"Blue Monday" is a dance pop song recorded in 1982 and originally released as a single in 1983 by British band New Order, and later remixed for further releases in 1988 and 1995.
At nearly 7 and a half minutes in length, "Blue Monday" is one of the longest tracks ever to chart in the UK. It is recognised as the biggest selling 12" single of all time, but as Factory Records were not members of the British Phonographic Industry association, it was not eligible for an official gold disc. However, the Official UK Chart Company (UK Singles Chart) has estimated its total UK sales at over one million. In the all-time UK best-selling singles chart, published in 2002, "Blue Monday" came 76th.
The song begins with a distinctive semiquaver kick drum intro. Gillian Gilbert eventually fades in a sequencer melody. According to band interviews in NewOrderStory, she did so at the wrong time, so the melody is out of sync with the beat; however, the band considered it to be a happy accident that contributed to the track's charm. The verse section features the song's signature throbbing synth bass line, played by a Moog Source, overlaid with Peter Hook's bass guitar leads. The synth bass line was sequenced on a Powertran Sequencer home built by Bernard . Bernard Sumner delivers the lyrics in a deadpan manner. "Blue Monday" is an atypical hit song in that it does not feature a standard verse-chorus structure. After a lengthy introduction, the first and second verses are contiguous and are separated from the third verse only by a brief series of sound effects. A short breakdown section follows the third verse, which leads to an extended outro.
"Blue Monday" is often seen as one of the most important crossover tracks of the 1980s pop music scene. Synthpop had been a major force in British popular music for several years, but "Blue Monday" was arguably the first British dance record to exhibit an obvious influence from the New York club scene, particularly the work of producers like Arthur Baker (who collaborated on New Order's follow-up single "Confusion").
According to Bernard Sumner, "Blue Monday" was influenced by four songs: the arrangement came from "Dirty Talk", by Klein & MBO; the signature bassline with octaves came from Sylvester's disco classic, "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)"; the house beat came from "Our Love", by Donna Summer; and the long keyboard pad on the intro was sampled from the Kraftwerk song "Uranium", from the Radio-Activity album. In an interview for Channel 4's countdown of the biggest selling UK singles, the band claimed to have written the song in response to crowd disappointment at the fact that they never played encores. This song, they say, allowed them to return to the stage, press play on a synthesiser and leave the stage again. An example of this happening appears on New Order's concert video Pumped Full of Drugs.
As with many of New Order's songs, the title has no relationship with the lyrics, which in turn have been the subject of much debate. Although Bernard Sumner never publicly discusses his lyrics, many people have surmised that "Blue Monday" concerns the suicide of Joy Division vocalist Ian Curtis and the effect it had on his former bandmates. However, comparisons with the lyrics and the aftereffects of cocaine have also been made, which would fit in with the potentially drug related themes of many other New Order tracks. (Another legend has it that the band was on LSD while recording it, and after they finished the producers took them to a café to finish out their tripping while they went back and cleaned it up.) The song's references to a ship in the harbour, a beach (the name of the original releases B-Side) as well as other lyrics that could concern war together with the fact that more overt military imagery is used in a number of other New Order songs (such as the contemporaneous "We All Stand"), has also raised suggestions that the song is a reference to the Falklands War of 1982. Indeed, the video to the original 1983 release of the song used many clips of military vehicles, albeit in a warped manner, such as that of a Harrier Jump Jet, a plane which featured heavily in the conflict.
New Order appeared on the BBC's Top of the Pops, on 31 March 1983, to promote the song. It had long been the show's policy that artists would mime to a backing track, but New Order insisted on performing Blue Monday live. The performance was dogged by technical problems, and was unrepresentative of the recording. In the words of drummer Stephen Morris, "Blue Monday was never the easiest song to perform, anyway, and everything went wrong. The synthesisers went awry. It sounded awful". In 1988, "Blue Monday" was officially remixed by Quincy Jones and John Potoker under the title "Blue Monday 88" (with the instrumental flip being titled "Beach Buggy"). The single reached number 3 in the British charts and topped the charts in New Zealand. A further official remix/reissue in 1995, with a mix by Hardfloor as the lead track, also made the British Top 20.
The music video for "Blue Monday '88" (the Quincy Jones re-recording and mix of the song), shortened by several minutes and featuring added vocal effects, appears on the Substance video collection released as a companion to the album of the same name. It features sketches by photographer William Wegman and his Weimaraner dog named Fay Ray doing balancing acts intercut with hand-drawn animation by Robert Breer. The band members are shown standing around doing various tasks, such as walking a wooden plank over a floor that is painted blue, holding wire-mesh constructed art and milk crates over their faces, being hit by tennis balls, and standing still while they flip through various flip books (tying into the hand-drawn animation sequences).
On the Australian show Rage, the video is simply footage taken from their Top of the Pops performance with the studio track dubbed over it.
Another notable feature of the sleeve is that it does not display either the group name nor song title in plain English anywhere. Instead the legend "FAC 73 BLUE MONDAY AND THE BEACH NEW ORDER" is represented in code by a series of coloured blocks. The key enabling this to be deciphered was printed on the back sleeve of the album, Power, Corruption & Lies. "Blue Monday" is one of several New Order releases from this time period to employ the colour code. The sleeve's spine simply reads "FAC SEVENTY THREE".
"Blue Monday" appears on almost every New Order compilation. This is a brief rundown of what versions appear where.
|1983||U.K. Indie singles||1|
|1983||U.S. Hot Dance Music/Club Play||5|
Blue Monday 1988
|1988||U.K. Indie singles||1|
|1988||U.S. Billboard Hot 100||68|
|1988|| U.S. Hot Dance Music/Club Play|
(charted together with "Touched by the Hand of God")
|1988|| U.S. Hot Dance Singles Sales|
(charted together with "Touched by the Hand of God")