Thursday, 16 September 2021



With Freelove released on the day the Exciter tour ended, you would think that would be that for Exciter era Depeche Mode, but no. Ever keen to confound us, Depeche released a fourth single from the album, 3 months after the tour ended.

What we got was a lovely surprise AND the band's first UK Number 1!!!! 

Sort of.


The Single

Originally given the working title of Born A Lover, Goodnight Lovers, BONG33, was released on 11th February 2002. The release was a fairly limited one, only seeing official releases in a few European countries. BONG 51, the issue of BONG that confirmed the end of the magazine, came out after the single had been released and curiously confirmed that the single had "finally been released" in February. They weren't wrong.

The single did pick up a couple of reviews. In Dotmusic (nope, no idea), Ben Gilbert said:

"The fourth single from last year's resoundingly well-received long-player 'Exciter' confirms the somewhat surprising but nonetheless commendable resurrection of Depeche Mode. Almost as much a prayer as a track, 'Goodnight Lovers' is a resolutely calm and reflective mesh of atmospherics, the embryonic incarnation subtly mirrored in rock and roll survivor Dave Gahan's gentle vocal lilt. Elsewhere, amid the deep, soothing vocal mix, chiming electronic flourishes resonate to the close. Nothing very much happens, but then, as some people in this business could do with learning, less is often more."

Thanks to the super Depeche Mode Press File site, I can also offer the opinion that matters - yes, it's the Huddersfield Daily Examiner:

When Exciter was reviewed, Goodnight Lovers caught a few ears. Stephen Dalton in the NME said:

"(B)etter still is beatific closing number Goodnight Lovers, where Dave purrs and whispers over a gliding ambient lullaby to 'all soul sisters and all soul brothers." This is the one to soften even hardened Mode haters, a gorgeous moment of sensual healing."

The best thing about Goodnight Lovers however is its chart position. Top 40 rules at the time excluded the song from the Top 40 because it contained three songs in addition to the single itself even though one of those is actually a remix of the single as we will see. The songs issue did however qualify the release for the Budget Albums Chart and on the week of release, Depeche Mode got a 


Ok, not quite what one would normally call a Number 1 single, but we'll take it. Technically it was the first time a Depeche Mode single had reached Number 1 in the UK so that is a win.

Goodnight Lovers is, of course, a wonderful song, both soothing and haunting. It's the warmest track on Exciter and ends the album perfectly. It has featured in the band's live sets too, but not on the Exciter tour. Instead, it was played 76 times on Touring The Angel and it was a joy. Dave and Martin sang together with Martin utterly drama queening it up at the end of the song most nights and the whole thing was tremendous fun. It was last played on 3rd April 2006 at Wembley Arena in London.

The Video

Third time lucky for John Hillcoat here as he makes a decent fist of this video. Perhaps that is because nothing actually happens.

The Depeche Mode boys are joined by the Exciter tour's backing singers Jordan Bailey and Georgia Lewis and everyone with the exception of Fletch has a good old singalong. Well, they do in the sense that they all appear to be in separate rooms with footage of everyone else playing on the walls. The video was filmed the day after the tour ended so perhaps they had all seen enough of each other and insisted on separate rooms for filming.

Everyone is of course dressed in black with Martin wearing what you would like to think is a leather shirt. Fletch only appears briefly and every time we see him he has his eyes closed. It had been a long tour for him.

We end with Dave shushing us all and with that gesture, the Exciter period comes to an end. I'm choosing to ignore the rather awkward appearance at the MTV awards a couple of days after this video was filmed. Stop bouncing around Martin. Just stop it.

The Formats

There's not much to look at here as there were only three official formats released. The 12" single was pressed in Germany and UK copies were imported in. 12BONG33 was available on black vinyl with a limited run of 9,000 on red vinyl. 3,500 of those were reserved for the German market. Initial orders from Mute Bank of the red vinyl single came with a free poster.

