The third single from Playing The Angel was a first for Depeche Mode - a single written by Dave Gahan. Other than the band's first three Vince Clarke penned singles, Martin had been in charge from See You to A Pain That I'm Used To.
Playing The Angel was of course the first Depeche album to feature songwriting contributions from Dave and Suffer Well is the strongest of the lot, just edging out Nothing's Impossible.
With Suffer Well, we got another new song as a B-Side, another DVD, a plethora of promos, an XL12 and, thank every known God on the planet, Anton returned to video duties. Here is the story of Suffer Well.
FROM THE BLACKEST ROOM I WAS TORN - SUFFER WELL
Suffer Well, BONG37, was released on 27th March 2006. As I mentioned above, the song was written by Dave with assistance from Christian Eigner and Andrew Philpott.
The single didn't pick up many reviews, but the song grabbed a few people's attention when they were reviewing Playing The Angel. In The Irish Times, Sinead Gleeson said:
"On Suffer Well, Gahan’s voice is as deep and murky as the title – and sounds better than ever."
Ralph Moore in Mixmag was impressed with the song's role in the album's superb opening few tracks:
"The opening triple salvo of A PainThat I'm Used To, John The Revelator and Suffer Well is a musical call to arms not heard since Violator"
Q Magazine enjoyed it very much:
"Gahan contributes three songs which fit seamlessly. And while they remain obsessed with dysfunction and masochism, his Suffer Well sums up the album’s subtext of hard-won optimism. "I found treasure not where I thought/Peace of mind can’t be bought/I still believe," he croons, and you believe that the reformed rockpig means it. Playing The Angel is the year’s greatest, and most unlikely, comeback."
Reformed rockpig indeed. The Guardian meantime said:
"Suffer Well swirls into life with old-school analogue action, and maintains a breathless pace throughout"
Good reviews all round then really. The band did little to promote the song as they were midway through Touring The Angel but it did enter the charts at the relatively high position of number 12. There was to be no Top Ten however as it quickly fell to 38 and then to 91 and that was very much that.
Suffer Well is a tremendous song and still one of Dave's finest. It's perhaps one where there was a conscious effort to sound like Depeche Mode and it did just that. It fits perfectly on Playing The Angel, has wonderful lyrics and is just an all round cracker. While I Want It All flails around aimlessly, Suffer Well and Nothing's Impossible are dark, punchy tracks that do Dave great credit. Suffer Well featured on every gig on Touring The Angel complete with Martin playing bass guitar, a fluffy hatted, much less intimidating Peter Hook. It's not been played live since it's 124th and final outing in Athens on 1st August 2006, but would be a welcome surprise on the next world tour in 2026 or whenever.
The B-Side is the short but punchy Better Days, a Martin written song. It's yet another cracking B-side and a nice loud thing that passes two and a half minutes perfectly enjoyably. It's never been played live sadly.
Anton came back and he brought some special guests with him. You will recognise Jonathan Kessler and Dave's wife Jennifer but the real coup was when Anton persuaded Elton John and Dame Barbara Cartland to appear too. It was kept very quiet at the time, but those two celebrities were an unlikely couple and has asked Anton to make their official wedding video. Anton decided to make the theme of the video an examination of the things Dave would have to put himself through just to get through the big day where he was due to perform the first public airing of Hole To Feed.
Jonathan's role of Dave's driver during the 1996 issues was reprised and the video opens with him dropping Dave off on the wedding day. Dave, looking outstanding as he did throughout this period hops out of the car, takes his wedding ring off and then breaks into and robs a jewellery store. He'd forgotten to get a present for the happy couple so he nicks a necklace. That act of thievery sees Dave change, and he becomes a be-stubbled shifty looking type and leaves the store.
Jennifer appears as an angel in a shed called Heaven and tries to tempt Dave away from his life of crime. He's tempted alright but the sheer volume of traffic heading to the wedding makes it impossible to cross the road so Jennifer disappears and Dave gets on his way.
He then passes a shop called Future with its name written in what appears to be the Personal Jesus font, one of only three fonts Anton uses. The shop offers palm readings and, somewhat bewilderingly, has a sign in the window that says "We Sell Hell And Suffer Well." I have no idea what that means.
Dave takes a nosey and stares at this bewildering sign as the word HELL flickers....ah....it's an Anton metaphor. Dave has seen those before so he moves on desperate to get to the wedding, when the wind picks up. He takes a break in building marked Tavern and pulls up a chair at the bar.
He does what we all do at weddings - gets drunk, takes off his shirt (erm...) and starts dancing like nobody is watching. Luckily for Dave, nobody is watching and, dancing duly done, he's off, shirtless and hammered and on his way to serenade Elton and Dame Barbara.
