Monday, 20 May 2019

THE VINYL STRAW - COLLECTORS EDITION BOXSETS AND HOW NOT TO PACKAGE THEM

A tale of record collecting woe...





Last Friday, two packages arrived for me. I am one of these people you read about who spend money on "vinyls" (grrr) and who buy deluxe editions of releases by certain bands. I also buy ridiculous things like every 7" version of People Are People that I come across, but that particular Depeche Mode related problem is the subject of everything else I write, so we'll leave that for now.

The two packages that arrived for me were the triple coloured vinyl version of I Am Easy To Find, the new album by The National and the deluxe boxset version of the most recent Foals album Everything Not Save Will be Lost - Part 1. The National's album came direct from The National's Cherry Tree fanclub and the Foals album direct from their online store. Both cost in the region of £50 each. 

For that money, you'd expect some care would go into sending a package that a lot of thought has already gone into. The National's album comes in triple vinyl in a tri-fold sleeve and is a lovely thing. That release was packaged up perfectly - a strong cardboard outer box contained another cardboard package inside which the record had been vacuum packed for extra safety. Although the actual vinyl was send in the sleeve inside its own inner sleeve (usually a no-no), the vacuum packing had kept it in place and it arrived in pristine, unblemished condition. Great.

As soon as I opened the Foals package however, it was clear something had gone very wrong.

The Foals Collector's Edition boxset promises this:
- Special edition box with additional vinyl sleeve to fit the equivalent Part 2 vinyl upon release
- 24 Page hardcover book
- Album on 12" violet coloured 180g vinyl
- Exits 7" vinyl single exclusive to this set

It also adds digital singles and a signed piece of artwork. All rather tempting if you're a person like me and if you've been playing the superb Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 1 incessantly since its release.

The first thing I noticed was the the spine of the box which didn't exactly fill me with confidence:


The front of the "hardcover" book is also torn:


Needless to say, the top and bottom corners are bashed and crushed.

Somewhat tentatively then, I opened the box. It came as no real surprise, when I found the album in this state:


The album had been left in its inner sleeve when dispatched and, having just been bunged into a box with no support, the inevitable happened. The sleeve is ripped on the right hand side and, doubtless because the vinyl was given room to roam about in transit like some sort of violet coloured marauding beast, the seems on the neighbouring page of the book are nicely ripped.


There is also the 7" of Exits which is found a couple of pages on inside the book. Hilariously, it was in worse condition than the album:




Exits had successfully exited its sleeve. The record is also damaged for additional good measure:


What a lot of shoddy shite.

I put up some of these posts on Instagram on Friday night and people responded, telling me that they had had similar problems withe the Foals boxset. One had even returned it at his own cost, only to be sent another that was in even worse condition.

With few exceptions (DFA, Mute, Hand Drawn Dracula to name three diverse companies). record companies obviously don't give a toss about how they send out orders because, as long as there are people like me in the world, they will be given bundles of cash for different versions of albums. I only bought the Foals box as I'd enjoyed their album so much on Spotify in the first place. Being an old fashioned type, I still feel that an artist should benefit from their labours so I wanted to get my hands on a cool version of what is a superb record. I ordered it and then whoever packaged it chucked it in a box, kicked it around a bit and then sent it to me. Thanks. Thanks very much.

What's the point of this post? I don't know. I'm fucked off that I've again bought something that is treated with no care at all once I've paid over my money. I can't even be bothered asking for a swap as I fear I'll just have to write another blog talking about another smashed up box. Contrast Foals packaging with that of The National and it's even more frustrating. Other labels or acts like I've mentioned above or, for example, the superb way in which Nine Inch Nails handle their packaging, are unfortunate exceptions to the general rule that those in charge of Foals' packaging have steadfastly abided by.

I imagine most of you who read this will have had similar issues. I hope this post helps people consider packaging a bit more from a 7" single all the way up to the most madcap of boxsets. I don't think it will however as, frankly, very few record companies actually care.

Everything Not Packaged Properly Will Be Lost - Part1 to infinity.....






Tuesday, 19 March 2019

HALO – THE STORY BEHIND DEPECHE MODE’S CLASSIC ALBUM VIOLATOR



HALO - A NEW BOOK BY KEVIN MAY AND DAVID McELROY

Today is the 29th anniversary of the release of Violator, Depeche Mode’s finest album and an album which I seem to have spent the last 29 years telling anyone who would listen just how important an album it is. 

Next year, the album turns 30 and my intention is to repeat the idea of the month-long Black Celebration – A Month Long Period Of Rejoicing blog I ran in March 2016 with a month’s worth of articles by me and a number of other contributors looking at Violator from every conceivable angle. 

