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"Ceremony" is a song by Joy Division, released as New Order's debut single in 1981. The song, as well as the B-side, "In a Lonely Place", were written as Joy Divisionprior to the death of Ian Curtis. Both were carried over to the band's re-incarnation as New Order.

New Order released the song as a single twice, firstly in March 1981 and secondly in September 1981 featuring new member Gillian Gilbert.



  • 1 History
    • 1.1 Joy Division
    • 1.2 New Order
      • 1.2.1 March 1981 version
      • 1.2.2 September 1981 version
    • 1.3 Re-issue
  • 2 Composition
  • 3 Cover versions
  • 4 Track listing
  • 5 Chart positions
  • 6 References


Joy Division[edit][]

"Ceremony" was one of the last Joy Division songs to be composed, with lyrics written by Ian Curtis. There are three recorded versions by Joy Division in existence. The first is a live version, available on the Still album, from their final concert at High Hall, Birmingham University on 2 May 1980. The second, available on the Heart and Soulfour-disc box set is from a studio session on 14 May 1980,[2] four days before Curtis's suicide. It was the band's last recording. The third is a version recorded at the soundcheck on the afternoon of 2 May 1980 (along with "Decades") and is only available on bootleg. In all recordings, the vocals are only partially audible.

New Order[edit][]

After the death of Ian Curtis, the remaining members of Joy Division renamed the band New Order. Their first release was a re-recording of "Ceremony" as a stand-alone single backed with "In a Lonely Place", with guitarist Bernard Sumner taking over lead vocals. Sumner said that he had to put the "Ceremony" rehearsal tape as sung by Curtis through a graphic equalizer to transcribe the lyrics.[3]

March 1981 version[edit][]

In March 1981, the first version of "Ceremony" was released on Factory Records (FAC 33). Martin Hannett (Joy Division's producer) produced the record and Peter Saville designed the sleeve graphics.

The 7" record was issued in a stamped gold-bronze sleeve. The 12" sleeve was a completely separate design: gold typography on a green background.

September 1981 version[edit][]

In September 1981, "Ceremony" was re-recorded. Gillian Gilbert played guitar on the recording, just before she formally joined the band. Martin Hannett again produced the record. The single was re-issued as a 12" only, with the same catalogue number (FAC 33). The original is approximately 4:34 minutes in length while the re-recording is 4:23. The re-recorded version was used on all subsequent compilations until Singles in 2005, when the original recording was released on CD for the first time.

There are differences in the recordings. The original has a more "Joy Division sound", with throbbing bass, distorted guitar, spacey vocals, and solid drums also contributing a wash of cymbals. In the re-recording the bass is diminished, cymbals restrained, and the vocals are "drier". The guitar has a sound typical of that used on the album Movement. Drum hits in the opening verse are dramatically panned in the mix. There is a greater contrast between verse and chorus, with the latter sections reaching some of the emotional pitch of the original.

The sleeve (pictured) was changed to a light cream with a vertical blue stripe, though with the same motif and typography as the original 12" single. After supply of the re-designed sleeve ran out, copies of the originally-designed sleeve were re-used.[citation needed] Accordingly, the two versions of the song were packaged indiscriminately in the original sleeve. However, the run-groove notation (phrases pressed onto the vinyl) differ according to the version. The original says "Watching love grow forever". The re-recording says "This is why events unnerve me". Both phrases are excerpts from the lyrics in "Ceremony".


The single was re-issued again in April 2011 for Record Store Day in a white sleeve. This limited edition release (only 800 copies) plays at 33rpm. It features the New Order recordings of "Ceremony" (the pre-Gillian Gilbert take) and "In a Lonely Place" on one side, with the rare Joy Division recordings of the same tracks on the flip side—"Ceremony" comes from the 1997 Heart & Soul box set but the version of "In a Lonely Place" is a recently discovered complete take and not the same as the version featured on Heart & Soul . The Heart & Soul version is cut short at 2:32, whereas this newly discovered take runs for 5:45 and the full Ian Curtis vocal of "In a Lonely Place" is heard here for the first time, complete with the missing 'Hangman' verse.


"Ceremony" is a mid-tempo rock song in the key of C major. The song contains two implied chords, C major and F major, shown through the driving bassline. The song does not contain any keyboards, which became a common staple in Joy Division's later sound, and New Order's eventual sound. The song, in its original recording, featured a faster tempo than that of the September re-record, as well as clearer production and a more processed guitar tone. "Ceremony" utilises quiet-loud dynamics and artificial reverb to give the song its trademark flowing atmosphere. Interestingly, the song reverts to its quieter stage for the guitar solo, a practise carried over to New Order by Bernard Sumner.

The song was composed when the band were still Joy Division, with Ian Curtis providing the vocal melody and the second chorus. Sumner and Peter Hook rewrote the lyrics for the first verse and chorus when Curtis's original lyrics could not be found.[contradiction]Bernard tried unsuccessfully to boost Curtis's vocals in a badly recorded home demo. The attempt to uncover the lyrics at this point was used to record the original demo of "Ceremony", featuring Stephen Morris on vocals, as part of the band's Western Works Demo, 7 September 1980.

Cover versions[edit][]

The song has been covered by a number of artists, including:

  • Radiohead for their "Thumbs Down" webcast on 9 November 2007.
  • Galaxie 500 on their 1989 "Blue Thunder" EP (available on the re-issue of On Fire).
  • Xiu Xiu on their debut EP from 2002, Chapel of the Chimes
  • The Echoing Green.
  • The European Translation Of on the compilation "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" [4]
  • The Morning Benders
  • Ian McCulloch.[5] McCulloch also sang the song with New Order at the Festival of the Tenth Summer.[6]
  • Chromatics in December 2012.

Track listing[edit][]

All songs written and composed by Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Bernard Sumner. 

7": FAC 33 (UK)
No. Title Length
1. "Ceremony"   4:34
2. "In a Lonely Place"   4:35
12": FAC 33 (UK)
No. Title Length
1. "Ceremony"   4:34
2. "In a Lonely Place"   6:12
  • Usually a green sleeve.
12": FAC 33 (UK) - Second pressing
No. Title Length
1. "Ceremony" (September 1981 version) 4:22
2. "In a Lonely Place"   6:12
  • Usually a cream and blue sleeve.
12": FAC 33 (UK) - 2011 Record Store Day pressing
No. Title Length
1. "Ceremony"   4:34
2. "In a Lonely Place"   6:12
3. "Ceremony" (Joy Division version (from the 1997 Heart and Soul box set)) 4:14
4. "In a Lonely Place" (Joy Division version (previously unreleased)) 5:30
  • White sleeve

Chart positions[edit][]

Chart (1981) Peak


New Zealand RIANZ Singles Chart[7] 1 7
UK Singles Chart[8] 34
UK Independent Singles Chart[9] 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play[10] 61


  • 1 - Charted in 1983 and 1984.