This song is believed to be about either drug addiction, child abuse or a failed relationship. The line, "How does it feel? To treat me like you do" could refer to either the drugs or a partner.
The lyric was written by the group's guitarist/lead singer Bernard Sumner, who copped to being (along with the rest of the band) under the influence of LSD while making the song.
When we asked New Order's bass player Peter Hook
for some insight, he said: "I don't think there is a great deal to tell behind the lyrics if I am going to be brutally honest! It was just one of those things where Barney just went for it and the rest was history."
This is the best-selling 12-inch single of all time in Britain, a fact pointed out in the movie 24 Hour Party people, which chronicles the rise of their label, Factory Records. It is also one of the longest charting singles ever, at 7:25. The single wasn't issued as a traditional 7 inch until 1988, which helped boost sales of the 12 inch.
The title is not mentioned in the lyrics, which is true of many New Order songs. The band took the song's name from an illustration in the Kurt Vonnegut book Breakfast Of Champions, which Stephen Morris was reading. One of its illustrations read: "Goodbye Blue Monday," referring to the invention of the washing machine improving housewives' lives.
New Order came up with the rhythm when they were experimenting with a new Oberheim DMX drum machine they had purchased. In the Guardian newspaper of February 24, 2006, Peter Hook explained: "Bernard [Sumner] and Stephen [Morris] were the instigators. It was their enthusiasm for new technology. The drum pattern was ripped off from a Donna Summer B-side. We'd finished the drum pattern and we were really happy, then Steve accidentally kicked out the drum machine lead so we had to start from scratch and it was never as good. The technology was forever breaking down and the studio was really archaic. Kraftwerk booked it after us because they wanted to emulate 'Blue Monday.' They gave up after four or five days. It was a collection of soundbites - it sort of grew and grew. When we got to the end I went in and jammed the bass; I stole a riff from Ennio Morricone. Bernard went in and jammed the vocals. They're not about Ian Curtis; we wanted it to be vague. I was reading about Fats Domino. He had a song called Blue Monday and it was a Monday and we were all miserable so I thought, 'Oh that's quite apt.'"
Keyboardist Gillian Gilbert told The Guardian in a February 2013 interview how the song was made possible, in part, by er, flatulence. "The synthesizer melody is slightly out of sync with the rhythm," she explained. "This was an accident. It was my job to program the entire song from beginning to end, which had to be done manually, by inputting every note. I had the sequence all written down on loads of A4 paper Sellotaped together the length of the recording studio, like a huge knitting pattern. 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. Bernard and Stephen had worked out how to use it by spending hours recording farts."
This is one of the most influential Electronica songs. Synthpop was already a major force in British popular music, but this was arguably the first British dance record to crossover to the New York club scene.
In 1988, Quincy Jones and John Potoker remixed the song and released it under the title "Blue Monday 88" (with the instrumental B-Side "Beach Buggy"); the group was signed to Jones' label, Qwest Records. The remix climbed to #3 in the British charts thanks mainly to the record-breaking sales of the 7" version.
In 1995, another remix, this time by the German duo Hardfloor, was released, taking the song to #17 UK.
The sleeve for the single does not display either the group name or song title in plain English anywhere. Instead, the legend "FAC 73 BLUE MONDAY AND THE BEACH NEW ORDER" is represented in code by a series of colored blocks. The key enabling this to be deciphered was printed on the back sleeve of the album Power, Corruption And Lies.
In Q Magazine's 1001 Best Songs Ever issue, Peter Hook says, "I go through stages of intense dislike for 'Blue Monday,' which I'm sure every group does when they get one song they're synonymous with, but the way it keeps getting reinvented is wonderful. It seems to be one of those tracks that's timeless, which is amazing. We were using technology which could have dated like other '80s stuff, but somehow we managed to swerve it. Was that deliberate? No, everything we do is by accident. The fact that for two years no one spotted that the sleeves cost more to make than the records confirms this. I honestly thought 'Thieves Like Us,' the single after 'Blue Monday,' was far superior. 'Blue Monday''s not a song, it's a feeling, but once people hear that drum riff they're off. People used to go mad when we didn't play it. We had a fight onstage with a DJ in Nottingham once because we wouldn't play it - which was a very New Order thing to do. As You get older and mellower you appreciate what got you where you are. We play it now because people love it."
New Order notoriously insisted on performing this song live on BBC's Top of the Pops at a time when the music show's policy was that artists would mime to a backing track. However, their performance was dogged by technical problems and it came close to a farce. Peter Hook recalled to Mojo magazine November 2008: "We thought that was funny: It was anarchy; Saying that, one of the highlights of my life was being on Top of the Pops. It was the only time when people like my mother and relatives, that didn't have anything to do with us, thought that we'd made it."
American Express used this in advertisements in the 1990s.