Today's Obsession: Blue Monday


Twelve-inch cover for New Order's Blue Monday, designed by Peter Saville

This morning started off with a grand stroke; I realized I had one more copy of Blue Monday that I’d not yet found. A friend had sent it my way, knowing I collect covers of the track. It’s awful; I won’t post it. But this one, by Flunk, is lovely.

Blue Monday was a simple, hooky track written and deadpanned by New Order on their album Power, Corruption and Lies in 1983. Much has been made of New Order’s previous incarnation, Joy Division, and the dramatic exit taken by vocalist and writer Ian Curtis. But I wasn’t really aware of that band when I was a kid, discovering pop in the early 1980’s. My friends were all gravitating towards sparse electronic and guitar based pop like Click Click, Section 25, and New Order (in my opinion) trumped them all. Blue Monday became my favorite. Growing up in Tennessee, I had no real way of knowing I had basically the same taste of a slightly-edgy, and maybe fashionably-anarchist English kid.

Blue Monday, with its famed floppy disk sleeve designed by Peter Saville, has gone on to become the world’s most covered and remixed pop song. There are even several meta-covers which aren’t covers at all, but homages: Rhianna’s “Shut up and Drive,” and Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get Blue Monday Outta My Head,” which started life as a mashup by Soulwax and was later released as her own single. The song’s also been made trash electro-metal by Los Angeles band Orgy, New Order themselves have remixed it three times since its original release.

What amazes me about this song, and mostly about the meta-covers, is the way this simple melody and beat have embedded itself into pop consciousness. The melody’s flexible enough to be a dance track, a ballad, a power-ballad, and more. The beat, unmistakably sparse and powerful, is immediately identifiable. An image of a floppy disk is nearly emblematic of the track at this point, and with a swath of color added to the side of an image of a disk, it is the song. It’s the pop song equivalent of a framework, being easy enough for anyone to copy and flourish in their own way, yet retaining its own distinct identity. And now, there are entire sites devoted to that one track (that link via Josh, who is awesome).

3 thoughts on “Today's Obsession: Blue Monday

  1. Patric King Post author

    thanks carlos. i actually initially penned this talking about the single itself, but that didn’t make sense from the perspective of an american, since we got power, corruption and lies after the single happened—itunes even refers to it as a partial album in the absence of blue monday, and the album’s rating is lower because of that.
    (i have to admit, i grabbed my copies of blue monday and the bech from substance and tacked them onto power corruption and lies. it just didn’t sound right to me without it, even though i knew it wasn’t initially supposed to be there. sentiment is a strange thing.)

  2. Carlos

    Blue Monday with the instrumental B-side the Beach was actually a single first. It became the biggest indie single of its time, hitting both the UK and US dance charts. It was at the top of the UK indie sales chart, as it was originally put out by the then independent Factory Records. Power Corruption and Lies did not include Blue Monday when it first came out. Only on the US version, then later the re-releases of the album was it included. The album actually flows much smoother without Blue Monday and it’s b-side. Still a classic song that still sounds wonderfull today.

  3. Pingback: Today's Obsession: Song to the Siren — Imprint-The Online Community for Graphic Designers