Friday, 17 July 2020

AN ASSORTED COLLECTION OF PERFECTION - DEPECHE MODE: VIOLATOR - THE 12" SINGLES


You might think that spending months researching and writing a month long Violator special would mean that I have nothing else to say about the album given that, with the help of my guest bloggers, every single inch of the album was explored, analysed and, let's be honest, relentlessly praised in March this year.

That would probably be the case had the new Violator - The 12" Singles box not arrived this morning. It's the next instalment of Depeche Mode's 12" boxset campaign, a campaign that has been a joy so far. This boxset has been my and many other fans most keenly anticipated release as it is recreating the band's releases from their artistic (both musically and visually) highpoint. Can these reissues of iconic singles match the originals? Are they as beautiful as the likes of my much loved and much travelled L12BONG18?

Of course they are. This boxset is everything it promised to be and much, much more.


As Julie Andrews said, let's start at the very beginning. The box itself (front above) is a lovely thing. As with the other releases, it features a re-interpretation of the album artwork and the job that has been done is great. The back of the box has one of those explanatory stuck on bits of paper that is basically pointless but acts as a nice reminder of what's inside:


It's especially handy if you don't open the box as it tells you just what you're missing out on. I always take the view that music is to be enjoyed not hidden away, so I always open these up. Some people don't and that is of course fine. Each to their own and I can confidently back that up having written blogs about catalogue numbers and all that nonsense previously. Anyway, enough of the box, let's look at its contents.

12BONG17

At this point, you may be worrying that I am going to spend a large amount of time reviewing the remixes that feature here and droning on things that the vast majority of the population of Earth have little time for. Don't worry - that's not going to happen. I covered all that at almost ridiculous length in March, so if you want to read all about the singles themselves, have a click on the links below, have a read, then have a lie down and pop back here to carry on where you left off:

Personal Jesus - reach out and click here
World In My Eyes - let me take you on a click

Back to it. The 12" of Personal Jesus is faithfully and beautifully recreated as you would expect. Being reminded of just how stunning the artwork is for this release is never a bad thing. The limited edition 12" is recreated too and it's here that we get a couple of very nice surprises.

L12BONG17

Housed within the sleeve is a stunning double sided 12" artwork which features all four then members of the band (apparently Alan Wilder left a while ago. I had no idea) in their awkward poses with the model who features on all the releases. It was a huge surprise to find this and it is a wonderful addition to this set. The little additions that have been made throughout this campaign have been a real joy; tiny fan pleasing details that show incredible attention to detail. 

L12BONG17

When Personal Jesus first came out, there was a limited edition 7" gatefold release and, within the gatefold, there was a booklet that contained the pictures we now find in bigger form in this release. Their recreation here is a special touch.

GBONG17

Enjoy The Silence is next. It is of course beautiful:

12BONG18

The limited edition 12" is just as gorgeous:

L12BONG18

This seems a good time to mention the second great surprise within this boxset, When Personal Jesus and Enjoy The Silence were originally released, some versions of the limited edition 12" and CD singles bore a sticker that said "Depeche Mode Limited Edition Remix." Here's my Personal Jesus limited edition 12" for example:


The 12" singles in the box don't have these stickers on them but, and this is VERY much the sort of thing that tickles me, the boxset includes replica stickers in case you want to stick them on yourself. They really have gone to quite extreme lengths to exactly replicate, or at least give you the chance to exactly replicate the original releases. There are four stickers but, as far as I'm aware, the original limited editions of the other two singles from the album didn't have those stickers on them. That's not a criticism by the way; it's just my reflex Depeche Mode geek reaction kicking in unstoppably. Here are the stickers:



Clever stuff. 1990 of course gave us the band's first ever Extra Limited 12", XL12BONG18. As you know, it features one track only, Enjoy The Silence - The Quad: Final Mix and the record itself is a one sided affair with glorious DM etching on the b-side. It is recreated here and is quite magnificent:

XL12BONG18

The etched b-side is of course present, along with the majestic inner sleeve:

XL12BONG18

Just look at that. Sigh.

Policy Of Truth is next in all its shiny glory:

12BONG19

The orignial limited 12" came in a gatefold sleeve with a glorious all-black inner sleeve. Will the boxset recreate that?

L12BONG19

Of course it will.

L12BONG19

It is as stunning now as it was in 1990.

