Friday, 14 October 2011

DEPECHE MODE - LEAD ME INTO YOUR DARKNESS - SONGS OF FAITH AND DEVOTION AND 1993

In these days of over hyped, ITunes exlcusive remixes, pre-order everything twelve months before the band have recorded it rubbish, it is funny to think that I first learned that Depeche were about to release a new album by reading a couple of paragraphs in Melody Maker which said that Songs of Faith and Devotion (SOFAD - I'm not writing the full name every time) was coming out in March, preceded by a single called I Feel You and was to be supported by a 180 date 18 month world tour. This was exciting news although not everyone in my halls at Aberdeen University thought that. In fact no-one else seemed mildy bothered. Pah. Clowns. What did they know? SOFAD was about to change everyone's perception of Depeche Mode, even the people whose breakfast I interrupted with my relentless quoting from Melody Maker. 

The first single from the album was I Feel You, which really was something rather different. It was released on 15 February 1993, once again skilfully avoiding the UK number one spot by stopping at number 8. I Feel You was exclusively premiered on Simon Mayo's Radio 1 breakfast show in the January. I taped the song (ask your parents kids) and played it relentlessly for days. What the bloody hell was this? Screeching tyres, a prominent rock sounding guitar, drums? "This is the morning of Allah?" Wow - Depeche Mode had changed. Regardless of all that though, I loved it. This was my first new Depeche music as a fully signed up fan (or Devotee as we would shortly become) and it was thrilling. The video for the song confused matters further. Beard! Alan on drums! Martin's hunchback in grey tracksuit trousers walking through a desert impression! Christ Dave - keep that waistcoat on man! Bloody hell - that's the girl from Brush Strokes! Beard! The only "normal" thing about it was the fact that Fletch's keyboard wasn't plugged in. It was a fantastic video with its' "Is that REALLY Depeche Mode" imagery fitting the "Hang on is THAT Depeche Mode" feel of the song. Stunning.

The single itself was available on the usual plethora of formats with the usual number of remixes. I hadn't seen the album tracklisting when I bought the single so One Caress appeared to be a brand new b-side. I still don't think album tracks should go on b-sides as it's a bit of a cheat, even if they are as beautiful as One Caress, more of which later. The 7" (BONG21) and cassette single (CBONG21 - right) featured two tracks - I Feel You and One Caress. The 12" and Cd singles (12BONG21 and CDBONG21) contained One Caress and three mixes of I Feel You - Throb Mix, 7 Inch mix and Babylon Mix. The artwork for the 7", 12 and cd was the same and can be seen on the left. The mixes are all pretty good, although I can't tell the difference between the version on the 7"and the 7" version. The Throb Mix is a good almost extended version style mix. The Babylon Mix (not the last time biblical imagery would be used in the next few months) is really cool with lots of interesting beeps and bleeps. Further remixes were made available on the limited edition formats - L12BONG21 and LCDBONG21 (artwork right). The tracklisting on each was the same with four mixes of I Feel You - Life's Too Short Mix and Swamp Mix both by Brian Eno, Renegade Soundwave Afghan Surgery Mix and Helmet At The Helm Mix. The Eno mixes are typically Eno-ish and are rather marvellous bubbling along in ambient fashion with Dave and Martin's voices occasionally popping up to remind us that it's a Depeche track. The Renegade Soundwave mix is decent enough but my favourite here is the Helmet At The Helm Mix. It's really cool and I still play it a lot. Finally, the artwork on all formats was nice. The cover pictures were outlines of the big metal puppet type things that hung behind the Devotional stage. Each picture features the birthday of the member it represents. The pictures of the band on the various formats show them in Hamburg's seedy Reeperbahn all gloomy and tattooed.



I Feel You UK 12" Promo 



The next release wasn't a new single but was instead a new album. A UK NUMBER 1 ALBUM! AND A U.S. NUMBER 1 ALBUM! Crikey. That album was of course Songs of Faith and Devotion which was released on 22 March 1993 on LP (STUMM108), CD (CDSTUMM108), cassette (CSTUMM108), MiniDisc (MDSTUMM108) and even Digital Cassette (No I've no idea either - DCCSTUMM108). All formats had the same brilliant if slightly spooky artwork - it's over there on the left. This was the first album since Singles 81-85 to feature the lads' faces. Mercifully there are no nipples on display here. Note too that the shapes from I Feel You appear here revealing who was what blob on the single covers. This is such an important Depeche Mode album. They were arguably the biggest band on the planet at this point. Only U2's ongoing ZooTV/Zooropa tour matched the Devotional/Exotic/USA94 tours in size and scope at the time. I think it's also fair to say that Depeche Mode's fanbase was at its biggest and most (pardon the pun) devoted at the time. This was before the era of arranging meet ups through Home or online presales remember, yet Depeche were filling the hugest venues possible all over the world. Many fans still look back on the shows of that era as landmarks.

Some people, specfically me, regret only going to one show on the tour (Crystal Palace and it was my first Depeche show). This is an album epic in scale. Whereas Violator had been clean, crisp, electronic and almost robotic, SOFAD was looser, used rock dynamics more than ever and looked not to Europe as all previous DM albums had done, but to America but not in a Joshua Tree/Rattle & Hum way, thank God. There were many issues which beset the band when recording the album, all of which are well known to everyone and really don't merit any exploration here. If it's ok with you, I don't see the need to go over the old drink and drugs ground even though it still crops up every time the band are interviewed. It happened, they came through it and in the midst of it all they gave us SOFAD. That's the story I want to focus on.

So to the album. There were ten tracks in all kicking off with I Feel You. Next up we had the, pardon my language, fucking epic Walking In My Shoes. When I first listened to SOFAD, it took me a while to even get beyond this track. Martin's lyrics are exceptional here and as for the music.....almost indescribable. The first time I heard the Martin's guitar line that kicks in at 3 minutes, 4 seconds,  I am not ashamed to say that I had tears in my eyes. It's musical perfection - Alan goes epic with the strings, Martin plays his bit and the world stops moving just so that you can listen to it. I've got shivers even thinking about it now. If anyone ever criticises Depeche Mode, play them Walking In My Shoes and watch as they change their mind. That was good and then Track 3 Condemnation kicked in. I am instantly taken back to the first time I heard this album. I was sitting on the floor of my parents living room in Castle Douglas, beside the cd player trying to absorb every single nanonsecond of the music. Suddenly, the piano/gospel sound kicks in. Wow. Then the lyrics! And Dave's singing! Again, I sound over the top no doubt but it was stunning. I recall that I wrote a letter (it was the early 90's - that's how we rolled) to my then girlfriend, now wife writing out part of the words to Condemnation and telling her, no doubt to her utter disinterest, that these were the greatest words ever written. What a start to an album!

