Thursday, 28 January 2021

DEPECHE MODE - THE SINGLES 1981 TO 2021 PART 12: BLASPHEMOUS RUMOURS/SOMEBODY

 


Ok, it's not exactly Closer by Nine Inch Nails, but you can see why people might have been offended by Blasphemous Rumours when they heard it. Even Fletch, a man who had remember recently consented to something as deviant as being whipped to be used as a sample, was "quite offended" when he first heard it.

To temper the possibility of this being their The Beatles Are Bigger Than Jesus moment, for the first time in their history, Depeche Mode released a double A-side, radically (erm...)remixing Somebody and adding it to the package. They would not release a double A side again until John The Revelator/Lilian. It is claimed that Fragile Tension was a double A side with some other song but there's no evidence to back that up.

How did it get on? What were the videos like. And why are the labels on the 7" and 12" beautiful yet illogical and frankly annoying? Let's find out shall we?


LAUGHING/MAY EVEN BE PERVERTED - BLASPHEMOUS RUMOURS/SOMEBODY

This brave new double A format was released on 29th October 1984. just as the band were wrapping up the UK leg of the Some Great Reward tour. There was a genuine concern that Blasphemous Rumours' God questioning lyrics might see the song banned, but the BBC weren't that bothered in the end.

Initial reviews of the single were enthusiastic enough. Neil Tennant in his pre Erasure* role as a Smash Hits reviewer said that Blasphemous Rumours was "a routine slab of gloom in which God is given a severe ticking off," which is sort of complimentary I think. Number 1 magazine went all pro Depeche Mode, saying "Depeche Mode are becoming a very important band indeed," adding that the single was "thought provoking stuff." Smash Hits meanwhile deemed Somebody "a bug lush ballad with tasteful sound effects."

*I know, I know.


The band appeared on Top Of The Pops on 4th November 1984 with the song having entered the charts at number 29. The public didn't let the sight of Alan hitting a concrete block with a hammer and Martin tirelessly (ho ho) playing a bicycle wheel put them off - the single flew up the charts the next week to number 16. Sadly however, that's where the fun ended as the single then dropped one place the following week before again dropping to 32, 54 and then refusing to be tied to any charts' strings by falling to 64 then disappearing forever.

The two songs on the double A side appear in different forms to their Some Great Reward versions. Obviously, neither track was suitable for a banging club mix - David Guetta's take on Blasphemous Rumours is a horrifying prospect for example -  but they felt they had to do something. Blasphemous Rumours is presented in a shorter form than on the album with the odd breathing noise section at the end removed among other things. Listening back to it just now, I'm reminded just how good a song this is. One thing I love is that, despite the gloomy lyrical concept, they just couldn't resist sticking a frankly huge pop chorus in. That's brilliant. It's worth remembering too that if we didn't have Blasphemous Rumours, we wouldn't have had a great moment in Depeche Mode history. I'll let this picture say it all:


Among the 247 times the band played Blasphemous Rumours live between 1984 and 1988, this one was surely the most memorable.

Somebody was also remixed with the band turning the album version into a nine and a half minute long sonic reinvention of the track that reminds you of Throbbing Gristle at their most industrial. Not really. It's got a bit more reverb and a few more noises and is a full 8 seconds shorter than the album mix. It's perfectly lovely of course as Somebody always is.  It is of course the first Depeche Mode single not to feature the vocals of Mr Gahan and he's taken a rest to let Martin sing it 354 times between 1984 and 2018. Interestingly, it was only played once on the Black Celebration tour and never on World Violation. 

The Videos


That's right - videos, not just video singular. First up, we have the Blasphemous Rumours video which the Depeche Mode Information Service Newsletter of November 1984 told us was filmed at the Birmingham Odeon on the Some Great Reward tour. Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group's legendary detective work has also found out that part of the footage was filmed at the gig at King George's Hall in Blackburn too.

The band appear on the Some Great Reward stage set and run their way through the song. Naturally, Martin has his top off and Alan is seen in full leather Mode in the man-in-leather-with-big-hair-playing-keyboards stance he maintained from this point to the end of Everything Counts at the Rosebowl. Dave is of course singing and Fletch is having a lovely time playing a classic Fletch one finger bass part. The band look serious throughout as this song is a serious one and they smash bits of metal and corrugated iron in serious manner. Less serious are the various literal interpretations of the samples, for example, the pan falling down some metal steps, the bicycle wheel and the frankly horrendous scissors that appear and snip the film at various places. Stop that.

There's not a great deal to say about it really. It's nice to see the live set up in slightly better resolution than on The World We Live In And Live In Hamburg (DVD please Mute if you're reading) and seeing Martin and Alan hit things on stage is never bad. It's basically the best video of their career to that point.


As with Blasphemous Rumours, the band went for a performance video for Somebody which was therefore good news for Dave and Andy as they got the day off. You do see them of course with the pair appearing on footage played over Martin singing at certain points. Somewhat inexplicably we also see Dave not really running down a hill at one point towards the end. It's hard to know what he's doing really - it looks like he's lost control of his legs. Anyway, over the heartbeat and gasping noises at the start we see the band outside in various locations meandering around. Martin is wearing a hat and, unusually, clothes on his top half. He and Alan are then revealed, Alan on the piano and Martin in a nifty leather dress accessorised as all dresses of the time were (?) with what looks like handcuffs. Martin had clearly got hot under the hat he was wearing at the start of the video as his hair looks like an explosion in a masrshmallow factory. It is peak mid-80's Martin Mad Hair and it's glorious. The Wilder Hair Scale also has a reading of "Dangerously High." 