By the time he gets outside, it is chucking it down so he makes haste to the wedding and arrives, drunker than planned. The bride and groom are standing in the windows of the DM Bridal Shop and they look lovely. Well, Fletch...sorry...Elton does. Martin, I mean Dame Barbara, looks utterly terrifying. A sing song occurs, Dave attempts Hole To Feed and then he stumbles off into, remarkably, a snow storm, looking like Devotional Dave and falls asleep.
But wait...it's a dream. He doesn't take the wedding ring off, doesn't turn into a mad version of himself and instead collects Jennifer from her shopping trip and drives away. None of the bad stuff happened and everything is fine.
Well, some of the bad stuff happened but that will be examined when we look at the third single from Sounds Of The Universe.
Let's once again start with the promos as there are quite a few of them.
The first is P12BONG37. It comes in a very nice sleeve as you can see.
It contains the same three tracks as 12BONG37.
There was a promo for the L12 too.
PL12BONG37 contains the same four tracks as its officially released friend.
Finally, as there was an XL 12", that needed an Xl 12" promo.
PXL12BONG37 features the same two tracks as XL12BONG37.
There are two promo CDs too. RCDBONG37 features the Single Version and Album Version of Suffer Well.
PCDBONG37, the Club Promo, is a different beast entirely. It lasts over an hour and features eleven remixes, nine of Suffer Well and two of Better Days. In the UK, a further 5 CD-R promos were available including an XL12BONG37 one that I don't have and would love you, yes you reading this just now, to send me. Thanks.
Onto the official releases. We once again got a limited, numbered 7" picture disc, BONG37. Side A (above) features Suffer Well (Metope Vocal Remix).
Next we have the first 12", 12BONG37. The cover features Dave from the video and the lucky couple appear on the label. On Side A (above), we find two rather good remixes of Suffer Well - Tiga Remix and Tiga Dub.
Side B contains the not as good as Side A Suffer Well (Narcotic Thrust Vocal Dub). The pictures on the sleeve and label have been swapped around to create a terrifying rear sleeve.
L12BONG37 has a fairly scary sleeve and an equally scary set of remixes throughout its grooves. Side A contains two remixes of Suffer Well - Metope Remix and Metope Vocal Remix. They're not great basically.
Side B features the superb M83 Remix of Suffer Well and the less superb and annoyingly named remix of Better Days, Basteroid "Dance Is Gone" Vocal Mix.
XL12BONG37 is glorious for a number of reasons. Firstly, it's an XL12 and that's pleasing. Secondly, it contains two remixes of The Darkest Star, Playing The Angel's brooding closing track. What a stupendous move that is. In a Twitter thing recently, Mute responded to my picture of the 12" saying that the catalogue number had provoked a "long discussion at Mute Towers." That sort of thing is what makes Mute Records the finest label there is. The A Side features the majestic Holden Remix of The Darkest Star. It is outstanding.
On the B-side we have the splendid The Darkest Star (Holden Dub).
The two CD singles and the DVD single again came in a box that you could obtain by emailing Mute.
The rear of the box tells you what is on each disc.
CDBONG37 is a simple enough thing. Two tracks - Suffer Well (Album Version) and Better Days - and that's just fine
LCDBONG47 is a six Suffer Well remix frenzy: Tiga Remix, Narcotic Thrust Vocal Dub, Alter Ego Remix, M83 Remix, Metope Vocal Remix and Metope Remix.
DVDBONG37 contains the video for Suffer Well, the Alter Ego Dub of the track and Better Days (Basteroid "Dance Is Gone" Vocal Mix).
A few tracks were available on digital only too: Suffer Well (M83 Instrumental), Suffer Well (Tiga Dub), Suffer Well (Single Version), Suffer Well (Alter Ego Dub) and Better Days (Basteroid "Dance Is Gone" Vocal Mix).
A promo CD was released in Denmark and Germany put out its versions of CDBONG37 and LCDBONG37. Greece released another hard to find promo and a Taiwanese badged CDBONG37 is out there too. Finally, there was no physical release in the US but there were two promo CDS, four promo CD-Rs and, a first I think, a promo DVD-R.
In a new twist, the song was also released in Simlish as the video below shows. It was for the game The Sims which I have no idea about. Had it been released for Football Manager, I would have been all for it:
What an intriguing single. A first in that it was Dave written, interesting remixes, a cool B-Side, the first Anton video in nearly a decade and an odd but glorious XL12".
There was one more single to come from Playing The Angel and we'll look at that and its incredibly annoyingly named remixes next time.