Few songs capture the essence of New Order like their groove-laden and joyous single ‘Temptation’. Written in the wake of Ian Curtis’ tragic death, this 1982 offering stands in stark contrast to the sepia-tinged tones of their previous singles ‘In A Lonely Place’ and ‘Ceremony’, both of which carry the imprint of that dark period.
Much of New Order’s first studio effort, Movement, seems to reflect the group’s inability – or perhaps refusal – to move on. The band viewed the making of that 1981 album as one of the lowest points in their career, with many members still struggling to come to terms with what had happened to Curtis. ‘Temptation’ represented a ray of light. As the first single the band produced on their own, it signalled a brand new era of creative control, one that would reach fruition with the band’s next album, Power, Corruption & Lies
‘Temptation’ wouldn’t have existed without two important influences: Martin Hannett and New York club culture. Hannett had shown New Order how to use studio technology, allowing them to craft their increasingly synth-dominated songs without the need for a producer. This new knowledge coincided with a trip to America in 1981, during which the band were introduced to the synthetic beats of Italian disco pioneers like Giorgio Moroder.
At this time, dance music producers were developing an affinity with drum machines and sequencers, using them to create impossibility metrical beats. Inspired by the intoxicatingly inhuman sound of clubland, Morris began teaching himself drum programming and applying what he’d learned to New Order tracks like ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ and, of course, ‘Temptation.’
New Order’s incorporation of electronic beats proved to be a masterstroke. On release, ‘Temptation’ became a hit in European discos, cementing Hook, Morris and Sumner as essential voices in the new wave of UK dance music that culminated in the opening of Manchester’s The Haçienda. Despite the modest reviews Movement recieved, New Order members such as Peter Hook continue to regard it as an important step in the band’s development.
Indeed, he would tell Songfacts that ‘Temptation’ is “a song that showcases every element of New Order as a band.” The single also remains one of the band’s most popular live tracks, with Hook and company frequently using it to close their sets. Towards the final few minutes, the band would leave a drum sequencer chugging along as they departed the stage, leaving the crowd staring vacantly into a swirl of dry ice and electronic equipment.
Today, ‘Temptation’ stands as one of the most influential songs New Order ever recorded. Not only did it mark a new beginning for a band lost at sea, but it also lay the foundation for a whole era of British dance music, establishing Manchester as an unlikely incubator of UK rave culture.