I’m rolling up the next two releases into one post, primarily as the sleeves are connected, but also as the second of the 45s was only available on import from Factory Benelux and is really a companion piece to the first.

It was a bit of a shock to hear each of Thieves Like Us and Lonesome Tonight when they were released in April 1984, a full eight months after Confusion. A shock, but a very pleasant surprise as they were something of a throwback to earlier New Order with much less reliance on the New York club sound that Arthur Baker had brought to them.

It was a 12″ that divided the four New Order fans in the student flat I was living in at the time. Two of us loved it while the other two (no pun intended) felt it was a retrospective move and that the band should be aiming exclusively for the club scene rather than making great synth-pop in what they felt was an increasingly crowded market in which quantity was rapidly overpowering quality.

There were enough of us who loved the single enough to take it to #18 in the UK charts, another outstanding performance for a piece of vinyl that was only released in 12″ format:-

mp3 : New Order – Thieves Like Us
mp3 : New Order – Lonesome Tonight

The A-side is Hooky’s favourite New Order song, which I was surprised to learn as I’d have thought he would have veered towards the rather marvelous b-side which is driven along by one of his best bass lines, almost as if he’s challenging his band mates to play something that is as classy and as cool as the notes he’s hitting.

Couple of things I learned from Hooky’s book about this release. They had started on Thieves Like Us many months earlier in NYC but as it had taken so long to finish Confusion, they never got far with it, but there was enough of what had been put down in NYC in the later version that Arthur Baker gets a writing credit.

There’s a strange noise at the tail end of Lonesome Tonight which is actually Hooky hawking up phlegm into a handkerchief : “Barney….suggested we put it on at the end because the contrast between something so beautiful and something so awful might be interesting. He was absolutely right.”

A few weeks later, Murder began to filter into some shops; it was recognisable as a New Order release from the sleeve as was almost a negative version of that which had housed Thieves Like Us. I paid a lot of money for it, took it home, played it and felt really let down. It sounded like an Adam and the Ants outtake with a bit of Barney’s specialised one-finger guitar solo thrown in. It’s a bit of music that I’ve never really taken to, although many years later I did come to realise that it was an important part of the sounds they were developing and would subsequently lay down on the Low-Life LP. But even now, I still feel it was akin to shoving a demo out to make some money:-

mp3 : New Order – Murder

The two sleeves, as ever in those days, were by Peter Saville. They were based on what I would later learn was Metaphysical art, a unique style of painting developed by the Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico in the 1910s and 20s. The numbers around the side are totally random, which looking back was Saville having a bit of fun given that his sleeves for the various releases in 1983 could be worked out from codes and colours. We were all sure there was something in those numbers and spent a few drunken nights trying to work it all out….time was less precious in those days!

It’s b-side was a version of a familiar number:-

mp3 : New Order – Thieves Like Us (instrumental version)

A little while later, an edited version of this was made available on the 7″ reverse of Shellshock:-

mp3 : New Order – Thieves Like Us (instrumental edit)

Finally, a TOTP appearance for the single in which they played live and Hooky’s bass caused pandemonium in the households up and down the country:-

The single dropped down the charts the following week!


5 thoughts on “THE NEW ORDER SINGLES (Parts 7 & 8)

  1. Yes, a break from the run of innovative club releases into classic songwriting.

    I have always had a real soft spot for Thieves Like Us. It is I suppose a bit of an achievement getting to no 18 in the chats with I seem to remember very little or no daytime radio play. I happen to think it deserved to be a Top 5 smash hit though.

  2. Thieves Like Us is one of their absolute peaks, Barney’s clunky lyrics included. Lonesome Tonight is the best least known New Order song. I never get tired of either. I have a lot of time for Murder too- demo quality aside it shows them heading into Lowlife and the rockier side of Brotherhood too.

  3. That clip alone shows the one weakness New Order ever had – their live sound. I wasn’t a huge fan of Thielves Like Us when I first heard it, but it grew on me steadily over time and now rates as one of my faves.

  4. I’ve never approached Thieves Like Us as anything retro. It’s a song that is literally alive. There is a strong, throbbing beat to it that can restart a heart. The wash of synths course like blood through its veins. For my money it is one of the best dance songs they EVER created. It is emotional, spiritual. It is one of the most focused lyrics Barney would ever write – powerful and genuine.
    I’m with SA on Lonesome Tonight – I always treat he 12″ as a double A side. It’s a bridge from Power Corruption and Lies to Low-life.
    Murder has always felt like the direction I would have expected Joy Division to go next – not necessarily spend a lot of time, but the direction. There’s a tight, claustrophobic feel that is just yearning for Ian Curtis’ vocals in those places where we -smartly – are treated to some sampled voices. This would be as “Goth” as New Order would ever again stray.

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