Hot on the heels of Barrel Of A Gun's Top 5 success, Depeche Mode struck chart gold again with a song that instantly became a Depeche classic - It's No Good
As well as the song itself, we got more ridiculous CD boxes, some quite horrendous remixes and a fantastic video. A mixed bag then, but let's not lose sight of the real star here - the single itself.
WRITTEN IN THE STARS ABOVE - IT'S NO GOOD
|Picture courtesy of Michael Rose/depmod.com|
It's No Good, a single that very much avoided living up to its name, was released on 31st March 1997. BONG26 was almost unanimously warmly greeted by the critics. The NME said:
"Cold Turkey comeback duties duly taken care of, it's back to something approaching groove - underlaid lovesick business-as-usual for la Mode. The emphasis being on the 'sick', for 'It's No Good' is another of Martin Gore's appallingly pretty odes to someone for whom the creak of his leather bodice awaits as surely as sweat accompanies rumpo. Amid the insistent electro diktat, Dave Gahan sings with disarming sweetness: "Don't say you're happy/Out there without me/I know you can't be/'Cos It's No Good" When it comes to such ultra-tech, yet trad toilet-seat drama, Depeche Mode are untouchable, a fact the litany of unenlightening remixes by the likes of Speedy J and Andrea Parker only serve to emphasise."
You may recall we met Peter Andre in the last blog. Well, once again, Peter and Depeche Mode's paths crossed, this time when Peter was invited to review the week's singles by Melody Maker. Here's Peter, a man "famed" for ground-breaking songs like Mysterious Girl and Insania (if you haven't heard of either please do not look them up - I accept no liability for what may happen to you), talking firmly out of his arse:
MM: What more can I say?
Peter: They've come back from the dead, haven't they? And I think they've done it really well, too, though I don't like this as much as I liked some of their old stuff. This sounds a lot like U2. It's OK, I don't dislike it, but I preferred the last one. I don't really think it's their best material. But they're a respected group: I suppose you can't knock the fact they've started just knocking out song after song after song. They probably know that some will be liked more than others.
MM: But would you bring out a single that you didn't think was the best thing you could possibly do?
Peter: That's a good point, actually. I never though of it that way. Maybe they should have waited a couple more years and come back when they knew they had something amazing up their sleeves.
Back in the world of musical opinions you can trust. Billboard said:
"The second single from the act's new album Ultra is considerably more low-key than the more caustic previous hit Barrel Of A Gun. In fact, this is the single that die hard Depeche Mode disciples have been starved for, in that it somewhat revisits the stylistic days of Master & Servant. The music cruises at a funky electro-pop pace, with minimal sound-effect clutter. Rather, the focus is on Dave Gahan's forlorn performance and Martin Gore's sensitive lyrics."
Ok, the Master & Servant comparison is, at best, bewildering, but a decent review overall.
Music and Media, apparently "Europe's Radio-Active Newsweekly," said:
"After the spiky Barrel Of A Gun, Depeche Mode return with a sound which programmers and audiences can instantly recognise and identify with - it's one the band have used with some success in Europe. Dave Gahan's voice soars above the minimal electronics, which are interspersed with some spartan synth interludes, in a song that glides along smoothly to its conclusion."
Some success? A slight underplaying of the band's career in Europe you have to say.
Once again, the band turned up on Top Of The Pops, appearing after the Spice Girls with the genuinely superb 2 Becomes 1, surely their finest work, and introduced by the at that point Take That-less Mark Owen. He's rather complimentary about the song and I do recall thinking when I watched that "bloody hell - Depeche have been going for 17 years." Here we are a further 24 years down the line...
Anyway, the performance is fine. Dave still looks a little unsure of himself initially but fairly quickly perks up. Martin is sporting the hairdo he has in the video and it really does suit him and Fletch...well, Fletch is dressed for wet weather and spends the whole song shaking his keyboards in his usual adorable way. You will note a fourth person on stage too. Anton had performed so badly on drums when they appeared on the show playing Barrel Of A Gun, that he was returned to the art department and replaced by Christian Eigner and he has been keeping the drum seat warm ever since.
The single smashed its way into the charts at number 5, a second Top 5 hit in two releases and the band's fifth UK Top Ten in the last five singles, their finest chart run ever. Instead of doing what it should have done and gone to Number 1, the song then fell to 16, 31, 48 and finally 73 before bowing out of the charts.
As well as Top Of The Pops, Depeche also played the song live on TFI Friday, a programme that was a decent way to start the weekend in the late 90's if you ignored its entire content other than the live music. Here, Dave is restrained but cool, Martin plays the guitar, Christian drums, Fletch Fletches and guest keyboard player Dave Clayton bounces around like the happies man on earth and why not eh? He got to play live with Depeche Mode after all.