One of those contributors will be Kevin May, author of Halo, a man who possibly knows more about Violator than the band themselves. 

Kevin had originally planned to release Halo in 2015 but events overtook him somewhat, meaning that the book was unfortunately delayed. It will now be released in 2020 to celebrate Violator’s 30th anniversary and I’m delighted and very proud to announce that Kevin has asked me to co-author the book. It was a real honour to be asked and I was only too happy to accept. 

Halo, the book version, will feature all the original interviews, story, analysis and fan contributions that Kevin has worked so hard on. Trust me, you’re going to love what Kevin has done. The book will now also feature additional elements from me and other blog contributors, many of which will be teased during the blog’s Violator month in March 2020. 

The release of Halo in paperback, Kindle and other digital formats will come at the conclusion of that online series – as close to March 31st 2020 as we can get it! 

I’m really thrilled to be involved in Halo as I know how keenly the Depeche Mode fanbase is anticipating it. I hope that the additional content that I provide will add to what is already a hugely exciting project.

Monday, 11 February 2019

LADYTRON - LADYTRON


One of the finest pieces of music news I got in 2018 (other than confirmation that the Depeche Mode tour was finally ending meaning I could put the Global Spirit Tour Project to bed and reclaim my life) was that Ladytron were coming back. For reasons I've never been able to understand, Ladytron have never been given the recognition their immense back catalogue deserves - if this album doesn't put that right, I'm officially giving up on holding out any hope for the public's taste in music.

Since 2011's Gravity The Seducer, the members of the band have been off doing their own thing. Helen Marnie's two solo albums Crystal World and Strange Words And Weird Wars were two exceptional albums much loved by this blog, both of which moved away from the dark electronics of Ladytron into a poppier area. On Ladytron, this poppier, lighter feel combines wonderfully with the band's trademark sound, producing an album rich in quality and bursting with wonderful tunes. 

Opener Until The Fire opens the album perfectly with a real statement of intent, leading into the already released The Island. Both The Island and The Animals were issued last year to rightful acclaim, but when you hear them as part of the album, they sound bigger and even better. They, and indeed the whole of this album, seem to suggest that Ladytron have found a new level of confidence, making them sound better than they ever have done. When you compare this album to Chvrches sadly forgettable third album, there is a marked difference.




It no doubt seems over the top to say this, but it's very hard to pick one highlight out from this album because the whole thing is excellent. It's not too often a 13 track album will hold the listener's attention its full duration, but Ladytron manages this effortlessly. Tower Of Glass is a stunning track which, like the album's penultimate track The Mountain, brings to mind Helen Marnie's solo work.  The blazing electronics in Paper Highways are just superb and Mira's lead vocal on the track is sublime. A Mira track is always welcome. At the band's comeback show in Glasgow last year, Black Cat was a standout as it always is. If the band tour this album (and let's hope they do), Paper Highways will doubtless be a similar highlight.

Even though the job of a review is to review the album in some depth, I'm going to ignore that and just once again say that this album is excellent. You really do have to listen to it. Ladytron have been away far too long and not many bands come back after such a break with the same magic they previously had. Ladytron have not only come back impressively, but they've come back sounding bigger and better than they ever have done. Ladytron is an album you really don't want to miss.

Ladytron by Ladytron is out on 15 February on !K7. Find out more at https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/ladytron

Monday, 7 January 2019

BOXSETS ARE BOXSETS - DEPECHE MODE'S CONSTRUCTION TIME AGAIN AND SOME GREAT REWARD 12" SINGLES BOXSETS


The release of Depeche Mode's first two 12" single boxsets (review here) was greeted with a mixture of delight and complaints as with every Depeche release these days it seems. Many people felt that they were too expensive especially when they would be paying for things they already had, which is a perfectly understandable view to take. There's no getting away from the fact that they are expensive and as the series continues the prices will only go up. When we get to the Violator boxset for example, we're looking at at least nine 12" singles. If you've been a collector since the early days then, you'll have all these records already. However, if you're new to Depeche Mode collecting, these boxes are a great way of starting things off.

Again using Violator as an example, a look at Discogs this morning shows me that the cost of buying the full set of 12" singles released in 1990 in mint condition (as the 12" singles in the boxset are) is £273 plus postage. I presume, indeed I desperately hope, that the Violator boxset will cost less than that - I'm sure you'll remind me if it doesn't.

Anyway, my point is that, while costly, these boxsets are a great way to get a hold of mint condition Depeche Mode 12" singles for less than you'd pay on Discogs etc. They're a good thing as far as I'm concerned. There are of course people like me who already have the 12" singles AND buy the boxsets but we're beyond help. 

