Blue Monday at 40 – DJs, artists and industry figures celebrate New Order’s timeless classic
It may have an actual release date, in March 1983, but in many ways, New Order‘s Blue Monday transcends time, and is arguably as popular today as it was upon its release – or perhaps even more so, given the influence it had on so many producers and DJs.
The track is peppered with iconic moments, from the opening drum salvo (programmed on an Oberheim DMX drum machine) to the choiral ‘aaahhhhs’ (lifted from Kraftwerk’s Uranium), to Bernard Sumner’s impassive vocals (Tell me how does it feel/When your heart grows cold?).
Even the packaging made headlines: the die-cut sleeve that reportedly cost so much to produce that Factory Records lost money on each vinyl copy sold – quite the headache for label boss Tony Wilson given it was the biggest-selling 12-inch single of all time. Although designer Peter Saville has since stated, “I am so bored with this story. We didn’t even know how many of these expensive covers were ever made, anyway.”
To mark the 40th anniversary of the original release of Blue Monday(on 7 March 2023), 909originals reached out to a number of DJs, artists and other industry figures to share their own memories of the track, and why they believe it continues to captivate.
International DJ megastar, aged 20 when Blue Monday was released
“This track has shared many a dancefloor with me. It is something that all artists aspire to create – something that brings people together. When I play my live electronic and hybrid live shows I’m trying to connect with the audience and to give them what I call the ‘Blue Monday moment’ when you feel things just can’t get any better.
“I’ve been known to drop the original in some of my open air DJ sets – it is one of those tunes that whether you’ve heard it hundreds of times or its your first time it catches you and lifts you. New Order created one the best electronic music tracks ever – thank you.”
Italo disco pioneer, released his most well-known track, Problèmes d’Amour, the same year as Blue Monday
“The first time I listened to Blue Monday was while dancing at Tenax in Florence. The DJ was Giuliano Bolognesi, aka Larry Hit – the one who made me dance during the crucial early 80s as well as my main inspiration when I started myself DJing in the early 2000s.
“At first, the track didn’t drive me crazy. I found the voice melody quite trivial and dim, but then the synthetic fill and the choir further striking the track gave me a real kick . In the following months whenever I was dancing at Tenax, I would wait for Giuliano to play it to go wild dancing.
“As a DJ, I never played it for a very simple reason: everyone was playing it! I’d rather play The Perfect Kiss.“
Manchester legend, former Haçienda and Ministry of Sound resident and DJ Mag Lifetime Achievement Award recipient 2022
“Maybe it’s an obvious Manc thing to say, but I love this record and New Order so much. For me, New Order always had the best music, which was fine tuned by the quirky music videos and Blue Monday was no exception. A Weimaraner, a creepy looking naked doll, ski boots, some squiggly 80s graphics and some bonkers shots of the band doing situationist stuff accompanied one of the most unique pieces of music and art, which was dedicated to their deceased friend and lost Joy Division member Ian Curtis.
“It was delicious and enticing. From the sequenced beats in the intro to the Giorgio Moroder disco influenced baseline and twanging Ennio Morricone-esque guitar, Blue Monday sprung forth from the legend and loss of Joy Division to launch the superstars and world conquering releases of New Order.
“With all its weirdness, Blue Monday was destined to be a best seller and after a 186 week/four year run on the UK independent singles chart from the date of its original release, it’s no surprise that it has become the biggest selling 12” electronic dance music single of all time.
“It’s also a ‘get out of jail free’ card in any club or radio DJ’s set.”
Electro-funk pioneer, former Haçienda resident, DJ legend
“It was Harry Taylor at Manchester’s Spin Inn record store that sold me my copy of Dirty Talk by Klein & M.B.O. in 1982. Whilst my main focus was the latest US imports, largely out of New York, Harry, who supplied numerous DJs on the gay scene, would sometimes pull out a European import that he thought might suit the electronic direction I was moving in. It was in this way the Italian Zanza 12” came into my hands.
“The instrumental version was soon the biggest track at my club nights in Wigan Pier and Manchester’s Legend, with other DJs picking up on it, including Hewan Clarke, the resident at a recently opened club with a mainly student/indie clientele, The Haçienda, half a decade ahead of its acid-house golden era.
