Saturday 1 June 2019


Thus far, the Depeche Mode 12" reissue series has been a great thing. The amount of care that has gone into every element has been incredible from Daniel Barassi's impressive work on the audio side of things to the faithful reproduction of the artwork. As we'll see in a while, an extra level of attention to detail has been paid in the Black Celebration boxset which, for people like me, is an absolute joy. There is a problem with the Black Celebration boxset however - it's not complete.

If the purpose of this reissue series is to rightly celebrate Depeche Mode's role as one of the first great innovators in 12" remixing, then the omission of the 12" singles for Shake The Disease and It's Called A Heart is a calamitous oversight that undermines the entire project. "Ah, but they're non album singles," the record company might say. "Neither of them featured on Black Celebration." That is of course true, however, if that is the argument, let's open up the Construction Time Again boxset and take a peek at the two 12" singles in there for Get The Balance Right.  What's odd about them? That's right. It's a single that did not feature on that album. The same point could easily be made about Dreaming Of Me's inclusion in the Speak & Spell boxset.  So the non album singles thing is very much a non starter.

Get The Balance Right is correctly tied into Construction Time Again because it was an important bridge between that album and A Broken Frame. It also features a hugely influential 12" remix and this whole project's purpose is a celebration of that format. Dreaming Of Me is of course very much tied to the Speak & Spell era so, again, its inclusion in that box made sense. For the same reasons then, Shake The Disease and It's Called A Heart surely have to feature here don't they? Shake The Disease is another hugely important Depeche single. As well as being nothing more than one of the most beautiful songs Martin has written, it also ended the band's pop phase and led us in to the dark, leather clad Berlin hammer wielding world  of Black Celebration. It is the very point that Depeche Mode became that thing that we all love. in 1985, two 12" singles were released. It is illogical to ignore them here. Similarly, It's Called A Heart's three 12" singles (the standard and double pack) should also feature here albeit that is only for reasons of logic and not of dark majesty. 

Basically, the omission of Shake The Disease and It's Called A Heart is a cock-up of epic proportions. And with that, we move to the boxsets.

Black Celebration - The 12" Singles Boxset

I'm not even going to attempt objectivity here - this boxset is a thing of quite staggering beauty. There is so much to love about this collection of singles and there are several fan pleasing highlights. For example, the cover of Stripped is embossed, just like the original issue of the record. That's superb. Also, the Limited Edition 12" of A Question Of Time features the Limited Edition sticker on the front, again just like the original issue. It would have been incredibly easy to simply have the words Limited Edition printed on the sleeve as happened with later pressings of the original 12", but the care taken in making these boxsets has extended even to these small details and that is a wonderful thing.

There is one real treat here and, for me, it's the highlight of the series so far. In 1986, A Question Of Lust was released on 7", 12" and a limited edition cassette single. That cassette singles came in a cardboard package and as the sleeve promised, contained a cassette, a badge and a booklet. Here it is both opened and unopened:

The ever resourceful West German label Intercord went one better, releasing a vinyl version of the cassette single in two versions - black vinyl and yellow vinyl. It only contained the booklet however. There was no badge.

It is therefore wonderful to find this version released on 12" for the first time ever in Britain contained within the new boxset. The attention to detail show in the packaging of it is exquisite. Here's the sleeve:

As with the West German release, it says "Special Edition Single 45rpm" at the top right. It also says "L12BONG11" below that. However, as you'll see, unlike the cassette single and the West German 12" there are no boxes ticked that indicate there is either a badge and booklet contained inside (the cassette single) or just a booklet (the West German 12"). What have they done with those then? Wel,, they've done something quite fantastic.

Firstly, the badge has been incorporated into the package as it has been used as the label on the b-side of the record. 

How cool is that? I know that it's probably wrong to get excited about things like this, but I make no apologies for it. The booklet is also here but not as a booklet. Instead, quite brilliantly, it has become the inner sleeve.

It's genius. A masterpiece of repackaging and attention to detail of a level far higher than I could have expected. Beautiful, beautiful work.