I think I remember reading that there were only 300 red vinyl 12" singles that came with the poster but that may well be something I have made up entirely. The 12" is filled with good music - well, almost. On Side A (above), we have Goodnight Lovers and When The Body Speaks (Acoustic), a lovely remix.

Once again, I really like the cover and the labels. On Side B, an attempt is made to do the impossible and make The Dead Of Night listenable. The Electronicat Remix tries its best but it didn't stand a chance. You can only work with the materials you are given and remixing that song is akin to being asked to build a workable spaceship with cheese. The second track on Side B is a joy however. Remixing Goodnight Lovers is a tough task, but the Isan Falling Leaf Mix does the job splendidly. It is a wonderful take on the song and one of my favourite Depeche remixes.

The black vinyl version features the same four tracks.

It doesn't come with a poster however. 

For any fans of promos who are feeling left out, welcome to your part of the blog. There was only one UK promo for Goodnight Lovers and here is RCDBONG33.

It features on track only and that is, rather unsurprisingly, Goodnight Lovers. For pedantry fans, there were also CD-R's kicking about and, apparently, a one-sided 12" acetate limited to 6 copies featuring Goodnight Lovers (Kreidler RMX). If you have that, well done.

Have had a CD promo, it made sense to have a CD single too. CDBONG33, like all releases from this campaign. comes in a cardboard sleeve with a thinner sleeve inside housing the disc. It is a lovely thing and my favourite CD single from the Exciter period. Now there's a fascinating fact.

It has the same four tracks as the 12" and a picture of the boys in hot live action on the inner sleeve.

Goodbye to both lovers and the Exciter campaign then. It had been a hugely successful one for the band and had seen them perform a lengthy tour to mainly capacity crowds everywhere. Releasing two singles after it ended seems odd right enough but there was a lot of momentum in DM world at the time so why not.

The next album would be three years away from this release but we would get a remix compilation before that. That means that I am contractually obliged to mention Enjoy The Silence 04. I'll skip over that quickly next time and instead focus on the excellent remixes that accompanied it.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021



The Exciter tour ended on 5th November 2001 in Mannheim, Germany and Depeche Mode chose to celebrate that by releasing the third single from the album, Freelove. Quite why they waited until the end of the album campaign is a mystery but who am I to question their decision?

With the release of Freelove, we got a DVD single, more promos than we could possibly know what to do with and a host of remixes including one by Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs.

Ah....that's why they waited until the promotional wheel had stopped spinning. Let's take a look at Freelove and its many formats. Ok, and that remix too.


The Single

Freelove, BONG32, came out on 5th November 2001. BONG 48 told us that this "beautiful ballad" was on its way on 22nd October which proved to be yet another barefaced BONG lie. BONG 50, released in December 2001, put the matter right confirming that the single was postponed and eventually released on November 5th. They are retrospectively forgiven.

As the tour had ended, Martin was too busy having his feathery tops dry cleaned to do any promotion. It seems that most of the music press gave Freelove a swerve too as they are very few, if any, reviews of the single around.

The song was received well when Exciter was reviewed however. Alternative Press called it "one of the best tunes Martin has written as far as pop-ability since Enjoy The Silence," which is high praised. That type of review leads you to conclude that when Fletch gave his standard pre-album interview in which he says:

"I was in a taxi/my house/a hot air balloon/ my personal underground bunker when Martin phone/faxed/sent a carrier pigeon with a new song I was blown away. It is his best since Enjoy The Silence/best ever/a sure fire hit" 

he was talking about Freelove. You can play Fletch Promo Bingo for any album since and including Exciter. The accompanying games are Martin Downplays His Efforts bingo and Dave Avoids Talking About Any Songs Except His Own Other Than To Mention That He Thinks Martin Now Gets Him bingo. I'll make cards for us to play along when the next album comes out in 2027.