Next up is Mercy in You. It's a great song but I tend to overlook it, mainly because it's sandwiched between two of my favourite tracks. It's cool though and it really worked live I thought. Track 5 is Judas, one of two Martin sung tracks on the album. As with much of the early 90's DM, there was religious imagery all over the shop and Judas is no exception to that. The song though is beautiful and the music is again sensational. It kicks of with some Uilleann pipes and then goes all Alan with much success. The "If you want my love" ending is great too. The track concludes with an instrumental passage with strings and much more magic bringing it to an end. Tricky's Starving Souls project covered Judas some years ago on the I Be The Prophet ep, renaming the track If You Want My Love. It's well worth seeking out. Track 6 is In Your Room. Obviously, Alan felt the first half of the album wasn't epic enough so he threw the kitchen sink, kitchen and whole house into this one. It's the classic Alan Wilder Depeche track for me. It starts slow the builds, builds and builds towards a stunning ending. I love it. The live version was amazing too and makes you wonder why the Zephyr Mix (see below) version was used so much in later tours. Track 7 is probably the least popular on the album, Get Right With Me. It's another Dave as preacher man with gospel singing song. I've got a lot of time for it however, I think that, like Mercy In You, it suffers not because of its quality but because it is in such esteemed company. Interlude Number 4 then pops up (a bit of the Swamp Mix of I Feel You) before Rush smacks us about the face.

Rush - rare UK promo 12" PL12BONG23R

At the time, Industrial music was increasing in popularity (NIN, Ministry etc - at least that's what they called industrial music then) as was dance music. There were rumours that Depeche were going to go either industrial or dance on SOFAD, neither of which they really did. Some say Rush is a hybrid of the two but I don't. It's just an electronic band doing electronic music albeit louder than they had ever done so before. Rush is a great great song, musically and lyrically. As you can see above, a promo 12" for Rush was released to tie in with the Condemnation single release. I guess it is because Rush was eminently more remixable than Condemnation. Track 9 is the aforementioned One Caress, Martin's second lead vocal on the album. It's just Martin and an orchestra and it is a stunner. As with the whole album, the lyrics are wonderful as is the music. This was again new territory for the band as outsiders had never got a look in before. It proved that the two could combine effortlessly. One Caress was released as a single in the U.S. There's a dark, gothic, rather odd and full of cockroaches video that accompanies it. We end our journey on track 10, Higher Love. Alan empties out what remains of his epic box and throws it in here ending the album on a lost Depeche classic. If for some reason you haven't heard this album, change that now.


My SOFAD stuff

The second single from the album was Walking In My Shoes which was remixed for its r
elease on 26 April 1993. The song only got to number 14 in the UK which is frankly a crime. The video is part terrifying/part baffling really. There are loads of chicken headed folk ice skating, small people, tall people, fat people, thin people, 4 naked ladies sitting in top of the band, Dave wiggling around and much more. It's bizarre but good. There were only (!) five formats available here. Firstly we had CBONG22 (right) featuring the 7 inch remix of Walking In My Shoes and a new b-side called My Joy. The remix of the main track is ok, but lacks the splendour of the album version. My Joy is a great song. It was recorded at the same time as the album, and many think it should have been on there. It really is ace and you must try and find it if you don't have it. The standard 12" and cd (12BONG22 and CDBONG22 - left) featured 4 tracks and had really shiny covers. The tracks are Walking In My Shoes (7 inch mix), Walking In My Shoes (Grungy Gonads mix - seriously. I mean who thought that up? Jesus), My Joy (7 inch mix) and My Joy (Slow Slide Mix). The 7 inch mixes are oddly named given the lack of a U.K. release 7" here.

Walking In My Shoes German 7" single


The (sigh again) Grungy Gonads mix is, despite its woeful name, bloody good and parts of it were used live then and still are now. The best thing here though is the Slow Slide mix of My Joy which improves what was already an excellent track. Limited editions were of course released too on 12" (L12BONG22) and cd (LCDBONG22) both of which shared the artwork on the right. I also have a t-shirt with that cover on. I wore it in rotation with my other Depeche tshirts at the time which included the dreadful long sleeved grey one with the band on the front. In fact I wore them so much that I was known as "Depeche Dave" which in the era when liking Depeche still meant that you only liked leather dresses and Just Cant Get Enough was fairly trying. Anyway - 4 tracks on each here, all remixes of WIMS. They are: Extended Twelve Inch mix (great), Random Carpet Mix (ok), Anandamidic Mix (great too) and Ambient Whale Mix (ok in a sound of 1993 way). Not a classic L12/lcd but not a dreadful one either.



Walking In My Shoes UK 12" promo



The band's next single was a stone cold HIT! reaching number 8 in the UK. Condemnation (Paris Mix) was a remixed version of the drooled about above album track, so called because Alan remixed i
in Paris. Clever stuff.  No U.K. 7" single again so instead we had a cassette single (CBONG23 - left) with two tracks -  the Paris Mix of Condemnation and Death's Door (Jazz Mix). The Paris mix is good, but as with WIMS' remix, it doesn't match the original album track. The mix adds the backing singers from the tour and a few other sounds. Death's Door was originally recorded pre SOFAD for the soundtrack to Wim Wenders' film Until The End Of The World. It's a Martin sung song, ruminating on death for a change. The Jazz Mix was at that point only available on a BONG fan 
club flexi disc or on bootlegs. I like it, although it is a tad long, especially when we hit the jazz section.





The standard 12" and cd (12BONG23 and CDBONG23 - above right) had the same artwork but slightly different tracklistings. The artwork is a shot from the screens that were used during the song's live performances. The tracks each release have in common are the two from the cassette single and two remixes of Rush - Spiritual
Guidance Mix and Amylnitrate Mix (Instrumental). The 12" adds the Wild Planet Mix (Vocal) of Rush. The three remixes are all good for different reasons with my favourite being the Spiritual Guidance version. That's not to detract from the others however, as they're fine too. The limited edition releases here were a little different from usual as they came in the guise of a live e.p. The band were already knee deep in the Devotional tour at this point, so I guess the plan was to release a live e.p. to show how good they'd become on stage. The tracks and artwork for LCDBONG23 and L12BONG23 were again identcal (left) and featured live versions of Condemnation, Personal Jesus, Enjoy The Silence Halo. It's not the bravest tracklisting but it's good and again, in the non internet era, it was great. There were two videos too. The Paris Mix video, filmed in Hungary, is seen above. A live video also appeared and that version later appeared on Devotional.




Condemnation UK 12" promo




Bitten by the live bug the band released the puzzling Songs Of Faith and Devotion 

Live on 6 December 1993 on LP (LSTUMM106), CD (LCDSTUMM106) and Cassette (LCSTUMM106), all of which have the same artwork (right),  being a shot from the film used during Never Let Me Down Again on the tour. As you'd guess, the album is a live version of SOFAD culled from the Devotional tour. It's not exactly a must have, but the live versions are all good, with only One Caress and Get Right With Me falling a bit flat. The live versions of Walking In My Shoes and In Your Room are must hears. The Devotional video (later dvd) was released around this time too which you simply HAVE to get. Adhering to my own rules, I'm not going into the dvd too much here. It's a version of live Devotional show (made up from 3 or 4 concerts) and it really is worth seeing. It has Fly On The Windscreen for goodness's sake!



Depeche began 1994 flying all over the world for the Exotic Tour, and later the USA 94 tour, which wrapped up the mammoth SOFAD promotional trip. Do try and get the bootlegs from the Hawaii, San Francisco and Santiago shows on these legs as they are soundboard recordings, and the setlists are fantastic, the "grunge" version of A Question of Time aside. The Santiago one features a clearly out of his mind Dave uttering the immortal "Well...is it me or is it a little Chile in here? Hahahahahaha". Quite Dave, quite.

The only official release of 1994 was a remixed version of In Your Room which yet again went top ten in the UK,  reaching number 8 on release on 10 January 1994.

