focus, Honoré said:

It was a completely pure and platonic relationship, very childish, very chaste… I did not have a sexual relationship with Ian, he was on medication, which rendered it a non-physical relationship. I am so fed up that people question my word or his: people can say whatever they want, but I am the only person to have his letters… One of his letters says that the relationship with his wife Deborah had already finished prior to us meeting each other.[10]


Joy Division first recorded "Love Will Tear Us Apart" at Pennine Studios, Oldham, on 8 January 1980, along with the B-side, "These Days". This version was similar to the version the band played live. However, singer Ian Curtis and producer Martin Hannett disliked the results and the band reconvened at Strawberry Studios, Stockport in March to re-record it.[3] Drummer Stephen Morris recalled:

Martin Hannett played one of his mind games when we were recording it – it sounds like he was a tyrant, but he wasn't, he was nice. We had this one battle where it was nearly midnight and I said, "Is it all right if I go home, Martin – it's been a long day?" And he said [whispers], "OK ... you go home". So I went back to the flat. Just got to sleep and the phone rings. "Martin wants you to come back and do the snare drum". At four in the morning! I said, "What's wrong with the snare drum!?" So every time I hear "Love Will Tear Us Apart", I grit my teeth and remember myself shouting down the phone, "YOU BASTARD!" ... I can feel the anger in it even now. It's a great song and it's a great production, but I do get anguished every time I hear it.[11]

The guitar on the recording, a 12-string Eko guitar, was played by Bernard Sumner.[12] While Curtis generally did not play guitar, to perform the song live, the band taught him how to strum a D major chord. Sumner said:

Ian didn't really want to play guitar, but for some reason we wanted him to play it. I can't remember the reason now ... We showed him how to play D and we wrote a song. I wonder if that's why we wrote "Love Will Tear Us Apart", you could drone a D through it. I think he played it live because I was playing keyboards.[12]

While Joy Division were recording, U2 were in the studio to see Hannett about producing their single "11 O'Clock Tick Tock". U2 singer Bono said of the encounter:

Talking to Ian Curtis is ... or was a strange experience because he's very warm ... he talked—it was like two people inside of him—he talked very light, and he talked very well-mannered, and very polite. But when he got behind the microphone he really surged forth; there was another energy. It seemed like he was just two people and, you know, "Love Will Tear Us Apart", it was like [when] that record was released ... it was like, as if, there were the personalities, separate; there they were, torn apart.[13]


It was first recorded for a John Peel session in November 1979, then re-recorded in January 1980 and March 1980. It is the latter version that appears on the 1988 Substance album. The January 1980 version, which has become known as the "Pennine version", originally appeared as one of the single's B-sides.

"Love Will Tear Us Apart" became Joy Division's first chart hit, reaching number 13 in the UK Singles Chart.[14] The following month, the single topped the UK Indie Chart.[15] The song also peaked at number 42 on the Billboard disco chart in October 1980.[16] "Love Will Tear Us Apart" also reached number 1 in New Zealand in June 1981.[17]

The single was re-released in 1983 and reached number 19 on the UK charts[18] and number 3 in New Zealand during March 1984.[17] In 1985, the 7" single was released in Poland by Tonpress in different sleeve under licence from Factory and sold over 20,000 copies.[19] In November 1988, it made one more Top 40 appearance in New Zealand, peaking at number 39.[17]

Cover photo[edit]

According to Curtis's wife Deborah, to create the single cover photo, the song title was etched upon a sheet of metal; this was aged with acid and exposed to the weather to create the appearance of a stone slab.[20] For the 12" version of the single, a photograph of a grieving angel on the Ribaudo family tomb in Genoa's Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno (sculpted by Onorato Toso c. 1910) was used. The photograph was taken by Bernard Pierre Wolff in 1978.[21]

Music video[edit]

The video was shot by the band themselves on 25 April 1980[22] as they rehearsed the song at T. J. Davidson's studio, in Knott Mill, Manchester city centre, where the band had previously rehearsed during the early days of their career. At the start of the video, the door that opens and shuts is carved with Ian Curtis' name; reportedly this was the beginning of an abusive message (the rest later erased) carved into the door.

Due to poor production, the video's colour is 'browned out' at some points. Also, as the track recorded during the recording of the video was poor, it was replaced with the single-edit recording of the song by the band's record company in Australia, leading to problems with the synchronisation of music and video. This edited version of the music video would later become the official version due to the improvement of sound quality.

This was the only promotional video the band ever produced as Ian Curtis hanged himself three weeks after the video was recorded.[23]


A grey stone with "Ian Curtis, 18-5-80, Love Will Tear Us Apart" carved into it in block letters
Ian Curtis's grave marker, laid in 2008 to replace a similarly inscribed one stolen earlier that year

"Love Will Tear Us Apart" was named NME Single of the Year in 1980,[24] and was listed as the best single of all time by NME in 2002.