Back to the reviews of Freelove. The Guardian referred to the song as "gorgeous" and "humble," and Q Magazine described it as an "unapologetic love song" in which "Gahan's voice (is) warm and intimate."  

In The Observer's review of the Paris gig on 10th October, Sam Taylor rather cruelly called Freelove "the risible new single."  Sam did however say earlier in his review "They begin by playing the worst song of their entire career - The Dead Of Night" so he can be forgiven. 

In chart news, the single managed three weeks on the UK chart. It entered at 19 and then dropped to 37 and finally 58 before disappearing forever. 

The single was remixed for release with Flood returning to the fold. His remix, Freelove (Flood Mix) is wonderful and a mix I prefer to the album version as it seems to suit the song more. It's a pity that of all the official releases, only Flood's remix does anything decent to the song. Freelove was played on every Exciter tour gig and rather marvellously popped up in Martin's solo slot four times on the Sounds Of The Universe tour. It was last played on 20th February 2010 at the O2 in London and I was there to enjoy it albeit it took me and my friends a while to work out what it was because we had enjoyed a very entertaining day in London before reaching the O2 and were thus not as focussed as we ought to have been. 

The B-Side (in old money) of Freelove is Zenstation which is an instrumental. It's fine as these things go but there hasn't been a fun DM instrumental since Kaleid has there? It plods along for 6 minutes only brightening up when Martin's "ahhh-ahhhs" appear. It's never been played live and that seems entirely reasonable to me.

The Video

John Hillcoat returned to directorial duties, so we can safely presume the band hadn't watched the I Feel Loved video. The video was filmed in New Orleans in July 2001 while the band were there on tour.

We open on a deserted street along which a driverless truck drives. There are megaphones on the truck so something musical is surely about to happen. Well, no. As you would expect, the driverless truck goes offroad and knocks over a few crates of oranges. An infuriated passer by picks one up and squeezes it, enraged at the needless orangey carnage.

All of a sudden however, the truck's purpose is revealed. It's Dave! The Depeche Mode Travelling Roadshow is in town.

Dave and Martin are on the back of the truck, Dave promising everyone "freelove" and Martin rocking about unsteadily playing his guitar. Various people including the angry orange man (that means something entirely different in Glasgow) are beckoned to the truck by this siren song and we see them each taking turns sitting in or writhing on Dave's throne. 

They have of course been fooled. These travelling roadshows are nothing but rip offs as all you wise readers know and the throne people soon realise their mistake. Instead of the promised free love, they are brought to their senses as the demo for Hole To Feed suddenly blares from the speakers. Dangerous Dave Gahan and his Dastardly Mode strike again as each of the victims fall under the song's spell. The only reason Freelove was played over the video was to ensure that Hole To Feed didn't affect anyone else.

The Depeche Mode Travelling Roadshow continues to wind its way through New Orleans with its driverless cab picking up more and more people, each turned to zombies by the sounds of Hole To Feed. Dangerous Dave Gahan and His Dastardly Mode's attempts to create an army bewitched by the smooth sounds of this future classic are on track.

There's no stopping them now. Fletch makes a brief appearance as does Christian Eigner which is slightly odd as (a) he isn't a band member and (b) if we're allowing the musicians onto the Depeche Mode Travelling Roadshow, where is Peter Gordeno? 

The Zombie Army are taken out into the countryside and abandoned, left to roam the land singing "When you get/What you need/There's no way of knowing" forever as they attempt to persuade anyone who will listen that while it was technically a double A side with Fragile Tension, we all know what the real lead track on that single is.

I don't know. I tried my best here but ultimately, that's a dreadful video.

The Formats

The promos are the obvious starting point for Freelove. The first UK promo is P12BONG32. My copy came with the promo sheet above which makes a number of hilariously inaccurate comments about the various remixes that pollute the record.