Right - enough rambling. What about the boxsets themselves?

Construction Time Again The 12" Singles Boxset


Look at those beauties. The Construction Time Again era contains some of the band's most iconic cover art with the album and Love In Itself covers superbly photographed by Brian Griffin. The attention to detail throughout that era's releases is superb. From the worker icons on both Get The Balance Right singles (which may have slightly influenced this blog's logo) which fit the theme of the at that point unreleased album perfectly, to the matching designs of the three limited edition 12" singles, everything the band released in 1983 had a marvellous symmetry to it, each released tied to the themes of the album itself. 

The 12" singles in the boxset are of course faithful reproductions of the originals. For people who get excited about that sort of thing, and I of course am one of those, the covers of the limited edition 12" singles have the same texture as the original releases. The labels on the records are also identical to those on the original releases and again, that is a very good thing. That sort of attention to detail is what makes these boxsets worthwhile. As ever, thanks to Daniel Barassi for all his work here.

The contents of each 12" are well known to everyone by now so I won't go through them all. If for some reason you have never heard Get The Balance Right (Combination Mix) or Everything Counts (In Larger Amounts) then you really need to remedy that. They are two of the band's great self produced remixes. The limited edition 12" singles are all worth hearing too as each one contains four live tracks from the band's show at London's Hammersmith Odeon on 25 October 1982. The A Broken Frame era was an interesting one for the band given that they had to deal with Vince's departure. These live tracks show that they were trying to strike a balance or even trying to get the balance right (sorry) between pop (A Photograph Of You, The Meaning Of Love) and the more experimental side of things that the album had already hinted at (see My Secret Garden and its Oberkorn intro). These three records are the only officially released A Broken Frame era live recordings and that makes them worth having.  

The peerless DM Live Wiki has more tracks from that show available for streaming by the way. To further prove my point about the band's more experimental side coming to the fore, check out The Sun And The Rainfall from that show with its pre Construction Time Again metal bashing noises. You can listen to it here. 

This release also contains Alan Wilder's first Depeche Mode songwriting credits. He and Martin co-wrote the frankly awful The Great Outdoors and the "ok lads we get it - it's all about work and metal and all that" decent b-side Work Hard and Alan penned the rather good Fools all by himself. The Great Outdoors  is probably the band's most terrifying track, sounding like the music you would hear as you are murdered by an enraged gnome with the hammer shown on the album's cover.

Finally, the boxset comes with a reproduction Love In Itself promo poster and the box itself shows the oil derrick from the Love In Itself limited edition 12", recreated for this release. There's a download card to allow you to enjoy all these digitally too. One thing that Sony want to change for future releases is the tagging of these songs on all boxsets when downloaded and put into ITunes. When downloaded, the individual track names are all garbled and therefore almost entirely  useless e.g. "ConstructionTimeAgain12"boxset_EverythingCountsA1InLargerAmounts" etc. It's not the biggest problem in the world, but entering the names individually is a pain in the arse. 

By the way, if you bought all these 12" singles in mint condition on Discogs today, you'd pay £117 plus postage. That's more expensive than the boxset,

 As with the previous boxsets, there was an unboxing video and here it is:




Some Great Reward The 12" Singles Boxset


The Some Great Reward boxset unsurprisingly contains all the 12" singles from the era plus a new 12" in the shape of L12BONG7 which is the 12" version of the original 7" ep featuring Somebody (Remix), Everything Counts (Live), Blasphemous Rumours (Single Version) and Told You So (Live). I'm really pleased with that as it means the release is a complete record of the era. It'll be interesting to see what happens with GBONG17 when the Violator boxset comes around.

The artwork for this era isn't as impressive as Construction Time Again, the album cover art aside. It's a lot starker and, while the Master And Servant 12" cover is marvellous, the rest are a little bland. I'm not sure how well known this is or not, but on the People Are People cover, the arm on the right hand side belongs to Hugh Grant the entirely one dimensional English actor. There's a fact to entertain your loved ones with.

One of the best things about this boxset for me is the digital download element, track name nonsense notwithstanding. Unless I'm very much mistaken (awaits "OMG YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT DEPECHE MODE MAN" attack from the Black Swarm), this release sees the first official digital versions of People Are People (On U-Sound Remix by Adrian Sherwood), Are People People? and Master And Servant (An On-U Sound Science Fiction Dance Hall Classic Re-Remixed by Adrian Sherwood) and that is very much a good thing. I love these remixes and the fact I can now sing along to Are People People's Zing Zing Zings and Boom Bop Bops on the train is great for me and terrifying for my fellow passengers. 

