Tuesday 22 March 2011



1983 is the start of the classic Depeche Mode era. Over the next ten years they would transform themselves from a poppy act with a fairly limited appeal to the world's first stadium filling electronic group influencing everyone from Derrick May to Trent Reznor on the way. The era I'm about to look at showed that Depeche were much more than simply a Basildon synthpop band who liked acting like clowns on Noel Edmonds' Swap Shop

4 months after A Broken Frame was released a brand new Depeche Mode single landed in the shops. Lyrically dodgy with a terrifyingly bad video (below) Get The Balance Right was released on 31 January 1983 

backed on 7 " (7BONG2 - below left) with the new instrumental The Great Outdoors. The Great Outdoors is notable only for the fact that it is a joint effort of Martin Gore and then new boy Alan Wilder. Alan was now a fully fledged band member with this single being his debut. Quite why the band chose to mark it by releasing one of their most baffling instrumentals is beyond me but it was a nice welcome for him I suppose. Get The Balance Right is a great song however despite some of its words. The bass line alone is worth checking this song out and indeed this tune along with its 12" remix is said to have been highly influential in Detroit techno circles. Baffling but true. The 12" (12BONG2) (right)

had three tracks - Get The Balance Right (Combination Mix), The Great Outdoors and a live version of Tora! Tora! Tora! from the Hammersmith Odeon on the Broken Frame tour. The Combination mix really is fantastic. It was 

the best Depeche remix to date and really took the song to a new place. The live Tora! Tora! Tora! is pretty much what you'd expect. No doubt sensing that there were people like me in the world the band released their first Limited Edition numbered 12" (left) (L12BONG2) in support of the single. It features the 7" version of Get The Balance Right plus 4 live tracks again from the Hammersmith Show - My Secret Garden (with an excellent intro using Oberkorn (It's a Small Town)), See You, Satellite and Tora! Tora! Tora! As it turned out this was the first of 3 such limited edition 12" singles in 1983 all with live tracks. Together they form a good record of Depeche live at the time and are worth a listen. The packaging is rather cool too. The German editions came in a red 7", a red vinyl version of the standard 12" (nice) and a marvelous blue vinyl limited 12". There are also German cd singles of the 12" and the limited 12" which adds the Combination mix to the tracklist albeit confusingly called Original 12" mix. So there you go.

My Get The Balance Right collection

Get The Balance Right was good but what followed on 11 July was not only their best single to date but also a landmark tune for all Depeche Mode fans - Everything Counts. Yes it has the slightly odd line about Korea and yes the video shows them tooling about miming on xylophones BUT you cannot ignore the genius of this song. The record buying public clearly agreed with me as the sing reached number 6 in the charts. As with the forthcoming album, the track 

was mainly recorded in London but mixed in Berlin's legendary Hansa studios, where the band made full use of the 64 track recording facility. The band's experimentation in this period is what makes it so fascinating. Martin was being influenced by bands such as Einsturzende Neubauten and was intent on mixing their industrial sounds with Depeche's pop ones. This really was quite a statement by the band given their pop status. Again, I'm biased but they were years ahead of their time here. Everything Counts has a much harder sound than anything that went before it (yes, even A Photograph of You) but it still retains its pop hooks. The 7" (7BONG3) was backed with Work Hard (right) which whilst by no means a classic is a decent enough song with a fair bit of metal bashing. The 12" (below) (12BONG3) came with two tracks - the East End mix of Work Hard

and the frankly top notch mix of the A side Everything Counts (In Larger Amounts).

 This remix really is great and its name is fantastic. As with Get The Balance Right a limited edition numbered 12" (right) (L12BONG3) was released featuring the 7" version of Everything Counts and live versions of New Life, Boys Say Go, Nothing To Fear and The Meaning of Love. Again, the packaging is great here - I love the logos the band used in the period such as the hand on the Everything Counts singles. Overall, the artwork was improving significantly on the band's earlier releases. I've not really mentioned the artwork in previous articles as the pictures really do speak for themselves the brillant A Broken Frame cover excepted. Whilst the 1983 era is no Violator era Corbijn genius (which I will drool on endlessly about in the future) the artwork for the singles and album have a consistency and a theme which was both a first and very important for the band. Finally German editions come in a red vinyl 7", and clear vinyl versions of both the standard and limited edition 12" singles. Finally there were two cd singles - one of the 12" and one of the limited edition again adding the 12" remix. The video is the first one the band say they were truly happy with. See below for the evidence.