The fourth and final single from the album was of course World In My Eyes. Let's get the easy bit out of the way - the standard 12":

12BONG20

Iconic, majestic and many other over the top adjectives - this single is probably my favourite Depeche release in terms of artwork. As you will have read in my blog about the single I linked to earlier (if not, have a look at it will help with this bit), the limited edition 12" of this release was an absolute stunner. It was housed in a blue gel pack that needed to be cut open ("Violate here" - genius) to reveal the gorgeous, glossy wonder inside with an inner sleeve bejewelled in drool inducing World Violation tour pictures. Surely recreating that would be a bridge too far? Blue gel sleeves may have been possible in 1990 when the world was young, more innocent and contained a record industry mad enough to pull off a stunt like that, but this is 2020. We are all more cynical and we don't have time to spend cutting open blue gel sleeves when people need to be online moaning about wearing masks that actually stop people dying and so on. A replica of the 12" that the original release contained would surely be all we could expect here and that would be fine.

Well, at long last, 2020 has improved. There is a freshness in the air, an almost 1990-like feel in fact and that is because blue gel packs are very much back in fashion. Yes, the absolute masterminds involved in this project have once again come up trumps as the limited edition 12" recreation we find is is VERY much encased in a sealed blue sleeve:

L12BONG20

The sleeve is recreated perfectly. On the Alan and Andy side (above), their icons are present in the top left, and on the Martin and Dave side, theirs are there too. Crucially, the best part of the original sleeve is also right where it should be:

Violate There

Now, in 1990 I was young and stupid enough to horse right into this package, cutting it open for some arsewitted reason on the side rather than along the suggested violation line. I was also stupid enough not to buy a spare and have snared a couple on unopened versions later in life. If this blog has a role in the world, it is to show you parts of the Depeche Mode universe other blogs don't reach. I am not going to open this record up however as that would be madness. Sorry about that. I will presume that the inner sleeve matches the original release, so here is a fully violated L12BONG20 from 1990 to show you what is inside:

L12BONG20

For completeness' sake, here's another:

L12BONG20

Truth be told, I am slightly annoyed that I can't see just what is inside the re-issue, but I shall stay strong. To regain some pedantry points, I should point out that the re-issue blue gel sleeve is a thinner material than the original release which was also much firmer and a little roomier. The original also had a sticker on the back with the barcode, L12BONG20 and the Mute logo on it which this doesn't but that is far from being a criticism. Finally, the re-issue weighs 305g when sealed, heavier than the original sealed version's 280g. 

Yes I weighed the packages. Blame lockdown.

There have been nice added bonus 12" singles in the reissue series before, and once again we are spolied here with a reproduction of the promo single for World In My Eyes, P12BONG20:

P12BONG20

Many people simply and quite correctly don't have the time in their life to chase around after promos, so this will be a first for a lot of people I presume The record is housed in one of the much missed and much loved Mute promo 12" sleeves although this one is thicker than the sleeves originally were. That allows it to have a catalogue number on the spine and, as I am sure you can all guess, that is a very good thing indeed. Look how lovely it is:


This promo 12" reproduction was already advertised and is a welcome addition to the box. With that, the additional Personal Jesus artwork and the stickers, we are really being spolied this time.

Finally, as with the previous boxsets there is a poster. It is of course a work of art beyond compare:


There is a download card too:


And that is that. 

This whole series has been incredible and the Violator era boxset has actually surpassed the high expectations I had for it. The effort that has been put into this release from everyone involved is incredible and it really is something very special indeed. Ok, we may have these releases in multiple formats already, but when something as incredible as Violator exists in the world, it is worth celebrating it at every opportunity. This release does that and then some.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

WELL IT'S ABOUT TIME : DEPECHE MODE - LiVE SPiRiTS




I'm often accused of being unable to criticise Depeche Mode, seen as a cheerleader for the band unable to analyse their work objectively. Certainly my deep love of Depeche means that any new album is greeted with almost unbridled enthusiasm - my Spirit review is evidence of that alone - but when I do criticise the band, as I did when they released the pointless and amusingly expensive Mode boxset, I get criticised for offering a negative opinion. That's life I suppose, and if I'm silly enough to expect people to read things that I put up online about a band whose fanbase is, to put it mildly, dedicated then I am of course fair game. 

Depeche Mode split opinion in many areas, not least within their own fanbase. Everything they say, do or release is subject to levels of analysis that would make a United Nations debate seem under prepared. You know the battle grounds by now - Alan or no Alan, drums or no drums, obscure album tracks or greatest hits, anything new not being as good as anything old and so on and so on and so on until the internet runs out of space because someone in the Ukraine is telling someone in Montreal that the whole world changed for the worse when Alan left over two decades ago. It'll never end. 