The video seems to be Anton's fairwell to Depeche Mode as he clearly thought they were on the way out. It revisits other DM videos and shows the band individually chained to chair not so much as in a room but more in a prison. The cassette single CBONG24 (right) has two tracks. Firstly, the Butch Vig remix of In Your Room known as the Zephyr Mix. It's a vastly different version to the album one and, again, isn't as good, as it sacrifices the mood and atmosphere of the song for..well...more guitars. Hmmm. Track two is the Adrenaline mix of Higher Love which takes the majesty of the original and lobs it into a fairly horrific disco. Not that good really.



We then have the 12 and cd releases. The 12" singles are easier to deal with. 12BONG24 (left) gave us 5 tracks being the two from the cassette single and three more remixes of In Your Room - Apex Mix, The Jeep Rock Mix and Extended Zephyr Mix. The Apex Mix is another Brian Eno mix and is rather good. The Jeep Rock Mix is a remix by Geoff Barrow from Portishead and is again a good one. The Extended Zephyr Mix simply extends the original remix. L12BONG24 (below) contains no fewer than six tracks all live versions of In Your Room, Policy of Truth, Fly On The Windscreen, World In My Eyes, Never Let Me Down Again and Death's Door. All great to hear and the version of World In My Eyes blew me away at the time. If you ever want evidence of what Alan Wilder brought to Depeche Mode, these live tracks supply it.




The cd release here was odd. CDBONG24 (same artwork as 12BONG24) came in a fold our "crucifix" pack extending the religious metaphor so far it snapped. It houses not one, not two but THREE cd's. CDBONG24 features the Zephyr and Extended Zephyr mixes of In Your Room together with the live versions of Never Let Me Down Again and Death's Door. LCDBONG24 (available separately and with the same artwork as L12BONG24) added the live versions of In Your Room, Policy of Truth, World In My Eyes and Fly On The Windscreen. Finally, XLCDBONG24 (below) gave us the Jeep Rock Mix and Apex Mix of In Your Room and the Adrenaline Mix of Higher Love. Put them all together and you had a fold out pack which if you opened more than once started to fall apart. Still, it's a funny wee item to own.



In Your Room UK 12" promo

And that was that. The band kept touring until July when they finally brought the SOFAD marathon to an end going away to either keep battling or feeding addictions or even to leave the band in Alan's case. The SOAFD era is a defining era in the band's history and is a fascinating one for so many reasons. The next time we saw Depeche Mode would be 1997 and things would be very different then. That's where I'll begin next time.

As ever, thanks very much for reading and thank you also for the comments. I'm so pleased, proud and indeed humbled that so many people read this blog and like it. It really is fantastic. The pictures are sourced from the usual places and all the opinions, however misguided, are mine and mine only

Friday, 26 August 2011

DEPECHE MODE - THE ONE THAT I PREFER - VIOLATOR and 1990 (Part 2)

So last time we'd got up the release of the magnificent Enjoy The Silence. Here, I'll take a fawning, over complimentary and barely objective look at Violator itself together with the remaining singles from the album. As ever, views are my own, discography information is sourced from depechemode.com and the pictures are borrowed from depechemode.tv which for the uninitiated is a forum full of foul mouthed neanderthals who happen to like Depeche Mode. Do have a look at it.

It's no exaggeration to say that music changed forever and for the better on March 19 1990. Ok, it maybe is but you get my point. On that day Depeche Mode unleashed Violator on an unsuspecting world simultaneously changing the planet's perception of both them as a band and of electronic music generally. The album and tour were huge successes with the band turning into a fully fledged stadium band as their sold out nights at Dodgers Stadium show. The album reached number 2 in Britain (Changesbowie and a Carpenters collection were to blame for keeping the band from a justified number one) and number 7 in the US. At that point it could be argued that Depeche were one of the biggest bands in the world, especially given that U2 and REM were then having a rest. Bear in mind too that Depeche were still viewed as an "alternative" act which makes this success all the more impressive.
The great thing about Depeche Mode back then was their ability to constantly reinvent themselves whilst ensuring that their releases were always a step or two n from the previous one. Violator (STUMM64 - sleeve right) was no exception to that. The 9 tracks (plus two unnamed on the sleeve musical passages) are so different from anything that the band had done before that it's hard to believe the same chaps who recorded It's Called A Heart only 5 years before turned out the likes of Halo etc. The album kicks off with the Depeche Mode do Kraftwerk but faster World In My Eyes which is the best first track of any DM album ever - fact. Track 2 is the phenomenal Sweetest Perfection, a Martin sung song which features Dave on counter meoldy duties towards the end. This song has the Alan Wilder presses the epic button feel to it. It builds and builds before a fantastic middle part moving towards the sort of explosion noise at the end which is then hastily followed by the well know "bing bing" of Personal Jesus. The version on Violator grafts a part from the Holier Than Thou Approach mix from the standard issue 12" and cd singles. Track 4 is one of THE classic Depeche Mode songs - Halo. It's an absolutely perfect song with great lyrics, a killer chorus and music that proves the Depeche of 1990 really were up to something rather special. I even love

"Bring your chains, your lips of tragedy and fall into my arms"

and I'm still not sure how that particular scenario would play out in real life. Marvellous however. Next up we have the frankly epic (I know, I know, stop praising everything. I AM trying. Honest) Waiting For The Night or as Martin would have originally had it Waiting For The Night To Fall but the words "To Fall" were apparently missed off when the sleeves were printed. You'd think someone would be checking those things. Anyhow, WFTN is a seqeuncer driven wonderballad (!) with beautiful vocals from Dave and Martin. The World Violation tour version was really special (from what I've seen on youtube as I didnt see that tour :( ) with top notch visuals from Anton. WFTN ends side one as we used to say. Next up is Enjoy The Silence a song about which I made my views pefectly clear last time. Enjoy The Silence then moves into an unnamed track which we all know is named Crucified (Dave on lead guitar and Fletch on vocals - FACT) before Policy of Truth smacks us in the face. I'll talk about Policy of Truth more below. For fans of typing errors generally ( I presume you are one if you read my blog as it is full of them) Policy of Truth is listed as The Policy of Truth in the lyrics inside the album. Again, you'd think someone would have a look at these things.

The last two tracks are just as good as anything that came before. Blue Dress follows Policy of Truth. It is another Martin sung song in the classic Gore "Dress up and I'll watch you from over here you lucky lady" style. It's great however and was played acoustically by Martin on the World Violation tour along with Sweetest Perfection, Here Is The House, I Want You Now, World Full of Nothing and Little 15. He played 2 from that lot a night. Blue Dress is followed by another quick instrumental Interlude # 3 which sounds like the band wandering over a moorland singing and the we hit the last track Clean. I make no apologies for my countinual bias here. Clean is an astounding track and a perfect way to end the album. The production of the album by Flood and Alan Wilder is sensational throughout.


