IIt’d probably be an exaggeration to say that the release of Blue Monday changed New Order’s career, but it certainly changed it. It put them in the top 10 and on top of the pop for the first time. It spent 38 weeks in the Top 75, became the best-selling 12-inch single of all time and changed public perceptions of the new system: formerly, the band that used to be joey, interrupting John Peel listeners, now they’ve reached audiences who’ve never heard of Ian Curtis.
It also proved to be highly influential, leading to the alternative rock and dance fusion that was to come later in the ’80s, influencing the post-disco club music that inspired it in the first place, providing a defining script for techno producers and exerting a permanent grip on the pop imagination. On her 40th birthday, here are the songs that fueled her creation—and songs that wouldn’t have existed if Blue Monday hadn’t existed first.
Before Blue Monday
Ennio Morricone – for a few dollars more (1965)
Peter Hook pioneered his approach to the bass as a main instrument while in Joy Division, but New Order’s increasing use of sequenced bass lines led him to refine his methods further: he claimed Blue Monday’s sparse riffs were inspired by the wobbly lead guitar in a classic spaghetti western score to Sergio Leone after watching it in the studio.
Kraftwerk – Uranium (1975)
Considering Blue Monday’s sample from one of their interstitial tracks and OMD’s apparent obsession with the heavy orchestral sound, Radio-Activity – the least commercially successful album on Kraftwerk’s imperial stage – made a stunning impact on British pop in the early 1980s. Gillian Gilbert claimed that New Order had previously sampled it by recording its farts.
Sylvester – You Make Me Feel (Real Great) (1978)
Whenever the effects of Blue Monday are discussed, someone will mention Gerry’s synthesizer stimulus and the highly infuriating hologram track after the villain Gerry and the Holograms. Bernard Sumner denied ever hearing it — in fairness, New Order isn’t hardly shy about the song’s other hijackings — suggesting it’s instead rooted in the octave-jumping bass line of Mighty Real.
Donna Summer – Our Love (1979)
Possibly the most famous aspect of Blue Monday is the staccato beat track, which was borrowed wholesale from Our Love—and it’s certainly an influence on seduction—from Donna Summer and producer Giorgio Moore’s 1979 masterpiece Bad Girls. Interestingly, the final two tracks on this album, Lucky and Sunset People, have something of a Blue Monday vibe – dancefloor-focused electronic instrumentation topped with far-off melancholy vocals.
Klein & MBO – Dirty Debate (1982)
Sumner said the New Order were thrown out of their desperation after Ian Curtis’ death by listening to tapes a friend had collected from Italo’s disco. By Blue Monday, his voice had seeped into New Order’s own system: listen to the babbling of the biggest hits of Italian/American duo Klein & MBO, Sumner’s favorite.
After Blue Monday
Bobby O – give up (1984)
There’s a nice circularity about the fact that a track influenced by Italo disco and hi-NRG ended up becoming a hi-NRG influence. His most vocal student was producer Bobby Orlando, who released no fewer than two singles, mainly He was Blue Monday with a new voice – divine love reaction, boy or girl Eric? Surrender is less obvious, but Blue Monday is still clearly in his DNA.
Karim – love triangle (1986)
Obscure, yet intriguing, it illustrates the control the new system wielded over the early Detroit techno scene. All members of the Bellville Three, the inventors of the genre – Derek May, Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson – participated in the making of Triangle of Love, a single made as Blue Monday: May’s dub mix is a choice of multiple versions.
Pet shop boys – at night (1985)
Neil Tennant once remarked that he “almost burst into tears” the first time he heard “Blue Monday,” very similar to the sound the budding pet shop boys were aiming for. You can hear New Order’s influence on much of their ’80s catalog, but In the Night’s bassline makes for a particularly strong example.
Kylie Minogue – I can’t get Blue Monday out of my head (2002)
Evidence of Blue Monday’s place within British pop culture: Based on a secretly released 12-inch by DJ and producer Errol Alkan, a mix of the instantly recognizable New Order backing track and the melody from Can’t Get You Out of My Head then went above ground, and became the hit of the night when Minogue performed it at the 2002 British Tour.
Rihanna – Shut up and drive (2007)
The members of New Order took a co-writing credit on the follow-up to Umbrella, so her main riff is clearly based on Blue Monday. You get the sense that it was used not just for its instantly recognizable musical qualities, but as a signifier: With its taut instrumental beat and new wave guitars, the entire song is intent on evoking the early ’80s.
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