Tours are one of the great uniting factors among Depeche Mode fans however. Everyone loves a Depeche Mode tour and the gigs are now huge communal meet-ups celebrating the best band there has ever been (note lack of objectivity - it was quite deliberate).Ok, not everyone loves the tours. People will always complain about setlist variation (very little of that since 1984 fact fans) or the new band set up, more of which in a bit, but, in the main, Depeche Mode fans love a Depeche Mode tour.



And Depeche Mode fans loved the Global Spirit Tour. The band played their biggest tour ever, taking in 130 mainly sold out dates. The enthusiasm for the tour was such that I managed to get all 130 gigs reviewed on this blog by fans who were at them and, in the main, the reviews were all positive. I went to nine gigs in total, from the Barrowlands to both nights in Berlin, and every one I went to was an incredible experience. Things like the new remixes of Everything Counts and Walking In My Shoes, "Heroes" at the London Stadium, Personal Jesus at the Barrowlands and three days in Berlin with friends old and new that I will never forget meant that the Global Spirit Tour was a remarkable event for me. I know many other people felt the same and so there was great interest in the live film that would inevitably follow the tour when cameras were noted at the Waldbuhne gigs.

Now, no live recording will replicate the feeling of being at the gig that was actually recorded; no-one would ever expect that. I was lucky to have been at the Waldbuhne and I genuinely thought that gig was one of the best Depeche shows I've been to as my review said. That night, Stripped sounded as good as it ever has done, a titanic track played against a backdrop of a glorious deep pink sky as the sun finally set over the stage. Never Let Me Down Again was louder than I had ever heard it and all the better for it and the whole set with the exception of the mood slowing Poison Heart and Where's The Revolution flew by, positively crackling with electricity from beginning to end. It was a special gig to be at and the crowd had an edge, infused with an unspoken agreement between us all that we would celebrate this glorious band in case, as is always rumoured, that this was going to be the last Depeche Mode show ever. The feeling that everyone present had that night could never be replicated but surely it could at least be hinted at on any release?. Surely LiVE SPiRiTS should show people just how good it was?



Sadly, it doesn't. This live album is flat. It's badly mixed, it seems too slow in places (play Stripped from this and then listen to the bootlegs - something has gone wrong somewhere) and, in places, it just sounds awful. It lays bare things you don't acknowledge on the tour such as a Depeche Mode gig being no place for a bass guitar or the sounds the band use on tracks like Everything Counts are weak cover band versions of the real thing, a real thing the band played for years with no need to alter it. There is far too much here that just doesn't fit - it's really strange.

Ultimately, it's just really disappointing. There are moments of absolute genius of course, such as The Things You Said (sigh...), Everything Counts' incredible intro (though PLEASE lose those bloody tom- tom fills - ARGH) and a quite glorious "Heroes," one of the night's emotional high points, but there are not enough of those moments. I usually try to shy away from the whole things-aren't-as-good-as-they-used-to-be thing, but it's no Devotional or 101. To be perfectly honest, the live tracks on the Limited edition 12" singles of Get The Balance Right, Everything Counts and Love In Itself have more life to them overall. 

The live album, a few tracks aside, isn't one I'll return to much if at all. The DVD is great to have because it takes me back to that glorious night in Berlin and there are moments on it that brought me out of my seat like I was celebrating yet another glorious Mo Salah goal (Liverpool have just won the league - let me have this) but it doesn't get across the energy the whole arena positively fizzed with that night. I've seen people take issue with a number of the performance aspects on the DVD but I'm not that interested in analysing Dave's dancing, Martin's bouncing/dancing thing or Peter's petering. I'm interested in the music and sadly, this release doesn't hit the heights I need it to.

As I've mentioned above, I would never expect that this release would allow me to feel what I felt at the gig - even for a Depeche Mode fan that would be a demand too far. What I expected though was something that at least sounded like I know the band sounded that night at what a special gig. What we've got instead is a decent enough show that sounds like it was played at a decent enough venue during a decent enough tour. Nearly two years on from the Waldbuhne, it doesn't serve as a memento of a great tour; it serves as nothing more than a reminder a tour happened.

And, believe me, as a band cheerleader, I hate saying that.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

COMPOSITION OF MODE - A 40TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL





When you think of iconic venues Depeche Mode have played, there are a few names that spring to mind immediately. Dodgers Stadium, London Stadium, Waldbuhne and, of course, the Rose Bowl all stand out, each one a venue that Depeche Mode fans can spend hours talking about, no doubt debating whether the set at the particular venue was better because of Alan/no Alan or drums/no drums or Martin's solo set and so on. We've been there many times before and we don't need to go there again just now.