My Everything Counts collection

Everything Counts was the first single released from the band's new album Construction Time Again (below) which came out on 22 August 1983 and, like Everything Counts, reached number 6 in the UK charts
 The album orginally came out on cassette (CSTUMM13) and LP (STUMM13) and came with 9 tracks - Love In Itself, More Than A Party, Pipeline, Everything Counts, Two Minute Warning, Shame, The Landscape Is Changing, Told You So and And Then... . It also has a brief reprise of Everything Counts right at the end. The difference between this album and A Broken Frame is remarkable. The songs are much more mature and complex, the sounds are generally harder and louder and the whole tone has a political edge to it which was something never previously associated with Depeche. Sampling is everwhere on the album from guitars on Love In Itself to the odd flute thing (can't recall the name) on Everything Counts, the train on More Than A Party and to the standout track - all the metal an East London scrapyard could provide on Pipeline. I love Pipeline - the lyrics, the metal noises, just the whole feel of it. That the band did this only months after The Meaning of bloody Love is genuinely astounding. Some people dont like Pipeline and that's fine but to not like it is to simply not get Construction Time Again era Depeche Mode. They were pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable for a straightforward pop band so far away from the accepted norms that they deserve all the praise in the world in my opinion. The album is also notable for the inclusion of two Alan Wilder songs - the nuclear bomb fearing Two Minute Warning and the first ever Green song (possibly!) The Landscape is Changing. Construction Time Again is the band's first proper album for me - if you don't have it get it. Simple as that.

The second and final single from the album was Love In Itself which came out on 19 September 1983 reaching a disappointing 21 in the UK.

The 7" (right) (7BONG4) contained the slightl

y remixed Love In Itself (2) and was backed with another Alan Wilder track, the excellent Fools. The 12" (12BONG4 - left) had three songs all with reasonably literal remix titles - Love In Itself (3), Fools (Bigger) and Love In Itself (4). Remix 3 is a fine example of the extended 12" craze of that period, as is the Bigger version of Fools. Remix 4 is interesting as it's a sort of acoustic band version of the song featuring Martin on guitar, Alan on piano, Dave on vocals and Fletch presumably on raising his arms and clapping. Finally the limited edition 12" formed the last in the series of three li

ve track 12" singles (L12BONG4 - right) and came with the 7" version and live versions of Just Can't Get Enough, A Photograph of You, Shout and Photographic again all from the Hammersmith Odeon gig. It maybe wanst the most obvious choice of second single from the album and it certainly hasn't aged as well as Everything Counts but Love In Itself is an ok tune. German editions come in a red vinyl 7", a grey vinyl standard 12",  a yellow vinyl version of the limited 12" and the two cd single approach as per the last two singles.

My Love In Itself collection

The band didn't hang about after Love In Itself as they headed back to Hansa this time to record a whole new album. That will be the topic of the next blog next time...

Thursday 10 March 2011



Vince's departure caused a very obvious problem for Depeche Mode. Their main songwriter had gone leaving the band with three blokes only one of whom had produced only songs for Speak and Spell. Surely they were finished? Thankfully no. I guess for many DM fans this was a huge turning point as it gave Martin a chance to take control which itself led to the band we know today. If Vince had stayed, would we have had Everything Counts, Lie To Me, Stripped, Never Let Me Down Again, Personal Jesus etc etc? Probably not. Ultimately Vince's departure turned out to be a very good thing although some of the tracks on A Broken Frame dont necessarily back that up.

The first fruit of the new Depeche Mode was the quite brilliant See You released on 29 January 1982. The b-side was a decent track called Now, This Is Fun which opened a few live shows in that era. See you came out on 7 " (right) (7MUTE018) and on 12" (below) (12MUTE018) with two remixes - See You (Extended version) and Now, This Is Fun (Extended Version). Despite the quality of the song it See You only reached number 6 in the UK charts the band's highest chart position to date. Perhaps it was the dubious quality of the video which stopped it getting even higher. See below for the full horror. The band's first video had been produced for Just Can't Get Enough. It was a perplexing mix of a leather clad synth band surrounded by dancing ladies and a bunch of 4 oddballs drinking cocktails pretending to play trumpets. That the JCGE video is ten times better than the See You video says more for See You than JCGE. "Oh look...Fletch is playing a cash register. And Dave's chasing a girl round Boots". Dreadful. The German 12" of this song is a reddish grey multicoloured vinyl and is well worth seeking out. See You was also released on red vinyl 7" in Germany as were the next few singles. The red vinyl 7" singles are lovely things.

