Monday, 16 November 2020

DEPECHE MODE - THE SINGLES 1981 TO 2021 PART 4: SEE YOU

 



Everything was going so well for Depeche Mode. Dreaming Of Me saw them gain a large fanbase outwith their local area, New Life sold nearly 500,000 copies and made them a household name and Just Can't Get Enough built on that, turning the band into a Top Ten band in the UK. Their debut album Speak & Spell was about to be released and the world was their oyster. What could possibly go wrong?

NME, 2nd January 1982

Ah. The news of Vince's departure first appeared in December 1981 and that appeared to be that for Depeche Mode. Jaunty instrumental Big Muff and Tora! Tora! Tora! aside, Vince had written all the band's songs. Someone needed to step up and keep Depeche Mode going and that man was Martin L Gore. Turns out he wasn't too bad a songwriter at all.

WE CAN RELIVE OUR YOUTH - SEE YOU

The Single

Picture courtesy of depmod.com

See You was released on 29th January and entered the charts on 13th February at number 40. It crawled to number 31 the following week, but the band's appearance on the 24th of February edition of Top Of The Pops saw it fire up the charts to number 10. Another Top ten hit. Who said they were finished?


As you'll notice, there was a mystery fourth person with the band. That chap was Alan Wilder and, after initially joining as a live musician only, he soon became an official member of Depeche Mode. Alan stayed with the band until 1995 before quietly leaving with very few members of the fanbase noticing, a position that remains the same to date. People regularly say "I can't even remember if Alan was in the band" when his name comes up. He's a mystery and can only be remembered by very few fans indeed.

The single continued its relentless march up the charts, moving from 10 to 8 and then to 6, the band's highest chart position to date. It was an outstanding result for them. The single dropped from 6 to 11 and then 13, 27 and 42 before a final stop at 59 and then into the eternal darkness of life beyond the Top 75.
 
Before I move onto the single itself, we have to pause to appreciate another of the band's television performances promoting See You. As we'll see later, the single was released in West Germany on red vinyl 7" and on the cover there is a sticker that says "Aus der TV-Sendung Bananas" which basically translates as "as seen on the TV show Bananas." 


There was a German pop programme called Bananas in 1982 and on the 27th of April that year, Depeche Mode appeared on the show performing See You. As you'd expect for a TV show, they just mimed to the track but they did so, and there is no easy way to say this, while holding chickens. Live chickens in fact. As you can see, the band did their best in what could only have been trying and highly troubling circumstances:


There is much to mention here from the notion of playing electronic instruments amidst bales of hay (surely a fire risk) to Fletch's "Focus on the chicken Andy FOCUS" face at 1 minute 8 seconds in while two Germans get frisky in the hay behind him. You could also embrace Martin at 1 minute 30 or so thinking "A fancy suit while holding a chicken is the limit. From now on it's leather, women's clothes and heavy make up. That'll get me taken seriously." I would heartily recommend you watch on repeat Alan at 1 minute 56 holding a prime piece of poultry, pondering his new job and thinking "What the fuck have I got myself into here?"

Whatever you do, do not forget to watch this most legendary of Depeche Mode performances. There is only seven years between this and Personal Jesus. That is remarkable.

See You is a gem of pop song and it was praised by most reviewers. Melody Maker came up with the rather catchy "Vince splits, world gasps, Depeche fade, no? No!" which I enjoy. Smash Hits claimed the single was "light years ahead of the rest," leaving Danny Baker to kill the buzz with the harsh "Their last single was trying and now this is insipid." That's Danny Baker for you - as a rule, if he likes it, it's usually bad. That means See You was therefore bound to be good.

Smash Hits 23 January 1982

See You is far poppier than any of Vince's Depeche work and it clearly has the aim of ensuring a chart smash. It's filled with glorious melodies and harmonies throughout and features some lovely bubbling electronics - what's not to love about it? For a band who were put in the position they were by Vince's departure it was a strong response.  

The song was played live 211 times between the Crocs gig on 20 January 1982 and the gig at Torwar Hall in Warsaw on 30th July 1985 which was a show that marked the last live outing for a number of early Depeche tracks as we've already seen. DM Live Wiki has you covered for all recordings that exist of See You. I particularly love the version from the wonderful recording of the 21st February show at Tiffany's in my home town of Glasgow where the band sing the vocal sample line instead of using a sample. They do bloody well too - check it out on DM Live Wiki here


The B-side is a curious track. Now, This Is Fun initially sounds like something that should have very much stayed in the studio, but on repeated listens it gets catchier and catchier ultimately forcing you to admit that it is not too bad at all. The band played it live a remarkable 86 times on the See You and Construction Time Again tours with the last live airing taking place on 2nd June 1984 in Ludwigshafen in Germany. Lie To Me has only ever been played live 77 times, nine times less than Now, This Is Fun. 