The sleeve is rather nice, as are both labels and that is all we need concern ourselves with for now. Luckily, all five tracks on this record appear on the official releases so we can worry about them in a bit. On Side A (above) we have the Console Remix of Freelove together with the frankly laughably named but pick of the bunch remix wise Schlammpeitziger "Little Rocking Suction Pump Version" of the same song. That name of that remix is spelled wrongly on the sleeve. They have Zenstation - Atom's Stereonerd Remix to keep them company.

On the B-side, we are blessed with two staggering remixes of Freelove - Bertrand Burgalat (spelled wrongly on the label) and DJ Muggs Remix. Presumably everyone on earth was drunk when these were commissioned. 

The second promo, PL12BONG32, is a lovely double 12" squarely aimed at people who went to clubs and therefore not me. On the first 12" we have Freelove (Deep Dish Freedom Remix) on Side A and Freelove (Josh Wink Vocal Interpretation) on Side B. The labels both make the same mistake as they say "Original version of I Feel Loved appears on the new Depeche Mode album Exciter." That is of course entirely accurate, but they probably meant Freelove.

The second 12" has Freelove (Deep Dish Freedom Dub) on Side C and Freelove (Powder Productions Remix) on Side D, albeit that one is called Power Productions Remix on the label. 4 out of 10 for spelling on these promos.

There was no promo CD this time though there were some CD-Rs but forget them. Let's move straight onto CDBONG32. It did appear with promo stickers on it in some places, but there was no bespoke catalogue number or difference between stickered ones and this official release. As with all Exciter releases, this one is in a card sleeve with the CD housed in another, thinner card sleeve inside. There is a wonderful picture of the band in there. Fletch and Dave came dressed up with Elvis wig and massive wig respectively. Given what Martin is wearing, it is hard to know if he dressed up or not. That could easily be Gore day wear.

There are three tracks on the CD. There's Freelove (Flood Mix) which is superb, Zenstation which isn't and Zenstation (Atom's Stereonerd Remix) which is the sort of thing that makes you think your CD player is unwell.

LCDBONG32 has another nice sleeve but is filled with a collection of remixes that is only saved by the one with the longest name.

Freelove (Bertrand Burgalat Remix) is the sort of remix that is exclusively enjoyed by people who thought Mike Flowers' Pops version of Wonderwall was funny. It's a smug, smartarse destruction of the song that you really never need to listen to.  The remix of Freelove called Schlammpeitziger "Little Rocking Suction Pump Version" is, despite what you may think, actually quite enjoyable. Then we get Freelove (DJ Muggs Remix). I'm not going to waste too much time on this one as I just listened to it again to see if it was as bad as I remembered. It is. I have no idea at all how this remix managed to escape the studio.

The five track 12" 12BONG32 starts its three track A-Side with Freelove (Console Remix) which is bad, but not Bertrand Burgalat bad. Side A also contains Schlammpeitziger "Little Rocking Suction Pump Version" and Zenstation (Atom's Stereonerd Remix).

Two words describe Side B - Burgalat and Muggs. Actually, here's two more - go and away.

Finally, there was a first - a DVD single. DVDBONG32 is an odd beast really. The first thing you find on it is Freelove - Live "Bootleg" Video. This isn't a shaky thing taken from the back of an arena on a video camera where the footage is interrupted by people going to the toilet however. This "bootleg" is a montage of live and backstage footage shot on the tour with the live elements taken from the 30th June show at First Union Center in Philidelphia. There are four "short films" too. They are incredibly short in fact but that would have looked odd on the sleeve. They are: A meet & greet, footage of Black Celebration live, Dave on the Freelove video set and a bit of the soundcheck for In Your Room. Blink and you will miss all four.

The other tracks on the DVD are live audio versions of Breathe and The Dead Of Night (really?) from the same show. On the inner sleeve, Fletch goes full Elvis and why not? 