“One night Hewan was playing Dirty Talk when members of the band, New Order, who were co-owners of The Haçienda, came into the DJ booth to ask if they could borrow it to use as a reference for a track they were working on. This would turn out to be Blue Monday – subsequently the biggest selling 12” single of all-time.”
Curator of Manchester Culture Bunker, DJ and former The Word host, currently touring ‘The Word is’ stand-up show
Nightclubs were different in the early 1980s – the smell of beer mixed with perfume and cigarettes that would be smoked all night at the bar and around the edges of the dancefloor. The strobing would make everything look like a silent movie, and the ultraviolet lights made a white shirt look cool, but a scalp condition a disaster.
There were certain go-to records at the cooler nights that would always be in my armoury as a DJ, such as McFadden & Whitehead – Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now, Tom Browne – Funking For Jamaica, The Whispers – It’s A Love Thing, Chic – Good Times, J Walter Negro – Shoot The Pump… and for the posers, Grace Jones – Pull Up To The Bumper, Tom Tom Club – Genius Of Love, New Order – Ceremony and Temptation, and Associates – Party Fears Two.
But a must at every night I DJed from March 1983 and for the next 20 years was New Order’s Blue Monday. It mixed into anything, it kept the dancefloor full, and it was a revolution in sound for both New Order and club goers.
It was indie music, electro, and disco rebooted retooled and redefined – it sounded like nothing previously ever heard coming out of a disco speaker. That bass line – ‘Dung Dung Dung Dung Dung Dung Dung Dung’… it was a sign post of the future.
At first, it was embraced in the cooler clubs in the UK but stayed away from the more mainstream Mecca-type, Tiffanys-type nightclubs that were strictly Top 30 and big hits. However, by the Summer of 1983, with young people going on holiday to Spain, Greece etc, New Order’s Blue Monday was hammered into them as a holiday record and the single found itself elevated onto the edge of the top ten It would sell steadily, until it became the biggest selling twelve inch single of all time.
I still have a couple of hundred vinyl albums and twelve inch singles out of what was once thousands. I sold so many of them over the years, yet I still have three original 1983 New Order Blue Monday singles. The reason I have three is that all of them are scratched and damaged through being played for two decades in clubs. One of them jumps badly, and to mark this I keep it in its inner computer cut-out part of the sleeve.
I last DJed a vinyl-only night At Electrick Bar in Chorlton in August – August 10th actually, the anniversary of Factory supremo Tony Wilson’s death. My opening track was New Order Blue Monday, still sounding great despite the Rice Krispies ‘snap crackle and pop’ of hundreds of previous campaigns. Happy 40th birthday to one of the greatest records of all time.
Former Soup Dragon, now records and performs as Hifi Sean
“My teenage friend and fellow musician Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) used to work in the long-lost music shop, McCormacks, in Glasgow. There used to be a room that was full of the new fangled synths back then, which were at an extortionate price – you knew the local bands like Simple Minds and Ultravox etc were likely the only ones that could afford to to buy them.
“One day, they got in an Emulator and a Drumulator – both were the instruments used on Blue Monday.
“One bored afternoon, we programmed the drum beats in the Drumulator and found the ‘ahhhhhhhh’ voice patch on the Emulator, and thought were were kings for the day. I suppose in the music shop synth department, Blue Monday was the annoying equivalent of Stairway to Heaven for the guitar dept.
“On another note, I saw New Order play live around then and the drum machine stuck on the ‘duh duh duh duh’ patch for a good few minutes with them all wandering about looking bemused on stage. Technology had its own life back then.”
XL Recordings co-founder, also established Positiva Records, artist manager
“Blue Monday is a phenomenal record. I have been reading Bernard Sumner’s autobiography recently, actually, and he mentions that when it came out some people didn’t like the record, and said it sounded nothing like New Order.
“He speculates that they lost a few fans over it at the time, which I think is important as often artists making bold strides forward lose fans. Of course, though, they gain new fans at the same time, and I was one of them.
“I had an awareness of New Order before this came out, but afterwards I was much more interested in what they were doing. This record will still sound great in another 40 years. A classic like this lives forever.”
The Baron of Techno, host of White Noise and Saga Series
“Blue Monday was a watershed moment. Before Blue Monday, and after, a few other singles had that legend attached – Donna Summer’s I Feel Love, for example – but this was the perfect combination of music that was both at home in a club as much as in your walkman.
