New Order Got Paid $200K to Rewrite “Blue Monday” for a Sunkist Ad
The charge of being a “sell-out” used to be a damning accusation in the music world. Nowadays the charge barely raises an eyebrow. No band makes money from being a band anymore, so thousands of bands willingly bury their faces in corporate coffers like a horse’s feedbag. However, back in, say, 1988, this label could haunt a particular type of band for the rest of their days. Like, if Killdozer decided to start shilling for Corn Flakes, you wouldn’t take them seriously anymore. Hell, even legacy acts from that era have been pilloried for taking a payday, as seen with Springsteen’s recent Super Bowl ads. So, it begs the question of how New Order got away with not only doing an ad for half-rate orange soda Sunkist, but also doing an ad for Sunkist where they rewrote Blue Fucking Monday. Because that totally happened.
The story goes that the band was approached by Sunkist to rework “Blue Monday”, which at least at one time was the highest selling 12” of all time somehow. The group was to be paid $200,000 for this galling piece of business, and before you begin to lob accusations of hearsay at me, please note that this information came directly from Bernard Sumner. It’s not even taken from some magazine interview where he’s taking the piss. There’s video of it. In fact, how about I drop that in here?
Oh, yeah. The actual ad’s there too, just in case you were left with any doubt.
As Sumner states in that clip, he posted a piece of cardboard in the studio as he was re-recording it with “$200,000” written on it. The ad itself feels like it was lifted from a deleted scene in Robocop. Just a vile Verhoeven-esque parody of Western capitalist eighties culture. Cans of citrus swill tantalizingly sweating on a beach, models in Body Glove attire playing volleyball on what looks like a beach during the Vietnam war, a hair metal band thrusting their leopard print codpieces at the audience in an effort to mimic the icy notes of one of the biggest achievements in New Wave, two people who look like they just got done fucking on the set of a Bonnie Tyler video. The sheer audacity of this endeavor is so appalling that it seems like it has to be parody.
My favorite epilogue to this story is that years later New Order bassist Peter Hook wrote a memoir in which he called the Cure sellouts. Specifically, he writes, “I don’t think the Cure liked us. I think they resented us in some way, because we’d managed to stay cool, credible, and independent and they’d, well, sort of sold out a bit… I think they thought, Wish we were Joy Division.” This not only prompted former Cure drummer/keyboardist Lol Tolhurst to call him out on his bullshit, but also prompted a bunch of angry Cure fans to dredge up this very video. Hey, you got paid, but karma is a motherfucker like that sometimes.
For more music discussion, check out our post about the song “You Are the Generation That Bought More Shoes and You Get What You Deserve” by Johnny Boy here.