Image taken from Brian Gormans’ Graphic Novel “New Dawn Fades”
All good things must come to an end. For New Order that end was in 2006, when bassist Peter Hook told Argentinian newspaper Página/12: “This might be our last concert ever”, unbeknownst to the rest of the band, who were preparing for a show they were playing later that day.
Since 2007, the feud between Peter Hook and New Order – chiefly frontman Bernard Sumner and drummer Stephen Morris – has been one of the most public and persistent disputes between former bandmates in recent memory. Only the Gallagher Brothers’ ongoing bickering eclipses the bizarre love triangle of Hook, Morris and Sumner. From trading childish barbs in the press to Hook threatening to sue New Order for “pillaging” the band’s name, it seems that not a year can go by without incident between them.
In the latest instalment of the soap opera that has become New Order, the new bone of contention stems from an auction set up by Hook, in which he would sell a huge amount of memorabilia that dated from his Joy Division days. The items that were to be auctioned were cited as “equipment, instruments, rare vinyl, along with some personal correspondence”.
Some of the “personal correspondence”, it turned out, was very personal correspondence indeed – love letters written by and between Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis and his girlfriend Annik Honore. Some of the letters were written whilst Curtis was still married to his wife Deborah, and some were dated days before Curtis’ suicide. These letters were forwarded on to Hook during the making of the 2007 Grant Gee documentary “Joy Division”, to assist with the authenticity and accuracy of the film. When Hook asked Honore what he should do with them, she allegedly said: “Do anything you like, Hooky!”
And thus, up for auction these love letters were to go. Browsing the many artefacts up for sale, it was plain to see that Hook was unsparing and unsentimental when it came to the relics of his past. Amongst them was a six-stringed bass, used for recording of Joy Division’s second album Closer, selling for £15,500. So too was the very first Factory promotional poster entitled “FAC-1”, designed by Factory legend Peter Saville, which sold for a neat £9,000. There were also items were so trivial they bordered on the bizarre, with obscure legal documents such as “From Woodhead to Hook – Change of Name Deed and Passport” up for grabs too. Even this most mundane of memorabilia managed to net a tidy £1,200.
At the eleventh-hour however, Hook, it appeared, had a change of heart. A number of items were removed from the job lot without explanation. Some of the items were inconsequential: say, a “Bass for Beginners” tab book, owned by Hook as a teenager. Yet most conspicuous of the withdrawn items were the letters between Ian Curtis and Annik Honore.
It is difficult to discern what dissuaded Hook not to press on and sell these particular set of letters. In a statement following the auction, New Order posted to their website to say that “Bernard and Stephen were very disappointed to that Peter Hook had decided to sell copies of the letters”, labelling them as “personal and private correspondence”. New Order also stated that they had been “contacted by many people, some closely connected, who also expressed their unhappiness at this proposed sale”.
The New Order pair then go on to state that “It was a relief to see Peter chose to withdraw them from sale.” New Order made a donation of £1,500 to the Christie Hospital, which was to be the intended recipient of the sum gained from the sale of the private letters.
In the closing sentiments of the statement, New Order appear to appeal to Hook, stating that: “Although previously Annik had given permission for extracts to be published, we hope that the entirety of the letters will remain as they intended to be, private”.
Whichever side of the debate one might find oneself on – that the letters are in the public interest or that their privacy is sacred – it has to be said there is something acutely disheartening to see a band argue in circumstances such as these. There was a time when Hook, Sumner and Morris weren’t merely a band of musicians, but also a band of brothers. They had faced tragedy and adversity together – and they had triumphed emphatically. How can it come to trading blows so publicly over something so intimate, when the intended recipients of the letters are no longer with us?