In the wake of Ian Curtis’ passing in 1980, the remaining grieving members of Joy Division had the toughest challenge of drying their eyes and getting back to music. The group decided that Joy Division was no more without Curtis and aptly renamed themselves New Order. Back in 1979, Joy Division had welcomed Gillian Gilbert to play with them at one of their live performances in Liverpool as a guitarist to support Bernard Sumner.
After being impressed with her style the band’s manager Rob Gretton came up with a great idea: “Rob just rang up one day and went, ‘I’ve got an idea – we should get Gillian in to play guitar,’” as drummer Stephen Morris recalled in New Order’s podcast series Transmissions. He continued: “He was dead right because we all found singing and playing impossible at the same time when New Order started. Looking back now, it seems obvious that we needed to get someone else in – sort of, ‘Blimey, why didn’t we think of that?’”
After recruiting Gilbert, New Order became a whole. The new direction for the music would evolve from the post-punk of Joy Division towards an increasingly synth induced sound over the course of the 1980s. The band’s most momentous moment came in 1983 with the release of the club classic, ‘Blue Monday’, which became the biggest selling 12” single of all time.
In 1983, computers weren’t exactly commonplace, and music programming was even rarer. As a group of restless creatives, New Order were exceedingly interested in the idea of creating a song that was entirely electronic. Bernard Sumner had begun building gadgets called sequencers; Gillian Gilbert later joined him to help develop new ideas using the devices, eventually earning her the title of “synth-queen”. Influenced by their time in New York dance clubs, the group had decided to make their new electronic single in a way that married their post-punk sound with a danceable beat.
While ‘Blue Monday’ was the New Order’s first success with this formula, they managed to carve out continued success in the electric dance arena while maintaining a connection to their post-punk lineage. The profits from the success of ‘Blue Monday’ were put towards the Haçienda nightclub in Manchester, which was founded by Tony Wilson, the co-founder of Factory Records.
New Order owned a stake in the club and would play some of their more club-friendly tracks there over the 1980s while the club grew increasingly popular with the Manchester youth culture.
In 1984, New Order created one of their lesser-known films, ‘Play At Home’, which features three of New Order’s iconic live performances at the Haçienda. The group are seen playing ‘Lonesome Tonight’, ‘Temptation’ and ‘Thieves Like Us’. As an accompaniment to the live performances, the film features interviews with the members of New Order, Tony Wilson, Martin Hannett, Rob Gretton, Alan Erasmus, Peter Saville and Pete Shelley, among others.
Watch the full film below.