Few songs have such a unique signature that if anyone would make an attempt to incorporate it into their own compositions it would immediately be recognized, not used by die hard fans but of most of the general listeners. Tommy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby did this in their time and it is quite easy to list a number of songs in our time that would do the same. Kraftwerk´s Computer Love (just to name one), Just can´t get enough, Tainted Love etc – and as in this case New Order´s classic track Blue Monday, with its distinctive drums and bass lines.
At nearly 7.5 minutes, “Blue Monday” is one of the longest tracks ever to chart on the UK Singles Chart. Despite selling well it was not eligible for an official gold disc because Factory Records was not a member of the British Phonographic Industry association. The song begins with a distinctive semiquaver kick drum intro, programmed on an Oberheim DMX drum machine. Gillian Gilbert eventually fades in a sequencer melody. According to band interviews in NewOrderStory, she did so at the wrong time, so the melody is out of sync with the beat; however, the band considered it to be a happy accident that contributed to the track’s charm. The verse section features the song’s signature throbbing synth bass line, played by a Moog Source, overlaid with Peter Hook’s bass guitar leads. The synth bass line was sequenced on a Powertran Sequencer home built by Bernard. Bernard Sumner delivers the lyrics in a deadpan manner. “Blue Monday” is an atypical hit song in that it does not feature a standard verse-chorus structure. After a lengthy introduction, the first and second verses are contiguous and are separated from the third verse only by a brief series of sound effects. A short breakdown section follows the third verse, which leads to an extended outro.
But what would happen if we brought this classic track in the hands of artists in the 1930s? Now this is of course not possible but we could do as Orkestra Obsolete and re-create Blue Monday with a full ensemble consisting of the instruments available at the time. In a special film, using only instruments available in the 1930s – from the theremin and musical saw to the harmonium and prepared piano – the mysterious Orkestra Obsolete present this classic track as you’ve never heard it before. Popular singers and/or dancers of the 1930s include the Andrews Sisters, Fred Astaire, Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Roy Rogers, Ginger Rogers, Shirley Temple, and Ethel Waters.
Big band jazz became popular in the 1930s. Big bands consisted of 15 to 20 players who were heard throughout the country at dances, on the radio, and in movies. A style of couples’ dance called “swing dancing” went with big band jazz. One such dance, called the “jitterbug,” features partners throwing each other over the head and through the legs. Legendary bandleaders of this era include Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Harry James, Glen Miller, and Artie Shaw. Most bands featured singers, and many vocal recording artists of the period got their start with a big band.
The combo jazz band also became popular in the 1930s. A combo is typically made up of a piano, bass, and drums (the rhythm section) with two to four melody players on instruments such as the clarinet, trumpet, saxophone, vibraphone, or guitar. Benny Goodman led a very influential combo band that was racially mixed—an unusual idea in segregated America at a time when most bands were either African American or European American.
The first recordings of country music were made in the 1920s in a style that was then called “hillbilly music.” By the 1930s, the media—radio and recordings—had begun to popularize a new style called “country and western,” named after its eastern (Nashville, Tennessee) and southwestern (Texas) roots. It included country gospel, the beginnings of bluegrass, cowboy musicals (movies and shows), brothers’ and sisters’ duets, and western swing.
So what would Blue Monday sound like?
Some of the instruments used were for example:
The Diddly bow: A one-stringed, home-made instrument thought to have originated in Africa and popular in the Deep South, it’s essentially a string attached to piece of wood, using a bottle as a moveable bridge. R&B pioneer Bo Diddley is named after the instrument.
The Harmonium: Popular with village churches and Ivor Cutler, the harmonium, or pump organ, uses bellows to generate its sound. It was first patented by Alexandre Debain in 1840.
The slit drum, tongue drum or log drum is one of the earliest musical instruments, with prehistoric examples found in Africa, Indonesia, and South America. The version played by Orkestra Obsolete were made by Angus McIntyre using African hardwoods.
And the orginal: