New Order’s Blue Monday, the biggest selling 12 inch record ever, astonishingly, turns 30 this week.
It was, and is still, a magnificent, genre shifting track, and listening to again now, after three decades of dance and electronic music, it’s hard to remember just how revolutionary it sounded back in 1983. The metronomic pounding beats, recorded by placing a base bin on the floor of the recording studio, heralding the start of an epic Donna Summer inspired disco track, was unlike anything that had gone before it. It marked the start of the rise of dance music, that later fuelled by E, that became the major dance music genre of the late 80’s and into the 90’s.
It had a quiet start. Released to little fan fare back in 1983, the record didn’t receive much attention outside of New Order and Joy Division fans, until it started to become a regular fixture in the dance clubs of Ibiza and broke all sorts of records.
It has a rare distinction of entering the UK charts twice, and reaching a higher position on it’s second run than on it’s original release, thanks mainly to all of those holiday makers returning and buying the song that had been the soundtrack to their two weeks in the Spanish sun.
The record’s second run at success, certainly had nothing to do with the bands toe curling, first ever appearance on Top of the Pops, where the muscular disco throb was reduced to an out of tune whimper, and revealed a band that couldn’t give a toss about their appearance or record sales. Blue Monday duly went down the charts in the following week, an almost un-heard of phenomena, in an era where a prime time TOTP appearance virtually guaranteed a 20% increase in sales.
Then, famously, it became known as the million seller that lost the band and their label, Factory, money on every initial unit sold, thanks to Peter Saville’s floppy disk inspired design. The original release came with an expensive die cut outer sleeve, that revealed a silver inner liner. Later re-presses were released in a cheaper non die cut edition, and profits this version became a major source of funding for the recently opened, but largely empty, Hacienda club in Manchester
For me it marked the start of a 30 year love of almost all things Joy Division and New Order, though like many, I didn’t switch on to it in it’s first run at success. But by the second or third time I heard it, and managed to tape it on Tommy Vance’s Sunday evening Top 40 run down on Radio 1, I was hooked. For a year, it was one of only three records I owned. I took it to our local youth club, and for most of that year, it was on almost permanent rotation, along with someone else’s copy of Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Since it’s release I’ve played it thousands of times, across all of it’s incarnations, formats and re-mixes, but it’s the original version, produced by the band themselves, that still, even as it approaches early middle age, has the power to raise the hairs on the the back of my neck.