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What does the cover of Unknown Pleasures mean?

So, what does the cover of Unknown Pleasures mean? Joy Division’s iconic debut album cover features a strange white-on-black pattern that has appeared on a million t-shirts since 1979. But what actually IS it? The iconic cover of Joy Division’s 1979 debut album is perhaps the most enduring image of the post-punk era. You’ve probably got a t-shirt of it. Even if you haven’t, you almost certainly own the album in some shape or form.

The stark white-on-black line drawing conjures up so much mystery. Back in the pre-internet days, information about Joy Division was sparse: the band’s names did not appear on the record and there was no way any photos of the musicians would appear on a sleeve.

An air of mystery grew up around the Unknown Pleasures cover. What did the enigmatic waveform symbolize? Was it a heartbeat? Was it a mathematical analysis of something sinister? Was it the cosmic scream of a dying star? Or was it just the sound wave of those terrifying syn-drums that swamp the Joy Div track Insight?

Answer: none of the above. Although one suggestion was close… read more >

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