In May 2007, NME placed it at number 19 in its list of the 50 Greatest Indie Anthems Ever, one place ahead of another Joy Division song, "Transmission". The song is also listed as being one of the 5 best indie songs of all time in the "All Time Indie Top 50".[25]

In 2004, the song was listed by Rolling Stone magazine at number 179 in its list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[26] In 2011, the song was listed at number 181.[27] In the 2021 update of the list, it had risen to 41.[28]

The song reached number 1 in the inaugural Triple J Hottest 100 music poll of 1989 and again in 1990. When being interviewed for New Order Story, Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys stated that "Love Will Tear Us Apart" was his favourite pop song of all time. At Christmas 2011, listeners of Dublin's Phantom FM voted "Love Will Tear Us Apart" as their favourite song of all time. Furthermore, in 2012, in celebration of the NME's 60th anniversary, a list of the 100 Greatest Songs of NME's Lifetime was compiled, and the list was topped by "Love Will Tear Us Apart". Serbian rock musician, journalist and writer Dejan Cukić wrote about "Love Will Tear Us Apart" as one of the 45 songs that changed history of popular music in his 2007 book 45 obrtaja: Priče o pesmama. In 2015, the online magazine Pitchfork ranked "Love Will Tear Us Apart" seventh on its list of the "200 best songs of the 1980s".[29]

Following Curtis's suicide, his wife Deborah had the phrase "Love Will Tear Us Apart" inscribed on his memorial stone.[30]

In June 2013, Mighty Box Games released Will Love Tear Us Apart?, a browser-based video game that adapts every verse of the song into a level.[31]

Track listing[edit]

Side A
1."Love Will Tear Us Apart"3:18
Side B
1."These Days"3:21
2."Love Will Tear Us Apart (Pennine version)[a]"3:06
1995 cassette edition
1."Love Will Tear Us Apart" (radio version)3:38
2."Love Will Tear Us Apart" (original version)3:25
1995 12" edition
1."Love Will Tear Us Apart" (original version)3:25
2."Love Will Tear Us Apart" (radio version)3:38
3."Love Will Tear Us Apart" (Arthur Baker remix)4:12
4."Atmosphere" (original Hannett 12")4:08
1995 CD 1 edition
1."Love Will Tear Us Apart" (radio version)3:38
2."Love Will Tear Us Apart" (original version)3:25
3."These Days"3:25
4."Transmission" (live)3:44
1995 CD 2 edition
1."Love Will Tear Us Apart" (original version)3:18
2."Love Will Tear Us Apart '95" (radio version)3:38
  1. ^ Not listed on original 7" single and not listed as being alternate version where it was; the "Pennine version" label did not come into use until years later.
  • Track 1 recorded at Strawberry Studios, Stockport, early March 1980
  • Tracks 2 and 3 recorded at Pennine Sound Studios, Oldham, 8 January 1980
  • In her biography Touching from a Distance, Deborah Curtis explains that the reason for the two versions of the song, one on each side, was a result of Curtis's slightly different singing in each one; one vocal take was allegedly done when other band members told Curtis to sing "like Frank Sinatra".
  • Like other Joy Division releases, including Transmission and An Ideal For Living, the 7" and 12" versions share the same tracks, but have different sleeves.


Weekly charts[edit]


Sale certifications for "Love Will Tear Us Apart"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Italy (FIMI)[38] Gold 25,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[39] Platinum 600,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Cover versions[edit]

Love Will Tear Us Apart
EP by
LabelProduct Inc.
ProducerMichael Gira
Swans chronology
Children of God
Love Will Tear Us Apart
Feel Good Now