“The lyrics and beat were such a strong combination , hinting at disco but without predictable lyrics, with a strong working class presence too. I only like a few New Order tracks – Joy Division was more for me – but Everything’s Gone Green and Blue Monday were the ones. Blue Monday still continues to be timeless, decades later; that’s testament to its uniqueness and authenticity.
“The funny thing is, when you got hold of a drum machine, the first thing you did was to programme the bass drum pattern. I first saw that done at an MBI (old Allen and Heath)-affiliated equipment hire place. I remember seeing the little LCD pattern display on the drum machine, thinking ‘oh that’s how it was done!’
“I haven’t stopped playing this track in clubs since its release, in fact I heard Trentemøller pay homage to it a few weeks back, live in Copenhagen. There are certain tracks that just gel like-minded people together and this is one. An absolute bonafide moment of cultural genius.”
Former Rhythm Master, Jack Said What co-label head
“My biggest memory of this track is when I was a teenager. I was already into the DJ world, doing the DMC heats when I was 14. I started when I was 11.
“I used to go to this clubhouse place called Tallington Lakes in Lincolnshire My family were into water skiing – me not so much I was just into music. We used to go there most weekends. There was this kid I used to hang out with there, and we used to sneak out at night, go round his place and listen to music all night.
“I was more into hip hop and electro then, but I remember the first time we heard this record, and were like ‘what the f**k is this?’ That intro was a hook in itself!
“The guy I was knocking about with – every time it came on, on a Saturday night in the clubhouse, we used to dance and sing it word for word. We were pretty sure the record was called The Beach, but that was actually the B-Side – a more dubbed-out version.
“We both studied this record without even knowing what it was doing to our future – especially me, going into the music business. For me, it’s one of the most influential dance records ever made. I dare to say its genius, and I never get bored of hearing it.”
Former editor, The Face and The Observer Magazine, author of Adventures in Wonderland
“Early in 1981, New Order played what I’m pretty sure was their first London gig, at Heaven. By then, the club was a familiar playground to me, one of the places I felt most comfortable and free. What I remember from that night was not really the music but the crowd – lots of uncomfortable young men wearing long grey macs, refusing to take their coats off and moving crab-like round the walls for safety – it was a gay club, after all.
“It was hilarious to us, but these were different times. Gay culture was not yet mainstream, and there was a chasm dividing clubbers and indie rock fans. You were expected to choose your side early. And although the post-punk generation weren’t quite as rigid in this as the disco kids before them, the discomfort in the air was real.
“New Order grew to become one of the bridges spanning that divide. They had an impeccable indie pedigree but were also familiar with the New York club scene, and of course famously tried to bring the concept to Manchester in the shape of the Haçienda.
“But it was Blue Monday that did much of the heavy lifting, a track that felt both startling and new yet also familiar to both sides.
“I don’t remember where I when I first heard it. It quickly felt like it had been there forever, a reliable floor-filler in all kinds of different clubs and scenes. Arthur Baker felt like one of our own, and Blue Monday fitted effortlessly into the eclectic club soundtrack of the mid-80s. For years, it could be heard in gay clubs and goth nights, warehouse parties and The Wag, comfortably fitting into all kinds of different scenes and gently threading them together.
“Once the initial shock of its newness faded, for many indie fans the track formed a gateway to an exciting brave new world of remixes, hip hop, electronica – and the liberating promise of being able to make music without a big label, a fancy studio, or even much musical knowledge. And they took up the mantle eagerly, seeing all of the promises of punk, finally fulfilled by sampling and drum machines.
“It took MDMA and the acid house boom to finally weave all of these strands inextricably together. But every fire starts with a spark, and Blue Monday was one of the brightest of all.”
DJ, producer and entertainment lawyer, former winner of DJ Mag ‘Best DJ in the World’
“Quite simply, it’s the record that got me into electronic music. I can’t pay it a higher compliment than that.”
Blackburn rave pioneer, acid house legend
“I first heard Blue Monday at King George’s Hall in Blackburn. This was a night arranged for under 18 year olds. The night was called, ironically, Monday Night Madness, and it took place, of course, on a Monday night. And yes, it was absolute madness, a blueprint for the up and coming culture of ridiculously expensive clothes and football violence.
