Friday 6 March 2020


Michael's Violator collection

The second of this month's guest blogs is by Michael Rose. Michael is a man who makes many of us look like casual Depeche Mode fans. His collection is legendary and his knowledge of the band beyond encyclopeadic. His name immediately sprang to mind when I was trying to work out who could bail me out by helping with posts this month and I'm delighted that he's written this piece. I know you'll love it. All pictures featured here are Michael's and are not to be used without his consent.

When I think back on the Violator era, I can’t help but remember the anticipation ahead of the album’s release. 

In August 1989, Personal Jesus was released, our first taste of the new album. After the excitement of the teaser advertising campaign, in true Depeche Mode style we were hit with a new sound and direction, a mix of blues and electronica with loads of guitar. Amongst the collection of remixes, we even got an acoustic version!

London Evening Standard August 1989 (2 issues)

When Enjoy The Silence followed in February 1990, I was completely blown away, it was quite simply one of the best things I’d heard by anyone, ever. To this day, it’s still capable of giving me goosebumps, and remains one of my favourite Depeche Mode tracks. It was more what you would expect from Depeche Mode, and its mass appeal was clear, giving the band their highest UK chart position since 1984. Quite something when you think of the quality of Black Celebration and Music For The Masses and the singles they produced! 

And then of course, there were the release formats and the artwork. As a collector, this was adding to the excitement as much as the new music. Along with the usual 7”, 12”, limited 12”, CD and limited CD, Personal Jesus was also released in a gatefold sleeve 7” single, a first for Depeche Mode. With Enjoy The Silence, we were treated to a third 12” and CD, with a glorious 15-minute mix of the single, with an etching on the vinyl version. The artwork, now in the hands of Anton Corbijn, along with the album cover we had yet to see, was to become iconic. 

Come 19th March 1990, and the wait was over - Violator was released. From the simple, yet striking and beautiful image of a red rose on a black background, at complete odds with the hard and aggressive connotations of the word Violator, to the first listen from start to finish, it was a complete experience to be immersed in. 

Depeche Mode, Wembley Arena, 23 November 1990

It was a masterpiece, perfect, there wasn’t a single track I didn’t love on first listen. From the opening notes of World In My Eyes, to the hypnotic fading out of Clean, it had my complete, undivided attention. The band had grown and matured, there was a confidence to the album, the sound was polished and flawless. Dave’s vocal range had improved, showcased perfectly on the gorgeous Waiting For The Night. There seemed to be so many potential singles too, Halo’ being a standout track. I don’t remember how many times I listened to it in that first sitting, but it was the only album I played for quite some time, it went with me everywhere. My only disappointment with the album, was that there were only nine tracks, two of which we’d had prior to release. In getting only seven new tracks, I felt cheated, I wanted more! 

We did of course have a great collection of B-sides, and the single releases continued. Ahead of the World Violation Tour starting in the USA, Policy Of Truth was released in May 1990, and prior to the tour arriving in Europe, World In My Eyes was released in September 1990. A slick release schedule, whip up a frenzy before hitting us with the live shows! 

The release formats for these singles continued to impress. Policy Of Truth gave us a gatefold sleeve 12” single, while World In My Eyes was available in a limited edition 12” single that came in a blue sealed plastic sleeve, with instructions to "violate here" in order to access the aural delights inside! After only instrumentals that backed the previous two singles, World In My Eyes was released with two new tracks, a great way to push a fourth single from a nine track album. I didn’t care, they were brilliant and I’d have bought it anyway, such was my devotion at the time. Over the following years, my collection of Violator related items has risen to over 100, including 21 different copies of the album itself. No doubt you’ll be hearing much more regarding collections from David himself as part of this series. 

Michael's Violator collection
Funnily enough, this passion and obsession with Depeche Mode was now being understood a little more by people around me. Having been ridiculed for being a fan back in the 80s, my tormentors were now taking Depeche Mode more seriously. I had championed the band for years, encouraging people to go and see them in concert, forgetting their preconceived ideas, and they were coming around. The success of Music For The Masses and the tour that followed had really paved the way for a much warmer reception to Violator as we entered a new decade. The proof was there, in the album achieving their highest UK chart position to date. 

Next on the agenda, was of course seeing the band live on the World Violation Tour. For this tour, I had vowed to myself that I would go to every UK date they played. Having travelled to Germany to see them on the last tour, how could I possibly sit at home in London knowing they were playing somewhere in England? Luckily, the Music For The Masses Tour was the last time they actually toured the UK, playing in cities up and down the country. This time, the fans were going to have to go to them, no longer would they be playing more intimate theatres and the like. 

Depeche Mode, Wembley Arena, 23 November 1990

Just two UK dates were initially announced, London and Birmingham in November 1990. Once these were sold out, a second date was added to each venue, and eventually a third. Six dates in two cities, this UK tour was going to be easy, and tickets were secured for all of the shows. 

Not satisfied with this, I made plans to see them live in Europe again. For this tour, I decided on Paris, and tickets were booked for two nights at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy in October, ahead of the UK shows. 

World Violation tickets for Paris 21 and 22 October 1989

All eight shows I attended were outstanding, witnessing this magnificent album come to life in a live setting. The Paris shows though, were a notch above. As well as being a fantastic venue, the passion of the French audience was something to behold, and just like Germany, really showed the difference in how the band were perceived in Europe compared to the UK. I’m not alone, and I think this is a huge factor in what makes UK fans travel far and wide to see Depeche Mode in concert. It’s made even easier nowadays, with the internet and cheap travel. Back then, it was an adventure, trying to secure tickets for a gig in a foreign country and working out how you were going to get there, as cheaply as possible. Coaches, boats and trains made for some interesting journeys! 

Michael's World Violation tickets

Here we are 30 years later, and Violator is still hailed as a masterpiece, and remains the favourite album of many Depeche Mode fans. 

It truly has stood the test of time; a genuine, bona fide, classic, timeless album. I’m listening to it as I write, and it still sounds as powerful and relevant today as it did all those years ago, an album I’ve never stopped listening to. It represents Depeche Mode at the peak of their power, when everything came together perfectly. The songs, the way they were shaped, the production, the artwork, the associated videos, the live shows, it was an amazing time to be a Depeche Mode fan.

No comments:

Post a Comment