"Love Will Tear Us Apart" is a song by English post-punk band Joy Division. It was written in August 1979, and debuted when the band supported Buzzcocks on their UK tour in September and October 1979. It is one of the few songs in which singer Ian Curtis played guitar (albeit somewhat minimally). The lyrics ostensibly reflect the problems in Ian Curtis's marriage to Deborah Curtis, as well as his general frame of mind in the time leading up to his suicide in May 1980.[5] The title is an ironic reference to "Love Will Keep Us Together". Deborah Curtis had the phrase "Love Will Tear Us Apart" inscribed on Ian Curtis's memorial stone.

The song was first released as a single in June 1980 and became the band's first chart hit, reaching number 13 in the UK Singles Chart.[6] Later that summer, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" peaked at number 42 on the American disco/dance charts.[7] It also reached number 1 in New Zealand in June 1981.[8] The band postponed their US tour after Ian Curtis's death, performed a few short sets as The No-Names, then finally renamed the group as New Order. "Love Will Tear Us Apart" was re-released in 1983 and reached number 19 on the UK charts[6] and re-appeared at number 3 in New Zealand during March 1984.[8] In 1985 the 7" single was released in Poland by Tonpress in different sleeve under license from Factory and sold over 20,000 copies.[9] In November 1988, it made one more Top 40 appearance in New Zealand, peaking at number 39.[8] "Love Will Tear Us Apart" appears on the Substance compilation album. 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 Substance. The January 1980 version originally appeared as one of the single's B-sides.

In 1995, to publicise the release of Permanent, the track was reissued, complete with a new remix by Arthur Baker and a new radio edit, also known as the "Permanent Mix". On 24 September 2007, the single was again reissued, in its original configuration. This time, it was to publicise the Collector's Edition re-issues of the band's three albums. Although the single was now issued on the Warner label, it retained the classic Factory packaging, including the FAC 23 catalogue number.

Contents Edit


  • 1 Recording
    • 1.1 Pennine and Strawberry studio versions
  • 2 Music video
  • 3 Legacy
  • 4 Track listing
  • 5 Chart performance
  • 6 Cover versions
    • 6.1 Charts
      • 6.1.1 Chuzpe version
      • 6.1.2 Paul Young version
      • 6.1.3 Honeyroot version
    • 6.2 Swans version
      • 6.2.1 EP track listing
      • 6.2.2 Musicians
      • 6.2.3 Charts
  • 7 See also
  • 8 References
  • 9 External links

Recording[edit] Edit

Pennine and Strawberry studio versions[edit] Edit

The song was originally recorded at Pennine Studios, Oldham on 8 January 1980 along with the B side, "These Days". This version, similar to the version the band played live, was disliked by Ian Curtis and Martin Hannett, so the band reconvened at Strawberry Studios, Stockport in March to re-record it.[2] Whilst Curtis played guitar on the song live – the band taught him D Major specially – the guitar on the recording was a 12-string Eko guitar played by Sumner.[10] Sumner recalls:

Stephen Morris disliked the re-recorded version:

While Joy Division were recording "Love Will Tear Us Apart", U2 were in the studio to see Martin Hannett about producing their first album, Boy. Lead singer Bono said of the encounter:

Bono has since often sung snippets of the song during live performances, often during extended versions of "With or Without You".

Music video[edit] Edit

The video was shot by the band themselves on 28 April 1980 as they rehearsed the song at T.J. Davidson's studio, 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 by a spurned ex-girlfriend of Curtis' during the band's earlier work at the studio.

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 synchronization 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 committed suicide less than three weeks after the video was recorded.[13]

Legacy[edit] Edit

"Love Will Tear Us Apart" has remained popular and was listed by NME as the best single of all time in 2002. In 2004, the song was listed by Rolling Stone magazine at number 179 in its list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.[citation needed] The song is currently listed at number 181.[14] 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 reached number 1 in the inaugural Triple J Hottest 100music 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 none other than "Love Will Tear Us Apart". Serbian rock musician, journalist and writer Dejan Cukić wrote about "Love Will Tear Us Apart" as one of the forty-six songs that changed history ofpopular music in his 2007 book 45 obrtaja: Priče o pesmama.

The song has also been used in numerous television programs and in films, such as the 2001 film Donnie Darko,[15] in a pivotal scene before Donnie has to leave his girlfriend in order to save her. The 2001 film Series 7: The Contenders[15] features a music video for the song which characters explain as being part of a school project. Their homemade music video is in the style of a cheaply made '80s video with actors dressed in stereotypical goth fashion. The song is included in a 2002 film about the Manchester music scene, 24 Hour Party People,[15] during several scenes about the band and Curtis's suicide. It was also included in the 2006 indie film Wristcutters: A Love Story,[15] which takes place in an afterlife for people who have committed suicide.

Manchester United have adapted the song and their fans sing the song about Ryan Giggs. An edited version of the chorus is also sung by Birmingham City fans about winger Chris Burke ("Burke, Burke will tear you apart again"). Sydney FC also adapted the song for former star striker Alex Brosque. A similar version is sung by the Barmy Army, English cricket's official supporters group when spinner Graeme Swann is bowling.

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.[16]

Track listing[edit] Edit

7" vinyl
Side A
No. Title Length
1. "Love Will Tear Us Apart"   3:18
Side B
No. Title Length
1. "These Days"   3:21
2. "Love Will Tear Us Apart"   3:06
[show]1995 cassette edition
[show]1995 12" edition
[show]1995 CD 1 edition
[show]1995 CD 2 edition
  • 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.

