If you’re unfortunate enough to follow me on Twitter, you’ll have noticed I’ve been banging on about something in particular for many, many weeks now. It consumes my every waking thought. It will be, to date, the most important and highly anticipated moment of my life… In four weeks time, I will be stood amongst a crowd of sweaty Europeans to see – NEW ORDER.
Don’t fucking laugh. Because I don’t mean I’ll be singing along in an ironic way; “oh isn’t eighties dance/punk fusion so quaint and pseudo-contemporary yah”. NO. I mean I’ll be there, wearing my I heart Bernard Sumner sandwich board, dancing like a robot and trying to make the same sounds as a synthesiser. New Order are amazing, a legendary anomaly that wasn’t supposed to happen. Even more amazing is that they earned their status as one of the most successful British acts of all time thanks to one, even more anomalous track: Blue Monday.
A history lesson:
Following the death of Ian Curtis, the remaining members of Joy Division re-formed to create New Order. But they struggled to establish their new sound. The legacy of both post punk and their beloved front-man was hard to overcome, and for the first couple of years it looked as though the band wouldn’t be able to move on. Then in 1983, Blue Monday shat all over any previous beliefs that the band couldn’t succeed. New Order became the catalysts of a new British dance music scene, practically overnight, like so many happy accidents in music iconography. The track was written in response to grumbles from fans that the band never performed encores. The idea was that, thanks to the electronic arrangement, they would be able to have it playing on a synthesiser while they left the stage. In reality, the song’s popularity meant that they always performed the track on stage.
At seven and a half minutes long, Blue Monday is one of the longest songs ever to chart in the UK. After the notorious semi-quaver kick drum intro, Gilbert’s keyboards take over with a sequencer melody which, according to the band, was actually out of time – meaning the beat and the melody didn’t sync properly. It was left that way in the final production and that mistake is probably responsible for one of the most distinctive intros in modern music. Many believe the lyrics are an homage to Curtis, but the group have always maintained there was no significant meaning behind the words.
Nobody anticipated the immediate success that ensued, so there weren’t enough singles made in the first pressing. They didn’t think it would matter, seeing as Blue Monday was released as a 12 inch single only – ideal for DJ sets but not really regular fans. But in spite of no promotion, no radio play and the unusual format, the track sold in epic quantities resulting in its title as the biggest selling 12 inch single of all time.
When the band appeared on Top of the Pops in the March following Blue Monday’s release, they insisted on performing it live, though it was procedure that all acts mime on the programme. That early performance was riddled with cock-ups, proving the shows producers somewhat right, and New Order consider it their worst to date. But the single continued to overcome every hurdle chucked at it.
It sold half a million copies, but didn’t receive a Gold disc because Factory Records, New Order’s label, were an indie set-up and not British Phonographic Industry members. And rumours circulated at the time that Blue Monday actually cost the band money, thanks to Peter Saville’s expensive sleeve design, so the sleeve was replaced with a non die-cut version which was cheaper to manufacture.
After New Order released their 1983 Album Power, Corruption and Lies, they had to issue remaining copies with a disclaimer that read “DOES NOT CONTAIN BLUE MONDAY”.
And throughout the following thirty years the record has been remixed, re-released and rediscovered more times than Madonna’s mole. It ruddy well stood the test of time, millions of club-goers dance to Blue Monday on any given Saturday night, it’s inspired countless artists and singles.
So I have one question for you, piss-takers,
How does it feel?
Review by Becky Shepherd