Joy Division recorded two sessions for the John Peel show, both in 1979. As you might expect, they were well supported by Peel, having been played on his show way back in March 1978, long before their debut EP An Ideal for Living had ever hit the shops.
Their February 1979 session opens with the short and somewhat iffy Exercise One, pleasant enough, but a worthwhile reminder that even Joy Division weren’t always perfect. The live version of Insight, subsequently released on their debut album Unknown Pleasures, is much better, and any doubts you might have had about how perfect they really were will quickly be allayed by this.
Also from Unknown Pleasures is the brilliant She’s Lost Control, which definitely isn’t quite as polished in its Peel Session form, but it’s great to hear it in its live form, albeit in a studio recording. The breakdown at the end is particularly satisfying, in a very rock and roll way.
Non-album work of genius Transmission follows, again sounding more raw and maybe not quite as perfect here, but it still sounds pretty amazing. The actual release didn’t appear till October of the same year, as their first “proper” single, and so it’s particularly fascinating that they played it so early, and also that they decided it wasn’t something they wanted on Unknown Pleasures, but I suppose that’s up to them. Great stuff though.
We’ll cover the second session in a future article. You can read more about Joy Division‘s relationship with John Peel‘s radio show here. This session is available on the CD The Complete BBC Recordings or as the second disc of The Best Of, which you can find here.