The story of New Order’s ground breaking single “Blue Monday” is intertwined with the launch of the Hacienda club in Manchester. As the club opened its doors in 1982 the band were still busy re-inventing themselves now two years on from the sudden death of Joy Division front man Ian Curtis.<
Much of what is written about the period has become almost mythical helped, in part, by Factory Record’s Tony Wilson’s habit of ‘not letting the truth get in the way of the legend’. The infamous Peter Saville designed ‘disc drive’ sleeve, for example, reportedly lost the label money on every sale. A great story but many of the record-breaking sales used a more conventional printed sleeve that did away with the expensive die cutting process. So with sales in excess of one million (UK) the release probably made money for Factory, however this was undoubtedly sunk into the Hacienda to keep it afloat during the ‘difficult’ early years when attendances at the club were low.
BBC Radio 4 Peter Saville (Designer) and Peter Hook (New Order)
The track itself marked the evolution of New Order from a post punk rock band into a hybrid electro rock outfit, the new line up consisting of Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert were clearly influenced by the New York club scene that was being re-created, to some extent at least, at the Hacienda.
The original 1983 Factory Records 12” vinyl featured ‘Blue Monday’ and a stripped down version of the track entitled ‘The Beach’. A key feature of both versions is of course the relentless kick drum pattern, created on the Oberheim DMX drum machine. The drums are completed with other sequenced parts that Bernard Sumner has since said were significantly influenced by Donna Summer’s “Our Love” the Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte produced track that used the same drum machine. Much of the additional sequencing on the record was done using a Powertran Sequencer that was home built by Sumner.
Donna Summer – Our Love
Another significant influence was the Mario Boncaldo and Tony Carrasco Italo disco classic Klein + M.B.O. “Dirty Talk”. The band apparently heard Hacienda DJ Hewan Clarke playing the track and asked to borrow it to use the arrangement ideas. The Blue Monday bass sound programmed on a Moog Source and then layered with Peter Hook’s guitar parts is clearly inspired by the “Dirty Talk” track with the line itself having a similar octave shape to the Sylvester song “You Make Me Feel Mighty Real” that is another track often cited as a reference.
Klein & MBO – Dirty Talk (USA Connection Mix)
A further key element is the choral vocal sound that helps to give the track its atmosphere. At the time the band was making use of the EMU Emulator, an early sampling keyboard that used floppy discs to store sounds. It was, in fact, one of these 5” discs that inspired Peter Saville to produce his design for the sleeve above.
Kraftwerk – Uranium
The sound itself was sampled from Krafwerk’s “Uranium” a track on the 1975 Radio – Activity album. Kraftwerk were so impressed with sound of “Blue Monday” that they booked out the same studio to work on there own new material but reportedly gave up the sessions after just a few days. It’s arguable that the record was the first UK production to influence the New York Club scene gaining support from the very clubs and DJs that had inspired its creation. One keen observer was New York based DJ/producer Arthur Baker who was later approached to produce the follow up single ‘Confusion’. Having come to the bands attention for his work on ‘Planet Rock’ by Africa Bambaataa and “Walking on Sunshine” by Rocker’s Revenge.
In my opinion the record still sounds fresh after almost 30 years on from its release. It’s the sound of band embracing new electronic music but yet retaining their identity. Drummer Stephen Morris took to drum programming responsibilities and Gillian Gilbert’s keyboard parts weave around the driving bass perfectly. The addition of Peter Hook’s distinctive bass combined with Bernard Sumner’s perfectly understated vocals mean that the track still retains the personality of the band in a perfect balance with the new technology and approaches of the day.
In terms of electronic dance music it’s hard to imagine a list of significant records from the early 1980’s that would not include “Blue Monday”.