When Depeche Mode were preparing the A Broken Frame - The 12" Singles boxset, a photograph of the 12" master tape appeared on the band's Facebook page that showed the song was originally called Reason For Fun:

 

The Video

The See You video is, relatively speaking of course, on a far grander scale than Just Can't Get Enough's budget video. It opens over a smoke-filled railway platform with a bow tied Dave distracted from waiting for his train by a haunted photobooth firing out pictures of Dave and his girlfriend. The person playing the girlfriend was in fact Martin's actual girlfriend at the time, Anne Swindell.

 

As you can see, the story appears to be Dave goes out to buy a record and, while doing so, walks past his bandmates playing cash registers and stumbles upon another haunted photobooth which reveals his girlfriend has been hanging around with the other band members and mystery new man Alan Wilder. "Alan who?" you ask. I'll explain it one day. He used to be in Depeche Mode.

The video ends with Dave breaking all chart rules and actually buying his own single. He is still wanted in Essex for crimes against the Top 40 and remains an outlaw to this day.

The Formats

There were only two formats released in Britain. Firstly, we have the standard 7":


The sleeve seems to show a very short man smoking while looking through a window at a very tall woman while the label is a lovely thing with a love heart at the centre because this is very much a love song. Now, This Is Fun isn't that, but as you can see below, it still gets the love heart label:


Sadly, despite its appearance, the sleeve isn't made of wood. The 12" single has an entirely different cover:


It features two tracks being Extended Versions of See You and Now, This is Fun


Neither remix is a radical reinterpretation of the song it remixes; in fact all the really are are slightly longer versions of each song. See You's 3 minute 55 second single version becomes a whopping 4 minutes 50 seconds long and Now, This Is Fun is stretched from 3 minutes 27 all the way to 4 minutes 45 seconds. The whole 12" then takes 9 minutes 35 seconds to play. I'm sure there's a version of Hole To Feed that is at least 4 times that long or perhaps it just felt that way (see future blog).

There were a few represses of this record and one of them stands out as it has a different sleeve. On the sleeve, the girl's face on the cover leans to the left:


Other than that, there is no difference between this and the standard 12". This one is more collectable and once sold for £58 according to Discogs. No, it wasn't me. See You joined the world of digital music as part of the UK CD singles boxset in 1991 and features the 7" version of Now, This Is Fun and the two tracks from the 12":



As I mentioned earlier, there is a German red vinyl 7" version of See You. This was the first of a series of such releases that ran all the way up to and including Never Let Me Down Again. Here is the front cover with that Bananas sticker:


It features the same tracks as the UK 7" as does the German 12". As well as a black vinyl release though, that format was also released on majestic red/purple marbled vinyl. Just look at this:


How lovely is that? If you like it, here's the back of the sleeve and the B-side as a treat just for you:


There is also the German blue stripe CD which is always a lovely thing:


The French CD is a nice item too:


The later re-press of that doesn't have the greyed out centre. If you are going to collect the French CD singles, go for the ones with the greyed out centre - that seems to be the thing to do.

The single was also released in America, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Japan and Sweden among others. In "Formats I Don't Yet Have But Want" corner, my favourite is the Spanish 12":


An especial discoteca indeed.

See You may not be regarded by many as one of the most important Depeche Mode singles there ever has been, but it's arguably the most crucial. They needed to come out fighting after Vince left and they did that with their own Martin-written pop gem. It kept Depeche Mode firmly in the spotlight, proved the doubters wrong and landed the band their biggest hit to date.

Plus it gave us the chicken video. We'll always have the chicken video.

Friday, 30 October 2020

MY JOY - DEPECHE MODE: SONGS OF FAITH AND DEVOTION: THE 12" SINGLES

 


When Songs Of Faith And Devotion was released, any lingering perceptions people held of them being a weedy electronic act were finally and permanently dispelled. Despite Violator's all conquering performance, Depeche Mode were still viewed with suspicion in their homeland and when I Feel You first appeared, it shocked not only Depeche Mode fans but also everyone else who heard it and was told it was Depeche Mode. While Songs Of Faith And Devotion is not as universally acclaimed as Violator is, it is still a hugely important album and one that is still an enthralling album from start to finish. The album's singles were all wonderful and three of them even charted in the Top Ten in Britain, their best singles-from-an-album chart performance ever.


The newest boxset in the Depeche Mode 12" reissues is the Songs Of Faith And Devotion one and that has been released today. Let's see what's inside.

As with the previous 12" boxsets, it recreates and celebrates the era quite marvellously. The front of the box (above) is a new take on I Feel You's iconic artwork.  Martin is on the left and Dave on the right (more of how we know this below) and Alan (beside Martin) and Fletch have been decapitated for some reason. Harsh. The back of the box looks like this:


As ever, it comes with one of those pointless paper menu things which acts like a picture menu in a restaurant where you don't speak the language? "How do you say play the limited edition 12" of Walking In My Shoes?" "I don't know - just point to it."

