With Violator, Depeche Mode had completed electronic music. They had taken it from their local pubs to American stadia and, frankly, there was nowhere else to go.
The band had always adapted and moved on so, after a year off that included pictures of Dave with what everyone presumed was a holiday beard in BONG magazine, Depeche Mode's return was keenly awaited to say the least.
That wasn't a holiday beard though. This was a new bearded, inked up Dave. There was a drumkit. There was also a very loud guitar. This was not Violator.
This was the dawning of something new altogether
YOUR SUN IT SHINES - I FEEL YOU
I Feel You, BONG21, was released on 15th February 1993. This was the first new Depeche Mode material that had been released since I became a fan, so to say I was excited was an understatement. I taped the first play of the song from Simon Mayo's Radio 1 show and then played and rewound, played and rewound, played and rewound until I alienated everyone who knew me. I was in first year at University at the time and was in the very early stages of being in a band. We tried out some REM and Teenage Fanclub covers before I insisted we try I Feel You, despite not knowing the words. We broke up very shortly after that but a tape of one session does exist. It will remain buried in a lead casket until 1000 years after my death.
Anyway, I enthusiastically welcomed I Feel You. What about everyone else?
In Smash Hits, the single was reviewed by Tony Mortimer of the "tough" boy band East 17. The author of classics such as House Of Love and Deep had no time for I Feel You but then, as anyone familiar with his band's output will agree, his opinion on what is a good tune is not that important.
To make up for things, Smash Hits printed the lyrics in a slightly odd way and displayed the new, hairier Depeche Mode.
Over at Melody Maker, Jim Arundel came up with this:
"Almost as deadly as they'd love to be, I Feel You is an exercise in scaling the charts the hard way. They positively pulp a backing track while the newly grunged-up Dave Gahan has his nuts tattooed live in the studio. Synths fart, squelch and whine, amps howl, The London Symphony Dentists pop in for a few bars and the chorus goes either 'this is the dawning of Allah' or 'this is the dawning of Alan' - presumably a reference to 'new boy' Wilder bow being allowed to stay out as long as he likes without being accompanied by an adult."
Other than the suggested chorus line (A 1983 to 1993 compilation called This Is The Dawning Of Alan featuring all his songs and co-writes would be fun), that's a lot of gibberish.
Would NME look upon the song in a more favourable way? Not really, no:
"I Feel You starts off with a might elongated guitar screech before Mr Body Art starts turning the wheels of insipidness. Far more old-style white trousers and crew cuts than his new hard-rock image would indicate; powerful enough, yet desperately forgettable. Depeche Modules everywhere will be dribbling in anticipation."
On the positive side, Depeche Modules is surely something the band can use. If you are reading chaps, I want 20% of whatever reissue project takes that name. As for the review...well, there's not much to say.
Obviously, the band had no intention of appearing on Top Of The Pops. The video featured, and we'll come to that, but there was no in-studio appearance. That didn't stop the song hitting the Top 10 however and it actually entered the charts at number 8. Surely it was time for the band's first number 1? Well, no, because it went down to 9 the next week, then 22, 39, 50, 56 and finally off to oblivion at number 75
Promotion wise there was in fact only one in-studio appearance on earth not just for this song but for the entire Songs Of Faith And Devotion campaign. Let's have a look at the band's performance on Spanish TV show Viendonos on 3rd April 1993:
Here is the new Depeche Mode in action. What the devil is all this? Firstly, and crucially, it must be noted that the band had not only packed away their synthpop selves but they had also packed away the leatherometer. There is no reading here at all, save for a few percentage points for Dave's trousers. Even Alan, the man who redefined leather, is wearing normal clothes. A shocking turn of events.
Dave is resplendent in the top half of the suit he wears in the video and his long hair billows as he mimes his way through 80% of the words. Martin is almost bent double, so I presume his guitar was just a bit too heavy for him. Fletch prods and pulls at his keyboard and Alan bangs away on a drumkit.
I Feel You is a bloody brilliant song and a heroically bold choice to come back with. It really was a shock at the time but a good one and the song still stands out now. It's been a mainstay of the band's live set since it was released, appearing 701 times. The Devotional version is the best version as far as I'm concerned. As more drums and more screaming/roaring by Dave come in on later versions, it dilutes the song's power.
The B-Side was a bit of a cheat as they rather lazily used a track from Songs Of Faith And Devotion. One Caress is of course a majestic, dark, beauty of a song but you must have had a couple more tracks lying about surely lads? You'd had a couple of years for goodness' sake. Having since released Slow on Delta Machine, a song that you can easily imagine in the SOFAD era, I wonder why it wasn't considered then. I'm rambling, One Caress is a perfect Martin song which was actually conisdered by the band to be no more than B-Side material until sense prevailed. It's been played live 74 times.
This was the moment everyone realised that someone had changed dramatically. Previously clean cut, they had become entirely different and exuded a sense of menace previously unseen. It was shocking, especially for those of us who had grown up in the UK. Like me, many of you will have watched BBC1 comedy Three Up, Two Down and the sight of Lysette Anthony in this video was far removed of the memory of her as Angie Tyler in that programme.
Ah, you thought I meant Dave.
Anyway, laboured jokes aside, we open on a black and white shot of a rocking chair as the mad intro noise screams away and...hang on...it's the actor from Three Up, Two Down. Has Anton made a video in tribute to the show? Is Michael Elphick on the way? She shuts the door and wanders towards the camera and....
....is that Dave?