I can honestly say that Violator changed my life, no doubt about that at all. I bought the cassette (CSTUMM64 - STUMM64 was the album and CDSTUMM64 the cd by the way) on the day it came out and listened to it constantly for about a year. I let it out of my sight once lending it to Lindsay White after much persuasion only for her to return it with the black sticker on side 2 peeled away slightly at the corner. Argh! It may be the fondness with which I recall that period making me say it but of all the versions here I still think the cassette package generally is the most beautiful. The artwork as a whole is perfection but the cassette version will always be my favourite here. Whenever I hear or indeed think of Violator I am taken back to being a 16 year old amazed by what I am hearing and just being caught up in the sheer beauty of the album. I'll never lose that and for that I simply have to thank Depeche Mode.
The next single from Violator was Policy of Truth which came out on 7 May 1990 reaching number 16 in the UK and. Policy is a great track with one of Martin's catchier choruses. It's still very popular amongst fans now despite the forum based whinging that greeted its return to the setlist during the last tour. Yes there are about 50 other songs they could play but after you've had a few beers/wines etc jumping about singing along to Policy of Truth is a very enjoyable way to spend 5 minutes. So there. The video features the lads chasing around an American city all looking for a snog with the same two girls. They have a quick kiss with them all then run off leaving the lads looking either angry (Dave and Alan) perplexed as ever (Fletch) or really sad (Martin). Poor Martin - he looks genuinely upset. The 7" (BONG19 - right) and cassette single (CBONG19 - left) come with two tracks Policy of Truth and a new b-side Kaleid which is an instrumental with acid house type bass in places and what my parents would inevitably call "a really good beat." A version of Kaleid mixed up with Crucified was used as the intro music on the tour. Your standard 12" (12BONG19 - same cover art as the 7") and cd single (CDBONG19 - right) contained 3 new mixes. Policy of Truth (Beat Box Mix), Policy of Truth (Capitol Mix) and Kaleid (When Worlds Mix). The Beat Box mix is my favourite here as it really enhances the song and gives it that old fashioned 12" extended mix feel which I think we're all fans of. The Capitol Mix is fine too although it's not the most memorable remix of the bunch. I really like the Kaleid remix too - to be honest I think the track is one of my favourite Depeche Mode instrumentals. Interesting fact eh? The cd single (CDBONG19 - above right) replaced the When Worlds Mix of Kaleid with Kaleid (Remix) whichis another mix of decent quality.There were the usual limted editions too - a rather fabulous glossy gatefold 12" (L12BONG19 - left) and an equally lovely cd single (LCDBONG19 - right). The 12" (the band's first gatefold 12") features three remixes the first of which is the fantastic Trancentral Mix by the KLF which features their usual mix of ambiet oddness and, naturally, sheep noises. Every time someone says "I'm not a Politician, I'm a basis man" I have a wry smile to myself. Ok, this hasn't ever actually happenned but IF it did I'd smile. The other mix of Policy of Truth on the 12" is Pavlov's Dub which is a fairly decent mix too although I don't exactly drool whenever I hear it. The Remix of Kaleid as first found on CDBONG19 completes the 12". The cd single has 5 tracks - the two Policy of Truth remixes from L12, Kaleid (When Wolrds Mix) and the 7" mixes of both Policy of Truth and Kaleid.

The fourth and final single from Violator (although Halo was considered for a fifth release) was the majestic World In My Eyes which was released on 17 September in a multitude of interesting formats. The single got as far as number 17 in the UK despite both its' general brilliance and the fantastic video which was part World Violation footage (amazing) and part Dave perving over some girl in a drive in cinema seemingly reciting the words of the song to her.The artwork for the single is amazing with different members doing the WIME hand signal thing on the different formats. The 7" (BONG20 - right) and cassette single (CBONG20 - left) had three tracks including two new tracks - World In My Eyes (7" version), Happiest Girl (Jack Mix) and Sea of Sin (Tonal Mix). The b-sides are the stars of these formats. Happiest Girl is a great Martin perv song which quite boldly and quite correctly rhymes "thighs" with "eyes". Sea of Sin is just bloody brilliant. We really were spoiled with b-sides at this point - Dangerous, Happiest Girl, Sea of Sin and Kaleid are stronger than many b-sides and indeed most of Exciter. For the record, and as far as I can tell, the 7" cover features Fletch, the cassette single Alan. 12BONG20 (right with I think Martin doing the hand business on the cover) gave us three tracks - World In My Eyes (Oil Tank Mix), Happiest Girl (Kiss-a-mix) and Sea of Sin (Sensoria). The mixes of the b-sides are excellent of course but my favourite here is the Oil Tank Mix of the main track which I played to death when I first bought this record. It's a long slowish mix but it's a cracker. The cd (CDBONG20 - left with Dave's hands) replaced the mix of Sea of Sin on the 12" with the Tonal Mix from the 7" and cassette release and added the 7" version of the lead track. Next we have the limited editions. The beautiful, rare as 3 note Fletch keyboard parts limited editions. As with my Quad:Final Mix woe I really have to go back to my 16 year old self and slap him repeatedly until he buys at least 3 copies of each stressing the utter importance of NOT CUTTING OPEN THE 12" PACK ESPECIALLY AT THE WRONG BLOODY PART! The frankly greatest limited record ever released L12BONG20 (right) came in a glossy black 12" sleeve with an inner sleeve featuring live shots from the tour. The best bit however was the blue PVC sleeve it came in which had to be cut open at the top. This was indicated by the words "Violate Here." Absloutely perfect. Just amazing. Not only did I cut the thing open, I did it at the wrong part too. Idiot. Alan and Fletch are doing the hand signals on the cover. Artwork aside, there was also a record with music on it here. The tracks are World In My Eyes (Dub In My Eyes) (decent mix), World In My Eyes (Mode To Joy) a brilliant mix by Jon Marsh of the briefly popular Beloved and Happiest Girl (The Pulsating Orbital Mix) an instrumental mix by ambient oddballs The Orb. All great tracks. The limited cd (LCDBONG20 - left) is hugely rare meaning that I only have two copies. I know - geek. One is the German edition which I presume is as rare. Anyway, it's yet another stunning package featuring a live Dave on the front and lots of other live shots inside. It has 6 tracks aboard - World In My Eyes (Dub In My Eyes), World In My Eyes (Mode To Joy), Sea of Sin (Sensoria) and Happiest Girl (Jack Mix) we already know about. The additions here were World In My Eyes (Mayhem Mode) and Happiest Girl (The Pulsating Orbital Vocal Mix). The former is another Jon Marsh mix which I prefer to Mode To Joy. The latter is a vocal version of the Orb's instrumental mix from L12BONG20 which is really really good. It was also ultra rare given the rarirty of this cd not really gaining much exposure until the singles box set re-releases.
Trying to put bias aside, I find it immensely difficult to think of another period in Depeche or indeed any band's history when the brilliance of the songs has been matched by the brilliance of the product throughout from the artwork to the adverts to the backing films to the record labels and beyond. Anton and the band merged perfectly and created Depeche Mode's most iconic phase. Other stadium league bands were watching closely - U2's Zoo TV lifted World Vioaltion's best bits and both their artwork and that or REM's for Automatic For The People was created by Anton. As well as musically, Depeche were influencing artistically.
The World Violation Tour wrapped up leaving Depeche as one of the world's biggest bands and justifiably so. After a small break, they'd do their best to top it (and themselves) with Songs of Faith and Devotion. That'll be the next blog at some not too distant point in the future. As ever, all views expressed above are mine only and if you find mistakes then blame me!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The new Premier League preview

The new football season is almost upon us (at least in terms of the English season - we started up here in Scotland the day after the last season ended or something). For no reason other than I'm shirking my work duties, here is my special preview with predictions and all that:

ARSENAL
Good old Arsenal. Attractive football, glorious passing, wonderful talented youngsters who will play brilliantly until it gets a bit dark and cold. They'll beat Scunthorpe 6-0 in the Carling Cup at the Emirates in September with a team of French/African 8 year olds whereupon Sky will proclaim them the greatest footballing force on earth ever yet they'll still end up with no trophies as Wenger's "project" enters its 113th barren year. Fabregas is still there, they still don't have a goalkeeper who isn't either injury prone or psychologically unfit and their defence is still comedy gold. Same old stuff. Gervinho looks exciting but then so did Chamakh. God help us if anyone dares to tackle or injure their players too - that's just not allowed and it's really bad. And nasty.