One venue that is rarely thought of as an iconic Depeche Mode landmark is Nicholas Comprehensive School in Basildon. Arguably, it is one of, if not the most important live venue in the band's history, because 40 years ago today, Dave Gahan first appeared live with Martin Gore, Andy Fletcher and Vince Clarke, performing lead vocals with Composition Of Sound, the band renamed as Depeche Mode in September 1980. 

Nicolas School, Basildon, picture couresty of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

Nicholas Comprehensive School is now called the James Hornsby School following a merger in 1998. Martin and Andy attended the school, as did Alison Moyet. There can surely be very few schools that can boast as many global record sales as Nicholas Comprehensive and it's hard to think of any establishment outside Kling Klang Studios that has had more of an impact on electronic music. The school is proud of its connection to Depeche Mode and has erected a plaque beside its stage to commemorate the June 1980 gig:



We can forgive the error about the name of the band who played the gig. Prior to the 14th of June show, Composition Of Sound had been a three piece consisting of Vince playing guitar or keyboards, Martin on keyboards, Fletch on bass guitar and a drum machine. Having famously noticed Dave covering "Heroes" in April 1980, Vince recruited him for the band, though the three piece version of Composition Of Sound did play a handful of gigs before Dave's debut, mainly in people's living rooms or at parties. Their final gig as a three piece was at Woodlands Youth Club. After that, Dave joined and took the job that he still has forty years later.

 Dave, May 1980 - Picture (c) Deb Danahay

Dave's debut gig was arranged by a Steve Burton, a friend of Andy's. Steve told Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group:

"I was on the committee of the Nicholas Old Pupils Association who were looking to arrange an event to promote the organisation. I said that some friends of mine had recently formed a band and were looking for opportunities to perform live. I assured the committee that the band were good and that people would come along to support a gig. So it was agreed to clear the large locker room out in Nicholas School to make a stage and set big enough for Composition of Sound."

Steve spoke about the gig in Simon Spence's excellent book Just Can't Get Enough too, saying:

"It was a ticket-only do and a load of the local yobbos who couldn't get in got a load of stones and went around smashing a load of school windows."

As anyone who has seen Depeche Mode anywhere will attest, that doesn't sound a million miles away from the atmosphere at the band's gigs now among the...erm...more devoted elements of the band's fanbase.

Picture (c) Deb Danahay

It seems the gig took place on the school's stage rather than in a cleared-out room. Deb Danahay kindly provided me the picture above which shows Nicholas Comprehensive School's stage which, as you can see, has the plaque I mentioned above to its right-hand side. Deb used to run an event that involved a walking tour of early Depeche Mode hotspots and the stage in the picture was included in that. 

Martin was a busy man on 14th June as he also played in French Look who were the other band on the bill as you can see on the event poster at the top of this blog. The poster was designed by Vince's brother Rodney. I very much like the reel to reel tape player that it features, an at that point unknown nod to how that machine would feature in Depeche Mode's live sets in the next couple of years. The fact Martin played in both bands caused some tension between Robert Marlow and Vince as both wanted Martin to be in their band and thought he shouldn't be in the other one. Luckily Vince was the more persuasive of the two as, without that, I very much doubt this blog would exist. It may be the case that in some parallel universe French Look have just played two nights at the Waldbuhne to end an 18 month long world tour however. We'll never know.

After Martin changed from his French Look wear into his Composition Of Sound gear, the new four piece took to the stage and Depeche Mode were born. Sadly no recordings of this gig exist and no-one is certain what the setlist was. In his interview with the Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group, Steve Burton suggests that the set could have been along these lines:

Ice Machine
Virginia Plain (Roxy Music cover)
Mirror Is Standing
Television Set
Photographic
Then He Kissed Me (The Crystals cover) (NB - it's likely that instead of Then He Kissed Me, the song played at the 14th of June gig was Then I Kissed Her which would be a cover of the Beach Boys' reworded cover of The Crystals song ) 
Big Muff
Sunday Morning

Of the original songs performed by the band, there are no known recordings of Mirror Is Standing and Sunday Morning in circulation. Both were early Vince compositions and according to band associate Daryl Bamonte in Bong, the much missed Depeche Mode fanclub magazine, "no-one remembers" Mirror Is Standing and Sunday Morning was "performed maybe just two or three times and was performed in the style of a hymn-like chant." In Bong 24, the issue I've taken the quotes from, you can see early setlists, one of which is not too far from the setlist Steve has mentioned. Swap Virginia Plain for Price Of Love, a song that Composition Of Sound played around that time, and the handwritten list to the bottom right of the picture below may be the one from the 14th of June 1980. It's a longshot or course but you never know.

