bethylated-spirits asked: Hey Jey, Blue Monday is EXACTLY what i needed today and It reminded me of a question that i was thinking i should ask you (as my source of all New Order knowledgfulness). i thought i saw/read somewhere (maybe in/about 24 Hour Party People?) that the syncopation on the drum track for this song was actually a mistake—someone started it half a beat too soon/too late in the studio or something and it sounded so good they kept it. Is this trufax or did i imagine it?
You’re right! I can’t say exactly where you might have learnt that, because it’s been discussed in all sorts of places, but yes, the beat and the melody are out of sync with one another. It isn’t the drums that are off (relative to what New Order originally intended), though; it’s the sequencer track.
If you listen to it (here's the original), you can hear where the beats fall in the bass drum line, and if you follow the rhythm, you can also hear the way the melody falls in between the strong beats.
It’s actually a really easy mistake to make, because in order to create “Blue Monday,” New Order went through all sorts of electronic equipment - for instance, the drum line is on an Oberheim DMX drum machine with effects; the bass line is through a Moog Source and sequenced using a machine Bernard Sumner built himself (as were many of their early works, because they couldn’t afford a proper sequencer); some of it, I’ve heard, was done with punch and step recording (techniques where it’s quite easy to drop a single beat or note); and there are vocoders, electronic drums, all sorts of things. Frankly, it’s a miracle there aren’t more accidentally-syncopated songs out there!
(Random side note unrelated to New Order: I was listening to Dick Mills, one of the original BBC Radiophonic Workshop sound engineers, talking about constructing the early Doctor Who soundtracks, and he was discussing exactly this process. The early equipment in the sound shop included a punch-tape sequencer, and he and the other Radiophonic staff used to roll the tapes out all throughout the corridors of the building, start at one end, and go all the way down to the other end checking each note on the tape to ensure they didn’t end up missing beats. So you can imagine what a laborious process it must have been!)