I started playing guitar when I was 17, starting out taking a class in high school where 30 dudes sat around a classroom with cheap acoustic guitars trying to follow the teacher as he ran through the chord changes for “American Pie”. I took to it enough to want to borrow the school’s one electric guitar – a cheap Korean Squier Stratocaster – for the Summer to practice. Of course, what the school didn’t have to lend was an amplifier, so I spent those months plugged into the mic input of a little home stereo with karaoke function, which meant that I could apply a tinny digital echo onto the very quiet guitar signal. I knew it sounded awful but I also thought it sounded amazing.
Point being, one of the songs I taught myself that Summer was “Regret”, the lead single from New Order’s Republic. Not because I had preternaturally good musical taste at that age, but because it was a bona fide hit that year and in heavy rotation on MuchMusic. And that very hooky opening guitar riff is dead simple to play, even if you can barely play. Which is in no way a shot at Bernard Sumner’s guitar skills. That song remains, almost 30 years later, probably my favourite New Order song, arguably their last truly great single (“Crystal” bangs but is not in the same league), Pitchfork’s 34th best song of the ’90s, and still loads of fun to play, even if I now appreciate all the melodic heavy lifting was done by Peter Hook and Gillian Gilbert.
And so, “Regret”. Starting with the video I saw a million times but also haven’t seen in a quarter-century or so. Probably longer.
I have no idea what to say about this other official video, except that I didn’t know it existed until yesterday and it easily tops The Cardigans in Beverly Hills for utterly weird pop culture intersections.
Of the same vintage but rather less embarrassing, here’s the band playing the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in July 1993 whilst touring Republic.
They opened their Reading 1998 performance with the song. That show appeared as part of their 2001 live DVD New Order 316.
And here it is again in Glasgow in 2006, part of their Carling Academy shows discussed and linked over here.
Those Glasgow shows were some of Peter Hook’s last ones with the band. He wasn’t done with the song, however, as he included it in his live sets as Peter Hook & The Light. This fan-shot clip came from their Los Angeles show in November 2019.
I’d have thought there’d be more covers of the song as it’s an objective stone cold classic, but not so much. It did get some love in the ’90s, when memories were a little fresher. American emos Get Up Kids included it as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of 1999’s Something To Write Home About, and made it available to all on their b-sides collection Eudora in 2001.
And much more to my tastes, The Afghan Whigs included a piano version as a demo bonus track on the 20th anniversary edition of Black Love in 2016.
And if you wanted to know how to play the super-technical guitar riff that only a 17-year old guitar prodigy plugged into a boombox could decipher, it’s been properly tabbed out at Ultimate Guitar.