Is there a better embodiment the phrase “form follows function” than with the iconic Peter Saville sleeve for New Order’s 1983 single “Blue Monday?” Apparently, Saville was meeting with the band when he saw them using a floppy disc to retrieve some programming for their Emulator and wondered if that might not be the ideal model for the packaging to the new single. After all, the track was conceived of as simply a way to try out their new Oberheim DMX drum machine.
New Order: Blue Monday US 12″
- Blue Monday
- The Beach
The design followed through magnificently on the label itself, which has the relevant data written exactly like data written in sectors on a disk surface. And setting type on an arc like this was no doubt done with Presstype®! You kids won’t know what I’m talking about, but we old timers can have the thrills of a cold sweat just thinking about that!
While the sleeve was striking, it was the musical contents of the record that have reverberated for so long. The juxtaposition of the relentless, hammering drum machine with the deep, melodic bass of Peter Hook fought for rhythmic supremacy over a shimmering bed of glistening synth lines, some of which anticipated, ever so slightly, acid house style to come. I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that this single, which was a monster hit in its time, was as seminal a club record as Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” was six years earlier. The endless parade of [inferior] post-modern remixes of this single every several years, will attest to that straightaway.
Strangely enough, there is no seven inch edit of this track! The video for this that occasionally aired on MTV in their pre-cambrian era was of the band playing it live on Top Of The Pops in a edit lasting approximately five of the cut’s seven and a half minute length. Word has it that Poland was the only country that released a 7″ single of “Blue Monday” and the entire track is groove crammed onto the tiny disc. It remained until Quincy Jones hacked together the coarse 1988 remix of the cut until there was actually an edit shorter than the original running time.
This is not a record with a lot of heart. In fact, it’s a single with almost none at all. What it does have, in spades, is a sound coupled with a relentless attitude. It sounds unstoppable. The track’s influence on various genres of club music that followed, from hi-NRG to house, acid house, and techno is immeasurable. With this single, New Order took the mantle of technological club music from their forebears Kraftwerk, and rode that sucker for a good eight to ten years of supremacy.
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