For completeness' sake, I should point out that Alan (no he's not coming back) has another song here, the superb In Your Memory, the b-side to People Are People. It's far better than Martin's (Set Me Free) Remotivate Me which lets the Master And Servant  release down rather dramatically. The 12" versions of People Are People and Master And Servant - Different Mix and Slavery Whip Mix - are both towering gorgeous beasts of remixes and should be on everyone's playlists. The live tracks on the Blasphemous Rumours releases are from the band's show at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool on 29 September 1984. 

As an aside, the huge pulsating Depeche Mode brain that is Michael Rose pointed out on depmod's Facebook page a thing that will annoy people like him (and me) for the rest of time. It takes a certain type of person to get annoyed by this sort of thing, but as I mentioned earlier, we are beyond help. Look at the alignment of the spines in the boxset:

Photo courtesy of Michael Rose
WHAT IS L12BONG5 DOING THERE? GET BACK IN LINE.

Sorry.

Finally, there was another unboxing video and this time it features, among others,  the silky sounds of Sean Salo. Here it is:


And what would this cost you if you bought the records all in mint condition on Discogs? £148 plus postage is the answer which seems high to me but there you go. If anyone is remotely interested by this point, I included the 7" ep in that.

And Then...

So there we have it - two more excellently curated releases and two great additions to my collection. If you want them, go and get them. If you don't want them, don't go and get them. Let's not argue about their worth or otherwise. Let's not get along so awfully. Boxsets Are Boxsets.




Sunday, 30 September 2018

FROM THE PORT TO THE BRIDGE - THE STORY OF THOMAS LEER AND ROBERT RENTAL


Port Glasgow is not perhaps the first place you think of when you start preparing a list of Scotland's most influential music hotspots, but as the forthcoming exhibition From The Port To The Bridge shows, it certainly should be near the top of that list. From an electronic music point of view, it surely has to be at the top. 

The exhibition tells the story of Robert Rental And Thomas Leer both of whom were born in Port Glasgow. They moved to London in the late 1970's and became deeply involved in the post punk scene. Rental's Paralysis and Leer's Private Plane along with The Normal's Warm Leatherette/T.V.O.D. are three key electronic post punk singles, all released close to each other and all still sounding as fresh as they did on release. Rental and Leer then collaborated, releasing the outstanding album, The Bridge on Throbbing Gristle's Industrial Records in 1979. This is a hugely important album as its influence spreads far and wide from early Depeche Mode and New Order to industrial electronica. The Bridge is perhaps overlooked in favour of early Cabaret Voltaire or Human League in any discussion about the early U.K electronic scene and that is grossly unfair.

Robert Rental and The Normal live in 1979 (c) Robert Chang

Robert Rental became friends with Mute boss Daniel Miller, the pair having met at a Throbbing Gristle gig. They toured together in 1979 supporting Stiff Little Fingers on a Rough Trade tour and playing a couple of shows in Paris. A single sided live album was released on Rough Trade in 1980 and it's a really interesting record well worth checking out. The pair's relationship also led to Robert releasing a single on Mute, the superb Double Heart (MUTE10) but that record marked the end of Robert's recording career. Sadly, he passed away in 2000.


Thomas Leer's career saw him release a number of solo records, collaborate with The The on Soul Mining and form Act with Claudia Brucken, formerly of Propaganda, in 1987 with an album and singles released on ZTT. There was little heard of Thomas in the 1990's but, following a return to Greenock in the early part of this century, his back catalogue has been reiussed on various labels and today he continues to release previously unheard music via his Bandcamp page.

From The Port To The Bridge tells the story of both of these hugely influential and much admired Scottish musicians. The exhibition features a documentary starring the likes of Daniel Miller, Matt Johnson, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti, memorabilia, original material and personal artefacts, the original reel to reel tapes the men used and much more. It is going to be unmissable and is a must see for all fans of electronic music. It is only fair that the stories of Robert Rental and Thomas Leer are told and From The Port To The Bridge will do that and much, much more.

From The Port To The Bridge runs from 2nd to 28th October at The Beacon Arts Centre Greenock. 






Monday, 3 September 2018

NEW SOUNDS ALL AROUND - THE DEPECHE MODE 12" SINGLES BOXSETS

My 12" boxsets

Last Friday, Depeche Mode released the first two of what will be a series of boxsets of 12" singles. As you might expect, the first two contained the Speak & Spell and A Broken Frame 12" singles with the Speak & Spell boxset containing a couple of nice surprises.

