New Order melded post-punk and electronic dance, and became one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the 1980s. Though the band were shadowed by the legacy of Joy Division in their first years, their immersion in the New York City club scene of the early 1980s introduced them to dance music. The band's 1983 hit "Blue Monday" saw them fully embrace dance music and synthesized instruments, and is the best-selling 12-inch single of all time. New Order was the flagship band for Factory Records, and their minimalist album sleeves and non-image reflected the label's aesthetic of doing whatever the relevant parties wanted to do, including New Order not wanting to put singles onto the albums. The band has often been acclaimed by fans, critics and other musicians as a highly influential force in the alternative rock and dance music scenes over the past 25 years.
New Order was in hiatus between 1993 and 1998, during which time the members participated in various side-projects. The band reconvened in 1998, and in 2001 released Get Ready, their first album in eight years. In 2005, Phil Cunningham (guitars, synthesizers) replaced Gilbert, who had left the group due to family commitments. In July 2007, Peter Hook claimed that he and Sumner had no further plans to work together.
The members of Joy Division had agreed before Curtis's death not to continue under the Joy Division name should any one member leave the band. Rob Gretton, the band's manager for over twenty years, is credited for having found the name "New Order" in an article in The Guardian entitled "The People's New Order of Kampuchea". The band adopted this name, despite its previous use for ex-Stooge Ron Asheton's band The New Order. As the term "New Order" was featured in Hitler's Mein Kampf as "the new order of the Third Reich" and the name Joy Division originated from the prostitution wing of a Nazi concentration camp mentioned in the 1955 novel The House of Dolls, critics inappropriately attempted to cite fascist undertones. The band publicly rejected any claims that the name had anything to do with fascist or Nazi sympathies, with Sumner later saying, "We really, really thought it didn't have any connotations, and we thought that it was a neutral name, it didn't mean much...."
The band rehearsed with each member taking turns on vocals. Sumner ultimately took the role, as the guitar was an easier instrument to play while singing. Wanting to complete the line-up with someone they knew well and whose musical skill and style was compatible with their own, New Order invited Morris's girlfriend, Gillian Gilbert from Macclesfield, to join the band during the early part of October 1980, as keyboardist and guitarist. She had already played with Joy Division a number of times, filling in for both Curtis and Sumner playing guitar. Gilbert's membership was suggested by Gretton.
Their initial release as New Order was the single "Ceremony", backed with "In a Lonely Place". These two songs were written in the weeks before Curtis took his own life. With the release of Movement in November 1981, New Order initially started on a similar route as their previous incarnation, performing dark, melodic songs, albeit with an increased use of synthesizers - a musical direction already palpable in Joy Division's later work and fully explained by the band's admiration of Kraftwerk. The band viewed the period as a low point, as they were still reeling from Curtis's death. Hook commented that the only positive thing to come out of the Movement sessions was that producer Martin Hannett had showed the band how to use a mixing board, which allowed them to produce records by themselves from then on.
A change in musical direction was brought about when New Order visited New York City in 1981. The band immersed themselves in the New York dance scene and were introduced to postdisco, Latin freestyle, and electro. Additionally, the band had taken to listening to Italian disco to cheer themselves up, while Morris taught himself drum programming. The singles that followed, "Everything's Gone Green" and "Temptation", indicated the change in direction toward dance music.
The Haçienda, Factory Records' own nightclub (largely funded by New Order), opened in May 1982 in Manchester and was even issued a Factory catalogue number: FAC51. This was the UK's first ever superclub. Its opening was marked by a nearly 23-minute instrumental piece of Steve Morris's making, "Video 586", which was released as a single 15 years later.
The hip hop-tinged single "Confusion" (released in 1983 and written with and co-produced by Arthur Baker) firmly established the group as a dance music force, inspiring many musicians in subsequent years. It was a crossover success on the club scene. Still, the group did not pigeonhole themselves as a dance act. Instead they pursued two simultaneous and sometimes overlapping styles, one guitar- and rock-based and one dance-music-oriented. In 1984 they followed the largely synthesized single "Thieves Like Us" with the heavy guitar-drum-bass rumble of "Murder", a not-too-distant cousin of "Ecstasy" from the Power, Corruption & Lies album.
