New Order’s “Blue Monday” Played with Obsolete 1930s Instruments

Released 33 years ago this week, New Order’s “Blue Monday” (hear the original EP version here) became, according to the BBC, “a crucial link between Seventies disco and the dance/house boom that took off at the end of the Eighties.” If you frequented a dance club during the 1980s, you almost certainly know the song.


The original “Blue Monday” never quite won me over. I’m much more Rolling Stones than New Order. But I’m taken with the adaptation above. Created by the “Orkestra Obsolete,” this version tries to imagine what the song would have sounded like in 1933, using only instruments available at the time— for example, writes the BBC, the theremin, musical saw, harmonium and prepared piano. Quite a change from the Powertron Sequencer, Moog Source synthesizer, and Oberheim DMX drum machine used to record the song in the 80s. Enjoy this little thought experiment put in action.

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Meet the “Telharmonium,” the First Synthesizer (and Predecessor to Muzak), Invented in 1897

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  • CC says:

    Cool. Except none of these instruments are “obsolete”.

  • Tim says:

    And there were any number of eccentric/electronic instruments around then, such as theremin, ondes martenot, etc.

  • clark weichmann says:

    Fascinating. The year the game changed was not long after, with the Hammond Novachord in 1938. A true polyphnonic synthesizer. one has been fully restored (and played) by Phil Cirocco. http://www.discretesynthesizers.com/nova/intro.htm

  • clark weichmann says:

    The Novachord was hardly a toy. Here is a fragment of one of Phil’s pieces.
    http://www.discretesynthesizers.com/nova/mp3/nova3.mp3

  • Dr. Greg says:

    Extremely creative in dress and demeanor. Loved the layering effect of various instrumental timbres. Very 21st century in rhythmic patter, but melodic and harmonic moods are ingeniously interwoven to perfection!

  • Dan Colman says:

    Just curious, does anyone know who mentioned our post on their Facebook page?

    Got a big spike of traffic and just wanted to know who to thank.

    Cheers,
    Dan (editor)

  • Msg says:

    And most of them aren’t “1930’s” either. Dulcimers have been around since ancient times, the lap harp is from the mid 19th century. Musical saws became popular in “mountain music” during the late 1800’s.

  • John L Rice says:

    Dan, I saw it posted by Stingray Pašić

  • Andy says:

    I saw it on both the lou reed group and the space junkies group

  • cole says:

    i found ya through a post on reddit. you’re making the rounds!

  • weaselly says:

    I saw it via ‘Open Culture’ on Facebook, from where it was shared almost 2000 times. :)
    https://www.facebook.com/openculture/posts/10154678583179129

  • Mr Scorpio says:

    Apparently the ‘home made’ sequencer was called Powertran, not Powertron. Just Saying. :-D

  • D. says:

    Love the original, love this cover version; I’d just like to point out that the “original” link refers to the remix from 1988, the actual original version (which is more powerful, in my opinion) can be found here:

    youtube.com/watch?v=FYH8DsU2WCk

  • ing says:

    Does this group, Orkestra Obsolete, have their own website or Facebook page for me to follow? I’d love to see what else they’ve done or what they’re up to in the future.

  • M.B says:

    Gene Ween(Aaron Freeman) directed me to this via his Twitter. Great video.

  • Tarvo Merkällinen says:

    and now in the full 7:30 Minutes please :P

    AND as 1988 mix…. BEACH BUGGY! :D

  • Wim G says:

    I was wondering how they’d do the frogs, but they took a pass.

  • Bill Jonke says:

    Keep this sort of thing coming. It reinstates my desire to hear things done with actual instruments and people actually singing! I LOVED this!

  • G. Grabo says:

    “Obsolete?” “1930s”? Can always tell when an ‘under 30’ is writing articles.

  • Second Hand says:

    It doesn’t link to the original. It links to the 1988 remix, which is substantially inferior to the 1983 original.

  • jrstrs says:

    How can a musical instrument be considered obsolete? digital media has obviously come to the conclusion that copy editors are obsolete…

  • Dave says:

    Not sure that any instrument is ever “obsolete”… if it doesn’t make sounds anymore, it might be *broken* but no “obsolete”. But one thing is certain, that drum sets and string basses are definitely *not* “obsolete” in any sense of the word. :)

  • sergio cocco says:

    what’s the marimba type thing seen at 3min & the radio/analog box with lamp that get’s twiddled at same time mark..??

    most drum fx can be done w a simple drum of course,
    they did leave of the handclaps ;)

    Now i want an Arthur Baker & Afrika Bambaataa rmx :)

  • Alan says:

    Very cool.

    Richard Blade, of SiriusXM FirstWave fame posted it on his Facebook page, which is how I caught on to it.

  • Raul Castro says:

    Greetings from San Francisco Bay Area. I hope to claim some responsibility for sharing you clip on Facebook with our friends. This is worth sharing and I hope to hear more from your Orkestra. Where to buy the audio recording?

  • Stuart S says:

    Angus, who was in many bands over the years including The Kaisers, has his (mainly ukulele-based) YouTube channel, Gugug.
    https://www.youtube.com/user/GUGUG/videos

    Nothing about this new project on it, as yet, but it looks and sounds incredible.

    The Kaisers miming on some Chicago kids TV show in the 90s:-
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dfPmayM_Hk

  • Porthos says:

    Now that’s a cover.

  • Dave H. says:

    Got here via links from both The 80s Underground and SiriusXM 1st Wave Facebook pages.