Prediction: 5th
If they were a band they'd be: Red Hot Chilli Peppers - globally famous, the first single always sounds interesting but it then quickly tales off into the same old rubbish leaving you feeling slightly cheated. With slap bass.

ASTON VILLA
"Big" "Eck" has judased his way over from Brum to carry on the festival of dullardry that Martin O'Neill and Gerard Houllier served up in the preceding two seasons. Young has gone to M** U** and Downing to Liverpool meaning that their main (only?) creative forces have gone. Given will do well as he always does. Villa should be a lot more inspiring to talk about but they're just..well...dull. McLeish doesn't exactly set his teams up like Guardiola either so brace yourselves for grim times Villa fans.

Prediction: 10th
If they were a band they'd be: Kings Of Leon - biggish, a lot of support but really boring.

BLACKBURN ROVERS
Another team who fail to inspire. The Venky's have potential to be the new comedy gold onwers in the league - booting Fat Sam out was hilarious if only for the preposterous media reaction to his toadness' dismissal. Blackburn almost went down last year thanks in no part to Steve "Not Roy" Kean's buffoonery and they'll struggle again this year too. The ridiculous exit by walking round the pitch thing annoys me too for no reason at all. To be honest, they may have signed players or they may not - I neither know nor care. Does anyone?

Predition: 15th
If they were a band they'd be: A one hit wonder who bafflingly gets a number one before drifting off into mid chart obscurity. Glenn Medeiros.
BOLTON WANDERERS
Owen Coyle turned Bolton into a watchable team which must be a relief to Trotters (is there a more Northern sounding nickname) fans after the shite served up by Megson and Allardyce. Losing Chung Yong Lee is a blow for them which will only be worsened if they sign Shaun Wright Phillips to replace him as is rumoured. Bolton won't do much in terms of bothering the top 4 but they'll be safe enough.

Prediction: 7th
If they were a band they'd be: Something bland with a Scottish leader. Marillion.

CHELSEA
Another season, another new manager, another set of increasingly daft expectations from Mr Abramovich. Villas Boas is the new fashionable mini Mourinho but will he get the best out of an ageing squad with a £50m misfit leading the line? They won't win the league or even the Champions League but they'll be close - the squad's too good not to do that. The most interesting thing about Chelsea is watching who shoots/shags/murders/attacks/inserts phone first from their squad of angels.

Prediction: 3rd
If they were a band they'd be : Bryan Adams - no-one knows anyone who likes him but he's successful. And annoying.

EVERTON
The self proclaimed people's club who in no way at all have a chip on their shoulder about Liverpool. Bill "Corrie" Kenwright has spent another handsome sum of money on players this summer meaning that Moyes will have to yet again work his magic with a fairly thin squad over reliant on Cahill, Arteta and Fellaini when he's fit or not suspended. You have to give Moyes credit for what he's done no doubt, but the Partridge style cardigan and chinos from the Champions League Qualifying Round (not the Champions League itself) joke a few years ago always springs to mind when credit starts to be given. They won't go down as there is far too much crap in the league for that to happen but they will finish in the bottom half.

Prediction: 14th
If they were a band they'd be: Spandau Ballet - big in the 80's, still have a cult following but will never recapture their glory years. True.

FULHAM
Martin Jol is back which is always good fun and he's even brought John "WHY DIDNT YOU KICK IT FFS! WHY USE YOUR HEAD IN THE LAST BLOODY MINUTE OF A CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMI YOU ARSE" Arne Riise back for free kicks and one footedness. I like Jol and I think he'll do better with Fulham than Mark the Ego Hughes did. Top ten for them.

Prediction: 9th
If they were a band they'd be: Michael Jackson. The statue outside the ground leaves no other option.

LIVERPOOL
My team, led by my hero Mr Dalglish. After last year's Hodgocaust, Kenny came in and worked miracles even finding the time to promote top notch youngsters, spend £35m on Andy Carroll which is still a work in progress and spend £22m on Luis Suarez who is possibly the most exciting player in the league. Liverpool still need to sort out the defence and a back up striker would help too. The formation may be an issue as well as I don't think Carroll works well up front on his own. Midfield shouldn't be an issue however as we have 32 midfielders at present. I predict a League or FA Cup this season.

Prediction: 4th
If they were a band they'd be: Depeche Mode. I love them, their golden period is long gone but I keep coming back in the hope it'll come again

MANCHESTER CITY
Who gives a toss about this lot? Eventually they'll buy the league simply by virtue of the fact they'll own every player on earth. Despite the sheer number of players they have they still won't win the league this year. The best thing about City is Super Mario as he is a comedy genius. He has the potential to be one of the best players in the world but he just doesn't care. Mancini is too unadventurous a manager to give the City owners what they want and I reckon they'll give him the boot at the end of the season and bring in a bigger name like Mourinho. Just imagine how happy that'll make Sky eh?

Prediction: 2nd
If they were a band they'd be: A tramp who found a winning lottery ticket. Not really a band but it's too good a line ( (C) Chris Stirrup @Chris_tweetings) not to use

M********* U*****
(Don't know where those asterisks came from). They'll win it again unfortunately. Despite losing Scholes(y) and Van Der Sar and despite keeping Darren Fletcher they have enough quality to see off the rest of the league. They're still a bit weak in midfield but their attack is pretty potent and they're still defensively strong if Ferdinand stays fit. Ashley Young may prosper and a squad that includes the likes of Nani, Park and Howard Webb is pretty good.

Prediction: 1st
If they were a band they'd be: Genesis. Big, famous and self important. And I fucking hate them

NEWCASTLE UNITED
Who actually knows eh? Their owners are lunatics, all the squad are leaving and the £35m we gave them for Carroll seems to have disappeared. You can't help but think that they'll struggle this year and that the fans will turn on the board even more. Newcastle fans must wish for a quiet life sometimes. Down I'm afraid.

Prediction: 19th
If they were a band they'd be: Killing Joke.

NORWICH CITY
Paul Lambert has worked miracles for the Canaries with two successive promotions. Obviously he can't get a third on the bounce so the big issue for him is can he keep Norwich in the league? They'll be this season's Blackpool in that everyone will want them to do well. They also won't have a rentagob manager which will be a bonus as Lambert's a miserable bugger. He likes his team to play good football though and again because there are three worse teams than them in the league he'll just keep them up.

Prediction: 17th
If they were a band they'd be: The band that plays the theme tune to Cooking With Delia.

QPR
Like many football fans, I am delighted to see Neil Warnock (or Colin as he should be known) back if only to hear him moan like a twat when they get relegated and he tries to blame everyone bar himself and the shite football he plays. Despite their owners' riches, they havent spent much cash and if Taarabt goes as seems likely they'll be stuffed. Back down for them.

Prediction: 18th
If they were a band they'd be: A band who arent very good and have a really annoying frontman. Kasabian.