The records also feature remixes, b-sides and a couple of live tracks, but you all know them by now and there's no point in me droning on about them. All I will say is that the Stripped 12" is one of the greatest 12" singles released by anyone ever at any time on earth and a record collection without that record in it is being treated very shabbily indeed. The final point to note is the inclusion of a reproduction of the A Question Of Lust promotional poster.

Overall then, despite the ridiculous Shake The Disease/It's Called A Heart situation, this is the best boxset of the lot so far.

Music For The Masses - The 12" Singles Boxset

Just look at that. This collection of 12" singles was already a thing of beauty in its original format - the reissue has polished them up and turned them out splendidly. All the classics are there - Strangelove's orange loud speaker, Never Let Me Down Again's maps and speakers and Behind The Wheel's gorgeous matt sleeves, all sparse and ominous. If you want to get right into Depeche Mode dullard's corner, the labels are simply perfect. I mean, just look at this:

Perfection itself. It also helps that the towering megabeast that is the Split Mix is there too. God, Depeche Mode really were incredible back then. 

The addition of the Little 15 12" is a nice touch. Even though it was not really released as a single in Britain (well, it wasn't promoted at all), the French label released it, as did a few other countries in Europe, causing it to sell well on import here. From the point of view of making this series a comprehensive celebration of Depeche Mode's 12" history, it is only right that Little 15 features here. 

There's also a Strangelove poster reproduction which is cool. 

As with the Black Celebration boxset and indeed the four previous boxsets, this is another gorgeous package, lovingly put together and both boxsets featured in this review are a real treat. Yes they're expensive and, yes they contain something that most of us already have in many different formats, but as a celebration of Depeche Mode at a crucial period in their career, they are fantastic.

If only they'd given some thought to what they haven't put into them....


  1. I understand the writer complaining about the omission of shake the disease and its called a heart. Shake the disease is the song that bridged their pop writing to a more darker tracks and to Black Celebration as a whole. But he is wrong to say that 12" is as important Get the Balance right. First off like he said, the remix to Get the Balance was important for djs. And it was a much better version than the original.most will agree. 12" were big for djs. Shake the disease remixes were not great. The original is so good , the remixes could not hold a candle it. So the shake the disease 12" was really unnecessary while at least Get the Balance was probably their first good remix which really set the bar for all the singles following that they had good remixes. It was the start of depeche mode as a electronic dance band really along with Everything Counts.

    The shake the disease record should have still been included though. But to say its better or.more important than Get the Balance right iz wrong imo.

    Its called a heart isnt ever worth talking about. Its probably (hard to argue) the worst single along with its bside Flexible, on 81-85 / catxhing up with DM.
    Again it should have been added i agree.

    I wonder if only when I lose myself will be included in this series then?

    1. At no point in this article does the author (David) claim that Shake the Disease is "...better or more important than Get the Balance Right'. He makes no comparison at all between the two songs. Therefore your response is fatally flawed, my anonymous friend!

  2. Dreaming of Me is non-album single too, and was released in the first box. The problem with this 12" Compilation is that can be viewed from different perspectives. Chronological, album-centric, canonical, you name it. If we look from the album and non-album singles. Little 15 shouldn't be in BC box, GTBR in CTA, or even Dreaming Of Me. But this caused other problems. Only 2 singles in S&S and CTA boxes. So 1st inconsistency. One decision forces other decisions. I would probably add Shake The Disease to SGR box, as this song is closing the early phase in dM's history. Then I'd put ICAH as the addition to BC box. Shake The Disease was played for the first time on SGRT and ICAH was played live for the 1st time on BCT and contains the FOTW too.

    I think they'd put both missing singles on standalone The singles 81-20/1-ish box which will contain all lost pure non-album singles like OWILM PJ'11, ETS'04 and more.

  3. Why does everyone claim that "Little 15" would have appeared exclusively in France? It also appeared in West Germany.

  4. We can always count on someone to complain. If STD and ICAH were included then someone would be saying they shouldn't be!

  5. I'm not sure but i personally think that somewhere along these releases there will be a box set that covers the missing 12" singles.
    Like a box set with Shake The Disease, It's Called A Heart, Only When I Lose Myself and Martyr.
    I may be wrong but that's what I'm hoping.

    1. Yes, I think so too...

      And the Everything Counts live 12inches from 1988 are missing too with the remixes from Simenon/Saunders.