From Dwight Yoakam to Joy Division?


Warning: Almost none of you will care about this.

I dig Dwight Yoakam. My first year in Connecticut, when I grew tired of police sirens and amber skies at night, I bought “If There Was a Way” on cassette, stretched out underneath an elm on Old Campus, and pretended the squirrels nibbling my shoes were actually Dad’s little pack mule, Willy.

Nobody sounds mournful like Dwight, and he’s somehow cornered the market on balding, homely cool. Plus he appeared in the balcony at the White Stripes concert in Minneapolis a few years back. So he gets bonus points. Too bad he didn’t play that night …

Dwight’s got a great old song called “Coal Miner’s Prayer,” which I’ve loved for years now. Last year, when I started digging into Mike Doughty’s back catalog, I ran across his tune, “Sweet Lord in Heaven,” which is a great little song that seems to borrow heavily from “Coal Miner’s Prayer,” right down to the “sweet Lord in heaven” line. That’s what caught my attention.

Doughty mentions Sam Cooke and Ian Curtis in that song. Cooke I’d heard of; I had to look up Curtis. Which led me to Joy Division (the band for which Curtis was singer and lyricist prior to his suicide) and the point of this ramble.

I tracked down a used copy of Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures” disk on eBay and just listened to it (very casually) twice. Dark, brooding, and strangely beautiful. Reminds me of the slogan on the back of an old Soundgarden T-shirt: “Uneasy Listening.”

I was in kindergarten when this record was released, but it doesn’t sound dated to me. Do you music-heads know this band? Other recommendations?

5 thoughts on “From Dwight Yoakam to Joy Division?

  1. If I ever have a little boy, his name will be Ian, after Ian Curtis. (And some other famous Ians in the post-punk, modern rock world, but that's another topic.) Joy Division is one of those bands that may take some getting used to, because not all of their songs have the upbeat and head-bopping melody of “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” No doubt you've heard that song, JT.

    But if you start with some older New Order (the reincarnate of Joy Division after Ian Curtis hung himself)) and work your way back to Joy Division, it's a little easier to digest some of the stark and brooding sounds of the lesser-known JD tracks.

    Let me know if you'd like some album recommendations, eh?

    Way to play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with music. I like it.

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  2. I thought you might have an opinion, Death Cabbie. Actually, I'm not sure I know “Love Will Tear Us Apart” — but our office techie saw Unknown Pleasures on my desk, swiped it, and gave me their greatest hits collection to listen to … so I'll know soon enough.

    I liked what I heard right out of the gates. I need to dig back through old Soundgarden interviews to see if they mention Joy Division, because the early Soundgarden is seriously like some of this stuff.

    I was going to call this post “Six Degrees of Dwight Yoakam” — great minds think alike, and so do ours …

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  3. Well, the band formed the year I was born, so it doesn't exactly predate me, per se. I probably heard Love Will Tear Us Apart for the first time in high school (in the early 90s). It's their most well-known song, I believe.

    Transmission is also a great track.

    I think you'll find that a lot of current bands draw influence from Joy Division, the most noticeable being Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, et al. — which I refer to as the successors of Britpop.

    I'm constantly looking for predeceding influences in the new music I hear, and I'm pleasantly surprised when I hear the Joy Division sound in a new band.

    I don't know how we'd pull this off on a blog (perhaps create a new one and allow multiple users to post?), but we should create a musical influences game, whereby you name a band, another person names an influence, and so on — and discussion ensues. That would be a fun way to waste time at work, no?

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