Each boxset is a numbered limited edition housed in a cardboard outer box featuring a reinterpretation of the album cover, or at least a key element of the album cover. The Speak & Spell cover is nice, but the A Broken Frame is a bit bland. Recreating that album's iconic cover would no doubt be tricky but, had I been asked, I'd have suggested that the inner sleeve of the album featuring the cover of the boxset plus a sickle, would be been better. I wasn't asked though so who cares? The covers of the 12" singles are reproductions of the originals which, at least in terms of New Life, keen eyed fans have noticed apparent differences in colour between the old and the new. I've not done this so I can't tell you what differences I see between the singles I have. 

The cost of the boxsets comes in anywhere from £40 to £50 or so depending on where you shop. That's a lot of money obviously and, the odd surprise aside both here and in future boxsets, given that everything on here is available in the 12" format already, are these essential purchases? On balance probably not, but if you're a collector like I am, they are very nice additions to the seemingly never ending pile of Depeche Mode records filling every space in your house.

Sound wise, a large amount of work has gone into these releases by depechemode.com webmaster Daniel Barassi and the results are excellent. He has taken a lot of time getting the balance right (lol etc) on the sonic side of things as you can see from the hints that he has dropped on his Fishure Price Instagram account. The 12" singles are reproduced from the original master tapes and are designed to sound identical to the original vinyl. Again, that might not seem like a selling point to some and that's perfectly understandable given the cost of the boxes.

The Speak & Spell 12" boxset

The Speak & Spell boxset is noteworthy because it contains Dreaming Of Me on 12" for the first time ever. It's nice to have that particular gap filled and any release that contains the majestic Ice Machine is impossible not to love. The New Life and Just Can't Get Enough 12" singles contain, the same tracks the original 12" singles : New Life (remix) (decent), Shout! (Rio Mix) (not only a quality piece of punnery but also a titanic remix), Just Can't Get Enough (Schizo Mix) (A glorious homage to Kraftwerk remix) and Any Second Now (Altered) (one of those really odd instrumentals the band did in the old days that you can't help but enjoy). 

There are two bonus items. Firstly, we have a reproduction of a promotional poster from the era which is fine as posters go. Secondly, and rather superbly, we also have a reproduction of the Flexipop magazine flexidisc which was originally released in September 1981. That flexidisc features two tracks: the superb King Of The Flies by the superb Fad Gadget and Sometimes I Wish I Was Dead by Depeche, a differently named and different take on the Speak & Spell album track I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead. Sometimes I Wish I Was Dead is an excellent version of the song, slightly improving on what is already on of the great early Depeche Mode tracks. Finally on the flexidisc point, because I am the sort of person that does this sort of thing, I've compared the reissue to the original and can confirm that the reissue is slightly heavier. Not in tone or sound but in weight. I have no idea why I felt I needed to share that with you.

Here's the cover of the original magazine featuring a young Dave, no doubt in the coffin because the photographer thought that was an amusing thing given the song on the flexidisc.

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group
As with all the other boxsets to come, this one and the A Broken Frame one come with digital downloads. You get a card inside the box that, in the U.K. at least, gives you a code to use on wearevinyl.com. With the Speak & Spell boxset, you get a digital version of Sometimes I Wish I Was Dead  which is rather nice as that's not been available before. The Fad Gadget track is not available with the downloads however. 

Finally on the Speak & Spell side of things, Sony asked 5 fans to get involved with the release by making their own unboxing videos. Along with Dicken Schrader, Michael Russell, Cristian Guttierez and Sylwia Gorajek, I was asked to take part which was naturally something I was really pleased to do. Too pleased almost as you can tell from the rather childlike was I react to things in the video.



The A Broken Frame 12" boxset

Like the Speak & Spell boxset, this one contains three 12" singles with an identical track listing to their original issues. First up we have the pure pop of See You in its Extended Version which is not that extended at all really. It has Now, This Is Fun on the b-side, again as the Extended Version. I do enjoy that track and the band played it live 79 times in 1982 and 1983 so they must have loved it too. As you can see from the photo of the master tape the band's Facebook page shared the other day, it originally had a different name - Reason For Fun



In fact, in the January 21st 1982 edition of U.K. pop magazine Smash Hits, Fletch said the b-side was called something else:

"After ‘New Life’," Andy takes over, "a lot of people thought Depeche Mode were ‘sweet’ and ‘cute’ and everything, and we wanted to show them we could be a lot of other things as well. On the new B-side, "Reason To Be", we tried to …" pause while they all burst out laughing again … "we tried to sound … really…mean! Didn’t work though," he admits.

Not that "mean" really.