STOKE CITY
They had a good season last year which tailed off after they got to the Cup Final. Tony Pulis only signs players who are over 7 feet tall so it'll be another season of having to do it on a wet and windy night at Stoke and coping with Luftwaffe like arial assaults. That said, I dont think Pulis gets enough credit as he has made them a Premier League fixture and deserves praise for that. Watch out for Rory Delap - apparently he can throw a ball.

Prediction: 8th
If they were a band they'd be: Rammstein. Scary basically.You can actually see Robert Huth playing in that band.

SUNDERLAND
Their main problem is replacing Darren Bent, as their season went to pot after they sold him last year. Gyan doesn't score enough and Wickham is maybe still too raw to step up. Steve Melted Face Bruce has signed his usual number of ex M** U** players after being instructed to do so by Ferguson but that won't help him this year. More mid table moaning from Bruce and co.

Prediction: 12th
If they were a band they'd be: Phil Collins - a crapper version of Genesis (see M** Utd** above).

SWANSEA
The surprise promotion this year and unfortunately a certainty to get a thrashing off most teams except when they win 1-0 at Anfield. Given that they don't have the cash to put a squad together that can compete at this level, all I can see is relegation despite the fact that they're generally well organised and play decent fitba'. Nice to see them up again though.

Prediction: 20th
If they were a band they'd be: Shirley Bassey. From Wales you see.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
Ah, good old Spurs. Big Spurs, the big team who have yet again nearly signed everyone this year. After Honest 'Arry's league winning prediction in March they gave up only guaranteeing Europa League "glory" by beating Liverpool at Anfield in May. Spurs Champions League adventure was impressive but having missed out this year it may prove to be a flash in the pan. Redknapp will be a fixture on TV all season of course not talking about other teams players to Sky whenever the camera crew that live on his wing mirror pop up. Keeping Modric is key to Spurs' fortunes - I reckon he'll leave though given how unhappy he is.

Precdiction: 6th
If they were a band they'd be: Chas N Dave obviously. With Redknapp dressed up as Del Boy in the back.

WEST BROMICH ALBION
Roy "Poulsen, Konchesky, Jones and Cole" Hodgson kept them up last year after doing his best to relegate Liverpool. As with Fulham, his West Brom team play decent football and should end up mid table without worrying about relegation. Fair play to him for that. I'll say no more.

Prediction: 13th
If they were a band they'd be: Judas Preist. A quieter version of Black Sabbath (see below)

WIGAN ATHLETIC
How long can they stay in the league? They seemed a dead cert to drop last season but clung on yet they'll struggle again this year especially if they lose the likes of James McCarthy. I've got a lot of time for Roberto Martinez as he's another manager who likes to play decent football. Dave Whelan on the other hand is an obnoxious idiot. All 4 of their fans don't seem to care much for the team either. Has that ground ever been full?

Prediction: 16th
If they were a band they'd be: A solo guy with a broken guitar 5th on the bill at a battle of the bands night. With no fans

WOLVES
Mick McCarthy is a genius. He speaks as he finds it etc and I like that. His teams play dreadful football and you wouldn't want to watch them week in week out but he's always good value post match win or lose. Kevin Doyle is a main man for them and it seems that other teams are sniffing around him which could cause Wolves trouble. I like Steven Fletcher too as he's always seemed like someone who could really start banging the goals in. Maybe this year. They'll be safe anyway and may even sneak mid table

Prediction: 11th
If they were a band they'd be: Black Sabbath. A louder, better and more entertaining version of Judas Priest (see above)

So there you go - a meaningless set of inevitably wrong predictions for this year. Obviously I hope Liverpool win everything but realistically we won't. Next season maybe...

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

DEPECHE MODE - THE ONE THAT I PREFER - VIOLATOR and 1990 (Part 1)



This blog will concern Violator era Depeche Mode and before we being I should point out three things. First of all, this blog will be in two parts. This is because (a) it'll be rather long and (b) I do actually have a job to do which is keeping me pretty busy at the moment! I am keen to make sure I kept moving this blog though on hence the Part 1/Part 2 approach. Secondly, Personal Jesus came out in 1989 not 1990 and doesn't therefore necessarily fit with the title. I wanted to bring this up as I know how pedantic we Depeche fans can be ("no...that's the Belgian second edition 7" of See you - look at the barcode you fool LOOK!") but as Personal Jesus kicked off the whole Violator business it's included here. Finally, I should decalre something of a bias here as Violator finally converted me to Depeche Mode on its release and I still love it. Every single perfect second of it. This blog may therefore contain over effusive praise, sycophancy and general tedious rehashings of phrases such as "the best album ever" etc. My apologies in advance. Anyway, less faffing about - here we go...




The best album ever ;) was preceded by two singles, both of which played a huge role in promoting Depeche to the Premier Division of bands and both of which are still are still arguably their best known tracks and these singles form Part 1 of this blog.




The first of these is the quite frankly legendary Personal Jesus which reached out and touched (hmmmm) record shops on 29 August 1989. Whether or not the band intended it is another question but hearing Personal Jesus so soon after 101, you can't help but wonder if the 101 album was a conscious effort to close the chapter on the "old" Depeche Mode with Personal Jesus opening a new one altogether. The sound of the track is so markedly different from anything they'd done before with a guitar prominent for the first time (Behind The Wheel was too quiet, Love In Itself too odd) and a glam rock feel to the whole thing. The video by Anton Corbijn is fantastic too and features the curious sight of Fletch on a rocking horse at one point (there will be more about the Violator era artwork and videos later). If I ever meet Martin, one of the many questions I'll have will be "What's the breathing bit in the middle of Personal Jesus all about?" - it's brilliant, the song would be poorer without it but it remains incomprehensible. Initial adverts for the song featured a telephone number that you could call if you needed "your own Personal Jesus" or somesuch. This caused some controversy as it was felt it could mislead poor souls who needed genuine salvation. Personal Jesus was originally scheduled to feature on an e.p. (VERY late 80's!) but instead came backed with only one song, the quite brilliant Dangerous, a track which remains my favourite Depeche b-side. As ever however, the British record buying public proved they were no bastions of taste and Personal Jesus only reached number thirteen. Bloody pathetic. In America it became their label's bigegst selling 12" of all time - it may well still be so.


The single came out on a number of formats. The cassette (CBONG17 - right) and the 7" (BONG 17 - left) featured the single versions of Personal Jesus and Dangerous. The back sleeve of the 7" featured Martin hugging a naked lady and the inner sleeve of the cassette featured Fletch embracing the very same lady. Presumably she was a close friend of both. The single mixes of each song are both great and you'll all know them by now. For the first time (at least in the UK - happy to be corrected for foreign releases) a gatefold 7" was made available (GBONG17 - right) featuring three tracks and a series of photographs inside. The tracks were the single mix of Personal Jesus, Dangerous (Hazchemix Edit) and Personal Jesus (Acoustic). The mix of Dangerous is ok. It features some beeps and bleeps that aren't present in the full version but overall the full version wins. The acoustic version of Personal Jesus is lovely and something of a surprise given that it was the band's first acoustic adventure, Love In Itself 4 aside. Although I suppose I have to count that. Personal Jesus obviously lends itself to that type of approach and it really works. It may well have inspired Martin's acoustic moments on the World Violation tour - who knows? The inner pictures feature all 4 band members hugging the aforementioned woman plus a picture each of the D and of the M. The rear sleeve features all four band members and said lady. I guess the cat was out of the bag by that point. The remixes on the standard 12 (12BONG17 - left ) and cd single (a three inch cd with adapter - CDBONG17 - right) were top work too both featuring Personal Jesus (Holier Than Thou Approach), Dangerous (Sensual Mix) and the acoustic version of Personal Jesus from the gatefold 7". The Holier Than Thou Approach mix is a good, I suppose "dnacefloor take" (to use the language of the era) of the track. The last part of the mix is added on to the album version of Personal Jesus. The Sensual Mix of Dangerous is by far my favourite version of that track and possibly my favourite mix on show here, the standard version of Personal Jesus aside. It improves on the original b-side hugely and really makes the song stand out. When you consider the quality of the that as a b-side it makes you look yearn for the days when the band did that type of thing. No crappy instrumentals, no multi remixes of the same track, just and honest decent b-side. Moan over.