“Blue Monday was the highlight of the night, and even had its own dance, which included anyone who was regarded as anyone standing in a circle with their feet together, slowly moving from side to side making sure their expensive trainers were plainly on show. This was generally followed by a mass brawl from rival gangs from different parts of the town.
“I would say Blackburn has a strong bond with New Order, and this is well documented. These are my first memories of Blue Monday and will never leave me. It certainly had a lasting effect.
“Of course I remember the live performance of the track on Top of the Pops of what would become one of the best selling 12-inch singles of all time, a rare occurrence indeed. And that record sleeve! Costing so much, every copy sold lost money – or so the story goes. It’s just one of those sleeves you can’t forget.
“I know many electronic/house DJs still play this in their sets, and I see this often. For me, it never left my record bag, I can still remember picking it out of the crate every night when working abroad in 1990/91 – never needing to look twice for the cover. With remixes from Quincey Jones, 808 State, Jam and Spoon, Hardfloor and more recently Richie Hawtin, there is no shortage of variation. It’s definitely worth another spin.”
Promoter and producer, CEO of World Famous Group and manager of Carl Cox
“Blue Monday is one of the cultural cornerstones that underpins the entire electronic music scene today. I was at school when I heard it, although I didn’t know who it was, by remember it sounding different.
“It would go onto influence a generation of DJ’s, producers, remixers and musicians that shaped the rave scene and then in turn helped turn dance music into a global industry. I probably hear it played at festivals several times a year and it always creates a special moment as it mesmerises a new audience. One of the true greats!”
One half of The Grid and Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve, electronica trailblazer
“Blue Monday‘s influence brought Hi NRG and Italo into the mainstream. Tracks like Klein and MBO’s Dirty Talk, which was a big influence on the track, were underground club anthems, in Europe and New York particularly.
“Blue Monday brought that sound from the underground to the soundtrack of match reports on prime time telly for years to come. Right into the mainstream. It’s a sound that never really went away, right through house and beyond.
“It had the best sleeve and the best legend attached to it – that it cost more to make than the label made on each copy, that it is the best selling 12 inch of all time, etc… hi Tony! Some of which may have been nearly true. It’s a stone cold classic and still sounds like the future.”
Hardcore Uproar co-creation, raver regular, video game composer
“I was 12 when I first heard Blue Monday. I’d never heard of New Order before then, but I’d already been exposed to a lot of electronic music by the time I’d heard it, because Kraftwerk, John Foxx, Visage and other poppier bands were breaking into the charts with synth-based music at the time. But this was my introduction to becoming completely obsessed with a record.
“The copy we had in our house belonged to my cousin and I remember being mesmerised by the cover. It wasn’t like anything I’d ever seen before. Somehow it suited the music, because it was completely fitting with something that sounded so different.
“I spent the next few decades completely in love with the record, I never tired of it no matter how many times I’d heard it. If anything, it seemed to get better. Years after discovering it, I started going to the club owned by the band, and had no idea that for years, the greatest nightclub in the world, The Haçienda had a link to what might be the greatest record in the world.
“There was so much about this record that was revolutionary – that intro alone. There was nothing like it – if I think back to how that relentless kick pattern at the start made me feel. It was unmistakable. And then when the synths came in, it genuinely felt like the best thing you’d ever heard. To be fair, at the time it probably was, and I’m not sure much has bettered it since! Somehow, it still sounds like the future.”
Altern-8 producer, occasional mask wearer
“I remember a lad in my art class – the only lesson at high school I half enjoyed – would get in at the teacher until she gave in and let him do certain things in class that wouldn’t be allowed in others.
“In art, it was to have a ghettoblaster, and he had a tape that had just Blue Monday and The Beach continuously recorded on both sides, so you had to get used to it. Luckily, it was right up my street, and it has stayed a firm favourite for all these years.
“I still play it now at festivals, and it never fails to go off when if drops after the drum into. A classic of classics.”
Share your memories of New Order’s Blue Monday in the comments below. Picture taken from New order’s official store – pick up your copy of Blue Mondayhere. Also check out our playlist of ‘Songs that sample New Order’s Blue Monday’ below