Talking of mean, harsh sounding, Nine Inch Nails influencing industrial goth pop, the next 12" we find is The Meaning Of Love.  The band's weakest single of that and any other era until Hole To Feed came out (I will never let that go), the 12" features the Fairly Odd Mix of the track which lives up to its name. It's backed with a genuine titan of the Depeche b-side catalogue however with the Bowie Low era like electronic genius of Oberkorn (It's A Small Town) (Development Mix). An unmissable gem in the band's early releases that was recorded before it even had a name as another picture from the band's Facebook page recently showed us.


On the music side, the final piece of the A Broken Frame jigsaw is of course BONG1 itself, Leave In Silence with the 12" reproduced in its original textured sleeve form which is a nice touch. Leave In Silence  is a masterpiece of a song and I will not hear anything to the contrary from anyone. The Longer version we find on track one of the 12" only confirms that I am right and the Quieter version on Track 3 doesn't alter that at all. Sandwiched in between we find Further Excerpts From: My Secret Garden which is fine if you like that sort of thing. Oh, and did you know that Leave In Silence was originally called The Big Drop? Depeche Mode's Facebook page again pleasing people who are pleased by this sort of thing (you and me basically) by producing yet another master tape picture:


I bet even the Duff Mix was glorious.

Finally, there's a reproduction of a See You promo poster inside the box.

There was an unboxing video too and one of the five participants was friend of this blog, all round good guy, Mr Breathing In Fumes himself, Glen Hammarstrom. See Glen and his wall of vinyl below:





Reached Our Natural Conclusion

That then is a run through of the Depeche Mode 12" boxsets. These first two give a taste of what is to come and it will be interesting to see how future releases appear. The Violator era one for example has 9 12" singles to look at. Will the L12BONG20 appear in a gel sleeve? Will we get the Hazchemix Edit of Dangerous which appeared on the gatefold 7" of Personal Jesus? Will the Songs Of Faith And Devotion 12" boxset finally see the prices of the original 12" singles drop to something less than the price of a small car? Will we get vinyl releases of any of the American only mixes such as the Black & Blue Mix of Master & Servant?

Who knows? Well Sony probably, but I don't. I am intrigued to see how these issues are dealt with and what the price of future boxsets will be given the content they surely have to have as a minimum i.e. all the 12" singles from that album. We can judge them as we get to them. What the series will show, especially as we get up to the end of the Music For The Masses era is just how influential Depeche Mode were on the 12" single remix and that is something that should rightly be celebrated.  These two boxes are a fine way to start that off. 







Wednesday, 29 August 2018

DEPECHE MODE LIVE IN SCOTLAND PART 3: 1982

The post Global Spirit Tour Project break is over and it's back to work both in the day job and in the blogging sense. The Live In Scotland series (part 1 here and part 2 here) took a back seat because of the tour but it's now back. This episode looks at the band's three concerts in Scotland in 1982 which includes their first ever trip to my hometown Glasgow. It would not have been possible to write this without the three contributors Robert Weir, Trevor Thomson and Raymond Perry - thank you very much to each of you. Thanks you too to Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos for the photos (all theirs unless otherwise credited) and to DM Live Wiki for the links to the live shows. 



Depeche Mode live at Tiffany's, Glasgow, October 19, 1982
In 1982, Depeche Mode played 3 concerts in Scotland, one at the start of the year and two towards the end. For the first time, the band were touring without Vince Clarke. In his place was, of course, Alan Wilder, at that point the Peter Gordeno of his time*, playing with the band while not being a member. He would of course soon join up officially and he would remain a band member until 1995. If the internet had existed in 1982, I presume there would have been as much debate about Vince leaving as there continues to be about Alan leaving now. Anyway, post Vince, Depeche were a three piece band who turned into a four piece band for live purposes. Here is the story of how they rocked or, more accurately, synthed Scotland in 1982.

(* Please note this was a joke. Don't hound me online and send me threatening emails. For the avoidance of doubt, Alan is NOT Peter Gordeno. Peter is far more talented.**)

(**Also a joke. Although Peter is a talented musician. Anyway...enough of this nonsense. One rule of DM blogging, indeed the only rule - never mention Alan. Or joke about Alan. Ok, two rules.)



21 February 1982, Tiffany's, Glasgow

The band's first post Vince tour was known as the See You tour. In case you didn't spot the cleverly hidden reason why it was called that, the band were on the road in support of their first ever Martin Gore written single, the glorious See You. It's a song that still remains the band's biggest selling U.K. single. That's right - it even outsold Soothe My Soul.  The See You tour took in Tiffany's in Glasgow, a venue that hosted many wonderful bands including Yazoo. Around the time Depeche played there, they were in a rose in a crown of punk thorns as you can see:


Tiffany's is now a Genting casino sadly, but back in 1982 it was a much more interesting place. It started life as the Locarno Ballroom in 1926, featuring a sprung dancefloor and a revolving stage among other things. No evidence exists of whether or not that stage was used for the Depeche show. 