Before we head to the US, let's have the Rest Of The World round up. Australia had one CD; Benelux the same four official releases as the UK plus a 2 track CD featuring Freelove (Flood Mix) and Zenstation; France had a promo CD; Germany a CD-R and a 5 track 12" and Scandinavia the 2CDs and DVD from the UK plus a 5 track 12" and a remarkable 4 promo CD-Rs.

In the US, there was a double 12" promo. It contains the same four tracks as the UK double 12" promo and even spells Powder Productions Remix correctly on the label. The sticker on the sleeve is shown earlier in this blog.

The US promo CD features three Freelove remixes - Dave Bascombe Mix, Flood Mix and, inexplicably, DJ Muggs Remix. The Dave Bascombe remix is fine. There are also 10 CD-Rs if that sort of thing is your sort of thing.

In official release news, the US CD single is a 6 track release containing all the remixes officially released in the UK with the exception of Freelove (Console Remix). The US version of the DVD single comes in a DVD style box. There was no 12" releasee.

That was Freelove then. It's an odd single really. It is definitely a lovely song and the Flood Mix really shows its potential but it was released at an odd time, had an odd format and featured a number of incredibly bad remixes. A missed opportunity.

Oddly, the band's Exciter releases didn't stop here. Next time we'll look at the curiously timed case of Goodnight Lovers.

Friday, 10 September 2021



Eleven months after the Songs Of Faith And Devotion The 12" Singles boxset, the Ultra The 12" Singles boxset has arrived. What's in it? Are there any surprises? Is it something rather lovely? Well, records, yes and very much yes are the answers. Let me explain.

As with the previous releases in this series, the 12" singles are housed in a thick cardboard box. The Useless hand has provided the inspiration for the covert art this time.

The rear of the box tells you what is inside.

As ever, we have the picture menu that shows what you'll find inside, including the three new 12" singles each of which we will come onto shortly.

There's a download card too. Put that beside the box and convince your friends that you have two boxsets and that one of them is really far away.

This review is just a look at the records, not a review of the music. As part of my ongoing what seemed a good idea at the time but it's only when you write about them do you realise just how many singles Depeche Mode have released project, the four Ultra era singles have each been reviewed. You can find them here:

First out of the box is Barrel Of A Gun. Once again, all of the packaging is faithfully reproduced. In the case of this record, there are some lovely touches. When the single was originally released, early pressings came with a silver inner sleeve. That's what you get here which is very nice. 

That's what it looks like on its own. 

A poster was also tucked into a few of the original releases and we get one of those here too. It's a lovely thing and just what you want if you've ever wondered what Fletch and Martin look like without faces.

The original 12" (the bottom one in the picture above) has a sticker in the top left telling you the names of the remixes. Here, as we got in the wonderful Violator The 12" Singles box, the sticker is included for you to stick on if you wish.

That's it above. Don't worry - (a) I've not stuck it on and (b) I know it shouldn't go there. I wouldn't do that to you. 

The sleeve is a gatefold just like the original. Dave is still chained to a radiator and Martin is ready to go deep sea diving.

Side A and the front cover are pictured above. Sadly, even a remastered Underworld Hard Mix still sounds like something that shouldn't have happened.

The rear sleeve is black and shiny which is marvellous but a bugger to photograph as you can see me in it which kind of ruins everything. I had to snap it from an odd angle as a result.

We only got one L12 in 1997 and it was this beauty.

L12BONG25 is a wonderful thing.

When It's No Good was first released, there was one 12", the first time Depeche Mode had not released an L12 since A Question Of Lust. Don't say "But what about Little 15?" Nobody knows if that single was released in any official capacity anywhere on earth.

Here, 12BONG26 is faithfully reproduced which means we have to sit through those remixes again. This song was crying out for a top notch, classic Depeche Mode 12" remix but sadly that just didn't happen.