Chart performance[edit] Edit

Chart (1980–1981) Peak


Australia (Kent Music Report) 26[17]
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[8] 1
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[6] 13
US Billboard Hot Dance/Disco 42[7]
Chart (1983–1984) Peak


Ireland (IRMA) 19[18]
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[8] 3
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[6] 19
Chart (1988) Peak


New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[8] 39
Chart (1995) Peak


UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[6] 19
Chart (2007) Peak


UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[6] 46
Preceded by

"Morning Train (9 To 5)" by Sheena Easton

New Zealand number-one single

21 June 1981 (1 week)

Succeeded by

"Stars on 45" by Stars on 45

Cover versions[edit] Edit

"Love Will Tear Us Apart" was first covered and recorded by Austrian new wave band Chuzpe in 1980/1981[19] (GIG Records 111 103) and has since been covered by many artists including New Order, The Cure,Dave Gahan, Peter Hook, Peter Hook & The Light, Bad Lieutenant, Paul Young,[20] Thom Yorke, Atoms for Peace, U2, Swans, Björk, Yat-Kha, Fall Out Boy,[21] Calexico,[22] José González,[23] Nerina Pallot, Evelyn Evelyn, Nouvelle Vague,[24] P.J. Proby, Human Drama, Heavens, Red Mecca, Motorama, The Mazqed Emyzzaries!, Another Victim, Susanna and the Magical Orchestra, Moonspell, Chuzpe77, Mark Owen,Hawksley Workman, Brothers Past, Adrian Borland, Unbroken, Broken Social Scene, Stanton Miranda, Adam Green, Bloc Party, John Frusciante, Arcade Fire, Revere, Squarepusher,[25] Honeyroot,[26] Chris Edwards, The Blood Divine, Simple Minds, Oysterband with June Tabor, Centre Excuse, Jamie Cullum, Unbroken, Bis, In the Nursery, Apoptygma Berzerk, Absinthe[27] and The Mulhollands.[28] In 1996, the SerbianEurodance group Tap 011 released the cover version on Serbian language with lyrics Ljubav ne gleda na sat (Love Don't Sees On Clock) on their second studio album "Gaće". The song "Let's Dance to Joy Division" by UK act The Wombats was inspired by "Love Will Tear Us Apart", and includes "let love tear us apart" in the lyrics; similarly, Kasper Bjørke's song "Alcatrez" references "Love Will Tear Us Apart": "Do you think it's true that our love will tear us apart?"; post-hardcore band Thursday released a song entitled "Ian Curtis" on their 1999 debut Waiting, the chorus of which features a repeated refrain of "Isolation/ love has torn us apart"; the song "Tiny Skeleyons" by An Horse also references "Love Will Tear Us Apart" in the lyric "Ian Curtis said it would tear us apart". William Control covered Love Will Tear Us Apart on his acoustic albumSkeleton Strings 2.

Broken Social Scene's cover was featured in the soundtrack for The Time Traveler's Wife.

Bush covered the song as a bonus track on their album The Sea of Memories, having previously covered the song In a Lonely Place.

On 11 November 2009 the song was also performed in the opening scene of Season 5 Episode 7 of the CBS television series Criminal Minds, by the musician character Dante[29] (actual song sung by Gavin Rossdale).[30]

The chorus of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" features heavily on the last third of Sufjan Stevens's epic song "Christmas Unicorn" from volume 10 of his Songs For Christmas box set.[31]

Australian singer-songrwriter Scott Matthew covered it for his album "Unlearned" (June 2013).

Soul Asylum also covered "Love Will Tear Us Apart" on their EP 'No Fun Intended,' released on 16 July 2013.[32]

Charts[edit] Edit

Chuzpe version[edit] Edit

Chart (1981) Peak


Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[19] 8

Paul Young version[edit] Edit

Chart (1984) Peak


Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[20] 9
Germany (Media Control Charts)[33] 40
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[34] 25
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[35] 9

Honeyroot version[edit] Edit

Chart (2005) Peak


UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[26] 70

Swans version[edit] Edit

Love Will Tear Us Apart
EP by Swans
Released 1988
  • Industrial
  • experimental rock
  • post-punk
Length 16:56
Label Product Inc.
Producer Michael Gira
Swans chronology
Children of God


Love Will Tear Us Apart


Feel Good Now


Love Will Tear Us Apart is an EP by the New York band Swans, its ninth release. It features a cover version of the Joy Division song. It was originally released in two different versions with Jarboe (black sleeve) and Gira (red sleeve) providing vocals, along with two semi-acoustic versions of songs from their 1987 LP Children of God. On some versions, a fourth song was appended: A solo acoustic version of "New Mind".[36]

EP track listing[edit] Edit

Side A
No. Title Length
1. "Love Will Tear Us Apart"   3:40
2. "Trust Me"   3:07
Side B
No. Title Length
1. "Our Love Lies"   6:56

Musicians[edit] Edit

  • Michael Gira – guitar, vocals
  • Jarboe – keyboards, vocals, piano
  • Algis Kizys – bass guitar
  • Norman Westberg – guitar

Charts[edit] Edit

Chart (1988) Peak


UK Indie Chart[37] 2

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