Sunday, June 3, 2018

On "Blue Monday"

"Blue Monday" (AM10), Produced by New Order; Engineered by Michael Johnson assisted by Barry Sage and Mark Boyne. A Factory Record (FAC73); Released March 7, 1983.

Gillian Gilbert (Synths) on "Blue Monday:" In 1983, before computers came along, it wasn't easy to do electronic bass lines and rhythms. So Bernard Sumner started building these gadgets called sequencers. Next, we thought it would be good to create a song that was completely electronic. Blue Monday's distinctive intro was written on an Oberheim DMX drum machine. We'd been going to clubs in New York and wanted to recreate the fantastic bass-drum sounds we'd heard. We tried to play something like Donna Summer's Our Love and came up with that instantly recognizable thud.

The synthesiser melody is slightly out of sync with the rhythm. This was an accident. It was my job to programme the entire song from beginning to end, which had to be done manually, by inputting every note. But I accidentally left a note out, which skewed the melody. We'd bought ourselves an Emulator 1, an early sampler, and used it to add snatches of choir-like voices from Kraftwerk's album Radioactivity, as well as recordings of thunder..."Blue Monday" was meant to be robotic, the idea being that we could walk on stage and do it without playing the instruments ourselves. We spent days trying to get a robot voice to sing "How does it feel?" but somebody wiped the track. Bernard ended up singing it. 

We couldn't believe it when it became the biggest-selling 12-inch of all time. People have interpreted the title all sorts of ways. It actually came from a book Stephen was reading, Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions. One of its illustrations reads: "Goodbye Blue Monday." It's a reference to the invention of the washing machine, which improved housewives' lives.

Peter Saville (Sleeve Design) on "Blue Monday:" I met New Order in their Manchester studio to show them a postcard of the Henri Fantin-Latour flower painting I was using for the cover of their forthcoming album Power, Corruption and Lies. While I was there, they played me "Blue Monday," and I instinctively understood what they were trying to do. It sounded like something the equipment could play itself.

I picked up an interesting object and asked: "Wow, what is this?" I'd never seen a floppy disk before. I thought it was great. I said: "Can I have it?" And Stephen said: "Not that one!" So I drove back to London listening to a tape of "Blue Monday" with another floppy disk lying on the passenger seat. By the time I got home, I knew the sleeve would replicate a floppy disk, with three holes cut in it through which you could see the metallic inner sleeve. The only information I had to impart were the words New Order, the song titles (including B-side The Beach) and the Factory Records catalogue number. I decided to do this with a column of coded colours, to provide some mysterious data, so I sat down with some pencils and used a different colour for each letter.