Bong24, page 18


As the "hymn-like chant" of Sunday Morning ended (is anyone else thinking of the "oh -ee -oh" of Pimpf when they read that? No. Just me then), it's unlikely that anyone present at Nicholas Comprehensive School thought they had just witnessed the first steps of a band who would go on to be one of the world's biggest, most influential bands. It seems a long way from a cover of a cover of a Crystals song on a school stage to Just Can't Get Enough going Top Ten. From there it seems an even longer way to Everything Counts, Black Celebration, 101, Violator and so on. 

The remarkable thing is that three quarters of the band who played the last gig of the Global Spirit Tour at the Waldbuhne on July 25th 2018 are the same people who played together with Vince Clarke for the first time ever forty years ago today. What a journey they've been on and what a journey they've taken us all on. 

So much that I love and so much that you love exists because of this concert and that is why Nicholas Comprehensive School, Basildon deserves to be mentioned alongside the Rose Bowl, Dodgers, London Stadium and Waldbuhne. After all, without it it's likely that those four names would mean nothing to us at all. 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thanks very much to Deb Danahay, Debbie Rawhouser, Tracey Dunne, Simon Spence and Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group.





Tuesday, 31 March 2020

AS YEARS GO BY, ALL THE FEELINGS INSIDE - VIOLATOR'S LEGACY


As I declared at the start of this month, Violator is my favourite Depeche Mode album and is in fact my favourite album of all time. The same applies for many Depeche Mode fans and for us, ther is no real question of what Violator's legacy is; it's been with us for thirty years and will continue to remain with us for many more.

For the band, the album changed everything. People started to talk about their influence on house music and their peers acknowledged that Violator was Depeche Mode's finest work. The music press finally took note of their huge worldwide success and belatedly, and occasionally grudgingly, noted that this was well deserved. Violator made Depeche Mode a genuine stadium band and that was all on their own terms. They didn't compromise in any way when making the album by altering their sound to make it more mainstream or stadium friendly; instead they challenged their fans by adding guitars, bringing in a new producer and adding layers to their sound to make it darker and more intense. While the album had two genuine hit singles worldwide, this was an album of a breadth and scope unlike any previous Depeche album.

Of all the things that Violator should be praised for, achieving the career defining success the band did with this album entirely on their own terms deserves the most praise. It is a remarkable achievement. With The Cure having finished The Prayer tour, R.E.M. in transition from Green's arena filling to Out Of Time's stay at home acoustic vibe and U2 still working on Achtung Baby, for most of 1990 Depeche Mode were arguably the biggest live draw in the world. That is a remarkable thing. 

The album is now spoken of in near universally reverential terms by the media and is regularly cited as Depeche Mode's best and most influential album. It's place in musical history is secure.

The band's success meant that their next album Songs Of Faith And Devotion was very much "a big thing."  The whole world was waiting for a new Depeche Mode album and the band came back in style as we all know. Their were of course other issues involved in that album's recording and touring but they're not something we need to look at now, if ever. 

Violator's succcess was the catalyst for many things - Songs Of Faith And Devotion, Alan's departure, Ultra and no tour and so on. In terms of sales, the band have not come close to matching Violator but, as the huge success of 2017/18's Global Spirit Tour shows, the band have not lost their ability to attract huge crowds wherever they go. I don't think it's much of a leap to say that, without Violator, that type of tour at this stage in their career would not have been possible. 

Ultimately, Depeche Mode's enduring appeal and success is Violator's legacy. It is a legacy that truly deserve.


Writing a month long blog is an odd experience, especially when I consider that I'm testing people's patience by popping up each day and asking them to read something new that concerns something they love and have their own opinions about. Doing that against the background of a worldwide pandemic however quickly makes you realise how irrelevant this is when compared to the very real problems millions of people are facing worldwide.

Thank you all very much then for reading everything this month. It's always very humbling to find out that one person reads anything I do, never mind the large number of people who have got in touch over the last four weeks. If nothing else, I hope it's brought a smile or two to your face during whatever period of lockdown your Government has you under. 

