The term "Blue Monday" was long a nickname for Mondays aboard English ships. Centuries ago, sailors found guilty of misdeeds were flogged on this dreaded day, often "until black and blue." The Royal Navy did not formally abolish this practice until 1948.

While mostly a feared day, it often was also a day of mischief and disobedience on these same ships, as sailors who were convicted of minor infractions on a Monday would often see their punishments reduced or even eliminated by the time the next "Blue Monday" would roll around. Still, these floggings were often enough to keep order on the British vessels for the most part, especially on long voyages where infection and death were common consequences of even the most light of floggings.


Source: Frank Bowen's Sea Slang: A Dictionary of the Old-Timers' Expressions, 1929.

New Order took the name of their track from the colloquialism for a day taken off by a worker to sober up after a weekend of drinking. The term goes way back to before the Industrial Revolution had everyone punching a time clock.

New Order probably weren't thinking of cottage industry when they produced the track, but they had just been introduced to the New York dance and drugs scene. The mix of electronica with despondent lyrics captures the post-club comedown when you realise you are going to have to go to work.

There is a George Gershwin opera of the same title, and the band did occasionally name their tracks after films (Thieves Like Us) but I think this is a coincidence.

Blue Monday, in Bavaria and some other parts of Europe, a name formerly given to the Monday before Lent, when the churches were decorated with blue. It was kept as a holiday by classes whose ordinary avocations required them to labor on Sundays. As this led to violent disturbances the custom was legally abolished.


Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.

A drum beat begins, repeating the same simple pattern over and over again. Slowly a synthesiser loop enters atop it. Suddenly everything goes a little bit mental, the hi-hats enter, cymbals dance between left and right speakers, and one of the greatest records ever produced kicks off.

New Order will most likely always be remembered for Blue Monday. Released all the way back in 1983 on Factory Records, it continued the gradual shift away from their earlier incarnation as Joy Division by taking a firm step away from their post-punk roots and taking one very firmly towards nightclubs. The song sounds virtually unlike anything that had come before, a swirling miasma of different synthesised parts with Hooky's bass creeping in here and there. Barney delivers his vocal in a deadpan manner, never approaching Ian Curtis' baritone but unlike his usual singing voice either. Gillian's synthesiser line, the group would later confess, was mistimed, but sounded so good it seemed to add to the song's charm.

At 7 minutes and 27 seconds long, the track was entirely impractical - generally considered far too long for radio and definitely too long to squeeze onto a 7" single. Not that that had ever deterred New Order before - nigh-on absurdly long 12" mixes of their songs were rapidly becoming a hallmark. Just look at Temptation, which just seemed to go on and on and on forever. Blue Monday, too, plods onwards, but never for a moment outstays its welcome.

New Order, as with Joy Division, and just about most acts associated with Factory, received the talents of Peter Saville and his ability to design come truly captivating sleeve designs. Blue Monday was no exception, but Saville pulled out all the stops here to create one of the most famous designs of all. The entire sleeve is die-cut to resemble a 5.25" floppy disc, complete with large central hole and notches cut in the sides. Allegedly the sleeve cost so much to produce that Factory lost money on each sold; while financial acumen was never a strong point of the label, they soon changed to a more cost-effective solution by omitting the cuts altogether. Some later pressings came with the cut-outs again. One can thus find two different versions of the famous Blue Monday sleeve: one cut out, the other solid. The latter is generally easier to find, while the former is considered the 'proper' sleeve design.

Another New Order and Peter Saville trademark was to forego mentioning the song title or even artist on the sleeve, again continued here. Saville was sneaky here: technically the details are there, but are hidden down the side in his own colour code. The key to decode it can be found on the back of New Order's second LP, Power, Corruption and Lies, spelling out "FAC 73 BLUE MONDAY AND THE BEACH NEW ORDER". Down the spine of the record, the text "FAC SEVENTY THREE" can be found, another reference to Factory's infamous catalogue system. (New Order and Joy Division records typically end in a three or zero.)

Blue Monday initially was a standalone single, released to promote no album (although the USA version of Power, Corruption and Lies features it), and was released exclusively on 12". It sold well - so well, in fact, that it is today generally recognised as the best-selling 12-inch single of all time. Rereleased again in 2006, its sales continue to climb. The original 1983 version, catalogue FAC 73, featured the tracks:

  • A-side: Blue Monday
  • B-side: The Beach
Peculiarly, some pressings have the labels on the wrong sides. "Blue Monday" can be distinguished from its remix, The Beach, by its opening, a dry series of drum beats. As with many vinyl records, there are hidden messages etched into the matrix, differing depending on the pressing. Some pressings cut off the very first couple of drum beats, too. The etchings for the first through fourth pressings are:
  • A-side: OUT VOTED!
  • B-side: HO EL & TEL!
The fifth pressing replaces these messages with:
  • A-side: WHERE'S MURDER?
  • B-side: I SAID WHERE'S MURDER?
These messages refer to the track Murder, which only saw general release on Factory Benelux.
Compiled using my own copies of the single (both die-cut and not!), http://www.factoryrecords.net/, and Wikipedia.

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