Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Recycle 05: Blue Monday


[Link removed 20 November 2012] (35 MB)

Blue Monday
Factory Records FAC 73
Produced by New Order
March 1983


1. Blue Monday
2. The Beach
3. Blue Monday (Promo Edit)

1 and 2 sourced from
Substance CD, minor edit on 1
3 edited from 1

Notes from the restorer:

Before taking on this project, I'd read quite a bit of discussion about how the version of Blue Monday on the Substance compilation had been slightly edited, with some of the opening beats removed. This would seem perfectly sensible, given that several other songs were edited down for this compilation. But when I compared the original 12" to the CD, it turns out that the opposite is true: the 12" is shorter, having the first two beats trimmed off (well, more like one and three-quarters; you can hear the tail end of the previous beat). So, I edited this one down to match.

I had originally intended to source this from vinyl, as I have a first UK pressing (A1/B1 in the deadwax) which presumably would have the best sonics. To my surprise, there was a pretty significant mastering flaw on the vinyl. It sounds like the tape deck's playback head isn't aligned properly, giving a distracting phase-y quality that occasionally shifts around during the song. You can still hear this slightly on
Substance-- particularly in the reverb on the opening beats -- but it's *really* bad on the 12".

I was supplied a file with the promo edit of the song, but since it had clearly originated from a lossy source, I decided to re-create it.
Okay, here comes the big one, at least in terms of impact. A big hit BITD and still getting steady play today, Blue Monday marked a major change in direction for the group. Primarily electronic and well-suited to the dancefloor, it melded the sounds and beats of the underground Hi-NRG scene with post-punk. Depending on your point of view, this was either the beginning of the band's golden era, or the end of it. Much has already been written about the impact and significance of this song, so there's no need for me to rehash it here.

As refreshing as it sounded at the time (and still holds up pretty well today), it wasn't entirely as original as it may have seemed. The same rapid-fire kick drum pattern can be found in Donna Summer's Our Love, from her 1979
Bad Girls LP. The choir sound was sampled from Kraftwerk's Uranium from their 1975 Radio-Activity LP (synth trainspotter note: the sound originated not a Mellotron as is often reported, but a ridiculously obscure instrument called the Vako Orchestron). The Wikipedia entry cites Sylvester's You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) and Klein + M.B.O.'s Dirty Talk as influences while Bernard Sumner has also named Patrick Cowley and (by extension of the nod to Donna Summer) Giorgio Moroder.

New Order had a reputation as being very difficult in the early years. Because of Ian Curtis' suicide, the band were reluctant to give interviews, and manager Rob Gretton seized on that and ran with it, helping build a mystique around them as "the band that won't give interviews." Their live sets were often VERY short, say, 40 minutes in length. Peter Hook would play with his back to the audience. He says it wasn't arrogance, it was nerves, and that after 40 minutes of seeing any band live the audience starts to get bored anyway, so it just seemed the right thing to do in keeping the sets short. They didn't play encores because they thought it was fake and pretentious. All rolled together, this behavior often resulted in fights breaking out in the audience, damaged property, people asking for money back, promoters getting pissed off, and general mayhem at the end of a New Order show. It added to the legend.

As a sort of compromise, Blue Monday was an experiment. The band wanted to write a song that could essentially play itself as an encore, giving the crowd what they wanted, and leaving the band backstage to sit and drink the rider. It was born out of 5 8 6, an instrumental piece Stephen Morris had written for the opening of The Haçienda nightclub.

Synthesizers, computers, and sequencers were developing at an alarming rate in the early 80's, but even so, the leap in sound, production, songwriting, and skill between Temptation and Blue Monday - which appeared a mere 10 months later - is staggering.

The promo edit is VERY rare. It's debated whether the UK promo 7" actually exists. Only 25 copies were pressed in Japan, and rumor has it that half of them are in Peter Hook's possession. Nevertheless, a video was made in 1983 (by Stephen Morris) using the short version. It uses lots of Tron-like vector graphics and colorized images of tanks...in other words, it looks like something Front 242 would have done in 1987.

Peter Saville's floppy disc sleeve design was inspired by visiting the band in the studio. He picked up an old-school floppy and asked what it was, and if he could have it. Stephen told him "no, that has the new album on it!" The result was an inner/outer sleeve with a diecut, metallic ink, and 4-color printing for something that would sell at the price of a single. Legend has it Factory actually lost 5 pence on every copy sold, but as it wasn't available in 7" format, it went on to become the best selling 12" single in history. It's gone into the UK Top 20 three separate times.

Although some would argue that it has been unjustly overplayed and that New Order did much better, it's still an outstanding track. It's been covered, sampled, and mashed-up countless times since. It was somewhat pointlessly remixed in 1988 by Quincy Jones (which I'll get to later) and then in 1995, it was even more pointlessly remixed by... well, just about everyone. None of these versions offer any improvement on the original.

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