From the tragic ashes of the extraordinary band Joy Division would arrive, as a phoenix reborn, a rebranded New Order. The heartbreaking and untimely death of iconic vocalist and lyricist Ian Curtis would bring about a metamorphosis, not from pupa to chrysalis, but perhaps rather monarch to glasswing. This newer variation would build upon their intrinsically bleak strengths by expanding their sound to encompass a more danceable motif, while still remaining true to their stark song poetry. One of their first pieces to more properly exemplify this transition would be their deeply sardonic and celebrated song “Blue Monday“.
The song’s original release would drop in 1983 on the band’s second studio album “Power, Corruption & Lies”, with the remixed Quincy Jones and John Potoker version landing in 1988 (updated video shared below). The band’s double-album early singles compilation “Substance” (aka “Substance 1987“) would further showcase the song’s popularity, helping to make that album their best-selling “most popular, well known, highly rated [record] and arguably their most influential“. And while the original “Substance” included Joy Division track “Ceremony” and other original tracks à la disc one, with rare tracks and mixed versions on disc two, the newly released “Substance (2023)” joyously expands upon that original tracklist as a quad-disc release including a third group of mixes and a fourth set of superb live performances.
Track “Blue Monday” is the best-selling 12-inch single of all time full-stop. Written and produced by vocalist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook, drummer Stephen Morris, and keyboardist Gillian Gilbert, the song would be conceived in Cheetham Hill, Manchester with instrumentation including a Moog Source, a sequencer built by Sumner, and an Oberheim DMX drum machine that was recorded playing through studio monitors (professionally uncolored speakers) to capture the room’s natural reverb and ambiance. An early Emulator-1 sampler was also used to sample choir sounds from Kraftwerk’s song “Uranium“, with Sumner and Morris learning to use said sampler by hilariously spending hours practicing sampling their own flatulence in an apparent Beano-free zone (wikipedia.org).
Interestingly, the song has an extensive history of “borrowed works” that would aid in its creation. Hook would cite influences including (previously mentioned) Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder, and Sparks, further sharing that the song was “stolen” from the Donna Summer song “Our Love“. Sumner would admit to further lifts including “Dirty Talk” by Klein + MBO and Sylvester’s disco classic “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real). Even Gilbert would jump in admitting “Hook’s bassline was nicked from an Ennio Morricone film soundtrack“. The band would concede the song’s starting point was taken from an obscure 1979 Gerry and the Holograms send-up of music by friend, and arch-satirist, CP Lee of Albertos Y Los Trios Paranoias (theguardian.com). All of which lends strong credence to the Pablo Picasso quote: “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” The song has notably sold over two million copies in the United Kingdom alone across all formats.
Doubtlessly due to the sheer perfection and popularity of the song, it has been extensively covered by bands including Orgy, Flunk, 808 State, the Enemy, and Health. Perchance most imaginatively, Orkestra Obsolete made a cover using only instruments available in the 1930s, from the theremin and musical saw to the harmonium and prepared piano (video included below). Their version, a rebrand hauntingly more moth-eaten.
Cover Art “icicle pane” © 2023 – disturbedByVoices – All Rights Reserved