Category: Joy Division

Disney's Joy Division shirt: Peter Hook 'appreciates the irony'

Peter Hook finds Disney's Joy Division shirt more amusing than angering

Many fans of Joy Division were aghast Monday over Disney’s new Mickey Mouse T-shirt that (lovingly or cluelessly) riffed on the Manchester, England, post-punk band’s iconic album art for 1979's “Unknown Pleasures.” Our own commenters called it “wrong, just wrong” and the “worst shirt ever.” But the design’s unlikely pairing of one of the most tragic acts in rock music with one of the most recognizable images of childhood has at least one begrudging fan: Peter Hook, bassist for Joy Division and New Order.

“I take it as a compliment,” Hook said, adding that to his knowledge, Disney didn’t approach representatives handling Factory Records’ catalog or the surviving members of Joy Division for permission. “If I had a pound for every time someone bootlegged Joy Division, I’d be as rich as Disney. But it’s interesting in a kitsch way. It’s this cross between something very adult and this well-known image of childhood. I’ve heard it’s sold out, so maybe it’ll become a kind of urban legend.”

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Mickey Mouse and Joy Division: The mash-up T-shirt

Mickey Mouse and Joy Division, together at last

Pitchfork is frothing at the mouth over this unholy repurposing of the Joy Division pulse-wave cover of "Unknown Pleasures." It seems to be real -- it's listed in the Disney store's online catalog, and unless this is a masterstroke of a website hack, it appears you can purchase one today. 

There are all sorts of reasons to give pause to such a concept: from the rich, rich irony of Disney's frequent lawsuits against trademark infringers; to the insane disconnect between the Happiest Place on Earth and a band that took its name from a Nazi sex-slave program and whose frontman hanged himself; to the blatant pandering to a musical subculture that should probably see right through this kind of thing; to the stratospherically curious explanatory note, "Inspired by the iconic sleeve of Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures album, this Waves Mickey Mouse Tee incorporates Mickey's image within the graphic of the pulse of a star. That's appropriate given few stars have made bigger waves than Mickey!"

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Peter Saville on the Manchester revolution

Joydivperfect Peter Saville is a rock star. One of the co-founders of the famed Manchester, UK,  record label Factory, his stark, often re-contextualized images have become iconic. From Joy Division’s seismic logo (pictured, left, on "Unknown Pleasures" from 1979) to the notorious “floppy disc” design for New Order’s “Blue Monday” 12-inch single, Saville’s visual work for Factory challenged convention and reinvented how the world looked at record covers.

Now the creative director for his home city of Manchester, Saville received a hero’s welcome when he spoke to a packed Paley Center for Media audience in Beverly Hills on “Use Hearing Protection,” in a Q&A format moderated by Christopher Mount, an art professor and former editor-in-chief of i-D Magazine.

Dressed in a white suit (“I can only wear this in L.A.,” he deadpanned), Saville thoughtfully touched on a wide range of topics while images of his many pieces flashed behind him (his cover for Pulp’s “This Is Hardcore” even elicited a squeal from the crowd). He said Factory owed its success to the fact that no one in the loosely defined “company” knew what they were doing. Attributing the enduring power of Joy Division to the band’s democratic approach as opposed to being a vehicle for Ian Curtis, he said it was Curtis’ death that allowed Factory to become such a cultural force.

“When Ian died, we suddenly sold more records than we could keep up with,” he remembered, adding that they sunk a majority of the profits into their famous club Hacienda in Manchester, a practice that would continue with New Order.

Touching on his panoramic post-Factory work, he told amusing tales about working with George Michael and Stella McCartney, getting particularly scathing when discussing the fashion industry, which he finds “useless.” He garnered laughs when deconstructing what he called “the current culture of handbags.” 

Particularly animated about his new role as the creative director of Manchester (which sponsored the event), Saville talked about the challenges of re-envisioning his city to be perceived as more than just a football town, in reference to the world renowned Manchester United squad. “We were the first modern city at the start of the Industrial Revolution,” he challenged while explaining the current “Original Modern” campaign.

Afterward, Saville mingled easily during the reception, posing for pictures and signing autographs for fans while Tim Burgess of the Charlatans spun actual vinyl records, including New Order’s “Blue Monday,” of course.

-- Scott T. Sterling

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