New Order: Ceremony Meaning
No tags, suggest one.
They find it all, a different story,
Notice whom for wheels are turning,
Turn again and turn towards this time,
All she ask's the strength to hold me,
Then again the same old story,
World will travel, oh so...
Ian Curtis, who was suicidal and depressed, wrote the lyrics to “Ceremony” as he was nearing the end of his life. Worried about having epileptic seizures onstage, he was apprehensive about the attention he received as Joy Division’s success grew. In addition, he was confused about his marriage, loving two women at the same time. The lyrics to this song suggest Curtis’ frustrations with fame, his band mates, and his lovers indicating a need for understanding from the people in his life.
In the first line of the of the song, Curtis alludes to his need for greater understanding from those in his life writing, “This is why events unnerve me.” The word “unnerve” means to lose courage or confidence. Curtis was clearly losing courage to perform in public fearing the embarrassment of an onstage seizure. He was also losing courage as a husband and a father, wanting to keep his family together while having an affair. He was lost, lacking the courage to leave the band, his family, or his mistress.
Curtis indicates none of them were aware of this turmoil in the next line, “They find it all a different story.” He tried to make the band, his wife, and his lover believe he was engaged in those relationships. It’s possible he wanted to believe “the wheels” of fortune and love were “turning” for him as they seemed to be turning for everyone else. His band was happy with their success. His wife was happy with the new baby and the marriage until she found out about his lover. He feels some regret as he may be the cause of their unhappiness. As a result of this impending regret, he attempts to steer himself out of the darkness by writing, “Turn towards this time.” He repeats this anthem in a couple places to keep himself focused on the present rather than his past mistakes or what will happen in the future if he leaves the band or his lovers.
Even with his attempts at positivity and goodness, Curtis still finds himself mired in darkness especially in his love affairs. He writes, “All she asks is the strength to hold me.” This line could refer to his wife as she struggles with the knowledge of his affair. The line works well for his lover too, as she struggles with the knowledge he may not leave his wife. It’s “the same old story” every woman must face when she loves a man engaged in more than one relationship. The lines may also refer to his epilepsy and the strength required to help a person through a debilitating disease.
Curtis shows how lost he was in the events happening at the time. His “world” was moving “quickly.” Perhaps it was moving much faster than he wanted. He felt as though he were being drug through time or “traveling first” without thinking about the consequences of where he was going. He wanted the pace of his success and love affairs to slow down, but he lacked the courage to do it himself. So again, he tries to “turn towards this time” or stay focused on the present.
Even while he attempts to give himself the courage to carry on, Curtis is frustrated with his peers for not attempting to understand his struggle. He wants to “break it down” for them without “mercy” out of desperation. He knows “it’s got to be this time” to tell them how he feels or to make a decision to leave the band, his wife, or his lover. He holds it in, fearing what they’ll say, knowing they’ll be hurt if he leaves. He understands they’re “frail” too and may not want to “wake” to the truth.
The last lines are a warning from Curtis to his loved ones, telling them of his desire to end it all. He asks them to “picture” him as he is and “start watching” for signs of his inevitable breakdown. He believes this breakdown will lead to “avenues of trees” lining cemetery paths. However, he understands they can’t possibly know of his thoughts since he’s been masquerading “in this time.” What he really wants is for them “to let him know” they “love” him regardless of how broken he is. In his fantasy, they will all grow old “watching love grow.” Nevertheless, this isn’t the happy ending Curtis eventually chooses for himself. He was never able to “turn towards this time” and committed suicide shortly after he penned the lyrics to this song.
anonymous Jul 25th 2011 report
"Ceremony" was the last song written by Ian Curtis before his suicide. Typical of his lyrics, it speaks abstractly to his troubled marriage and a guilt that weighed on him due to his personal failings as a husband. Haunting and quietly disturbing is his depiction of death as a place of true freedom and serenity.
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