It is. He's grown his hair and a beard and he appears to have employed the services of a blind tailor as that suit and waistcoat combo is a shocker. What on earth has happened to Dave? He jiggles away and then we see Martin. He's got a guitar and a shiny, incredibly cheap looking but inevitably expensive top on. This is strange. It pans to the whole band and the most shocking thing isn't Alan on the full drum kit or Fletch doing what Fletch does best, it's Martin, He's wearing a pair of baggy grey tracksuit bottoms. Did he know they were filming that day? Come on Martin - make an effort man
Suddenly we are in the desert, or more accurately, Red Rock Canyon Park in Nevada. Dave screams away and we see Martin, hunched against the desert breeze, wandering off with his guitar have been told to go and get some more appropriate trousers on. The first chorus arrives (the dawning of Allah?) and we see Lysette waiting for someone in her cabin. Why do most on Anton's videos feature cabins?
The band action returns and we get our first close up of the band's new drummer, Alan. This was the exact point where Depeche Mode, and more specifically Alan, put the leatherwear away and started wearing clothes normal people wear. No more big hair, no more oversized chains around the neck; a new Depeche Mode era had begun. It is of course a fact that Alan only left the band because he insisted they return to their leather and bashing bits of concrete ways. The press release announcing his departure whilst untrue was worded that way as leaving Depeche Mode because you weren't allowed to wear leather trousers sounded too silly.
We then get some desert action, more Lysette prowling around her cabin and then we're once again in the desert, this time for some five a side football. Dave was initially put in goals, but he's not having that so he removes his goalkeeper's gloves and...erm..goalkeeper's sunglasses and forces Martin to take a shot as keeper. He rather petulantly agrees but only on the strict condition that he can take his guitar with him. That doesn't work so it's Dave's turn again and he's miserable about it. The gloves go back on but he makes such a fuss that he causes the net to burst. Depeche Mode do not make a good football team.
Perhaps a magic trick might cheer everyone up? After more band action, on the "where angels sing" line, Dave magically makes a church appear. It's impressive stuff but the band just keep going. The vidoe does too and as we play out, Dave turns up in Lysette's hut and starts undressing, confident that Michael Elphick wasn't going to suddenly burst through the door, We end on a shot of a topless Dave, his new tattoos on full display as he an Lysette get down to rehearsals for the Three Up, Two Down Depeche Mode special that aired in the UK at Christmas in 1993.
We've moved on a lot from See You.
This was the last Depeche Mode track to appear on 7" in the UK for quite some time. The cover art for the single formats features four blob like creatures. These are in fact the band members and the blob like things were turned into huge metal doll things that hung behind the Devotional stage. Martin's doll (bottom left) is easy to identify due to its hair. To allow you to work out who is who though, Anton helpfully painted their birthdays on each one. Top left is Alan, top right Dave and Fletch is below him.
The rear of the single shows Dave posing in Hamburg. The labels are hugely enjoyable and as we've already seen, the two tracks here are I Feel You and One Caress.
The same two tracks appear on the UK cassette single CBONG21 where we get an extra band picture thrown in for good measure.
A promo 12", P12BONG21 was released but there was no promo CD. It features the album versions of I Feel You and One Caress and two remixes of I Feel You - Throb Mix and Babylon Mix.
Initial pressings of 12BONG21 came in a matt card sleeve (above) with later pressings in a glossy sleeve. The tracklisting of the 12" is the same as the P12BONG21
Both I Feel You remixes are great although I think I am a bit too biased given the effect this song had on me at the time. In 1993, we were still in the era of outsiders remixing Depeche tracks and making them sound good so we should be happy about that.
CDBONG21 features the same four tracks as 12BONG21. I was waiting outside HMV in Aberdeen when it opened on the day this was released. No-one else was.
Dave features on the back.
The single came in a digipack so, in addition to the band picture we saw on the CBONG21, we slso get a dM and a purple blob.
L12BONG21 is a lovely thing. It comes in a gatefold sleeve with a "deluxe" inner sleeve.
Fletch and Dave are the cover stars. The A-Side features two remixes by ambient pioneering synth goblin Brian Eno - Life's Too Short Mix and Swamp Mix. They sound just as you would imagine. I'm a bit of an Eno fan so they do the job for me.
The B-side features two more reasonable remixes of I Feel You - Afghan Surgey Mix and Helmet At The Helm Mix. Martin and Alan appear on the back. Later pressings of this 12" don't feature the band's birthdays.
Inside the gatefold we find the band band having a great laugh and Dave and Alan hanging around in Hamburg like a pair of dirty old men.
LCDBONG21 is another digipack and features the same four tracks as L12BONG21
The cover stars remain in the same order as on the 12"
The same pictures as on the L12 sleeve pop up too.
The 2004 reissue CD features the 8 tracks spread across the 1993 formats.
I don't have too many copies of I Feel You so this section is a bit shorter than normal. I obviously have more copies than anyone could reasonably need of the single but you are all the same as me, so you get it. As ever, refer to depmod.com for all your release info. The picture above shows the German 7" single.
That's the back and B-Side of the same thing.
The one track US promo CD is a nice thing.
The US 12" looks the same as 12BONG21 but features a whopping seven tracks. Three remixes of I Feel You (Babylon Mix, Helmet At The Helm Mix, Afghan Surgery Mix) accompany One Caress on the A-side.
Brian Eno's mixes and the Throb Mix pop up on the B-side.
We end in Japan, The CD single has the same four tracks as CDBONG21 but it also has nice OBI strip and a poster.
It's more of a leaflet than a poster really.
There we are then. Depeche Mode were back. They looked and sounded very different and, as the year went on, we'd discover that almost everything about them had changed. What a single though.
Next time, we'll talk B-sides, odd looking people and try to immediately gloss over the words grungy and gonads.