Written by TFM on 08/03/2023
Today marks the 40th anniversary of Blue Monday, a landmark release by New Order that’s widely acknowledged as the biggest-selling 12-inch single of all time.
New Order – and this particular song – do attract certain myths. For instance, in his memoir drummer Stephen Morris has dismissed the claim that Factory Records lost 5p on every copy of Blue Monday sold because of the expense of producing the die-cut sleeve based on Peter Saville’s design, inspired by a 5 1⁄4-inch floppy disc.
So is the sales record another part of the Factory Records mythology that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny? Actually, Music Week can confirm that New Order’s claim to the biggest 12-inch single of all time still looks pretty solid four decades on from its release.
Running to seven minutes and 29 seconds, Blue Monday had a 38-week run in the Top 75 in 1983, peaking at No.9 in October. The sales performance of the 12-inch single was helped by the fact that the track was not included on that year’s New Order album release, Power, Corruption & Lies, and it was not then sold in a seven-inch single edit. The 12-inch effectively had a captive audience until the band’s Substance song collection in 1987 and a seven-inch version the following year.
With the Official Charts Company only tracking sales consumption after 1994, it’s not possible to fully verify the claim for Blue Monday. But its status as the biggest-selling 12-inch was strengthened by the OCC including it at No.69 in a list of the UK’s million-selling singles in 2012. While downloads would have contributed to its then total of 1.16 million, the bulk of that sale was on 12-inch vinyl. The vinyl revival of the last decade or so has been focused on LP, so no 12-inch single release has amassed significant sales in that period to rival Blue Monday.
Although there’s no BPI certification to confirm the claim, that’s likely explained by the fact that Blue Monday was independently released by a label and distributor who were not members of the trade body at that time.
Music Week charts analyst Alan Jones wrote about the Blue Monday sales phenomenon in the May 1988 edition of Record Mirror. At that point, its UK sales were reported at 800,000 and two million worldwide. According to a statement for the 40th anniversary, it now has three million sales worldwide across physical and digital formats.