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...hang the dj

...hang the dj is a music blog. Old school, shoegaze, psych, and darkwave are featured genres.

Legal disclaimer: This blog is my personal, independent website. It is not affiliated with Bell Media, nor does it represents the thoughts, opinions, desires, etc of Bell Media

For music submissions, press releases, or questions/concerns:

hangthedjmag (at) gmail.com

Or hit me up on Twitter: @CristinaRocks

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Originally published March 7th, 2013

New Order's legendary dance anthem "Blue Monday" was released as a 12" single 30 years ago today and it went on to become the biggest selling 12" of all time.  The song served as an inspiration and influence for countless bands and is still frequently covered and borrowed/sampled.  "Blue Monday" never enjoyed mainstream success on U.S. radio when it was released in 1983 (didn't chart on Billboard's Hot 100), but any club worth going to knew what was up, and the song became a smash across the country and all over the world.

Stream the original 12" version of "Blue Monday" below:

A remixed version of "Blue Monday" was released by New Order in 1988 (titled "Blue Monday 88") and the '88 version did quite well, largely due to the impact of dance clubs, plus by that time New Order had enjoyed success on U.S. radio with the hits "Bizarre Love Triangle," and "True Faith."

Bernard Sumner discussed the making of "Blue Monday" with the Sabotage Times: in May 2012:

"Blue Monday was a seismic change in the kind of material that we were writing and was a big commercial hit really. It was a big hit! I remember when it first came out people were like “What’s this, this doesn’t sound like New Order” everything about it, the way it looked was different."

"The reason we wrote the song was because we were getting grief about not doing encores, we’d write a song where you could just go on and press the button for all the machines...They [lyrics] weren’t literally about this but we were getting a lot of shit in the press at the time. The press has turned on us after Joy Division who could do no wrong. They were all against us and I felt a bit beleaguered and it was a kind of fuck you to the press really. That’s kind of what was in my head when I wrote it, it was a kind of a fuck you we can do it without you and we did, with that song."

"Blue Monday" (original music video, 1983)

New Order's Gillian Gilbert provided more details on "Blue Monday" in a February 2013 interview with the Guardian:

"Blue Monday was meant to be robotic, the idea being that we could walk on stage and do it without playing the instruments ourselves. We spent days trying to get a robot voice to sing "How does it feel?", but somebody wiped the track. Bernard ended up singing it. He says the lyric came about because he was fed up with journalists asking him how he felt. The lines about the beach and the harbour were the start of his many nautical references – he loves sailing. And Peter Hook's bassline was nicked from an Ennio Morricone film soundtrack."

New Order are big fans of Kraftwerk - "Blue Monday" includes a sample off  "Uranium" from Kraftwerk's album Radioactivity. Johnny Marr, who worked with Bernard Sumner in Electronic, recently told a story about Sumner talking up synth techniques with Kraftwerk's Karl Bartos in a recording studio back in the 90s:

"We went in the studio and Bernard said, "what synth did you use on that, and how'd you make that?" And Karl's going, "oh I just switched this box on it, and went like that." And Bernard said, "NO! Wow! In New Order we tried to make that sound, we took four days making it, I turned this upside down, and I stuck that wire into that, and I put this microphone into that." Karl said, "Oh, well maybe we should be sampling New Order."

Marr's BBC interview with the story on Karl Bartos/Bernard Sumner:

"Blue Monday" (live performance)

New Order still plays "Blue Monday" at live shows.  Last year Bernard Sumner was asked if he hates the song (and playing it) now and he said, "I don't hate it, but after you've played it so many times, you can't appreciate it.  That song's been very good to us.  People want to hear "Blue Monday" and they've got a right to..."

Watch Bernard's comments in the video below:

The sleeve for "Blue Monday" is almost as famous as the music itself - designer Peter Saville created the artwork after being intrigued by a floppy disk. From a 2011 feature on Saville in the Guardian:

"I thought it was a beautiful object. At the time, computers were in offices, not art studios. The floppy disc informs the design and the colour coding was from my interest in aesthetics determined by machines. It reflected the hieroglyphic visual language of the machine world. For example, the numbers in your cheque book aren’t really for you, they’re for a machine to read"

Legend has it, Factory lost money on the 12" because the sleeve for the original pressing of record was so expensive.  The original pressing featured a die-cut sleeve with cut-outs and a silver inner sleeve. Subsequent pressings featured a replication of the artwork with plain black sleeves and was much less expensive to produce.  Peter Saville said he was unaware of the cost of the sleeve.  From the February 2013 interview in the Guardian:

"Tony Wilson loved to say the sleeve was so expensive they lost 5p per copy. But it's unlikely; Factory never talked budgets. Nobody ever said to me: "This is a costly sleeve." No one sent me a copy, either; I had to go to a record shop. The record sold so quickly that the version I bought had a black sleeve but no holes. The printers hadn't been able to keep up with demand, so had banged out a cheaper version. I don't know how many thousands were sold that way, or whether Factory were charged the full price for something they didn't get, which would be very Factory. But I'm pleased it's a legendary cover for what turned out to be a classic track: the principal moment of conversion between progressive rock and dance. Similarly, colour codes have become widespread in graphic design."

The color code Saville mentions in the interview was used not only with the artwork for "Blue Monday," but was also included on three other Factory releases: "Confusion," and Power, Corruption and Lies by New Order, plus the first pressing of Section 25's album From The Hip.


Power, Corruption and Lies

Section 25 From The Hip (original pressing)

The color code spells out the catalog number of the release and release title. A more indepth explanation is discussed here. Take a look at the color code below:

A few years after the release of "Blue Monday" an advertising agency representing Sunkist expressed interested in using New Order's song for a new ad campaign. New Order reworked the lyrics and recorded a demo for the agency in 1987, but Sunkist ended up not approving the idea; thus the ad never aired. The demo eventually made the rounds online after being included in a New Order documentary. Check out the Sunkist demo below and read the backstory (including recent comments from Peter Hook) here.

Sunkist demo

Several bands have covered "Blue Monday" over the years including Orgy, Nouvelle Vague, Jolly Boys, Autoramas, and most recently Clan of Xymox. The Clan of Xymox cover appears on their 2012 covers album Kindred Spirits which also includes reworkings of songs by Joy Division, Depeche Mode, Siouxsie & the Banshees, and Radiohead.

Clan Of Xymox  "Blue Monday"

To wrap things up, here's a glimpse at my personal (non-first pressing) copy of "Blue Monday"

My copy isn't rare, but it does have one unique feature - it's labeled incorrectly (side A should have side B's label, and vice versa).