(Before I carry on - I should point out one thing. Rather foolishly I have only just remembered that the artwork for the 12" and cd singles at this time was identical (12BONG17 and CDBONG17 being the same etc) and my blog is having a hard time coping with my putting up two identical pictures each time. From now on I'll just use the one but if there are any changes in cover art etc that'll be mentioned).



The limited editions for Personal Jesus (L12BONG17 and LCDBONG17 - again a 3 inch cd with adapter - artwork right) again featured three tracks - Personal Jesus (Pump Mix), Personal Jesus (Telephone Stomp Mix) and Dangerous (Hazchemix). The Pump Mix a bit like a classic 12" mix but much better, the Telephone Stomp Mix (who comes up with these titles?) is alright too albeit maybe the weakest mix on display here and the Hazchemix (do you see what they did there?) fine too as I mentioned above. All in all the whole Personal Jesus package was a great one - the artwork, the video, the remixes and most importantly the song itself. The band disappeared from view again whilst they polished off Violator. The next single didn't appear until 5 February 1990 when Enjoy The Silence was released. What can I say about Enjoy The Silence apart from....




IT IS THE SINGLE GREATEST PIECE OF MUSIC RECORDED BY ANYONE EVER AT ANYTIME IN HISTORY AND WILL REMAIN SO UNTIL THE EARTH EXPLODES.





That about covers it. The release of this song was a genuine turning point in my life steering me away from the evils of INXS and towards electronic music and full time gloom. I've already written a wee blog about the moment this all happenned which is here should you wish to read it. Suffice to say, laziness has never been better rewarded.





What isn't there to love about Enjoy The Silence? The artwork is minimal perfection, the video is unfathomable genius, the music is perfectly balanced and the lyrics are lovely, even forgiving the matching of very and unnnesscary. When Martin's sampled voice comes in at 3 mins 25 (ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah....) you know that you will never need to hear anything elses again as it will simply not be able to compete. I can't fault it I'm afraid. In a rare moment of taste the British record buying public agreed with me as thesong evetually reached number 6. Not the number one it should have been (they were Nothing Compares 2 U and Dub Be Good To Me ffs) but we'll take number 6 for now. It even reached number 8 in America which was hugely impressive.





The single was released on 8 formats in total, all containing different versions of Enjoy The Silence and some were rarer than others. It probably speaks to my mental state more than anything else but I can still listen to all the Enjoy The Silence remixes in a row like some very odd album. The standard issue here was the 7" and Cassette Single (BONG18 and CBONG18 respectively - artwork right) which contained the single version of Enjoy The Silence and a new b-side called Memphisto which is a rather nice piano ballad featuring some ahh-ahh's from Martin. The 12" and cd versions (12BONG18 and CDBONG18 again a 3 inch cd single) fetaured the same artwork as the 7" and cassette. Each featured 4 tracks - Enjoy The Silence (single mix), Enjoy The Silence (Hands and Feet Mix), Enjoy The Silence (Ecstatic Dub) and a new b-side called Sibeling. I became quite obsessed with Sibeling for a while. It's another piano led instrumental but what caught my attention was the fact that the pew-pew (??) noise running through the track is the same noise as a tunnel alarm I heard going through Italy on a train in the summer of 1990. Fact. A very boring fact but a fact nonetheless. The Hands and Feet Mix is a cracking mix, again akin to a classic 12" mix in the same way Personal Jesus (Pump Mix) is. The Ecstatic Dub is grand too, a bit more in tune with the dance music of the period I guess in both name and sound. There's a cracking bit at around 2 mins 8 secs when a lovely noise comes in.




The limited editions came in 12" and cd form with L12BONG18 and LCDBONG18 (a 3 inch cd - artowrk for both left). Both again featured four tracks - three mixes of Enjoy The Silence (Bass line, Harmonium and Ricki-Tik-Mix) and Memphisto. I bought this twelve inch in London in the summer of 1990 on the way to the Italian holiday at which I discovered the Sibeling noise. My parents were thrilled that I wanted to carry a 12" around for a fortnight from London, to Italy and then back to Scotland as you can imagine. It was well worth it of course. The Harmonium mix is essentialy Martin playing, one presumes, a Harmonium and singing what he thought was a demo of a top notch new ballad which was fine until Alan and Flood brought the disco ball out in the studio and changed things about somewhat. I love this version and I believe (though am not sure) that it is very close to the original demo for the track. Bass Line is a good enough mix filled with strange wee samples and fetaures quite a lot of what we've heard live since 1990 when the track kicks into extended mode live (Move it! etc). The Ricki Tik Tik mix is a cool too (I cant actually say a bad word or be objective at all about this era) and is probably the most inventive mix of the lot here. Look out especially for 2 minutes 11 when the electro ish bass line comes in - genius. The mix on the reissue spoils that somewhat with some crappy 70's synth nonsense over the top of it so seek out the original issues.





Finally the band felt we had to have an extra limited version which I remember reading was lmited to only 5000 cd's and 12"'s worldwide. I've never had confirmation of that so if anyone knows please let me know. XL12BONG18 and XLCDBONG18 (right) featured only one track - The Quad: Final Mix, a 15 minute 27 second remix in four parts. The 12" comes as a one sided record with the DM logo from the sleeve laser etched into the back. The cd is a 3 inch one again. I bought the 12" in the long lost DMC records on the Whitesands in Dumfries for 99 pence! I remember seeing the XLCD too but FOR THE SAME PRICE but didnt feel the need to buy it. Idiot - the two I've bought since (dont ask why) cost much much much much more than that. Anyway, to the mix - it starts well with a good remix of the song itself slowly mutating into some alarm clock type noises that lead into a beat that then goes a bit mad and ultimately presents itself as some sort of clock based remix of the main track. It then seemingly out of nowhere becomes a marvellous orchestral take on Enjoy The Silence (an AMAZING thing) before the final of the four pieces comes in at 10 mins 40 turning into a final remix of the song itself. All rather odd but rather good nonetheless.




All in all the Enjoy The Silence package was and is fanastic and not just because DM are my intitals and I therefore had a personalised XL12BONG. Iconic artwork, an iconic tune and a band at their iconic best. Next we'd get the album Violator and that'll be dealt with in Part 2.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

DEPECHE MODE - KEYBOARD PLAYERS DON'T SWEAT - 101 & 1989

A short one this week as there are only two releases this is concerned with. And before both of my fans write in YES I do know that Personal Jesus popped out in 1989 but that'll be dealt with in the next thrilling instalment.