Thank you very much too to the guest bloggers this month - Kevin May, Michael Rose, Glen Hammarstrom, Dicken Schrader, Amanda Stock, Panos Sialakas, Matthew Wolfe, Sean Salo, Niggels Uhlenbruch and Shaun Coward a.k.a @PollicyOfTruth. I couldn't have completed a month's worth of posts without your input.

Finally....


As I might have mentioned, Kevin May and I have a book coming out - it's called Halo and it's all about Violator.  We are still aiming for a late May release but recent global events have meant that Kevin's life has been taken over by work issues, so we may be a week or two late. After a month of Violator related posts on here, you may well welcome the delay.

To conclude the month, we thought it would be interesting to let the people we've interviewed give their thoughts on Violator and its legacy. Here are some quotes to give you a taste of what is to come and who’s involved, plus the names of fans who have contributed (some of whom you will have already seen snippets during this month).

For news about Halo, and for more of the usual Depeche Mode nonsense, keep an eye on the blog and also the book’s official website 

Halo Interviewees:

Francois Kevorkian, Violator mixer
When I saw them in concert, when Martin did a song by himself, which was just an acoustic guitar and singing, it was just like: "Well, I never got to see John Lennon but I got to see you. And that's good enough for me." 

Richard Smith, designer at Area
He [Anton] showed me the rose and explained his thought process behind it - about a delicate sort of object, violated, so it was a very subtle and simple nod to the title of the album. It’s painted red and it then has this kind of subtle reference to some sort of violation in a more gothic way, I suppose. The rest of the package was just me trying to sort of put my mark on my first album cover and exploring ways of treating the typography and the lyrics and using the photography. 

Andy Franks, tour manager for the World Violation Tour
There was a place – in Japan, I think – where smoke machines were banned. We weren’t sure what was going to happen but then, suddenly, we saw 200 guys outside with black bin liners that they were filling up with smoke for each machine. Then they were shaking the bags to let the smoke out into the stage - it was absolutely brilliant! 

Steve Lyon, Violator engineer in London
The tracks, before Francois mixed them - and he mixed them very well in the end - were slightly more robust and rocky. I remember the three of us - me at the helm, and then Flood and Alan telling me what to do on the desk; we did some rough mixes of the album. They were definitely rockier than the final version of Violator

Paul Kendall, owner Worldwide International and engineer on Enjoy The Silence (The Quad:Final Mix) 
I performed a few percussive in/out breath chugs (on my harmonica). To my absolute joy, my chug is immortalised in Personal Jesus, coming in around one minute in. It (Violator) is/was a great album and Flood succeeded in creating a new Depeche sound, aided and abetted by Alan and Daniel. 

Richard Bell, video producer and World Violation Tour stage film producer
Super 8 isn’t a slick format. It’s got a huge grain and is a non-professional format. It was designed for home use. So, they are not slick videos, generally. If you had shot Enjoy the Silence on a 35mm film, it would be completely different. And, I think that’s reflected in the music. The sound is right with Depeche. 

Pino Pischetola, Violator engineer in Milan
I remember one occasion, he [Fletch] came back from England and he had over 1,000 postcards to sign - so every bit of time off they had, it was signing postcards...forever! But it was a sign that they still wanted a great relationship with their fans. 

David Browne, engineer on Enjoy The Silence
One thing I would say about Flood is that he was very down to earth. I remember, bringing him into the control room, started to explain the desk to him, and he just stopped me half way and said: ‘Dave, it doesn’t matter. A desk is a desk.’” 

Bruce Kirkland, owner of Second Vision publicity agency
You know, not to be sort of blasé about it, but as a marketing person this [Wherehouse Records incident] was sort of what you look for you - a national event and, eventually, an international event. 

Billie Rae Martin, singer for Electribe 101
The album is what turned DM into a religion, which to this day they still are in Germany. Great songwriting and seminal production from Flood. It's sort of the ultimate DM album. 

Nils Tuxen, Danish steel guitar player and first outside musician on a Depeche Mode album
Depeche Mode is the biggest name I've worked for as a studio musician. I was free to play anything I wanted. It was only years later when my daughter found out that I was used on Clean that I became aware that Alan had used samples of my steel guitar.

Robert Baldi, Violator engineer in Milan
We saw a lot of movement, people getting the studio ready, so I assumed that it was probably a big band – someone famous. He didn’t tell us the name but I was a big fan of them, so it was shocking. When I saw Martin, I just thought: "Fuck my life - they're really here.” 