As we are going TV appearance daft, let's end with this May 1997 appearance on Jay Leno in the US. It's a cracking, muscular version of the song with the most Depeche Mode bassline of all time. Dave's had a haircut and gained even more confidence, Dave Clayton is bouncier than a bouncy thing on a trampoline and Martin appears to be wearing an old pair of tights on his top half. Oh, Martin.
It's No Good really is a classic Depeche Mode single. It has everything you would want from the band (apologies to those of you who are currently saying "Erm...Alan Wilder?") from the beautiful lyrics to its quintessential Depeche music and all stops in between. It's the sort of song that non Depeche Mode fans, people we normally would not associate with, even love. I remember people telling me how much they loved it back then when I was known as the oddball DM fan. This conversation probably happened in Aberdeen in 1997:
"That new Depeche Mode song is excellent, Good to hear they are still doing well. Anyway, I must be goin..."
"Really? Glad you like it. It's amazing and possibly the best thing I've ever heard. I can't believe you like it too. There's so much more to the band than that anyway you know. You're bound to like lots more. Have you heard Pipeline? It's incredible. They sampled things and made a really intense song about industrialisation and in doing so basically invented 6 genres of music. Then there's Fly On The Windscreen. It was a B-Side at first. A B-SIDE! And then the..."
I've not changed.
The song itself is one the band have played regularly since they started touring again in 1998. It wasn't played on Touring The Angel or the Delta Machine tour but has featured on the other tours since The Singles 86-98 tour. The live version on the Global Spirit tour was quite brilliant. The version in Pars on 3rd December 2017 was stunning and a real tour highlight. Overall, It's No Good has been played live 328 times.
The B-side of the single, at least if you are in the US where it was released on 7" is Slowblow an average but not exactly earth shattering instrumental that has never been played live.
At this point, I would normally write something amusing (at least to me anyway) about a video, pointing out its many inadvertent comedy moments and finding any excuse to mention Hole To Feed in a variety of negative ways. The issue this time however is that Depeche Mode made a deliberate comedy video and it's bloody marvellous so it's incredibly difficult to take the piss out of it.
Instead, and for a one-off non pisstaking special, let's be serious. The BONG fanclub ran a competition where lucky fans could get the chance to star in a Depeche Mode video and one of the winners, Anita Cox who plays the bored looking cocktail waitress in the video, told her story in BONG32. This is far better than anything I could come up with at this point, so here's what Anita had to say:
"It felt like I had been waiting an age for this day to arrive, after the excitement of getting through to Radio 1 on the phone, then actually getting picked to give the answers. Here we were in New York, sat in the make-up trailer on the set of the video for “It’s No Good”. My boyfriend, Ian, had bought a ticket and came with me. He is as big a fan as me, and there was no keeping him at home! I had already been made up for my part as a cocktail waitress, when we overheard one of the crew announcing that the lead singer had arrived and was ready for make-up. We were tense with anticipation, not sure how we’d react, when Dave’s head popped round the door looking slightly lost. “Hi! Am I in the right place?”
Next thing we knew, he was sat opposite, asking us if we’ve had breakfast, and would we like coffee & doughnuts? There’s something terribly cool about being asked if you take sugar by your hero! The conversation was very relaxed, and he chatted to us about our flight, and suggested places to shop in New York. Once his make-up was done (and he didn’t need much!) he started to get changed – and oh yes, I have seen the tattoos. Meanwhile, Fletch had arrived and was busy recommending restaurants to us, while Martin was giggling at the similarity between Dave’s sequinned suit, and the outfits they wore in the “Meaning Of Love” video.
The time had come to get down to work. I was introduced to Anton Corbijn, who then passed me on to props to get my tray of cocktails, which turned out to be cranberry juice! Dave quickly slipped into character, and was soon hamming it up big style with the dancing girls, with Fletch and Martin content to stay in the background. After a few takes in the freezing cold, Dave asked me how I was bearing up. I said I was fine, but he insisted on rubbing my arms! My part was to drink cocktails and look really bored. That must be the hardest acting role for a Depeche fan ever especially as Dave was so entertaining. When Anton decided he was happy with the filming in the hotel, I changed back into my own clothes, and we watched the filming of what became the final scene of the video outside Hotel Ultra. The end of the first day, and I kissed Dave good-bye as he left to film another scene on the Brooklyn Bridge.
On the second day of the shoot we arrived at lunchtime and met J D Fanger, the band’s Tour Manager and Jonathan Kessler, their Manager, who gave us permission to take as many photographs as we liked. Dave showed his star quality by posing for pictures with us and the other competition winners, in fact he didn’t stop playing to the camera. It was great! Filming resumed with the bar scene, bottle smashing, chair breaking and nearly a nasty accident with the pointed stand on Fletch’s double bass! And of course Anton’s cameo appearance as club compere. Nice suit! The day finished with a photo session on the nearby street corner, much to the amusement of passing locals, who found Dave’s lime green suit an eye opener, even by New York standards. After one last group photo, it was time to go. We said goodbye to the band, and headed back to Times Square for dinner with David, one of the other competition winners from California, and his wife Luciana. We had an excellent evening eating, drinking and talking Depeche, and promised to keep in touch.