Brotherhood (1986) divided the two approaches onto separate album sides. The album notably featured "Bizarre Love Triangle" and "Angel Dust" (available elsewhere under the title "Evil Dust"), a track which marries a synth break beat with Low-Life-era guitar effects. Brotherhood also featured "All Day Long", a tale of child abuse, and "Every Little Counts", in which Sumner cracks up after singing the line "I think you are a pig, you should be in a zoo", affording the track successor-status to 1983's "Your Silent Face."
While New Order toured North America with friends Echo & The Bunnymen, the summer of 1987 saw the release of the compilation Substance, which featured the new single "True Faith". Substance was an important album in terms of collecting the group's 12-inch singles onto CD for the first time and featured new versions of "Temptation" and "Confusion" (referred to as "Temptation '87" and "Confusion '87"). A second disc featured several of the B-sides from the singles on the first disc, as well as additional A-sides "Procession" and "Murder" and another new song, "1963." The album's main single, "True Faith," with its surreal video, became a hit on MTV and the band's first American top 40 hit. The song's B-side, "1963," (originally planned on being the A-side until the group's label convinced them to release "True Faith" instead) would later be released as a single in its own right several years later, with two new versions.
By this time, the group was heavily influenced by the Balearic house sounds of Ibiza and the acid house tunes making their way into the Hacienda. Technique was released in February 1989. The album entered the charts at number one in the UK and contained a mix of the acid house influence (as on "Fine Time," the opening track) and a more traditional guitar-bass-drums sound on others (such as the single "Run"). The album is a blend of occasionally upbeat, accessible music coupled with blunt, poignant lyrics inspired by Sumner's failed marriage.
Several tracks on this album have attained seminal status. For example, "Vanishing Point" was used as the theme tune to the BBC1 TV series Making Out - for which the band also composed additional incidental music.
New Order recorded the official song of the England national football team's 1990 World Cup campaign, "World in Motion," under the ad-hoc band name EnglandNewOrder. The song, co-written with comedian Keith Allen was a number one UK hit, and the now-famous John Barnes rap was also recorded by Paul Gascoigne and Peter Beardsley. These versions have not been made available for release, although the 7-inch single's B side (entitled 'The B-side') included a version of the rap where various members of the squad each contributed a line.
At around the same time, Bernard Sumner teamed up with fellow Mancunian Johnny Marr for the Electronic project (also enlisting the help of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe of the Pet Shop Boys), while Peter Hook started a project called Revenge, each of them leaving New Order but continuing to make New Order-style recordings.
Unusually for such a major group, New Order never had a formal contract with their label Factory Records. (This was in fact the label's standard practice until the mid-1980s. According to Factory's co-founder Tony Wilson, "All our bands are free to fuck off whenever they please.") Because of this, the group (rather than Factory Records) legally owned all their own recorded material. This has often been cited, not least by Wilson himself, as the main reason London Records' offer to buy the ailing label in 1992 fell through.
Republic, released around the world in 1993, was the band's first album release since parting company with the now-defunct Factory Records. It featured an ultimately overpolished sound, but with a somber edge. The release spawned the singles "Regret" (their highest-charting single in the US), "Ruined in a Day," "World," and "Spooky." Following the release of Republic, the band put New Order on hold, whilst each member continued on with their own side-projects: Sumner once again teamed up with Johnny Marr in Electronic for Raise the Pressure. Karl Bartos (formerly of Kraftwerk) also assisted with this record. Sumner also collaborated with the Chemical Brothers on "Out Of Control," a track from their album Surrender; Hook formed the band Monaco with former Revenge member David Potts; and Morris and Gilbert formed the aptly named The Other Two.