"No I said CONDEMNATION. God, don't these people speak (insert language?)"

The 12" singles are, as ever, beautifully and faithfully (lolz etc) reproduced. When I Feel You came out I was in my first year at Aberdeen University. The song debuted on Simon Mayo's Breakfast Show on Radio 1 and I recorded it and then played and rewound the tape (ask your grandparents) endlessly and much to the increasing distress of those who could still bear to hand around me. When the singles came out, I bought and played them endlessly too, all the time wearing a selection of Depeche Mode t-shirts and being known as "Depeche Mode Dave" to some because I wasn't mature enough to wear actual adult clothes.

Fast forward 27 years and I'm currently listening to I Feel You on 12" while wearing a Depeche Mode t-shirt and relaying that anecdote to a bunch of people who know me as the bloke who writes a Depeche Mode blog. That's progress. I think.

Anyway, I'm not reviewing me thank God, I'm reviewing the singles. Future blog episodes will look at each single in turn (wait...come back) so I'm not going to review all the remixes today. Here's the I Feel You 12":


The cover shows the drawings of the band that would become the terrifying large metal things that hung behind the Devotional stage. Top left we have Alan with Dave to his right. Andy is below Dave and Martin bottom left under Alan. How do I know this? Well, other than Martin's picture having something like his hair, each drawing has the band member's birthday in the bottom right. Presumably Anton did this so that the permanently drunk band would be able to remember birthdays on the Devotional tour - either their own or everyone else's. The back of the 12" features Dave looking moody in Hamburg:


There is no inner sleeve here, just a paper one. Here's Side A of the record:


Even though that is just a big purple blob, I do like that. Side B  has another lovely label and tells us the tracks:


The Throb Mix is the standout for me here. The Babylon Mix is good but has a daft name. Not as daft as others in this box however. There was of course a limited edition 12" and it is a lovely looking gatefold. Here's the cover:


Alan and Dave minding their own business there while Martin and Fletch slope off to chat all things Basildon on the back:


The gatefold inner features two pictures:


On the left we see Alan and Dave back in Hamburg with a lifesize topless cartoon and on the right, all four lads together, all clearly hungover and with Martin standing in a very odd way. The front of the inner sleeve is wonderful:


It's a lovely thing. The other side of it is, well, black:


I show that for completeness' sake and nothing else. The labels are again fantastic - here is Side A:


As you can see, it mirrors the image on the inner sleeve. Things like that probably shouldn't make me happy, but they do. If you are reading this then you are likely nodding in agreement. The B-Side label is below:



Fantastic. These 12" singles were easy to get at the time, unlike the In Your Room ones and the recreations here are spot on. There are two Brian Eno remixes on this 12" by the way which are quite interesting. They Eno here and there, burbling and glugging around in that Eno-y way but are pretty decent if you like that sort of thing.

The second single, and the only one to fail to crack the UK Top Ten fact fans, is the godlike genius of Walking In My Shoes. The standard 12" has a lovely shiny sleeve:


As you can see, it features the topless, terrifying part woman part demonic hellbird that featured on the live footage accompanying the song. The same beast features all over this single. Here she is on the back sleeve too:


The original pressing of the singles had a matt cover with spot gloss (thanks Scott) parts such as the barcode section above and the repressing didn't. The boxset version is a recreation of the original pressing. There is no inner sleeve here, just a paper one and Side A's label looks like this:


Side B lets Side A take the arty glory and instead shoulders the burden of displaying actual information:


On the music side of things, for this is after all about a band who play music, the b-side My Joy is a track you don't want to miss. It's a hidden Depeche classic. There is only one remix of the title track here and that is the Grungy Gonads Mix.

That name doesn't improve with age.

The limited 12" is another wonderful thing and I had, and still have, a T-shirt with this cover:


The back is another matt/spot gloss affair:


Like I Feel You, this is a gatefold 12":


The Page 3 with a demonic bird head theme continues on the inner sleeve:


The other side of the inner sleeve is nudity free; in fact it's free of anything other than the catalogue number - L12BONG22:


I really like that. Side A of the actual record continues the label theme from the standard 12":


Again, Side B tells you everything you need to know:


There are four remixes of Walking In My Shoes on the record and they are all great although the Ambient Whale Mix is a bit bland.

