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).