So See You was great and that itself seemed to point to a promising future for the band. The next release would be hugely important so why oh why oh why did they put out The Meaning Of Love? My own guess is that Martin wanted to keep focused on the pop market hence this tune seeing the light of day. As he developed as a songwriter Martin became expert in experimenting but keeping a popular edge to songs. This wasn't one of them. The Meaning Of Love came out on 26 April 1982 on 7" (7MUTE022) (see right) and on 12" (12MUTE022) (below). To be perfectly honest the b-side was the best thing on offer here. Oberkorn (It's A Small Town) is an instrumental track which is really quite fantastic. It was found on these releases as a 7" version and as the Development Mix on the 12". Both are excellent examples of where the band was heading when combined with the influence of Daniel Miller and the studio knowledge of then hidden member Alan Wilder. The remix of The Meaning of Love on the 12" was entitled Fairly Odd Mix. I really dont have to say much more about it than that. The German 12" was a yellow vinyl effort which is again rather lovely and again a red vinyl 7" was released. I could go on about the video (below) here but I won't. Suffice to say it was as good as the song it was promoting. The song managed to climb to number 12 in the UK charts which I guess was an achievement in itself. The trouble for Depeche Mode by that stage was that their power in the charts seemed to be diminishing whilst the fame fearing Mr Clarke's was growing given Yazoo's chart domination. It seemed like things were on the slide for Depeche Mode.

To promote their forthcoming album a new single was released in 16 August 1982. Leave In Silence was the choice which seemed a little strange given its general sound and feel. It was entirley the opposite of TMOL in that it was darker, moodier and ...well....good. Leave In Silence remains a firm favourite amongst Depeche fans and was resurrected by Martin for some shows on the Touring The Angel tour in 2006 which was a real treat. The single was backed on 7" (7BONG1) (see right) by Excerpt From: My Secret Garden a frankly baffling instrumental take on the at that point unreleased My Secret Garden. The 12" (12BONG1) featured a whopping three, yes, three tracks - Leave In Silence (Longer), Further Excerpt From: My Secret Garden and Leave In Silence (Quieter). The mixes of the lead track were indeed longer and significantlly quieter. The additional remix of the b-side was pretty much what it claimed to be. The German 12" was released on clear vinyl and a 7" red vinyl can also be found. The single only reached number 18 in the UK which is a bit of a travesty given that TMOL reached several places higher than that.

An important point to note about this release is the introduction of the BONG code for Depeche singles i.e. this was BONG1. I would guess that giving the band their own release code meant that Daniel Miller and Mute had faith in their future which of course turned out reasonably well. Finally for Leave In Silence there was another video. Facepaint, a Generation Game style conveyor belt thing and the band bouncing around on space hoppers is all you will ever want to know about that. If you can bear it watch it now

Hot on the heels of Leave In Silence came the band's second album A Broken Frame available on cassette and lp (CSTUMM9 and STUMM9) and released on 27 September 1982. The album features the three singles above and reached number 8 in the UK which could be said to be a bit odd given that two of the singles from the album were 9 and nearly 6 months old. The album's tracklisting is Leave In Silence, My Secret Garden, Monument, Nothing To Fear, See You, Satellite, The Meaning Of Love, A Photograph of You, Shouldn't Have Done That and The Sun and The Rainfall. It's by no means their best work and indeed features some awful music (A Photograph of You, The Meaning Of Love) but this album has some great moments. Nothing To Fear is an instrumental track which is really rather good. Monument is a teriffic song despite the occasional lyrical oddity and My Secret Garden is good if only for its ambition.

The highlight of the album is however the last track The Sun and The Rainfall. The song is a fan favourite and always features in the "what songs do we want them to play" list when a tour is announced. The melody is great, the sounds are great and it ends on an audacious three part harmony/counter melody sing off between Dave, Martin and, oh yes, Fletch. If you dont yet have A Broken Frame then get it if only for The Sun and The Rainfall.

The band toured the album with Alan Wilder fairly extensively as can be heard on bootlegs from the time. One particular show in Glasgow is worth getting if you can as the sound is excellent. Alan became an official member of that band in 1982 and then they started bashing metal, recording under railway arches and had their first experience of Hansa Studios in Berlin.. This is where things get very good indeed and that's what I'll try and describe next time


Recently some pre Mute Depeche Mode demos have surfaced featuring three songs - Ice Machine, the unreleased Radio News and Photographic. Members of an excellent Depeche fan site Depmod.com http://www.depmod.com/misc/index.html (a must check out for DM fans) clubbed together and purchased the tape from ebay. I am not one of them unfortunately but did hear some clips online which were fantastic. They're worth hearing for Andy Fletcher's bass guitar playing alone - no joke.

