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She's Lost Control

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"She's Lost Control"
Song by Joy Division
from the album Unknown Pleasures
Released15 June 1979
Recorded1–17 April 1979 at Strawberry Studios, Stockport
LabelFactory Records
Songwriter(s)Bernard Sumner
Peter Hook
Stephen Morris
Ian Curtis[3]
Producer(s)Martin Hannett, Joy Division
Alternative cover
Music video
"She's Lost Control" on YouTube
"She's Lost Control"
Single by Joy Division
ReleasedAugust 1980 (US)
September 1980 (UK)
Format7", 12", CDS
LabelFactory Records
Songwriter(s)Joy Division
Producer(s)Martin Hannett
Joy Division singles and EPs singles chronology
"Atmosphere" / "She's Lost Control"
"'The Peel Sessions'"

"She's Lost Control" is a song by British post-punk band Joy Division. Released on their 1979 debut album, Unknown Pleasures, "She's Lost Control" was first performed live by the band in June 1978[4] and draws primary lyrical inspiration from a young woman experiencing a violent epileptic seizure.[5][6]

Two separate recordings of the song have been released: the version appearing on the band's debut album, and an extended, more electronic version was released in 1980 as a 12" single.[4] This 12" single version contains an additional verse not present on the initial version of the song, and was recorded in March 1980 at Strawberry Studios, Stockport, making this song one of the last studio recordings recorded by the band prior to the May 1980 suicide of their lead singer, Ian Curtis. On the US release of the 12" single, "She's Lost Control" appeared as the A-side (with "Atmosphere" as the B-side), as opposed the UK version, where the song appeared as the B-side to "Atmosphere".[7]

Lyrical inspiration

Curtis primarily drew the lyrical inspiration for "She's Lost Control" from a young woman with whom he had become acquainted through his employment as an Assistant Disablement Resettlement Officer at a Macclesfield occupational rehabilitation centre between 1978 and 1979.[8][9] The woman had epilepsy and had been desperate to find employment,[10] yet she suffered seizures whenever she came to the exchange, which would greatly disturb Curtis.[10] At one stage, this young woman ceased attending her appointments at the occupational rehabilitation centre.[11][12] Initially, Curtis assumed she had found a job, but he would later discover she had died of an epileptic seizure.[13][14][15][n 1]

Her unexpected death and Curtis's subsequent awareness and experiences of the stigma endured by individuals suffering from neurological impairments formed the lyrical inspiration for the song.[17][4][18]


The composition of "She's Lost Control" centres upon Peter Hook's bassline, played high up on the neck, and a mechanistic drum beat played by Stephen Morris. For the song's recording, each drum was recorded completely separately, as producer Martin Hannett obsessively pursued clean drum sounds with no "bleed through" (when one drum's sound is added to the signal of another drum unintentionally) on songs he considered potential singles.

Live, this song would be played at a faster pace than that upon the album, and much more aggressively, with Curtis often shouting the lyrics before the bridge sections. The syndrum used upon live performances of this song would often be more abrasive and louder in the mix than that used upon the studio recordings. On later live recordings, Curtis would play a keyboard line during the coda, one of only a few songs on which he would play an instrument.[19]

Live versions

A number of live versions of the song appear on re-issues of the band's albums. In addition, the 2008 compilation release, The Best of Joy Division, includes the Peel session the band had recorded of this song in January 1979.[20]

Cover versions

Many indie bands and artists have since covered "She's Lost Control". These artists include Girls Against Boys, Siobhan Fahey, Grace Jones and Spoek Mathambo. The guitar riff for "She's Lost Control" was also sampled in 1993 by the Manchester electronic music group 808 State for their single "Contrique".[21]

In popular culture

A very loose cover version of the song, recorded by the Greek minimal wave band Alive She Died, featured prominently in a 2015 advertising campaign for the cruise/resort collection of the Italian fashion house, Gucci.

The 2002 film 24 Hour Party People includes a scene dramatizing the recording of the song, and suggests that Morris recorded the drum beat on the roof of the studio, as well as continuing to play the beat long after the other band members had left the studio.

The name of the song is referenced in the title of the 2007 Ian Curtis biopic Control, which includes the incident which inspired the song, and also the actual recording of the song. This later scene depicts drummer Stephen Morris using an aerosol can sprayed into a microphone as percussion.


  1. ^ Curtis would later inform his wife he had been informed this woman had choked to death in her sleep as a result of an epileptic seizure. Consequently, one of Ian Curtis's greatest fears was his dying in his sleep as a result of an epileptic seizure. Due to this fear, he and his wife would establish a ritual whereby, upon evenings following a Joy Division gig in which Curtis did not experience an epileptic seizure, Ian would either sit in a chair and wait for an epileptic seizure to occur in his wife's presence, or lie in bed with his wife as both listened in silence, to await a change in his breathing rhythm (which would signal an impending seizure), in order that his wife could help him, before he would sleep.[16]


  1. ^ The Rough Guide to Rock ISBN 1-858-28457-0 p.552
  2. ^ "The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever". 27 January 2017. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
  3. ^ Ascap entry
  4. ^ a b c "'It Sounded Like Nothing Else' — the Story of Joy Division's She's Lost Control". Financial Times. 23 January 2017. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Josh Modell (2 January 2013). "Joy Division Celebrates Epileptic Convulsions With "She's Lost Control"". AV Club. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  7. ^
  8. ^ So This is Permanence: Joy Division Lyrics and Notebooks Ian Curtis, Deborah Curtis, Jon Savage (2014) p. xxii ISBN 978-0-571-30958-0
  9. ^ "Ian Curtis Tribute as New Development Launched in Town Centre". Macclesfield Express. 3 April 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2017.
  10. ^ a b "'It Sounded Like Nothing Else' — The Story of Joy Division's She's Lost Control". Financial Times. 23 January 2017. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  11. ^ Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures ISBN 0-82641-549-0 p. 70
  12. ^ "The Inspiration Behind Some of Manchester's Best-loved Songs". Manchester Evening News. 28 August 2017. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  13. ^ "Joy Division: 10 of the Best". The Guardian. 15 July 2015. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  14. ^ A Smell of Burning: The Story of Epilepsy p. 63
  15. ^ "An Unlikely Tribute: How Cult U.K. Band Joy Division Found Inspiration in Auschwitz". Haaretz. 15 January 2015. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  16. ^ Touching From a Distance ISBN 978-0-571-17445-4 pp. 72-73
  17. ^ Shakin' All Over: Popular Music and Disability ISBN 978-0-472-12004-8 p. 111
  18. ^ The Oxford Handbook of Music and Disability Studies ISBN 978-0-199-33144-4 p. 238
  19. ^ Shadowplayers: The Rise and Fall of Factory Records James Nice, Jon Savage (2011) p. 31 ISBN 978-1-845-13634-5
  20. ^ "Joy Division Discography Part 1". Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  21. ^ Carlson, Dean. "808 State - Statetostate - Review". Retrieved 13 March 2013.

Further reading

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