This is the cover art for 1979’s “Unknown Pleasures”, the debut LP from post-punk legends, Joy Division.
Originally published in the January 1971 issue of Scientific American, the surging waves represent 100 successive measurements of the first radio pulsar discovered, CP 1919. The band’s drummer, Stephen Morris, stumbled across the graphic (albeit with colors inverted) in a 1977 issue of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy; at the band’s and their label’s behest, graphic designer Peter Saville subsequently reproduced the image and reversed the colorway.
Perfectly complimenting the quartet’s gloomy, atmospheric sound, the jagged black and white streaks have became indelibly linked in the minds of music fans. It has since been reinterpreted and recycled many times over by graphic artists, emerging as something of a go-to design trope. Featured below are 14 such examples of how this iconic artwork has been repurposed with pop culture twists.
2. The mother of all Joy Division spoofs, Mickey Mouse. The Internet howled in anger (hysterically misplaced, but I digress…) and Disney subsequently pulled the design from its site, which in turn fueled an explosive secondary market on eBay.
10. Wu-Tang + Joy Division = I.C.R.E.A.M. (Ian Curtis Rules Everything Around Me)
12. A second “Star Wars” parody, this one inspired by the pod racing sequence from “The Phantom Menace”.
13. Serenity, the fictional spacecraft, from Joss Whedon’s “Firefly”.
14. The Golden State, California, as channeled through a noir-ish filter.
Below: Peter Saville speaks about the artwork, its proliferation, and legacy.
My favorite Joy Division track, back when they went by Warsaw. Crusty, but eminently tuneful.