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Best Peter Hook Basslines: 10 Defining Joy Division And New Order Riffs
Stefan Bollmann
List & Guides

Best Peter Hook Basslines: 10 Defining Joy Division And New Order Riffs

Distinctive and eminently melodic, the best Peter Hook basslines are integral to the sound of his two legendary post-punk outfits.

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It’s fitting that Peter Hook’s nickname is Hooky, as his greatest basslines are just that – hooky and eminently melodic. However, he developed his unique style through necessity. During Joy Division‘s early days, the need to simply hear himself above the band’s primitive amplifiers led him to creating many of his most iconic basslines by playing high up the neck of his instrument. Later, when New Order embraced new technology, Hook again adapted by layering his trademark counterpoint melodies on top of the sequenced basslines underpinning many of the best New Order songs. A true original, we pay tribute to the ace of bass by selecting the ten best Peter Hook basslines.

Listen to the best New Order songs here, and check out our best Peter Hook basslines, below.

10: Joy Division: New Dawn Fades (1979)

Peter Hook levers up a lumbering giant of a bassline which provides the backbone of Unknown Pleasures’ greatest ballad. Its rich, warm sound was achieved by Hook playing his part through the 100-watt Marshall lead amp wired for bass, and which he used when Joy Division were writing all the songs for the album, but his bassline’s strength is its very simplicity. “My trademark in the early days was playing the same bassline right the way through the whole song,” Hook told Louder in 2017. “Everybody else would move round it, so this song is like that.”

9: New Order: Turn My Way (2001)

Arguably the most guitar-based album in New Order’s canon, much of 2001’s Get Ready found the band rocking out with abandon. As their most traditional rock’n’roll fan, the songs from this period suited Peter Hook’s talents to a T, and Get Ready includes numerous contenders for a place among the best Peter Hook basslines. Hooky is all over the album’s signature hit, Crystal, and the propulsive 60 Miles An Hour, but the majestic melodies he layers over the slow-burning Turn My Way really are something else.

8: Joy Division: Digital (1978)

Joy Division’s first truly great song, Digital introduced the band to the wider world when it was included as part of Factory Records’ very first release, the A Factory Sample EP, in January 1979. Its starting point came from the band suggesting Stephen Morris play a Donna Summer-style disco beat, but Morris’ deliberately jerky interpretation of this idea inspired Hook’s brilliant, metronomic bassline, which carried much of the song’s melody. “Digital and Glass both sound amazing,” Hook wrote in his 2012 book, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, adding that the songs were “easily our best recordings up to that point. If you listen back, you’ll hear a happy me because the bass on Digital is kicking it!”

7: New Order: Everything’s Gone Green (1981)

New Order’s second single, Everything’s Gone Green, was their first song to feature a sequenced rhythm pattern. Created through linking up a Dr Rhythm drum machine with Gillian Gilbert’s ARP Quadra synth, Stephen Morris later wryly recalled that it sounded like “Kraftwerk on a tight budget”. While the band were excited by their new direction, this new technology meant Hook and Morris had to learn how to play live bass and drums over the electronic rhythms. In his memoir, Fast Forward, Morris writes that Hook relished the challenge by “playing ever more melodic riffs on the bass, something he was always fantastic at – in fact, on Everything’s Gone Green nearly all the melody comes from Hooky’s bass guitar”.

6: Joy Division: She’s Lost Control (1979)

Featuring one of rock’s most distinctive intros, Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures classic She’s Lost Control was earthed by Stephen Morris’ mechanical, Syndrum-enhanced beat, while Hook’s distinctive high-end bassline carried much of the song’s melody, immediately establishing itself as one of the best Peter Hook basslines. “That’s one of our most famous songs,” Hook later observed. “It’s really personal to Ian [Curtis, singer], and for him to base those lyrics around my riff was so fucking cool. As a player, I was an integral part of the sound of the band, which was great for me – a wonderful platform.”

5: New Order: Thieves Like Us (1984)

It didn’t have the same ubiquitous appeal as Blue Monday, but New Order’s 1984 hit Thieves Like Us was arguably a better song, with its lush synthscapes and insistent melodies topped off by one of the best Peter Hook basslines. “I’m not ashamed to say I stole it from Emma, by Hot Chocolate, and used it to great effect,” he revealed to Louder in 2017. “It was wonderful, because I did bump into Errol Brown and felt that I had to confess, but Errol said to me, ‘Well done, my boy!’ which was very nice of him, I thought!”

4: Joy Division: Twenty Four Hours (1980)

Joy Division’s second album, Closer, includes several examples of Hooky at his best, and the raw, pugilistic riffs he fashioned to propel both Isolation and Colony could easily take their place among the best Peter Hook basslines. Arguably, however, Hook’s finest work on Closer was Twenty Four Hours, on which his prominent bass dictated much of the song’s tension and release. “It has the wonderful elements that you die for in a song – melodic drop downs and really rocky highs,” Hook later reflected. “And again, the song is led by the bass. It’s just an absolutely fantastic riff.”

3: New Order: Sunrise (1985)

Quite rightly, New Order are widely hailed as electronic-music innovators, but they’ve also amassed a sizeable catalogue of thrilling guitar-based rock songs. One of numerous highlights from their third album, 1985’s Low-Life, Sunrise falls squarely into the latter category and it remains as searing and visceral as anything the band recorded during their Joy Division days. In a 2015 interview with Stereo Embers, Hook described his muscular contribution to Sunrise as “the bassline every bass player would love to have – it really drives the whole song and is New Order at their most rocky”.

2: Joy Division: Transmission (1979)

The sound of Joy Division at their pent-up, anthemic best, Transmission is unquestionably one of the band’s greatest songs, its drive and urgency coming from one of the best Peter Hook basslines. “Transmission started with the bassline and turned into our first hit record,” he reflected in 2017. “It’s a very simple chord sequence, very effective. You can hear that youth, that you’re a punk and you mean it in the bass riff, which is obviously the most important thing in the world.”

1: New Order: Age Of Consent (1983)

Widely regarded as the album on which New Order developed their own sound and emerged from Joy Division’s shadow, 1983’s Power, Corruption & Lies remains a high-water mark in their body of work. A nigh-on seamless hybrid of infectious electronic pop and angular, guitar-driven rock, it effectively blueprinted the sound New Order have since made their own. Their newfound confidence was signalled by the album’s opening track, Age Of Consent, with Peter Hook’s eminently joyous bassline launching one of the group’s most timeless songs. “You’d have to say my favourite bassline is Age Of Consent, because to a bass player it was such a gift,” Hook reflected in 2017. “The song is led by the bass and it’s so very melodic. That’s my favourite New Order one.”

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