Hang on - what's this? Well, for the first time ever, we have an L12BONG26. The single's original release saw two CD singles accompany the 12" and cassette single in the UK and to ensure that the remixes that appeared on the original LCD are included in this boxset, a 12" has been specially created. Now, Depeche Mode fans are probably the most relaxed fans of any band there is and they don't get bothered at all by things like catalogue numbers, so will anyone even be interested in the addition of a new L12 to the band's catalogue? I joke of course as the creation of the L12BONG26 catalogue number together with its two companions we'll look at shortly has annoyed some people. There are some collectors who won't buy the box meaning they will now have a gap in their collection and there are others who feel that this is a pointless rewriting of history. Fair enough. I'm very much in the group of people who think this is a pretty cool idea. Perhaps I'd feel differently if I didn't have the box.

The sleeve is based on the LCDBONG26 design and the labels are very nicely done. On Side A, we have It's No Good and Slowblow. On Side B (above), we get Slowblow (Darren Price Mix) and It's No Good (Bass Bounce Mix).  That is not the same tracklisting as LCDBONG26 but does mean that the two tracks on the A Side and the remix of Slowblow get a vinyl release. The Bass Bounce Mix of It's No Good is also known as the Dom T Mix and that already appears on the 12BONG26 in the boxset. The version on this record is 3 seconds longer. Quite what is in those three seconds is a mystery. The inclusion of a remix that is already in this boxset is the only negative point about this L12.

The Home 12" is naturally just the same as the original 12BONG27.

I do love those labels. 

Home sees the introduction of the second new L12, L12BONG27. It takes the four songs from CDBONG27 and LCDBONG27 that didn't make it onto the 12" at the time and gives them a vinyl release. On Side A (above), we have the single version of Home and Home (The Noodles And The Damage Done. The orange label is a very nice thing and reminds me of the promo CD for World In My Eyes. I really do need to get out more.

As with L12BONG26, the artwork for L12BONG27 is based on the LCD release. On Side B, we have the live versions of Barrel Of A Gun and It's No Good from the London Ultra party. The label is again a joy to behold.

The last single from Ultra was Useless and 12BONG28 is here in all its purple glory.

The tracklisting remains the same as the original release.

Talking of the original release, it had a sticker on the front of the 12" (see bottom record above). As with Barrel Of A Gun, we get the sticker inside the sleeve again to stick on if we wish. The addition of the sticker is another great touch and it's yet another example of the thought that has gone into these boxsets. It's pictured above but here's a close-up:

Finally, we have another new 12", L12BONG28.  It takes the five remixes of Useless that didn't get a vinyl release and grants them one. On Side A (above) we have Useless (Remix), Useless (Escape From Whenever: Parts 1 & 2!) and Useless (Cosmic Blues). The latter remix first appeared on CDBONG28 where it was called Cosmic Blues Mix. Wonder why that's not the case here? The artwork is based on LCDBONG28 and, yes, the labels are very nice too.

The rear sleeve is a superb thing isn't it? The two tracks on Side B are Useless (CJ Bolland Ultrasonar Mix) and Useless (Live), another recording from the Ultra party. The videos for Barrel Of A Gun and It's No Good that featured on the enhanced CDBONG28 and LCDBONG28 respectively don't appear on either 12" but that is entirely understandable.

The last part of the box is the reproduction poster and this time round it's the Useless advert that we get. 

As with all the 12" boxsets, this is expensive and arguably not that necessary if you have all the 12" singles already but, just like its predecessors, it is a thoroughly well thought out and well put together collection. The singles look and sound fantastic and the attention to detail both in an audio and visual sense is outstanding. The creation of three L12 singles is controversial but it makes sense when you see them in the context of the boxset. As an aside, it's interesting to note that the second It's No Good promo, PL12BONG26 is nowhere to be seen here.  Since this box was announced, it has in fact disappeared from the discography section on the official Depeche Mode site. The Club 69 mixes seem destined to remain unloved, unacknowledged and on promo only forever.

Will we wait 11 months for the Exciter boxset? And just how many 12" singles will be in that one? If all of the promos are reproduced, it's going to be a very large box indeed.