Here at Underground, we are celebrating thirty years since the release of our first original collection, which looked to contribute to our founding philosophy of unorthodox, renegade and subversive style. In homage to the year that started it all, we have started a series that will look back on the aura of 1987; exploring the sound, sights and feel of a year that is vital to our history.
New Order’s ‘Substance 1987’
It was Monday May 19th, 1980 and Joy Division were packed and ready to go on their North American tour. Goodbye kisses were had, farewells bid. However, news soon awfully arrived that the tortured poet, the legend of post-punk, Ian Curtis had just tragically killed himself, giving a totally new meaning to Blue Monday. Joy Division members Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris were in a state of disarray. What would the musical future hold for a band whose iconic lead singer had been seduced by the temptations of suicide? The gloomy shadow of Joy Division forebodingly loomed over them.
The remaining members, however, were able to prove that there is a life after a death. The band rose out of the ashes and reformed under the new name New Order, with the addition of a new member Gillian Gilbert who was recruited after it was discovered she could play ‘Jingle Bells’ on the piano. The slight departure from the post-punk pessimism – that came to define the band fronted by Curtis – was perhaps, arguably, one of the most important in music. Bernard’s DIY, ‘non-professional’ style of singing, Peter’s funky guitars and the addition of sythesizers became the hallmark of New Order, as they unshackled themselves and became one of the biggest bands of the eighties and beyond.
Under our homage to the year of 1987, we turn our attention to New Order’s release: ‘Substance’. Marked as the 200th release on Factory Record’s catalogue of cool, the album went on to be their biggest selling, and soon gained cult-status with the likes of Rolling Stone magazine regarding it as one of the greatest of all time. The album is an amalgamation of all things New Order; the creme de la creme of the post-post-punk band; the Planet Manchester; the re-imagining of a band that in mid-1980 could not even imagine beyond ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. Usually albums that pose as the ‘best of’, or remix old tunes are heralded as a poor ploy for bands to make a bit of extra money on the siden after failing to sell-out their reunion tour. However, ‘Substance’ sublimely showcases the group at their best, taking you on a jaunty journey that exhibits the band’s troubling beginnings right through to their triumphant transformation.
We take a look over some of the most iconic tracks from the compilation album.
The opening track, ‘Ceremony’ was actually a song that was re-incarnated by New Order. It was written by Ian Curtis prior to his death, and had been previously performed by Joy Division. The refined song is a perfect intermediary introduction to New Order , blending the old and the new, careful not to forget but also looking foward, and acts as a touching tribute to a man that was part of their history. It reached #34 on the UK charts.
Written whilst Barney had taken half a tab of acid, the melancholic love-song ‘Temptation’ gained cult-status when Diane sung the tune in the shower in ’90s indie classic, Trainspotting. We’d argue this is quintessentially New Order: you simultaneously want to dance ‘up, down and turn around’, but also go and cry in the corner of your bedroom as your pour out your emotions into your diary.
Taken from a Donna Summer B-Side, the cutting-edge electro-pop bop ‘Blue Monday’ is perhaps the most iconic New Order songs, and was also their biggest-selling single. BBC Radio 2 described the song as the ‘crucial link between Seventies disco and the dance/house boom that took off at the end of the Eighties.’ The single artwork was designed by Peter Saville, and actually cost more to produce than to sell, leaving Factory Records 10p out of pocket on every sale. The club classic has since grooved and moved its way into most DJ’s playlists.
What would a best of album be without their newest release, ‘True Faith’? New Order were looking to break through to America, so enlisted the help of music producer Stephen Hague. Stephen was already very familiar with the electronic scene, having produced the ’80s classic ‘West End Girls’ by Pet Shop Boys and helped New Order to produce the single.