This Sunday (06/03) marks the 35th anniversary of legendary Manchester band New Order’s first single, Ceremony. Having risen from the ashes of post-punk band Joy Division, the group have since established themselves as one of the UK’s most successful and pioneering acts of all time. Trendsetters in every sense of the word, New Order were one of the first guitar bands to embrace the influence of dance music and became giants of the music world during their peak in the 1980s despite a non-existent media presence and some unforgivable business decisions. In tribute, here’s some of the biggest and best tunes from their extensive (bloody enormous) back-catalogue. (Sorry World In Motion, it was between you and True Faith and it was a very hard decision.)
“Time is a curious thing. When you have it before you, it’s something you take for granted and it moves slowly. Then, as you get older, it accelerates. When I look back, it seems such a long distance travelled, so long ago, so dream-like.” – Bernard Sumner
Ceremony – Single (1981)
The end of Joy Division and the beginning of New Order. ‘Ceremony’ and its b-side ‘In A Lonely Place’ were two of the final songs written by Ian Curtis, and the former began to appear in the band’s setlist in the months prior to his suicide in May 1980. New Order’s first release, on 6th March 1981, was a re-recorded version of ‘Ceremony’ as a three-piece, featuring Bernard Sumner’s first ever recording on lead vocals. A second version followed in September, the first release by the band with Gillian Gilbert. Musically, it’s all Joy Division, and the reflective nature of Curtis’ final lyrics make it all the more poignant.
Temptation – Single (1982)
New Order became known for releasing stand-alone singles, rather than employing the usual tactic of releasing singles from albums. ‘Temptation’ was another stand-alone release in May 1982, and heralded a new direction for the group. By now the flagship band for Factory Records, New Order had begun to embrace using electronic instruments alongside the traditional guitar-bass-drums setup, furthering themselves from Joy Division’s sound. ‘Temptation’ shows the blend of synthesisers and guitars that was to become their trademark; a blissfully euphoric anthem which featured on the critically-acclaimed soundtrack for the 1996 film Trainspotting.
Blue Monday – Single (1983)
Put simply, one of the most important records of all time. Having been introduced to the New York clubbing scene by producer Arthur Baker, New Order set about making their most dance-oriented tune to date. The result was ‘Blue Monday,’ seven minutes of genius which paved the way for the explosion of house music in Manchester in the years to come. Although the profits were almost all swallowed up by the costs of running fabled nightclub The Hacienda, ‘Blue Monday’ remains the biggest selling 12″ single of all time, complete with a design sleeve so lavish that Factory lost 5p on every copy they sold.
The Perfect Kiss – Low-Life (1985)
The first New Order song to be released as an album-single, ‘The Perfect Kiss’ was recorded during a prolific mid-1980s for the band. Electronic instruments alongside guitars had become the tried and trusted formula by this point, and this song features one of Peter Hook’s finest basslines. Complete with a quivering sequencer riff and programmed drums, ‘The Perfect Kiss’ has established itself as one of the centrepieces of New Order’s back catalogue, despite being absent from live sets between 1993-2006. The video for the track, which was simply the band performing a live version in their practice room, was directed by The Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme.
Bizarre Love Triangle – Brotherhood (1986)
Even in 1986, three albums in to what some label the Imperial Phase (1983-1989), New Order still maintained an anti-image, rarely conducting interviews and performing often short live sets. Although ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ has since become one of the band’s biggest songs, it was a commercial disappointment upon its release. It’s an almost entirely electronic affair, with airy, wavy synths floating around programmed drums and a killer chorus. As was the case with many of the band’s singles, two mixes were released. The longer of the two, a remix by prolific disco producer Shep Pettibone, paved the way for him to collaborate with the band…
True Faith – Substance (1987)
…on another all-electronic number. Written alongside ‘1963’ to coincide with the release of compilation package ‘Substance,’ ‘True Faith’ bridged the three-year gap between ‘Brotherhood‘ and ‘Technique,’ during which the band found haven in Ibiza and acid house exploded back in Manchester. ‘True Faith’ was somewhat of a precursor to the notably dancier tunes on ‘Technique,‘ much in the same vein as ‘Temptation,’ though slightly less euphoric and infinitely more danceable. Often, it’s not just the song that’s the art for New Order, and the sleeve design for ‘True Faith’ – by long-time collaborator Peter Saville – as well as its surreal music video, stand alongside the music as equally iconic.
Tutti Frutti – Music Complete (2015)
Thirty-five years on from their first release, New Order are still active and although they might have lost Peter Hook on the way, last year’s new album Music Complete was released to critical acclaim. It’s arguably the band’s most expansive record ever, encompassing all the influences they’ve drawn upon over the years, from post-punk to house via disco. Latest single ‘Tutti Frutti’ is a collaboration between the band and La Roux, featuring a soaring chorus backed by Italo-house piano chords, which has slotted seamlessly into their formidable live sets.