New Order – Blue monday (8) – the Sunkist advert

I was, and still am, impressed by the track Blue Monday, by New Order. I think that it was, in many ways, a new order of music. I had this idea of compiling information about New Order and this brilliant track. There are many background stories about how this track was invented, about the record company, about money losses, but also on the technical side of creating the track. I try to touch all these different aspects in this compilation.

For this Part 8 we take you back to the mid-80’s: did you know that at some point in the mid 80s, Bernard Sumner was asked by an American soda company to rework the lyrics of Blue Monday in order to promote the drink Sunkist. He was given 200,000 dollars for doing it.

New Order, while being so much more, are often synonymous with their biggest hit single ‘Blue Monday’. When it was first released in 1983, ‘Blue Monday’ was a groundbreaking track thanks to its perfect danceability and use of what was then very state-of-the-art electronic hardware. The band had been extremely interested in adding more of a synthesised element to their music ever since Closer, the final album they would create as Joy Division, where they had their first experience using synthesisers. 

Bernard Sumner was likely the keenest among the group; he would often be seen experimenting with hardware and enjoyed building sequencers and other various gizmos. Before long, he would convince synth player Gillian Gilbert of the wonders of electronic sound production.

Gilbert once said of the production process: “The synthesiser melody is slightly out of sync with the rhythm. This was an accident. It was my job to programme 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 [Morris] had worked out how to use it by spending hours recording farts”. ‘Blue Monday’ would become one of the earliest, and definitely the most impressive, examples of the band’s experiments with electronic music.

Upon its release, the song was often associated with a double entendre of a failing relationship and alleged themes of drug abuse, and the band had openly admitted to having taken LSD during the creation of the song. Later on, the song has been linked to a theme of darkness and suicide with ‘Blue Monday’ also being the name for the third Monday of January — supposedly the most depressing day of the year. That said, Peter Hook has since offered a different opinion of the lyrics: “I don’t think there is a great deal to tell behind the lyrics if I am going to be brutally honest,” he once said in reflection. “It was just one of those things where Barney just went for it and the rest was history”.

The song went on to become the highest-selling 12″ single in history and it remains one of the decade’s most iconic dance songs, influencing not only an entire generation but pop music as a whole to this very day. It’s perhaps not much of a surprise that a soft drink company might contact them to use the instantly recognisable track to flog a few cold ones. Well, in the mid-1980s, this only went and happened when the US drink company Sunkist offered the group $200,000 to re-write the lyrics as, “How does it feel/When a new day has begun/When you’re drinking in the sunshine/Sunkist is the one.” The lyrics were then dubbed over the original instrumental track for the classic song. 

As you can see in the video below, New Order decided to accept the offer for the nice pay-out. The resulting advert was a comical parody, though I’m not sure whether the group would have been so quick to accept the deal had it been a UK soft drink company – as drummer Stephen Morris has already said, he’s a little “fed up” with the song, and that’s with the original lyrics.