One of Joy Division's most expensive records is up for auction

8 February 2020, 09:00 | Updated: 8 February 2020, 09:01

A limited edition of Atmosphere/Dead Souls is expected to fetch anything up to £1,000 when it goes under the hammer.

Joy Division fans - take note. Record collectors - reach for your wallet. Joy Division collectors - this is the one you've been waiting for.

One of the legendary Manchester band's rarest record releases is about to go under the hammer at an auction of rock memorabilia. The single is expected to fetch between £800 and £1,000 when it goes under the hammer later this month.

Omega Auctions are offering the chance to bid on a copy of Joy Division's original release of Atmosphere, which was released as a very limited edition in March 1980.

The rare Joy Division Sordide Sentimental single that's gone up for auction
The rare Joy Division Sordide Sentimental single that's gone up for auction. Picture: Omega Auctions

The classic song was backed with the excellent Dead Souls, but rather than get a release on their usual label Factory, Joy Division singer Ian Curtis convinced manager Rob Gretton to issue on the French imprint Sordide-Sentimental.

The label specialised in limited runs of 7" singles that came packaged in a fold-out booklet and had come to the frontman's attention when they released a record with industrial noise act Throbbing Gristle. Curtis decided he'd like something similar for two new Joy Division tracks that had been recorded the previous October.

Subtitled "Licht Und Blindheit" ("Light And Blindness") the pairing of Atmosphere and Dead Souls was accompanied by an essay by author Jean-Pierre Turmel that describes the act of performing onstage. "Blinded and dumbstruck for a moment, the illuminated singer no longer discerns the limits of the room around him," says the text. "An echo in the heart of the chance silence strengthens the overwhelming impression of a subterranean quest. Echoes of grottoes and cold cathedrals, echoes of the infinite cosmos."

It ends with a description of the band: "Joy Division passes beyond simple entertainment to re-transcribe musically the worlds of half-light and the intensity of ecstasy...

"A music at the intersection of luminous and dark worlds, between silence and the cry, a bridge between the past and present mystical symbolism."

The cover artwork to Joy Division's Atmosphere single
The cover artwork to Joy Division's Atmosphere single. Picture: Flickr/Sordide-Sentimental

Wow. If that wasn't enough, the cover of the folder that houses the record is a ponderous painting of a monk-like figure surveying a mountain landscape. Inside the package is artwork of a climber descending into a subterranean cave, which the record itself sits in front of one of the famous photographs of Joy Division at a London underground station, taken by Anton Corbijn in November 1979.

It's an elaborate package and was limited to the peculiarly specific number of 1,578 copies. The limited edition sold out almost immediately, causing many British fans no small amount of angst. Luckily, DJ John Peel played both sides of the record a number of times in the Spring of 1980, allowing listeners to tape it off the radio, and both tracks would eventually become more widely available.

But this wasn't until after singer Ian Curtis had taken his own life on 18 May 1980. Technically, this is the last Joy Division vinyl to be released during Curtis's lifetime.

The copy that Omega Auctions are selling is number 1,170 and comes complete with the original ad inserts that were sent out with the record. The vinyl is in excellent to near mint condition, while the folder shows "just traces of edgewear". The tracing paper folder that holds the disc in place has come slightly unstuck - which isn't surprising after 40 years.

Omega Auctions' Rare & Collectable Vinyl Records sale takes place on Wednesday 26 February from 10.30am. For full details see their official website.