And that's really it for the Somebody video too. It's fine, it does what it needs to and is short of comedy/terrifying moments. I guess that spacehoppers and milkmen would have really been a bad idea for this song.

The Formats


Normally I give you a quick run through of what's what with the single releases at this point but today we need to talk about a serious issue. Before I go on, I want you to answer this question:

When you think of the double A side single Blasphemous Rumours/Somebody which song do you think of first?

(Insert answers)

That's right - Blasphemous Rumours. It's obviously the true A side here as the front cover shows an image depicting the song (I think - more on that in a second) and the band played it on Top Of The Pops. Why then, does the label on the 7" (7BONG7 - above) have AA beside the song title? 


The B-side label (above) has A beside Somebody which would suggest to me that Somebody was thought of as the true A-side but that can't be right can it? The rear of the 7" is clearly the Somebody side as you can see from the track order in the top right and the imagery. It's the lyrics to the song so it has to be meant to have been the second track of the double A side and thus should have been AA. Right?

Now, these things are NOT important in real life and it may be that having realised I still have 38 of these blogs to go that I am having a nervous breakdown, but I'm sure I'm right here. Alternatively of course, as I have just realised, it could be that AA in music business speak for the lead track on a double A-side single in which case I've just wasted a lot of your time and I'm sorry. I'm not going to check as that will lead to me deleting all this blog and starting again. I'm sure someone will point it out.

Still, intriguing eh? The UK 7" above by the way features two tracks both of which I've mentioned and, misplacement of the letter A aside, the labels are beautiful.


As well as the band's first double A side, we also got the first ever e.p. I was obsessed with hunting this down when I first read about it in 1990 and I love it. It's not that rare of course, it's just a great release. 7BONG7E features the two 7" tracks (the A and AA issue is there again) plus two live tracks from the Liverpool Empire Theatre gig on 29 September 1984


On the Blasphemous Rumours and thus THE ACTUAL A-SIDE there is a riotous version of Told You So and a tremendous Everything Count accompanies Somebody on the flip, other, alternative and very much B-Side.


12BONG7 is on my side. The A-Side features one track and that is the album version of Blasphemous Rumours. As you can see from the picture above, it says A on the label and the front cover is an extended version of the 7" cover. I rest my case.


The B-side features four live tracks from the Liverpool show. As well as the 2 from 7BONG7E, it features a live version of Somebody and a huge sounding and quite magnificent Ice Machine.


The 1991 CD features the same 4 songs as 7BONG7E.


It's a Depeche Mode single from the 1980's so that can only mean German coloured vinyl. We of course have a red 7" which is great but reignites all the AA/A arguments that I am the only person on earth having just now. 


That's the Somebody side above.


There are two colour vinyl versions to collect. Firstly, the rather ominous looking grey one.


It features the same tracks as 12BONG7.


There's a yellow vinyl version too which brings some sunshine to proceedings.


Again, it has the same songs on it as 12BONG7 and it's grumpy grey brother.


The blue stripe CD comes in a jewel box this time rather than the thin style of CD box and features the 12" tracks.


There are a number of French formats. My favourite is the thin card numbered sleeve version which features the 12" tracks. When I say favourite, I really mean "the only French format I actually own."


Finally in the European section, here is the Belgian CD release. It's lovely beacuse it's yellow.


To end, we venture to America and ask exactly what the fuck is that? A promo 12" for Blasphemous Rumours was released by Sire and it's baffling on many levels. Firstly, the tracklist. It features the single version of Blasphemous Rumours, the album mix of Something To Do and the single version of (Set Me Free) Remotivate Me. That's an odd bunch. Secondly, we have the cover. In these Covid ridden times, seeing someone breathe into someone else's face is enough to worry you. Presumably however, the person on the right is whispering rumours which may or may not be blasphemous into the ear of the person on the left who has an extremely long head. It's very, very odd and makes Anton's sleeve for Spirit look positively Michelangelo like by comparison.



With this single, phase 1 of Depeche Mode was over. The next album would be a phase 1 summing up compilation and it would feature two new tracks both of which would be released as singles. One is a poppy, fairly lightweight one which sounds like the last track phase 1 DM recorded. 

The other is a dark, masterful love song so epic and glorious that it was surely bound to capture the heart of everyone who heard it on its unstoppable run to the top of the charts. All it needed was a title that wouldn't put people off. Yes, write a darker, brooding love song, but don't give it a name that makes you sound like you are ill. 

Ah. You did do that Martin, 

We'll check in on the patient next time.

6 comments:

  1. Hi mate, just have to say that I love your blog. As a long term Mode fan it never fails to make me go back and play their music and your dry wit always gives me a chuckle. Keep going chap it's great stuff.

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    1. Thank you! That’s really nice of you - glad you enjoy them

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  2. The real glory of your blog is that it make something boring (the endless review of the same 12" singles) into something funny and pasionate. As de Saïd in my country : Bravo.

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    1. Thanks! I’m glad you’re enjoying them

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  3. A joy to read as always... but Neil Tennant in his pre Erasure... what the?!?

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