The Locarno in 1982
From the first ever Scottish Professional Dancing Championships in 1928 via the Glasgow gang violence of the 50's and 60's, the Locarno turned into Tiffany's and, twice in 1982, it featured Depeche Mode's own professional dancer, Fletch and, thankfully, very little violence. It closed in the late 80's, turning into the casino it still is today. As you can see, while it was open, Tiffany's very much went for a Scottish feel:


At Depeche Mode's show was Robert Weir, now resident in Toronto. I asked Robert what his recollections of the gig were.

"I remember the sound of the synths. It was my first ever concert, and the power of the sound vibrating through me just reeled me in. This was the night I fell in love with electronic music. 

Blancmange were the support and they got the crowd ready for DM. I remember the anticipation in the venue as it filled with dry ice. There were empty synths and a tape machine in the middle of the stage and then the band walked on, coming on to a long intro of Shout and the crowd went nuts. Alan, the new guy, was there. They played an unreleased song, The Meaning Of Love and, in the encore, they covered a Gerry & The Pacemakers song, I Like It - I knew that from my parents record collection.

At the end of the show, I remember not wanting to leave the venue as it had been one of the best experiences of my life. It paid off as one of the bouncers told me to go to the stairs leading up to the balcony so that I could meet the band. I was fourth in line and was star struck. I told them I thought the show was amazing. Earlier. I'd bought a programme which was basically a fold out poster with dates, lyrics and an introduction to Alan. I no longer have it, but Alan and Dave signed it. I told Alan I thought he was great to which he said "thanks" and when I told Dave how much I'd enjoyed the show he said "thanks a lot mate" in a strong Essex accent.

With that, I was ushered along and left the venue a happy man."

The setlist for the Tiffany's gig was:

Shout
I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead
Boys Say Go!
Puppets
See You
Big Muff
Now, This Is Fun
Ice Machine
New Life
Tora! Tora! Tora!
The Meaning Of Love
Just Can't Get Enough
What's Your Name?
Photgraphic
Dreaming Of Me
I Like It

Happily, the concert was recorded for broadcast by Glasgow's Clyde FM. It's a superb recording which you can grab from the ever wonderful DM Live Wiki right here: Tiffany's Feb 82

Listen to it all obviously, but, in particular, listen to See You. The band's equipment clearly couldn't replicate the vocal sample lines, so the band sing them. It's quite wonderful.

The band then left Scotland, returning for...

Depeche Mode live at Tiffany's, Glasgow, 19 October 1982

19 October 1982, Tiffany's, Glasgow

Unlike the last gig at Tiffany's, the band had an album to support with the still brilliant A Broken Frame released on 27 September that year. This isn't an album review thing but never ignore the fact that this maligned Depeche album features genuine greats like Leave In Silence, My Secret Garden, Monument, Satellite, See You and The Sun And The Rainfall. This was songwriting far beyond the years of the then thrust into the spotlight Martin L Gore. Sublime electro goth music (See You aside) that pointed the way to the band they became.

Anyway, back to Scotland. The Depeche show at Tiffany's in the October was markedly different from the February show. The setlist was:

Oberkorn (It's A Small Town)
My Secret Garden
See You
Satellite
New Life
Boys Say Go!
Tora! Tora! Tora!
Leave In Silence
Nothing To Fear
Shouldn't Have Done That
Monument
The Meaning Of Love
Just Can't Get Enough
A Photograph Of You
The Sun And The Rainfall
Shout
Photographic
Dreaming Of Me

Firstly, what a setlist. Secondly - the pop nonsense of A Photograph Of You followed by the majesty of The Sun And The Rainfall and Shout? Bold and genius. I love this era of Depeche Mode.



Anyway, as I mentioned above about Tiffany's, look at this line up around the time this gig took place:


Good grief. I wasn't at any of those shows, let alone the Depeche one, but Robert Weir was. I asked him a few things about Tiffany's.

"On the A Broken Frame Tour at Tiffany's, the support was Matt Fretton. I  loved his song So High immediately. This tour seemed slicker. It had a great tour programme featuring with imagery from the album and pictures of the band. 

I remember the long intro of Oberkorn which was the b-side of The Meaning Of Love opening. Then they went into My Secret Garden before they came on stage with the familiar tape machine centre stage. 

Check shirts were the thing and Dave was dancing all over the stage, seeming more confident than earlier that year. Again, the show was amazing, and I remember being glad they didn't do any cover versions.

All the young dudes
Having shown Glasgow a good time, it was only logical Depeche Mode headed along the M8 to Edinburgh. That could only mean...


