Meaning of “Atmosphere” by Joy Division

Atmosphere is a song performed by the British band Joy Division. Despite the lyrics of Atmosphere never being explained to the press by its writer Ian Curtis or the other member of Joy Division, the lyrics clearly revolve around sorrow, pain, darkness and sadness. And just like many of the lyrics of the band, these lyrics are also open to interpretation.

Atmosphere lyrics

Facts about “Atmosphere”

  • The song was written by all four members of Joy Division: Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner and Ian Curtis. Curtis was solely responsible for writing the entire lyrics of the song.
  • The track features Martin Hannett on production duties.
  • The song was released for the first time under the title “Licht und Blindheit’, which is German for the phrase “Light and Blindness” on March 18th 1980 as a single only in France.
  • After the shocking suicide of Ian Curtis in May 1980, the song was released as a proper single and reached number 1 in New Zealand.
  • Of all Joy Division’s songs that the legendary English radio presenter John Peel could play just after announcing the shocking death of Ian Curtis in May 1980, he chose to play this particular song.
  • In 1988, the song was re-released and made its way to the 34th position in the UK Singles Chart, thereby making it one of Joy Division’s most successful singles.
  • The official music video of Atmosphere was not made until in 1988 – about 8 years after Curtis’ death. The release of the video coincided with the song’s re-release.
  • Just like the song’s theme, the music video also has a pretty dark and haunting theme in which mysterious hooded men dressed in burial shrouds carry pictures of the band. The video was directed by Dutch photographer and director Anton Corbijn.
  • The song was used in the 2007 Ian Curtis biographical film titled Control. In the film, the song was played just after Curtis’ wife (Deborah Curtis) comes home to discover that he has committed suicide in their kitchen.
  • This song was played at the funeral ceremony of Tony Wilson on 20th August, 2007 in Manchester. Wilson was a co-founder of the legendary Manchester-based independent record label. Factory Records launched the career of Joy Division.
  • According to Peter Hook of Joy Division, Atmosphere is one of the best works of the band.
  • In 2009, NME placed this song at number 1 on its list of “The 20 Greatest Goth Tracks”.
  • The song doesn’t have a chorus.

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