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Ian Curtis’ Vox Phantom VI takes a trip back to Manchester

Visitors of the Use Hearing Protection: the early years of Factory Records exhibition will get to see Ian Curtis’ axe up close and personal.

For its first time since its sale at auction in October 2020, the infamous Vox Phantom VI used by Ian Curtis of Joy Division will make a public appearance in its original hometown of Manchester. The guitar is to be featured in a major music exhibition titled Use Hearing Protection: the early years of Factory Records. The guitar has not been available for major public viewing in over 30 years.

Known for featuring in the music video for Love Will Tear Us Apart, the guitar was used extensively by Ian Curtis after it was purchased by the band’s manager Rob Gretton in 1979. The Vox Phantom VI featured built-in, battery-powered effects, which contributed to Ian Curtis’s metallic sound.

Ian Curtis performing live
Ian Curtis performing live with Joy Division, featuring his Vox Phantom VI
Photo: Chris Mills/Redferns

The guitar is built around a mahogany body of a unique, pentagonal shape. It features a Jennings Bigsby B5-type tremolo and tune-o-matic roller bridge, as well as three single-coil pickups and a wide range of rotary controls and buttons.

The exhibition the guitar is to be part of takes a magnifying glass to Factory Records, the record company Joy Division were signed to. Alongside the signature six-string will be rare artifacts and documents from the band’s history, as well as from other bands of the era in Manchester, such as New Order and Happy Mondays.

Photo: Science and Industry Museum, Manchester

“This is an unmissable exhibition for anyone eager to explore the origins of this influential label and its long-lasting legacy,” said the lead curator of the exhibition, Jan Hicks. “The early years of Factory Records did so much to influence the city and the UK’s contemporary creative industries. This exhibition explores why its unique development could only have happened in Manchester at this time and involving this group of people.”

Use Hearing Protection: the early years of Factory Records opens publicly on June 19 and will be showing until January 3 next year. For more information, check out the Manchester Science and History Museum website here.