"Ceremony" as written by Ian Kevin Curtis, Peter Hook, Stephen Paul David Morris and Bernard Sumner....
This is why events unnerve me,
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,
Word will travel, oh so quickly,
Travel first and lean towards this time.

Oh, I'll break them down, no mercy shown,
Heaven knows, it's got to be this time,
Watching her, these things she said,
The times she cried,
Too frail to wake this time.

Oh, I'll break them down, no mercy shown,
Heaven knows, it's got to be this time,
Avenues all lined with trees,
Picture me and then you start watching,
Watching forever, forever,
Watching love grow, forever,
Letting me know, forever.


Lyrics submitted by typo, edited by Freak2121, minuette

"Ceremony" as written by Ian Kevin Curtis Bernard Sumner

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Ceremony song meanings
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  • +6
    General CommentI'm not sure if this site is for deciphering meaning in songs or just a forum for anyone's half-baked conception of what a song means to them. These are not conflicting exercises, per se, but if you just want to voice the feeling a song evokes in you, FIND SOMEONE TO TALK TO. Especially if it's a song like this that resonates with you. If you're just going to use a song as a Rorschach Test, then all you can tell from people's interpretations is how THEY are thinking. Which is fine and all, but.... boring... To me exploring the writer's intentions to the extent possible sometimes makes a song come to life in a completely different way.

    The only comments I've seen here that illuminate this song to me are those explaining the relationship with Annik and the events surrounding it. He loved two people at the same time: a common state of affairs to be sure, but apparently too much for him to handle. I find it interesting that the song isn't explicitly addressed to Annik or his wife. That makes sense; he's confused. Who does he want to be with? He doesn't know what to do. It's in this vein that I wonder who the last stanza specifically is addressed to. Both women? It is clearly about some aspect of a funeral ceremony. He seems to be saying that this ceremony will be good conclusion for everyone involved. "Watching love grow" and "letting me know" seem to imply this. She/they will understand his love for them and he will "know" which one, "loved him the most." He couldn't pick so he cops out. As everyone should know, taking yourself out of this world is NOT a way to show others how you care about them. It shows just the opposite: how much you care about yourself.

    The song is beautiful and haunting, but the scene is a disgusting one. Think Guernica for its era's nihilism. War may be a fact of life, and such realities can be captured beautifully -- as they arguably are here. That doesn't change the fact that "war is hell." So is losing a loved one. (Or even thinking you might lose a loved one). Don't confuse poignant depiction with glorification.
    FFTWon October 26, 2009   Link
  • +4
    General CommentThere are in fact *three* known recorded versions of "Ceremony" by Joy Division with Ian Curtis on vocals. The first is a live version from JD's last ever concert. It is on the "Still" album. Most of Ian's vocals are inaudible due to a faulty microphone and the sound crew not starting the tape until the song was already underway. There is also supposedly another recorded version from the same date and venue taped during the afternoon sound check for the concert. It is supposedly circulating among JD tape collectors.

    The other known recording is the so-called "studio" version. It's not really a proper studio recording at all though. It was recorded in the bands rehearsal loft (with no audience) on Peter Hook's portable tape deck. It was just a practice session for the upcoming public debut of the song. This recording is the one that is released on the "Heart & Soul" box set.

    The vocals on this version are not very well recorded and it is difficult, if not impossible to make out most of the lyrics but it is quite clear that they are substantially different from the lyrics on the New Order version. Bernard Sumner has commented that they could not find any written copy of the lyrics left by Ian and that the remaining band members played and replayed the rehearsal tape over and over to try to make them out. Unable to do this though, they simply made up some new lyrics to fill in the blanks.

    Accordingly, any attempt to decipher the *true meaning* of the song and lyrics, as written by Ian, will be an excersise in futility unless and until some written copy of the genuine lyrics ever turn up
    visitingangelon May 09, 2011   Link
  • +3
    My Opinionthere is no song on earth that moves me as much as this one.
    Ian Curtis and Joy Division are timeless, though they have few notable songs, its easy to say that they're in my top 20.
    snowfacedgirlon December 07, 2008   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis song is just beautiful. It really shows just how much of his emotions and experiences Ian Curtis could put into his lyrics. I think it's absolutely tragic that there is no good recording of his voice because no one else can give each and give each and every word the same emotion as he could.

    At first I didn't think that this song was a goodbye. I thought Closer was much more desperate and suicidal (24 hours, The Eternal seemed like him describing his funeral). Ceremony and Atmosphere both to me seemed more hopeful, as if he was singing about trying to reach out and escape his misery.

    The title 'ceremony' makes me think he was referring to his wedding. The first lines appear to be him describing how events turn out worse than he expects (his marriage?). When he launches into the chorus with such passion it makes me think that it's his feelings of despair or what's causing them that he's trying to break. When he says 'its got to be this time' and 'watching love grow' it makes me think that he wants to seize happiness and repair his relationship, rather than end it all forever.
    Valkyriebs41on October 16, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentOne of the first things I noticed when I first read the lyrics was how he kept referring to time. I knew it was important and I've been thinking about it for a few years. I feel like it refers to seizing the day. He's weighing the consequences of either living in this time and breaking down the barriers to being happy right now or thinking about the future and what people will think about his cheating, particularly how Deborah would feel. However, since he had decided as a teenager that he would kill himself in his early twenties, the choice he would lean towards is obvious.

    In truth, I really feel a lot more sorry for Deborah in regards to the love affair. He really was a selfish bastard in a true description of a suicidal person. As she said in her book, her marriage was over and nobody had told her. She also said the words she chose for the tombstone described exactly what happened: "Love will tear us apart".

    But what I really like about this song is the 'fuck you world, I'm just going to feel good' in the song's message - "Notice whom for wheels are turning, turn again and turn towards this time" (I don't care about what is fated), "Word will travel, oh so quickly, travel first and lean towards this time" (I don't care about what society will say), "Oh, I'll break them down, no mercy shown, heaven knows, it's got to be this time" (I'm gonna take hold of this life). It's nice because this narcissistic YOLO-ism is taken with a healthy dose of self-doubt and honest descriptions of the human condition (my favorite line is "This is why events unnerve me").
    ofnothingon September 20, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General Commentand spell the woman's name properly for pity's sake!
    voxon July 30, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is probably my favourite new order song. It's ashame there wasn't a chance for a proper recording using Ian's vocals. I have heard to demo on Heart and Soul, and it sounds good. New Order really did the song justice when they re-recorded it in 1987, but i love their original release in 1981 also. As to what Ian was getting at with the lyrics, i can't say, but as with so many other later Joy Division, it delves into the depressive side of Curtis' mind.
    matt675on February 01, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love this song.
    cheesecheese27on February 23, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentPeter Hook (& The Light) closed the (2011) Denver show with this one. It was amazing.

    As far as the lyrics go, the speaker's been through this a million times, but he's convinced himself that this time will be "the one."
    MileHighMarkon November 14, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Commentbecause the lyrics are different to the New Order version, someone on YouTube tried transcribing the lyrics to the live version and here they are:


    I'll break them all, no mercy shown
    Heaven knows, he's got to be stronger
    Watching her, she's watching me
    The times she cried, too frail to wake this time

    Oh, I'll break them all, no mercy shown
    Heaven knows, it's got to be this time
    Avenues, all lined with trees
    Picture me, in ten years' time watching
    Watching forever...
    Watching forever...

    Forever, watching love grow
    Forever, watching love grow
    Forever, letting me know
    minuetteon April 23, 2013   Link

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