Throughout the eighties, multiple artists covered "Love Will Tear Us Apart". Chuzpe recorded a cover version that peaked at number eight in Austria in 1981.[40] Paul Young's 1984 cover "Love Will Tear Us Apart" reached number nine in both the Belgium and Netherlands, and number 40 in Germany.[41][42][43] The New York band Swans' fourth EP Love Will Tear Us Apart was named after their cover of the song, and was placed alongside two semi-acoustic versions of songs from their 1987 LP Children of God. The EP reached number 85 on the UK Singles Chart and number two on the UK Indie Chart.[44][45] In May 2005, ambient dance duo Honeyroot reached number 70 on the UK Singles Chart in May 2005 with their cover.[46]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Curtis, Deborah (2014) [1995]. Touching from a Distance: Ian Curtis and Joy Division. London: Faber and Faber. p. 142. ISBN 978-0-571-32241-1.
  2. ^ Curtis, Deborah (2005) [1995]. Touching from a Distance: Ian Curtis and Joy Division. Faber and Faber. p. 141. ISBN 978-0-571-17445-4.
  3. ^ a b "Joy Division studio sessions". Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  4. ^ Friskics-Warren, Bill (2005). I'll Take You There: Pop Music and the Urge for Transcendence. Continuum. p. 98. ISBN 0-8264-1700-0. the cascading melody of Joy Division's sublimely gloomy post-punk anthem, 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'
  5. ^ a b "David Bay launches groovy original cover of Joy Division's 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' as debut single". 4 September 2021.
  6. ^ Abed, Cyrus (12 April 2022). "33 Best New Wave Songs In The World".
  7. ^ "500 Must-Have Music Tracks". The Daily Telegraph. 1 February 2014. p. X8.
  8. ^ a b "What is Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart about?". Radio X. 20 June 2020. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  9. ^ "Annik Honoré, the inspiration for "Love Will Tear Us Apart", dies aged 56". Uncut. 4 July 2014. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  10. ^ Cornet, Philippe (14 June 2010). "Annik Honoré: retour sur son histoire fulgurante avec Ian Curtis de Joy Division" [Annik Honoré: a look back at her dazzling history with Ian Curtis of Joy Division]. Focus (in French). Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  11. ^ Gale, Lee (17 December 2010). "An Ideal for Reliving". GQ. New York City. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  12. ^ a b Graham, Pat (2011). Instrument. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. p. 40. ISBN 978-1-4521-0895-7.
  13. ^ "Bono on Joy Division, 1980, RTE radio, Ireland." on YouTube
  14. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  15. ^ a b "Indie Hits". Archived from the original on 16 October 2007 – via Cherry Red Records.
  16. ^ a b "Disco Top 100". Billboard. Vol. 92, no. 43. 25 October 1980. p. 33. ISSN 0006-2510.
  17. ^ a b c d e f "Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  18. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  19. ^ Buda, Andrzej (2006). Historia rocka, popu i hip-hopu – według krytyków: 1974–2000 (in Polish). Wydawn. Niezależne (Independent editors). ISBN 83-915272-8-X.
  20. ^ Curtis, Deborah (2005) [1995]. Touching from a Distance: Ian Curtis and Joy Division. Faber and Faber. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-571-17445-4.
  21. ^ "Bernard Pierre Wolff: Genova, Italy, 1978: Il Staglieno". 4 December 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  22. ^ Curtis, Deborah (2005) [1995]. Touching from a Distance: Ian Curtis and Joy Division. Faber and Faber. p. 121. ISBN 978-0-571-17445-4.
  23. ^ Hook, Peter (2012). Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division. London: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-06-222258-9.
  24. ^ "1980 Best Albums and Tracks of the Year". NME. 10 October 2016. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  25. ^ "All Time Indie Top 50". 23 Indie Street. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  26. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (1-500)". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 20 August 2006.
  27. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time > 181 – Joy Division, 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'". Rolling Stone. 7 April 2011. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  28. ^ "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Roling Stone. 15 September 2021. Retrieved 10 October 2021.
  29. ^ Staff (24 August 2015). "The 200 Best Songs of the 1980s". Pitchfork. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  30. ^ Curtis, Deborah (2014) [1995]. Touching from a Distance: Ian Curtis and Joy Division. London: Faber and Faber. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-571-32241-1.
  31. ^ Farokhmanesh, Megan (3 June 2013). "Will Love Tear Us Apart? transforms Joy Division song into a game". Polygon. Vox Media. Archived from the original on 8 June 2013. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  32. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989". Hung Medien. Archived from the original on 20 October 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  33. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Love Will Tear Us Apart". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  34. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  35. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  36. ^ "End of Year Charts 1981". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 17 August 2020.
  37. ^ "End of Year Charts 1984". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 17 August 2020.
  38. ^ "Italian single certifications – Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 31 December 2019. Select "2019" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Love Will Tear Us Apart" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
  39. ^ "British single certifications – Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  40. ^ "Chuzpe – Love Will Tear Us Apart" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 17 May 2022.
  41. ^ "Paul Young – Love Will Tear Us Apart". Gfk Entertainment charts. Retrieved 17 May 2022.
  42. ^ "Paul Young – Love Will Tear Us Apart" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 17 May 2022.
  43. ^ "Paul Young – Love Will Tear Us Apart" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 17 May 2022.
  44. ^ Lazell, Barry (1997). "Indie Hits 1980–1989". Cherry Red Books. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011.
  45. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 17 May 2022.
  46. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 266. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.

External links[edit]