DEPECHE MODE - KEYBOARD PLAYERS DON'T SWEAT - 1989 and 101

The worldwide response to Music For The Masses was such that Depeche Mode were perhaps unwittingly catapaulted into the stadium league come the end of that album's tour in 1988. The band booked the cavernous Pasadena Rose Bowl in Los Angeles with a view to putting on a Concert For The Masses. It was an audacious move - could a synthpop band from Basildon really take on the U2 and the like and put on a stadium show? Yes they could. And it was bloody fantastic. To celebrate this momentous event, the band released their first live album 101. This is the story of that album. Well, not actually the story OF the album - more a blog about it. Anyway.....


To promote the album Depeche released their first live single Everything Counts (Live) on 13 February 1989. The erstwhile pop song was now a full 6 minute stadium singalong many miles away from its formative days on Top Of The Pops. The video for the song was cut from the then as yet unreleased 101 video by D.A. Pennebaker showing bits and bobs from the film itself and of course starting off with Jonathon Kessler proudly announcing that they were going to make "lots of money...a load of money." Clever stuff. The song was released on a large number of formats including my favourite ever "What the fuck IS that?" format. Firstly we had plain old 7BONG16 (left) which featured live versions of Everything Counts and Nothing, the latter featuring a live guitar of all things. Madness. Next we had not one but two twelve inches. 12BONG16 (below left) gave us a whopping four live tracks - Everything Counts, Nothing, Sacred and a quite marvellous version of A Question Of Lust ( the "you know that I'd rather be home part where Martin sings "home" is frankly perfection). The limited edition 12" (right) gave us three remixes - Everything Counts (Remixed by Tim Simenon & Mark Saunders a.k.a Bomb The Bass Mix), Nothing (Justin Strauss Remix aka ZipHop Mix - really) and Strangelove (Tim Simenon and Mark Saunders Mix which I believe is also known as the Hijack Mix). The Simenon/Saunders mixes (please see depechemode.com for the list of alternative titles) are both excellent and I still love them. I've always had a soft spot for Bomb The Bass anyway (Baby Dont Make Me Wait, Dont Make Me Stay, In and Out Of Looooove) and these are crackers, the Everything Counts mix even using a cheeky Kraftwerk sample. That version was also the basis of the World Violation live version and used to a lesser extent in the Devotional one (thanks Shaun!). The remix of Nothing is ok really, nothing more. This being the late 1980's 3 inch cd singles were all the rage and this release prompted Depeche's first releases on that format. CDBONG16 (right) contained the same four tracks as the first 12" and and LCDBONG16 the same three tracks as its limited 12" counterpart. The beauty of this version however was the packaging it came in. The Margaret Thatcher era was responsible for numerous horrors one of which was the emergence of rich young tossers known in the UK as Yuppies. They pioneered the use of filofaxes which were essentially diaries for people who thought diaries weren't fashionable enough. Bear with me here. Being both fast AND fashionable, Depeche Mode jumped on this bandwagon and released an ultra rare "Filofax Pack" housing LCDBONG16. The evidence is to your left. How completely odd but how completely brilliant. Within this Filofax pack was a slot for the main cd single AND it was punched at the side thereby enabling you to shove it into your filofax. You obviously couldn't listen to it but you could look at it. These are hugely rare but worth getting if you can. Alan is selling one at his forthcoming auction if you have the money. Mine is in a frame for protection (no I don't know why either) and that's where it'll stay. It's a great item. Finally we had our first ever 10" single to contend with (10BONG16 - right) and like the Filofax business this is a great thing too. It came in a numbered envelope type sleeve with a window sticker, 2 postcards and of course a 10" single which featured Everything Counts (Absolut Mix a.k.a Alan Moulder remix), Everything Counts (In Larger Amounts - as in the original 12" mix), Nothing (U.S. 7" mix - meh) and Everything Counts (Reprise - as in the last track on Construction Time Again). The artwork for all these releases is brilliant by the way. Many many formats featuring many great things AND a great video AND an iconic track AND.....it only got to number 22 in the UK. Disgraceful.



And so to the album. 101 was released on 13 March 1989 and got to a decent number 7 in the UK. The US showing was impressive in the context of Depeche Mode's success there to that point reaching number 45. The album came in three formats - LP (STUMM101), cassette (CSTUMM101) and CD (CDSTUMM101). All have the same artwork (left) but each has its' own loveliness. The album is a double which comes with a large 12" sized booklet featuring some great Anton Corbijn photos. The CD's come either in a hard double box with booklet or in a soft box with booklet, the latter being my preferred one. Finally the cassette doesn't come with a booklet but it's just great anyway as it was the first Depeche thing I ever got. Me and 2 friends would listen to it repeatedly memorising every Yeah Dave shouted. Much to my non surprise but no doubt to my wife's regret I realised that I could still do that filling a recent drive from Pitlochry to Glasgow with my own rendition of the entire album. ("Are you having a good time... (Pleasure, little treasure)...I cant hear you - Are you having a good time?!)




The tracklisting of the album is: Pimpf (a brief version), Behind The Wheel, Strangelove (an AMAZING version), Sacred (casette and cd only), Something To Do, Blasphemous Rumours, Stripped (Second only to the Devotional version in its' greatness), Somebody, The Things You Said (beautiful), Black Celebration, Shake The Disease, Nothing (cassette and cd only), Pleasure Little Treasure (STOP THE AIR GUITAR DAVE FFS!), People Are People, A Question Of Time, Never Let Me Down Again (a storming version), A Question Of Lust (cassette and cd only), Master and Servant, Just Can't Get Enough and Everything Counts. The super audio cd (no I don't know what that means either) released on 2 February 2004 adds a real thriller - the WHOLE VERSION OF PIMPF! LIVE! To add to the pointlessness of it all it puts it at the end. As in after Everything Counts. After everyone went home. Hmmm.




Finally there was of course the video (and later the dvd) which is great and a must have for Depeche fans. It follows a group of young Americans (the boy with the blue hair, the boy who finds his girlfriend in bed with another boy after he leaves, the girl who goes out with the blue haired lad, the blonde girl, the girl who wears a hat, the girl who wears a hat albeit less than the last one and another bloke) who win a prize to get driven around America by a grumpy bus driver with the sole purpose of seemingly missing most Depeche concerts but ending up going to the Rosebowl gig. Look out for the oddball truck driver (I said smile motherfucker,smile), the hispanic Guns N Roses (Guns and posers) fans, the dance off at the beginning (shocking scenes) and of course all the highjinks in between.




There's plenty of the band too. Highlights here include Dave's taxi driver story, radio appearances (Well...you got three of the words right), Alan on the bus and Alan's keyboard explanation which is actually fascinating. There's live footage a-plenty too which seems to be cut from far many more shows than the Rosebowl one. Either that or Martin somehow changes his clothes twice during Everything Counts. You HAVE to own this dvd.




So that was the 80's then (yes I KNOW about Personal Jesus). We'd started as a Basildon 4 piece, survived Vince's departure, survived The Meaning Of Love, broken a frame, counted everything, been..er..greatly rewarded, mastered a servant (??), shaken a disease (not long to go now....), celebrated blackly, massed our music (I have NO idea what that means), never let ANYONE down and ended up filling stadia playing electronic music which essentially opened the door for ALL alternative style bands to do the same. Not too bad for a synthpop band.




What the dickens would happen next? Violator is the answer. I'll try and be as objective as I can about the greatest album ever recoreded anywhere by anyone (Hmmm...objective you say) next time.