It was a fantastic prize, and an experience I will never forget!"
How about that eh?
The single was released on only four formats in the UK and the same number of promo formats were released. Let's look at them first.
P12BONG26 (above at pictured at the start of this post) contains the same 5 tracks as the standard 12" so we will come to them shortly.
The sleeve and labels are rather nice.
The promo CD, RCDBONG26, features the Radio Version and Album Version of It's No Good.
A second promo 12", PL12BONG26, appeared too. This one features three remixes of It's No Good - Club 69 Future Mix, Club 69 Future Dub and Club 69 Funk Dub. The Club 69 Future Mix has only ever been released in the UK on this 12" or on the promo CD and 12" release The Remixes 86-98. In the US, an edit of it features alongside the other two remixes on the It's No Good promo 12". I think that's the case anyway - as ever I am here to be corrected (hello Panos).
The UK promo 12" is, despite what many people say, a legitimate release. It has been widely bootlegged however so be careful if purchasing. The way to tell you have a true copy is by seeing if your copy has an extra circle inside the inner circle as mine does above. Finally on this release, the fact the remixes had an official albeit on promo only release in the US together with this 12" having a PL12 catalogue number might suggest that an official release was planned but didn't ever happen.
The final UK promo is equally baffling in many ways. It has a fully printed sleeve and CD, is called XLCDBONG26 and features a live version of It's No Good. Was this also planned for official release hence the commercial release catalogue number? Who can say. What we can say is that this release is a lovely thing and is very rare. If you want one, it'll cost you at least £100 plus Brexit Bonus Postage on Discogs just now,
In the world of official releases, the UK cassette single CBONG26 features the album version of It's No Good and the single version of Slowblow.
12BONG26 features five almost instantly forgettable remixes of It's No Good. On Side A (above), we are "treated" to the Hardfloor Mix and the Speedy J Mix.
Side B favours us with the Motor Bass Mix, a vinyl edit of that mix, the Andrea Parker Mix and the Dom T Mix which is also known as the Bass Bounce Mix. None of the five are really that good. It's not as mind-bendingly bad a selection of remixes as we'll soon see on the Should Be Higher 12" mind you so there is that.
Once again, the CD singles came in the reverse boxes that must have been a good idea at the time for some reason. There are two CD singles and this is CDBONG26.
The back of the box is the front again, there is nice leaflet and a nice CD. Musically, we have the album version of It's No Good (hooray), the Darren Price Mix of Slowblow (hmmm) and the Bass Bounce and Speedy J remixes of It's No Good.
LCDBONG26 is another four track affair.
Once you work out how to open the box, you find it contains a CD with the single version of Slowblow and the It's No Good in its Hardfloor Mix, Andrea Parker Mix and Motor Bass Mix guises.
The 2004 UK CD single put all 8 tracks in one place.
In America, there were a number of different promos. The promo CD above is a lovely thing.
It contains the Radio Edit and Album Version of It's No Good. The US promo 12" which comes in a plain white sleeve and is not in my collection (yet) contains the Speedy J and Hardfloor mixes of It's No Good on Side 1 and the Club 69 mixes mentioned earlier. There also appear to be 5 other promo CD-Rs featuring various edits of remixes by BRAT a.k.a Daniel Barassi,
The standard US 12" features four tracks. Side A has the Hardfloor and Bass Bounce mixes of It's No Good.
Side B has the Speedy J Mix of It's No Good and the Darren Price Mix of Slowblow. There is also a cassette single and a 7".
There are two US CD singles. The first comes in a pull out tray sleeve and has the Album Version of It's No Good alongside the Darren Price Mix of Slowblow and the Bass Bounce Mix of It's No Good.
The second US CD single which comes in a jewel box and is such a new arrival in my collection that it arrived last night and thus doesn't feature in the photo at the end, has 5 tracks - It's No Good Album Version, Hardfloor Mix, Speedy J Mix and Bass Bounce Mix and the single version of Slowblow.
We end in Japan where the combine both CD releases in one box that is reversible, back to front and quite mad.
It features all 8 remixes we've seen across the various officially released formats. Elsewhere on earth, it was dull CD releases all the way with the exception of the ever reliable Germans who released the same 12" as we got in the UK.
It's No Good would have been the obvious choice for a comeback single, but Depeche Mode being Depeche Mode, they went for Barrel Of A Gun and rightly so. It's perhaps unlikely that if the two had swapped round, Barrel Of A Gun would have followed It's No Good into the Top Ten but, had they released It's No Good first, who knows whether or not they might finally have got a Number 1?
Who cares though eh? It's brilliant track and the equally brilliant album it came from was only a matter of weeks away. The next single would see Martin take lead vocal duty and we'll look at that next time.
Oh, and if you see Peter Andre, tell him he was talking bollocks.