Gareth Jones, producer on Construction Time Again, Some Great Reward and Black Celebration 
There’s something about the architecture of the [Violator] album. The way the instrumentation supports the vocals, the songwriting, the power of the album. The sound of the album is very modern and contemporary and glossy, which is obviously the band, the producer, the engineers, the mixers, the whole thing - everything just kind clicked. 

Mistie Fowlks, daughter of the owners of Strange Too drive-in theatre, Salt Lake City
My brother and I snuck into one of the RVs and took some empty Corona bottles and a piece of chewed gum. We kept the bottles but my brother sold the gum to a girl at school that next school year and she put the gum in her mouth, chewed and said it was just like kissing Dave Gahan. 

Neil Ferris, promoter
Daniel always chose the singles. Funnily enough, he would play me the record, then say "take it home and play it to Gill", my wife, who was also in the record industry. And we'd go through a little scenario: that would happen on every record, where Daniel would ring and say: "Well, what do you think? No actually, what does Gill think?" Personal Jesus I knew was going to be a huge record but we also knew I was going to have problems with it on radio because of the content. 

Phil Legg, engineer on Enjoy The Silence
When I heard it on the screen with the video, I remember thinking “Wow!” All those things you try and do; I think in this digital world, we can do thinks much quicker but in those days you worked hard to get something to have some sort of flavor or appeal. We did that with Enjoy The Silence.

Angela Sheldon, actress in the video for Clean
I was a huge fan of Martin Gore and more than happy to make out with him. I was actually dating an extremely jealous guy who flipped out when I told him, so I broke up with him to do the video 

Pam Heffler, actress in the video for Halo
I am actually surprised by the video. I didn't know it was going to be so unusual - unusual in a great way! 

Contributors:
Caroline Rose, France
Chris Snodden, Northern Ireland
Emily von Spears, USA
Genevieve Munroe, USA
Niggels Uhlenbruch, Germany
Panos Sialakas, Greece
Ranjit Chal, England
Rob Rohm, USA
Michael Rose, England
Sean Salo, USA
Stephane Devillers, France


Monday, 30 March 2020

TOO LATE TO CHANGE EVENTS - A @POLLICYOFTRUTH POLLS SPECIAL


When politicians sense trouble or when they prepare for re-election, they are quick to take to the polls. They want to test the public mood and make sure that they adapt their approach to match the demands of a public hungry for progress. Similarly, depending on where you live, every 5 years or so (or every year in the UK since the fixed term Parliament act came in...), you get the chance to vote. You get your say. Democracy is important, never moreso than in these bizarre locked down times, so to ensure that Depeche Mode's Twitter masses got the right to exercise their vote, I engaged top notch polling company Mori to run a series of investigative polls that would allow me to drill deep into the heart of the Depeche Mode fanbase.

They were unavailable however as the numerous emails and subsequent threatening legal letters I received indicated. Cambridge Analytica told me they were too busy fixing the results of the 2020 American election to help, so I turned to the darkest of all polling sources. A source so intrusive that data mining is something he does for fun only, this was the only man who could help me.



Not much is known about Twitter's @PollicyOfTruth. Some say that it is Alan Wilder himself, others that it is a high ranking Sony executive. Some even say that he's a guy from England with poor taste in football teams and a wish that music still sounded like it did in the late 80's to mid 90's. Whoever he is, he asked the questions that needed to be asked, you answered them and here are the results. THIS is what you think of Depeche Mode's Violator era.

POLL 1:


An unsurprising but correct result there.

POLL 2:




A significant win for Pump Mix there, trouncing all other remixes. 

POLL 3:


Interesting, The Quad: Final Mix did get a lot of support after this poll was issued. Whether that was enough to see off the runanway victor Hands & Feet Mix is something we will never know. Unless you want to find that tweet and count the votes of course.

POLL 4:


A tough choice as the poll suggests. Policy Of Truth was an all-round well remixed track. Capitol Mix ended up a runaway winner, however,  I would have thought that it would have been much closer between it and Beat Box but what do I know? After spending this month looking for Violator era pictures and reviews that no-one has ever seen before, I barely know my own name.

POLL 5:



A stunning win for Oil Tank Mix there, taking nearly half of the votes. Quite right too.

POLL 6:



An interesting poll here. Somewhere, some lucky person has the original Violator demos and they will have heard Martin sing each of its 9 songs. All we have are the demos of Clean and Sweetest Perfection from the Sounds Of The Universe deluxe box set (check under your bed - you have it) and, of course, the Harmonium version of Enjoy The Silence. That mix no doubt coloured a few votes, but Enjoy The Silence winning seems like the right result to me. It's hard to imagine Martin singing the others with the booming authority Dave does. 