  • Natan says:

    Richard Blade just shared this on his Facebook page as well

  • User says:

    Same, it was on the front page of Reddit for me.

  • tracy says:

    obsolete in the sense that no one plays those instruments anymore. can’t remember a time i’ve seen a theremin being played.

  • fartbro9000 says:

    IF the writer is more into stones than new order; then surely they would hope for this cover to have a harder, definitive back beat in the sound; but instead its a plodding song that sounds like a metronome; its interesting but almost polka, and like something in the credits of one of those new crime drama shows where its about the early 1900s but they play nick cave in a slo mo action scene. Fantastic, but a bit contrived and ironic ha ha swarmy cutesy. I guess this is the sort of schtick people desire now; and also, you can like both stones and new order, and like the kinks and joy division! why not.

  • djlace says:

    It’s powertran. Not powertron.

  • Stevie says:

    Heaps of people play those instruments. I have been to several shows this year (it is early March!) where a theremin was used. If you see films, I bet you have watched a movie this year that featured one on the soundtrack.

  • Matthew says:

    Saw a post by MTV Live

  • Bill Jonke says:

    I LOVE this! They’re actually singing and playing instruments. Far cry from what anybody’s doing today!

  • Jeff says:

    I want more Orkestra Obsolete but can’t find a web page. Help!

  • freddiee says:

    Horrid. Just horrid.

  • HeidiSue says:

    good music, and I loved seeing the theramin, though I wouldn’t say it was obsolete, as I saw it on stage, played by Joe Bonamassa two years ago. and isn’t it featured in the Star Trek theme?

    still, cool video and terrific music

  • Wolfbrigade says:

    It’s instruments you could find in 1930 meaning they could of used anything previously up to 1930…

    Apparently people can’t take 20 secs to read beyond the title. Just have to run to the comments to sound smart.

  • Norm says:

    On my newsfeed, it was a person named ‎Kimberly Brook Israel‎ who shared it to the group “Shoegazed & Confused” which is a group focused on shoegaze/nugaze music.

  • Dollartooth says:

    Lots of folks here who seem to know everything about music except how to enjoy it. Cheers for demonstrating how knowledgable you are on obscure musical instruments guys, that was great. You are the cleveremest people on the internet.

  • Dollartooth says:

    If playing smartest man in the room keeps the black void from engulfing them for another day, I say let ’em have it. Poor sods.

  • GN says:

    It’s played on instruments that were AVAILABLE in 1933, according to both this post and the Youtube description. So you’re basically complaining that the video title is imprecise, which is true, but a bit…you know…nitpicky?

  • Stephen says:

    ‘Instruments’ is plural, so you shouldn’t use ‘it’s’. And the other grammar you get publicly wrong is ‘should have’ and not ‘should of’ which of course makes zero sense. Smart enough for you?

  • Stephen says:

    sorry—the above was @Wolfbrigade

  • Raphael Pungin says:

    I loved the song so much, I made my own version of it too!
    https://www.reverbnation.com/raphaelpungin/song/25502996-blue-monday-cover-of-new-order

  • Barbara says:

    Jerry Colpitts shared to the Spit group (dance club in the 80s in Boston) and TVOD by Tony V

  • thomas says:

    this is madness. you can feel the bond between art and music with this talented people. people just see the final results but even greater is how you get there with that idea and the edition of the video plus the tecnical knowhow of every instrument.

    totally mind blowing.

    i admire you

  • BigJoe says:

    Lets stop picking apart the historic accuracy for fksake…it’s great art! Well done. Really loved this. More please.
    Found via FB.

  • Brian Gonzalez says:

    That would be us.. and we love the credibility of your site.

  • Shan says:

    Caught it on the BBC news Facebook page.

  • rick says:

    If they’re being used, they’re not obsolete. That saw? Still sold today.

  • Bryce says:

    Nice sample. Where is it from? Just discovered the Novachord Restoration Project. Hard to believe this instrument is from 1938. Music of the electron indeed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-QH-dQsAok

  • ChrisP says:

    Not sure why they went with 1930s, but the article says they chose only what was available then, not instruments created then. Also, without having done any research, the year an instrument was created has nothing to do with its popularity during a certain period..

  • Jason says:

    The frogs were in Perfect Kiss.

  • mervin says:

    The marimba type thing is a Theremin.

  • Stephen McArthur says:

    I agree….not sure what an “obsolete” musical instrument is. Unusual, rare, seldom-used, but not “obsolete.” As a sax player, I think they should have included a C-melody saxophone.

  • Bjoern says:

    Very nice version, but I think it is misleading that this would have sound like this in 1933.

    The recording technique used here is too state-of-the-art as well as the overall production, mixing and mastering (which has quite an impact). Maybe a live version with original microphones and amps could create a more realistic illusion ;)

    But apart from that: great!

  • Jon says:

    The reason that you’re “taken with the adaptation above” is that it sounds more like good old disco rather than a link to something forward thinking like house. If the New Order track had this straightforward beat it would’ve been just another recording rather than something that inspired people to link up disco with Kraftwerk, etc. This recording is cool for what it is but they’ve killed the vibe of the quirky, robotic feel of the original.

  • Bud says:

    I found it courtesy of the SiriusXM 1st Wave page

  • Daneen says:

    I agree, I think “vintage” would be a more appropriate word, but this is pretty awesome nonetheless!

  • Luccia says:

    Exactly.

  • J. Bruce Wilcox says:

    As a club DJ from the late 70s through the mid/late 80s- this song was just the best. Period. I still have it in regular rotation.

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