Having heard them I listened to Speak and Spell for the first time in a while and really enjoyed it so I thought I'd write a bit about that era of DM as part of my entirely my own opinion series of articles about the band's discography. Fuller and better histories are available elsewhere however I hope you like it. I should note at the outset that I am by no means a DM historian so anything I write is either gleaned from too much time reading about the band or simply made up ;)


Having created a fair bit of major label interest Depeche Mode signed with Daniel Miller's Mute records who released their first single Dreaming of Me on 20 February 1981 with the single eventually reaching number 57 in the charts. The single was released on 7" (7MUTE13) only (see left) with the fantastic Ice Machine on the b side, both written by Vince. For me Dreaming of Me stands apart from a lot of the synthpop singles released at the time. That said, Ice Machine is the superior track in my opinion. The band were obviously enamoured with it too as they continued to play it live until 1984 or so. A German 3" cd version featuring both tracks is also available.

The band's next release came on 13 June 1981 with New Life which was backed with Shout! The band made their first Top Of The Pops appearance in support of the song which eventually reached number 13. As well as the 7" single (7MUTE14) (right) a 12" (12MUTE14) (below) was released featuring New Life (Re-mix) and Shout! (Rio mix). Puntastic. The Re-mix of New Life is may favourite track here. It's a bit more urgent than the 7" version and more interesting for that. Shout is a good track too although the remix is a bit ropey. The band did the remixing themselves which was the pattern for the next few years. That is very much a good thing as outsourcing the mixes doesn't always work - I'm looking at you Barrel of a Gun (Underworld Hard Mix). Anyway, back to 1981. As with all DM releases up to the Music For The Masses singles, German 12" coloured vinyl and cd versionsare available. New Life comes in a particularly brilliant black and white splatter vinyl. All DM singles up to Little 15 were reissued on cd by Mute in 1991 with each release featuring the majority of the commercially available tracks. New Life's cd features all tracks bar the 7" version as I recall. Corrections are of course most welcome. There was no video for New Life, so here's the band on Top of The Pops.

Arguably (and hugely frustratingly) still their most recognisable track, Just Can't Get Enough was sprung on the world on September 7 1981 eventually climbing to number 8 in the charts. Backed with an instrumental Any Second Now the single was available on 7" (7MUTE16) and 12"(12MUTE16). The 12" features an oustanding remix of JCGE (Schizo Mix) and a so-so remix of Any Second Now called Any Second Now (Altered). I have to say that I'm not a huge fan of this song. Other than the horror of What's Your Name its the poppiest song from this DM period and it suffers for that. I guess it might be over familiarity that puts me off too albeit I was delighted to sing the Luis Suarez version of it on Sunday when we beat the Mancs. It's the song everyone thinks of when they hear the name Depeche Mode shortly before mentioning cross dressing and People Are People. Fine - every band has to have a landmark tune. I just wish it wasnt this one. The 12" release from Germany comes on either grey or white vinyl of which I only have the white. If anyone finds a spare grey 12" please feel free to send it to me ;).

So finally we turn to the debut album Speak and Spell (STUMM5) which came out on 5 October 1981 on cassette and vinyl reaching number 10 in the album charts. It's a good solid debut album that has stood the test of time despite the band's subsequent comments about it. The tracks are New Life, I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead, Puppets, Boys Say Go!, Nodisco, What's Your Name, Photographic, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Big Muff, Any Second Now (voices) and Just Can't Get Enough. A subsequent UK cd reissue on 1988 or 89 (I dont have it in front of me as I type)added Dreaming Of Me, Ice Machine, Shout! Any Second Now and JCGE (Schizo Mix) (sleeve below). Of the albums main tracks Vince wrote 9 and Martin Gore two - the instrumental Big Muff and the decent Tora! Tora! Tora!. The album features some genuinely great songs such as I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead, Puppets and Photographic which is the stand out track. Being picky, I'd have preferred the Some Bizarre version of the song from the Some Bizarre album but I wasnt there at the time and even if I had been I very much doubt that I'd have been allowed a say. The album is not without its' low points however. Vince really needs to ask himself why he thought What's Your Name would be of any use to anyone. It's a shocker.

The Speak and Spell era is an interesting one. The leap the band made from that to Violator in 9 short years is frankly amazing but their subsequent developments shouldn't detract from this era which contains some excellent music and of course Just Can't Get Enough. Vince famously left in 1981 of course having had enough of fame a decision which made no sense at all in the light his subsequent success with Yazoo and Erasure. Martin stepped up and the band's whole dynamic changed as I'll hope to show next time.