20 October 1982, Playhouse, Edinburgh

The Playhouse in Edinburgh is an institution. Opening in 1929, it has hosted Depeche Mode on no less than four occasions, the last being on 17 January 1988 when, oddly, the Music For The Masses tour ended up there. It capacity of 3,059 people makes it an unlikely place for a gig almost exactly five months to the day they'd play the Pasadena Rose Bowl but (1) Britain always had an odd relationship with the band and (2) Britain got Depeche Mode very wrong.

Anyway, here's the Playhouse:



I've genuinely no idea when that picture was taken, but whenever it was, the Playhouse still looks like that right now. And that's right now as in whenever you're reading this - 2018, 2019 or, if Depeche Mode are still a thing then, in 2099. The Playhouse will always look like this.

To the concert then. Interestingly, and no doubt to the fury of whatever passed for forums in those days, the band played the same set they'd played at Tiffany's at the Playhouse. Yes, even way back then, setlist rotation was not really a thing. There are no recordings of these two shows available as I write this. If you have them, please get in touch with me or Matthew at DM Live Wiki as they would be a great addition to the site. If you want to hear this setlist live, check out the superb soundboard recording from the London show on October 25 on DM Live Wiki right here - London, 25 October 1982.

Picture courtesy of Trevor Thomson

Trevor Thomson, whose recollections of the band's 1981 gigs we heard in Part 1, was at the Playhouse gig (see his ticket above). Once again I annoyed him enough to have him tell us a bit more about this gig:

"This was the only time I saw Depeche in 1982. The Playhouse is all seated so it was odd seeing DM in a venue like that however the audience weren't all seated for long. Matt Fretton was the support and was essentially twenty years ahead of his time, singing and dancing along to a backing track, engaging with the front rows of the stalls. 

As far as Depeche Mode were concerned, things had certainly moved on since I saw them in November 1981. They were now playing theatres rather than clubs so they knew they had to put on a show. This fell to Dave who was engaging the audience throughout the show. He'd seemed, if not aloof, then slightly nervous in 1981 but he was much more confident this time. 

Trevor's A Broken Frame programme - picture courtesy of Trevor Thomson

The thrust of Depeche Mode's songs had switched from what was essentially happy, up tempo pop to the more reflective and at times brooding sound of Martin's songs. The songs from A Broken Frame were darker in general, apart from The Meaning Of Love. Oberkorn was dark in an almost Low era Bowie way and even Just Can't Get Enough had a darker edge as they played the Schizo Mix live.

More success for the band meant a theatre, more space on stage, a sit down audience and much better and more impressive keyboards although I was pretty impressed by the machines I'd seen them play before then. There was definitely a change in mood from the 1981 shows. They presented themselves as a shiny pop band but that wasn't reflected in their performance. Dave was a confident broody singer.

I came away thoroughly entertained. I could tell they were already becoming bigger and bit more distant however. It's a massive leap from the front row of two club style gigs to the fifth row of a theatre. Success had put them on the album-tour commercial readmill. They were probably thinking "we have to take this while we can because we don't know how long it will last." They certainly have lasted!"

The badges Trevor bought at the gig - photo courtesy of Trevor Thomson

The show at the Playhouse was featured in the magazine Patches. The band looked tremendously fresh faced on the cover:

Awwwww

I wonder what if the Lacy Fashion section inspired Martin's clothing in 1983? There was also an article telling us a bit about the tour


With Trevor's story of the gig, we can account for one of the 3,059 people there that night. Because I aim to be as thorough as I can, we can also now hear from someone else, Raymond Perry. Raymond is life long DM fan and he and I managed to meet up before the Manchester gig last year. Here's what he recalls of the Playhouse show:

"I'd never been to a gig before as I was only 14, so I didn't know what to expect. The keyboard players appeared through the smoke to the tune of Oberkorn. Dave then appeared and turned on the reel to reel tape recorder, leading the band into the opening My Secret Garden. I thought to myself "these guys are fantastic." They blew me away.

It was a long show and I became a fan for life after it. I started buying their back catalogue including A Broken Frame. It's such a brilliant album - I still love it today.

I used to love the baggy clothes the band wore in those days. I even loved the patterned jumpers too. How times have changed!"

The band's schedule for the day


And that was that. Depeche Mode boarded their tourbus and headed for Newcastle for a gig on the 21st of October. They would return to both the Playhouse and Tiffany's in 1983 on the Construction Time Again tour and we will have a look at that next time.

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Thank you very much to Robert Weir, Trevor Thomson and Raymond Perry for their help putting this together. Thanks too to Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group and to DM Live Wiki