So there we are. YOU have spoken. If you didn't take the chance to vote, then you have failed in your duty as a Depeche Mode fan. These results will stand for all time and there is nothing I or @PollicyOfTruth can do.

To ensure you excerise your democratic right in future, head to Twitter now and follow @PollicyOfTruth. Only you can determine how future Depeche Mode polls will finish. Meanwhile, I need to go and leave a bag of money and six cans of premium strength lager behind a caravan somewhere at a location I cannot disclose for security reasons. I have paid my price. If only Cambridge Analytica had been free.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

WORLD VIOLATION LIVE REVIEWS


There is universal agreement among Depeche Mode fans about the World Violation tour. Those who saw it will say that it was unforgettable and a must see Depeche gig; those who didn't see it will say that they wish they had done so. What did the press think of it though? And how many times did the British music press mention Just Can't Get Enough? Read on.

Picture courtesy of Michael Rose

The NME's reporter liked the Wembley Arena show but not Violator itself. He called the gig "(S)lick as hell, honed to perfection playing baseball stadiums that dwarf Wembley Arena," going on to note that "Here was total production, a show, as opposed to four sweaty oiks playing synthesizers." He then complimented the films that played behind the band and called Dave "(A)s close to a seasoned superstar as a Basildon boy gets."  Unfortunately, he then goes on to say that the actual music "(P)assed by virtually unnoticed," before adding that Personal Jesus was in his view "a mediocre single in anyone's book."  He liked the lights and films basically. 

Picture courtesy of Michael Rose

The London Evening Standard's review of the same gig was much more positive. It said:

"Their concert at Wembley Arena was much more akin to an evangelical meeting, such was the devotion of the saluting crowd."

I think we all know what that feels like. The reviewer, Spencer Bright, loved the show, concluding:

"(Dave's) bass voice monotonously whipped up the frenzy from oldies like Everything Counts through to the current first-rate Violator album, climaxing at the end of the main set with a mesmerising Your Personal Jesus (sic)...Unlike all their peers in that distant New Romantic movement of the early Eighties, Depeche Mode astonishingly seem as if they are yet to peak."

Song title error aside, a decent review.



Pictures courtesy of Michael Rose


Melody Maker's review of the Wembley show was again mainly positive. Paul Lester said:

"Here is a band who have stayed the course, survived the swerves and lane-changes of musical fashion, and basically kept, if not ahead of the times, at least in step with them like no other band of their era...Depeche take their mile-high stack of jukebox standards, polish them up, warp them in glistening Acid-metallic armature, slip a gleaming steel post-House chassis underneath when no-one's looking and turn them into monuments to new Sonic architecture."

A good review in other words but all very Melody Maker-y at the same time. 

The Guardian seemed to enjoy the show, saying "The final section of the show was akin to a celebration, if Clean or the lugubrious Never Let Me Down Again could be thus described. Personal Jesus certainly could, as Gore thrashed at his guitar to bring the Mode as close as they have come to Status Quo; busty cowgirls adorned the back-projection as the Mode swaggered moodily by in cowboy hats."

Picture courtesy of Paul Jeffrey

To try and work out why Depeche Mode were so big, Select Magazine headed to Germany to take in a gig or two. The reporter noticed that all 17,000 fans in Dortmund's Westfalenhalle were "feverish" with "Depeche Mode's spartan bedroom electronics and bass imperatives (stretching) out to fill the place, subdue it and make it theirs."  He goes to add "These days, they're totems of teenage sexual neurosis in Ray-Bans, corrupters of international youth, and the only people to sell the vaunted sonic metal disco sound of the mid-80's and still retain their credibility." 


All pictures courtesy of Paul Jeffrey

I've included all four pages of the Select article as it's an interesting read all round, showing the UK press getting to grips with Depeche Mode being something very big indeed. It ends on a note I think we can all agree on:

"But, believe it or not, World Violation is, first and foremost, a rock 'n' roll show on a panoramic scale. Perhaps it's just the volume, or the shock of finding such solitary in a context of size and excess, but in 1990, Depeche Mode win by simple power. It's not simply stunning - at times it's frightening.

Personal Jesus is a case in point. On record it snarls and spits, the perfect antithesis to the redundant pretty-boy image of Depeche Mode that still lingers in British minds.

Onstage the song becomes monstrous. For 17,000 German kids, David Gahan becomes their personal Jesus."

Sounds about right to me.