Today is the 40th anniversary of Blue Monday, the canonical synthpop song: the Platinum-Iridium reference 12" single, stored in a vault in Manchester,* against which all other 12" singles are measured.

    * Under what is now a parking lot and upscale condominiums.

In addition to being just a perfect song, it was also a glorious physical artifact. I still remember the first time I saw it: the three die-cut holes, revealing not the usual white paper inner sleeve, but weirdly-textured flat black plastic that looked exactly like the surface of a floppy disk. The two little notches at the bottom. No text at all. And the mysterious color code down the right edge. Perfect. No notes.

I have been "borrowing" from the designs of Peter Saville, Factory Records and The Haçienda for the last couple of decades, but this is where it all started.

It remains the best-selling 12" single of all time, and the production costs on the die cut sleeve were so high that it was being sold at a loss, which is just the most Peter Saville / Tony Wilson thing ever.

Here's a good article in The Guardian with some well-chosen musical selections: Who inspired it and who it inspired - they spliced Donna Summer with Ennio Morricone to make a futurist dance smash.

I have listened to Blue Monday at least a dozen times while composing this post and you should too. Sadly, the only official music video of the song is from the far inferior 1988 Quincy Jones remix. (It's a great video, but a terrible remix.)

Might I also recommend:

Extremely relevant Previouslies:

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

Tags: , , , ,
Current Music: As noted

37 Responses:

  1. Michael Dwyer says:

    "How Not To Run..." and JWZ's blog should probably be required reading for anyone thinking, "I should start a club!"  It is fascinating to watch familiar patterns evolve at maker spaces and bars and game shops.

    I love that the book ends, paraphrasing "It was a disaster and a failure and nobody should do this. I'm doing it again next week."

    • Rodger says:

      It's the same with restaurants and cafes. Have you read Kitchen Confidential? Have you addressed the "things that mean you shouldn't start a restaurant"? No? SO DON'T!

    • Nate says:

      I was looking through https://vol.co/product/fac_461/ and wishing I had a copy, then read

      > Meet the author : Matthew Robertson works as a designer in Bath, England, where he is a senior lecturer in graphics and mixed media at Bath Spa University with a particular interest in artist’s books, lettering, and small press publishing.

      ... which sounds pretty awesome, but I'm assuming is awful in some way that I'm naive of. Dude doesn't look very happy (then again I don't think graphic designers are allowed to look happy).

      • phuzz says:

        Bath's quite a nice place (perhaps a bit too nice? It's very touristy), but he's from Australia so he's probably just chilly.

      • Nick Lamb says:

        All university lecturers (at least in the UK) tend to be overworked. I actually spent much of February fiddling with software that helps Computer Science professors here figure out how overloaded they are, so they can try to fairly ensure that their loads range from 130-160% of nominal maximum, rather than 100-250% as might happen if there wasn't software helping ensure everybody takes a share.

        Also, Matthew sounds like an artist, and conventionally artists who teach are expected to also practice, ie actually make art, typically for money although rarely a lot of money, as well as their full teaching load. Sometimes there's an allowance made in the workload, but it's invariably too little. My sister is an artist and lecturer, and you'd think she was a full timer from how long she spends on it but nope, she's 50% and yet still working weekends and evenings.

  2. tobias says:

    love that documentary

  3. Jonathan says:

    IMHO, the recent-ish 20 odd minute remix by soulwax is quite good.

  4. bibulb says:

    re: 24 Hour Party People, I also can NOT recommend enough the "novelization" by Wilson himself. As a third leg in the observations between the movie and Hooky's book, it's a goddamn hoot and a half.

  5. Vincent Janelle says:

    > it's probably best to watch this movie with me sitting next to you on the couch, yelling.

    Is this a service you provide?

  6. Martin says:

    Apologies for hijacking an excellent article about New Order (who I havea always loved) with my appreciation of Tony Wilson (who I didn't love):

    I didn't see this in the previouslies, so I hope it's worth sharing:


    As someone who grew up in Manchester, 24 Hour Party People may have been the first solid thing I saw that painted Tony Wilson in a truly positive light. I mean that in the sense that I grew up with him as the presenter of the local news who "had ideas above his station" (for example, 'The Other Side Of Midnight - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xD67P4r9LB8 - which was a high arts program in a late night timeslot also filled with 'Men and Motors'). My father would snort about how he 'was calling himself Anthony H now, rather than Tony'. It's unfair how that narrative, which he admittedly leaned into, obscured the genuine effect he had at the time. Genuine in both senses of the word - he made a positive difference and did it out of sheer love for his city and its people.

    24 Hour Party People is knowingly fictional in some of its details and apocryphal in others - but utterly true nevertheless. Did Factory really lose money on every copy of Blue Monday sold? Pete Saville isn't sure (https://www.radiox.co.uk/artists/new-order/did-new-order-lose-money-on-blue-monday/) but it really doesn't matter. Wilson wasn't 'taking a risk' like every boring founder I meet these days. He didn't care about the money, only that the cover existed.

    My nightclub days are long over and while I can say that 'I was there' at the Hacienda, so what? I'm far happier that the spirt of the Hacienda lives on in The DNA Lounge. I just hope you don't get called a twat as much as he did...

  7. McDanno says:

    "Sadly, the only official music video of the song is from the far inferior 1988 Quincy Jones remix."

    It's not the *only* video, strictly speaking. Let's not forget the infamous New Order "Sunkist soda" commercial where they re-recorded the lyrics to sing the praises of Sunkist orange fizzy drink:


    (First 36 seconds are Bernard talking about recording it, then the ad plays)

  8. Kyzer says:

    I did not see this in your Previouslies

  9. Seth says:

    I was listening to Blue Monday just the other day, as it came up in this great article about the history (and future) of drum machines.

    New Order were one of the bands inspired by Donna Summer. Their tune ‘Blue Monday’ (1983), using an Oberheim DMX, became a drum machine standard after their initially sceptical drummer, Stephen Morris, one of many to acquire the nickname the ‘human drum machine’, was persuaded to embrace the technology. The band’s singer, Bernard Sumner, said of ‘Blue Monday’: ‘I don’t really regard it as a song. I kind of regard it as a machine to make people dance.’

  10. Lawrence says:

    FAC 461 Factory Records: The Complete Graphic Album (also out of print but borrowable)

    Although the limited edition 2020 hardback is out of print, the paperback is available (in the UK at least)

  11. GP says:

    The "Transmissions" podcast wasn't bad.  The last episode was about Blue Monday.  I thought they were going to make more, but it's been a few years.

  12. GP says:

    (Hopefully related..) There's also this episode of "The Tube" from 1983/4 that the video for the next single "Confusion" (fac93) was pulled from.

  13. prefetch says:

    Another extremely important anniversary: Orgy's cover is turning 25:

    Amazingly, they're still making music (although there's only one original member left). Still memorable only for the exquisitely ironic video for their one other song, in which they can't stay standing inside the hydraulic cube:

  14. derpatron9000 says:

    In case you don't know there was a Tony Wilson game show called 'remote control' featuring Frank Sidebottom, Caroline Aherne, Phil Cornwell and John Thomson. A refreshingly odd time for TV.


  15. Baggypants says:

    I went to the Haç, only a couple of times in the twilight period between it opening after the raid and it closing for good. It was freezing cold and mostly empty. About as much fun as this comment...

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