In 1994, a second singles collection was released, entitled The Best of New Order. It featured all of the band's singles since Substance as well as a few extra tracks: "Vanishing Point" (from 1989's Technique), "The Perfect Kiss," "Thieves Like Us," "Shellshock," and new recordings of "True Faith," "Bizarre Love Triangle," and "1963." The new versions of "True Faith" and "1963" - the latter with a yet newer, more guitar-oriented version produced by Arthur Baker - were released as singles to promote the album. In the US, the tracklisting was altered to set it apart from Substance as well as the UK release of The Best of New Order which had been available months prior. This collection was followed by a remix album, The Rest of New Order, featuring a selection of old remixes and newly-commissioned mixes of classic New Order tracks. Some versions contained an extra disc/cassette composed entirely of remixes of "Blue Monday." "Blue Monday" was again trotted out as a single for a third time in order to promote the collection.
The group reconvened in 1998 at the suggestion of Rob Gretton. Nearly five years had passed since they had last seen each other. Sumner said "we decided before we agreed to doing any gig, to have a meeting, and if anyone had any grudges to bear, to iron them out." By the second meeting everyone agreed to continue playing, scheduling their reunion gig for the Phoenix Festival that same year. In addition to rarer songs, New Order also decided to begin playing Joy Division songs again. Since then, Joy Division songs have appeared regularly in New Order's setlists. When the Phoenix Festival was cancelled due to low ticket sales, New Order instead played the second night of that year's Reading Festival.
In 2002, Q magazine featured New Order on their list of the "50 Bands to See Before You Die," although this was as part of a sub-list of "5 Bands That Could Go Either Way". Both New Order and Joy Division were portrayed in the Michael Winterbottom film 24 Hour Party People, depicting the rise and fall of Factory Records as seen through the eyes of label founder Tony Wilson. Cameos by Wilson himself, along with Mark E. Smith of The Fall and former members of The Stone Roses and Inspiral Carpets, lent a degree of legitimacy to the proceedings. The film touched on some of Factory's other artists, including Happy Mondays and The Durutti Column. The soundtrack featured Get Ready-era Chemical Brothers-produced "Here To Stay," which was released as a single. The DVD release of the single highlighted scenes taken from the film.
The band released a new album on March 27, 2005, entitled Waiting for the Sirens' Call, their first with new member Phil Cunningham. Cunningham replaced Gilbert (now married to Morris) so she could look after their children. Singles from this album were "Krafty," "Jetstream" (which features guest vocals by Ana Matronic from the Scissor Sisters), and the title track. According to Peter Hook, the band wrote and recorded enough material during the sessions for this album to release a follow-up in the near future, but it hasn't materialised yet. At the 2005 NME awards, New Order received the award for "Godlike Geniuses" (for lifetime achievement). Previous winners include Ozzy Osbourne, The Clash, and the Happy Mondays. In 2006 the album track "Guilt Is a Useless Emotion" was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Dance Recording.
In the autumn of 2005, the group released another greatest hits compilation, in the form of Singles. The two-disc release was an updated version of the Substance collection and contained every single released from their 1981 debut all the way through to "Waiting for the Sirens' Call". However, unlike Substance, which focused almost exclusively on the 12" versions of the group's singles, Singles collected the 7" versions, many of which (like Ceremony, Temptation and Confusion) had never been released on CD. The album was accompanied by a two-disc DVD set, entitled 'Item', that collected the extended UK version of NewOrderStory with a DVD of all New Order music videos as well as two newly commissioned videos for Temptation '87 and Ceremony.
However, in early May 2007, bassist Peter Hook was interviewed by British radio station XFM — originally to talk about his contribution to the debut album of former Jane's Addiction singer Perry Farrell's new band Satellite Party — and when asked "Is New Order over now?" replied, "Yeah, me and Bernard [Sumner] aren't working together." The interviewer appeared unconvinced because, as he said, the band had split up and reunited numerous times before. Hook promptly added that "Bernard went off for a break with Electronic, but it was different then." The interviewer flipped that the band would be working together again shortly anyway, to which Hook, sounding somewhat desperate, replied "No-one believes me... it's like The Boy Who Cried Wolf!" Hook further commented on the band's breakup on his MySpace page: "I'm relieved... Really hated carryin' on as normal with an awful secret, so let's move on, shall we?"