The next single was the much heralded Depeche Mode Do Gospel Condemnation and this release introduced us to the Devotional tour which the band had already kicked off by the time the single came out. The sleeve takes a still from the film used when the song played on the tour:


The rear prints the lyrics which look like they've been drawn by someone holding a pencil between their toes rather than their fingers:


The original issue of the single featured a deluxe inner sleeve and that's what we get here. "Deluxe" seems an odd word to use as it's not as if it gets you access to a lounge or free booze, but its a nice thing anyway. It uses another still from the tour film:


The word "deluxe" is further tested by the rear of the inner sleeve whihc is once again just black:


Perhaps its shiny nature gives the additonal luxury purchasers of the re-pressed version missed out on thus ruining their lives. The record features 5 tracks including the Paris Mix of Condemnation, so called because the remix was finished off in a studio in Dusseldorf (hilarious), the at-that-point unreleased Jazz Mix of Death's Door and three remixes of Rush. The first two tracks appear on Side A


and in a move that will surprise nobody, the other three feature on Side B:


The limited edition 12" was a real thrill when it was released. Instead of being called Condemnation, it's called Depeche Mode Live and it features four tracks, Condemnation, Personal Jesus, Enjoy The Silence and Halo, all live from the gig at Forum in Milan on 4th June 1993.


It's another gatefold too. On the cover (above) we have Dave in action and on the back, with another matt/spot gloss effort, we see Martin belting his way through Condemnation:


The gatefold shows all four band members in hot live action on the left and Dave captured wonderfully by Anton in full rock star mode on the right:


Wonderful. The deluxe inner sleeve was again only available with the first pressing of the 12". If you bought later pressings, the record was thrown into the street and you were made to pick it up while people laughed at you outside HMV. Thankfully, the boxset reproduces the deluxe version although is it REALLY deluxe if it's just the same as the standard 12"?



The same question applies to the other side of the inner sleeve:


Side A features Condemnation and Personal Jesus


and, ever the traditionalists, the other two songs pop up on Side B:


The final single from the album was In Your Room, released in its Zephyr Mix form, a mix that would haunt live versions of the song for years after Devotional until they saw sense on the last tour. It featured on the 12" in 7" and Extended form along with two other In Your Room remixes and a comically bad remix of Higher Love, the ironically titled Adrenaline Mix. The cover uses the light bulb motif from the Devotional tour film and the song's video:


Here's the rear:


Again, lucky purchasers of the first pressing could bask in the glow of having a deluxe inner sleeve, reproduced here. It looks like this:


"Where's the luxury," you scream, "It must be on the other side. SHOW US DAVID." 


No, it's black too. At this point, I should let you all know that I'm veery much aware that I'm posting pictures of black inner sleeves. It's clearly a very odd thing to do, but I've started down this road and it would actually annoy me now if I knew I didn't have a photo of every sleeve, no matter how black they are. And yes, I have taken a picture of every one. I've not just taken on and re-used it. I am one of you remember and I know what you/we are like. Depeche Mode fans are very, VERY strange people and they'd complain if I tried anything on here. 

Side A of the record looks like this:


Side B is equally straightforward:


The limited edition 12" and final release from Songs Of Faith And Devotion, is a wonderful 6 track affair featuring six superb live tracks - In Your Room, Policy Of Truth, World In My Eyes, Fly On The Windscreen, Never Let Me Down Again and Death's Door. They are all bloody brilliant - the Devotional version of World In My Eyes is one of the band's finest live arrangements of all time and the live version of In Your Room makes your body shiver for hours after hearing it. Incredible. Depeche Mode are hugely underrated as a live band. This record shows just how good they were then. The cover is all lightbulbs, all the time. Here's the front:


Here is the back:


The really quite lovely cover art is one thing, but can you cope with ANOTHER deluxe inner sleeve? You can? Ok, here's one side of it


and here's the other:


The inner sleeve equivalent of a 5 night all inclusive break in a 7 star Dubai hotel. The labels on the record are gorgeous. Here's Side A:


and here is Side B:


Beautiful. As with the Violator singles' cover art, everything about the Songs Of Faith And Devotion cover art is superb with so much thought being given to every aspect of it, deluxe sleeves aside. The recreation of every aspect in this boxset is tremendous work.

I should say that the records sound superb too.

As with other boxsets there is an extra but, sadly, the only extra here is an admittedly lovely reproduction of a promo poster for Walking In My Shoes:



Perhaps we were spoiled with the incredible extras with the Violator boxset, and I'm perhaps being a bit too greedy, but an additional record such as a reproduction of the Rush  12" promo would have been a cool addition. It's a nice rarity from the era like the World In My Eyes promo reproduced last time, The lack of an other extras doesn't detract from how fantastic this boxset is mind you. I think if anything we may have been too spoiled by the last box.

Finally, there's a download card. 


The whole 12" reissue series has been incredible and a real joy throughout. The Violator box was going to be a hard act to follow, but this boxset is very much up to the task. It recreates the original releases perfectly and, when enjoyed and appreciated as a whole, it reminds us just how good Depeche Mode were in 1993.