New Order - Lonesome Tonight [Factory 1984] - Cat# FAC103
Talking or writing about music in definitive terms is hard enough at the best of times, and as most people would probably tell you, we're a long way away from the best of times just now. I always dread the inevitable 'what's your favourite…?' question whenever I get chatting about music or films with someone I've just met. Dread it that is unless the sentence happens to end with 'New Order B-side'. Since then the words 'Lonesome Tonight' can drop quite honestly from my lips, followed by a mumbled 'Or 1963, one of them two.'
Lonesome Tonight is the flip side to Thieves Like Us, and for me at least is the better song. Despite loving New Order I can't really claim to know a great deal of trivia about them. So I haven't a clue if Thieves Like Us is named after the 1974 Robert Altman film for instance. What I do know is that Lonesome Tonight is cut from the same cloth as Joy Division's Atmosphere. It doesn't really sound like it on first listen, but it shares the melancholy air of it's earlier sibling. It's all there in those majestic drums, obscure lyrics, washes of synth and that distinct Peter Hook bass sound.
We're talking about a time when a New Order single was not only essential, but also a thing to cherish, clothed as they were in pieces of Peter Saville art, they even had B-sides and everything. Of course we're talking about a time that feels so long ago now, a time when the internet was just a twinkle in Tim Berners-Lee's eye, The Smiths were a going concern and The Stone Roses were just a bunch of bad goths.
I love the lonely bass intro on this and the way the whole song crashes in after the first few bars. Then there's the guitar that arrives after the 'heart of stone' line, which is just so understated and sublime, typical of Barney Sumner's earlier style. My favourite moment has to be the way the song hangs in the air around the three minute mark, then builds towards that weird unexpected sound, you know the one, it sounds like an aeroplane gobbing on a runway. A proper hairs dancing on my arms moment that is.
My copy of this single used to belong to one of my best friends (Neil), I'm pretty sure I ended up with it in exchange for buying him some bevies when he was strapped for cash one night, since that's how I usually ended up with his records. So whenever I hear this song I can't help but think of Neil in a drunken state needing one last drink and an egg burger/kebab, before we could stagger off home to mine to sleep it all off. Sadly Neil passed away a few years back, so the sense of sadness that's already etched in the grooves of this record have now taken on an even greater resonance for me.
The single can still be found easily enough, and Lonesome Tonight and it's A-side are all present and correct on the aces Substance compilation, that is already somewhere in your record collection surely.