Friday, 4 March 2016

THE CURIOUS TALE OF BUT NOT TONIGHT

Record companies are funny beasts really. The artists they support spend ages writing songs that explore deep, important personal feelings, they craft music that fits the song and then they spend ages in recording studios honing the track until they feel it is perfect. Relieved, tired, but ultimately proud, they play it to the record company and wait with anticipation for the inevitable explosion of praise. The record company guy looks at them and says "Nah. It's not a single. What does the b-side sound like?"

That ladies and gentlemen, is a rough approximation of what went through Depeche Mode's U.S. record label Sire in early 1986. They were played the towering majesty of Stripped. They chose to use its b-side But Not Tonight instead. Even thirty years on, that's hard to fathom.

But Not Tonight US 7" single

Firstly, a couple of points about But Not Tonight. When I bought the Stripped 12" many years ago, I was really taken with But Not Tonight. Catchy to the point of infuriation, it's a fine pop song and a more than adequate b-side. The Extended Remix that features on that 12" is joyous and is superior to the standard 7" version for sure. Secondly, when Martin played it live on the Delta Machine tour it was a sublime moment. Those two saving graces aside though, the use of But Not Tonight as Sire's way of helping break Depeche Mode in America smacks of someone really not thinking things through at all. 

Rear of US 12"

The band and Mute went along with this decision which, as the band explain on the Black Celebration re-issue dvd, was more because they thought the label knew the U.S. market well enough and the single even got a place on the soundtrack of the film Modern Girls. You must have seen Modern Girls right? No? Me neither. Despite all the know how and placement on the cruelly overlooked for an Oscar nomination soundtrack, But Not Tonight disappeared without trace in America, but it did reappear on the U.S. release of Black Celebration. Perhaps the grim video (below) hindered it even further. Thankfully, and somewhat incredibly, it didn't impede the band over there that year as we'll see later this month. 



For Depeche Mode hunters however, the U.S releases of But Not Tonight (U.S release date 22 October 1986) offer versions of the track that you don't hear on the original release. The 7" version and Extended Mix on the 12" are remixes by Robert Margouleff and they're both somewhat shinier and poppier in feel than the standard U.K. versions. Neither are vital but both are ok. The Extended Mix and the Margouleff Dance Mix were eventually released in the U.K. on the digital only release of Remixes 81-04. That odd secret site release - you'll remember how frustrating that was in the pre broadband days. None of the versions of But Not Tonight are the equal of the 7" single's b-side of course. That track, the obscure, little known Stripped really has something about it. The 12" single also adds the Highland Mix of Stripped and Black Day from the U.K. 12" version. A positive is the artwork - the white take on the black cover of Stripped is really rather lovely. 

Modern Girls U.S vinyl LP

Overall, in a career that has seen them perform See You whilst holding chickens on a German television called Bananas (trust me - look for it on YouTube) and one that saw them approve the video for The Meaning Of Love, the release of But Not Tonight as a single has to be one of the most baffling decisions ever made about or by Depeche Mode. Ultimately, they trusted Sire, the single failed and the band thought America was a lost cause. The tale of But Not Tonight is indeed a curious one, but as with all good tales, there was a happy ending and Depeche Mode were soon to find that America was very much in love with them.

A lovely postscript to all this was the song's resurrection on the Delta Machine tour (below) which ended up becoming something of an emotional highlight, and I personally found it rather moving.

Perhaps Sire knew what they were doing all along eh?







3 comments:

  1. One of my favourite songs EVER, by anyone, living or dead. Amen.

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  2. Prefer Black Day to it.Down there with ICAH in my opinion.

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  3. I hade a 90 min cassette with only BTN on it. Loved that song, still do, but it's not a single. :)

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