This week, 35 years ago, saw the release of possibly the most iconic dance single of all time. There’s really no other way to describe Blue Monday by New Order – the original 12″ single drifted in and out of the UK charts for nearly three years, clocking an astonishing 39 weeks on the Top 75, and nearly double that on the now-official Top 100, and that’s without even counting the later reissues.
Of course, it’s hard to know now whether you just recognise the kick drum immediately because you’ve heard it so many times, or because it really is unique, but even if you don’t know that early 1980s clicky beat, you definitely know the pattern it plays. What started out as an experiment with a drum machine quickly turned into an astonishing seven-minute deep and dark dance odyssey. Nothing remotely like this had ever been heard before, and so it is entirely proper that this became the best selling 12″ single of all time.
What’s perhaps more surprising is where this came from. By 1983, New Order seemed to have firmly thrown off any vestiges of the dark places where they had started, but actually this was only their fifth UK single, and of those, most newcomers to the band will probably have only come across Temptation. So despite appearing a couple of years into their career, this was still very much early days for New Order.
It’s worth a mention for Peter Saville‘s exquisite artwork. You probably won’t have come across the original die-cut version, although it’s not hugely uncommon, but basically the whole thing is designed to look like a 5¼ inch floppy disc, with an ingenious colour-coding system down the edge that spells out the artist, title, and catalogue number.
Then on Side B you get The Beach, arguably just a dub mix of Blue Monday, but one which pulls it apart entirely and takes the track in very different directions. Right from the start, the haunting choir pad sound opens the track this time, and reappears throughout the track with sudden appearances as other parts of Blue Monday break in and out. Honestly it’s rare that I enjoy dubs as much as this – it’s truly brilliant. But of course that may just be due to how good the original track is.
New Order were not in the habit of putting singles onto albums, and would not be for another couple of years, meaning that Power, Corruption and Lies, love it or hate it, really is all the weaker for not having Blue Monday on it. Or maybe not – for the US versions, each side of the single was clumsily shoehorned onto the end of each side of the album, which I can’t help but think the band were probably never too happy about.
A good place to find this single in its entirety is on the compilation Substance, which is still widely available.