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music friday: new order, “temptation”

Rhino UK has released high-quality videos of some of New Order’s songs, including “The Temptation of Victoria”, a 2005 version of the classic “Temptation”, directed by Michael H. Shamberg. “Victoria” is Victoria Bergsman, a Swedish singer formerly with The Concretes (she now records as Taken by Trees). There are several versions of “Temptation” out there … the one used in this video, best as I can tell, is from Substance, a singles collection from 1987 that included a reworked “Temptation”. I’ve always preferred the original 12” version from 1982, especially the vocals, which I think are much less effective in “Temptation ‘87”. There are, I believe, four different studio versions of the song, and New Order have played it live more times than any other song in their catalog (naturally, when I saw them in 1985, they skipped it, although we did get “Sister Ray”). You can find a zillion live versions on YouTube, and my love of the song is so great, I have played several of them in succession on more than one occasion.

I have to be careful not to repeat myself, as “Temptation” has made previous appearances on this blog. In the mid-80s, when I was taking fiction writing classes, I wrote an entire short story around the song … if memory serves, it wasn’t much of a story, but I had to at least try to get something on paper. I’m not sure why it sticks with me to this day … I can’t really say it’s a perfect record, not even in its original version, because New Order themselves later released several tracks that are closer to perfect. But something keeps bringing me back to this one. I was never a big Joy Division fan, a band I appreciated more than I liked. But New Order … I liked them very much, indeed.

Synth Pop at its best was very catchy, but in general, it wasn’t a genre meant to click with the likes of me. I preferred the snarl of punk that preceded Synth Pop, and mistrusted the foregrounding of synthesizers over good old-fashioned rock-and-roll geetars. Certain songs broke through my prejudices, though … “Smalltown Boy” by Bronski Beat was probably the one I liked best. I even went to an Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark concert (I won tix from the college radio station), and while it was a good show and I liked some of the band’s songs, I admit to feeling smug when, early in the concert, OMD took a break because one of their computers wasn’t working. Even when I got around to seeing New Order, I was disappointed that a drum machine was used on occasion.

My love of “Temptation” overcame all of this, though. And while I tend to think of it as one of my all-time favorite songs, it occurred to me as I was writing this that “Temptation” is also my one-and-only favorite song in the Synth Pop genre. It isn’t even close. “Blue Monday”, reportedly the best-selling 12” of all time … “The Perfect Kiss” … “Bizarre Love Triangle” … there are a lot of great New Order songs. But there is only one “Temptation”.

Here is the Rhino UK high-quality version of “The Temptation of Victoria”. I’ve read that some people outside of the UK are having problems accessing this, although I’ve had no trouble. If you can’t see it, Google it, since there are other copies online. Or listen to the 1982 original. (After “The Temptation of Victoria”, I’ve added a live performance of the song.)