Further complicating the news, NewOrderOnline, a website with support from New Order management, reported that, according to "a source close to the band," "the news about the split is false... New Order still exists despite what [Hook] said [....] Peter Hook can leave the band, but this doesn't mean the end of New Order." Hook mocked the "source close to the band" in a blog entry he made after returning from Cannes, where the group attended the premiere of the Ian Curtis biopic Control, writing "Well, who could be closer to the band than me! I love these unnamed sources, or shall we call them cowards, eh? Hook also reiterated that New Order had split in various interviews.
However, on July 20, 2007, Morris and Sumner released a further statement claiming that New Order would continue to work without Hook, expressing their stance on the on-off break-up situation. The statement read, "After 30 years in a band together we are very disappointed that Hooky has decided to go to the press and announce unilaterally that New Order have split up. We would have hoped that he could have approached us personally first. He does not speak for all the band, therefore we can only assume he no longer wants to be a part of New Order."
NME.Com reported on 31st July 2007 that Peter Hook had posted a message on his MySpace blog, claiming he would take steps to prevent Morris and Sumner to continue as New Order, writing "This group [New Order] has split up! You are no more New Order than I am! You may have two thirds, but don't assume you have the rights to do anything 'New Order-ey', because you don't. I've still got a third! But I'm open to negotiation."
In the wake of Tony Wilson's death and rumours of New Order "reforming" with Hook, Hook recently wrote on his MySpace blog that "in a conversation with Oliver Wilson about a tribute gig for his father, he asked me what the chances were of getting New Order to perform. I said, 'Seeing as we have just split up, pretty slim.' He then said to me, 'If I could get the others to agree, would you do it?' I said, 'In honour of your father, I'd do anything.'" He added that "this means I would sell the popcorn, take the tickets, sweep up after, play bass in New Order/Joy Division/Crawling Chaos."
In January 2008 Hook told Bass Guitar Magazine writer Joel McIver: "New Order have split up, and that's it. The only thing that made it hard was that Bernard and Stephen decided to turn around and say that they hadn't split up. What I simply said was that I would consider New Order to have split if one of them had left. I wouldn't carry on – and I don't see how they could even consider it. I wouldn't consider carrying on with New Order as me and Stephen, or me and Bernard. I'd say, let's knock it on the head and fuckin' start again. But them two decided, whether it was out of anger or whatever, that they were gonna carry on as New Order. And I've said, you're not fuckin' New Order, mate! That was our argument. We've split up. I'm not working with Bernard or Stephen again."
Their music has trodden the line between the rock and dance genres, which can be seen on signature tracks such as "True Faith" and "Temptation". This synthesis laid down the groundwork for dance/rock groups of today. The group's album art earned them the status of icons in the alternative community, and have shown considerable longevity.
They have heavily influenced techno, and were themselves influenced by the likes of Kraftwerk, Cabaret Voltaire and Giorgio Moroder, and they have also significantly influenced electro, freestyle and house. Bassist Peter Hook contributed to New Order's sound by developing an idiosyncratic bass guitar technique. He often used the bass as a lead instrument, playing melodies on the high strings with a signature heavy chorus effect, leaving the "actual" basslines to keyboards or sequencers. This has often been the defining characteristic of the New Order sound.
Drummer Stephen Morris regularly played a mixture of acoustic and electronic drums, and in many cases played along seamlessly with sequenced parts. All the band members could and did switch instruments throughout gigs, as evidenced on Jonathan Demme's video for "The Perfect Kiss" and the fairly common Taras Shevchenko and Pumped Full of Drugs concert videos. In particular, every member could be seen playing keyboards at times. (Taras Shevchenko is especially notable for the fact all four members of the group have left the stage before the final song ("Temptation") comes to an end.)
On 28th September Rhino Records will re-issue the band's first 5 albums, those originally released through Factory. All five albums will come with bonus discs featuring extended versions, b-sides and remixes, as well as extensive sleeve notes, including interviews with all four band members. The re-issues are double Disc Collectors editions. Each disc features both the album remastered from the original master tapes and, a bonus disc containing non album singles, B sides and remixes.