Thursday 28 April 2011



So the Singles 81-85 brought chapter one to a close. Depeche Mode were pretty huge in the UK and Europe with a decent following in other parts of the globe and even Amercia was starting to listen. The Hansa sessions for their forthcoming album would be crucial as the band stood at the point of either remaining a fairly well liked synthpop band or becoming a genuinely huge band on a worldwide scale. Mercifully, they chose not to got further down the Its Called a Heart route and instead released what was to basically become their and their fans manifesto - Black Celebration.

Before the album however came the lead off single. On 10 February 1986 Stripped was released reaching number 15 in the U.K. I wont go off on one again about chart numbers but NUMBER 15? Good grief. Stripped should have been number 1 for at least the whole of 1986. It remains one of my favourite songs by any band let alone DM and I believe that, yet again, Martin and I agree on this. It's still played live by the band and is still a live highlight despite its' familiarity. My favourite live version is on 101 - worth hearing for the metal banging alone. Anyway...enough rambling. The 7" (7BONG10 - right) added a brand new B-side But Not Tonight. It's a decent poppy track continuing Martin's b-side's written about drinking theme but it's no more than that. For some reason however Sire, their US label, chose to ignore the majesty of Stripped and instead released But Not Tonight as a single with Stripped on the flip side. Partly inspired by the song's appearance in the dreadful Modern Girls film, the label no doubt thought they knew what they were doing. They didnt. What a bloody ridiculous decsion. Anyway, a US 12" of BNT is available and features some remixes and other stuff. As this blog is only concerned with UK releases and the occasional German release I'll leave that there. Back here a 12" of Stripped was released with adverts for the record promising that no further releases would be issued for Stripped. Crikey! The "5 track 25 minute single (12BONG10 - left) is a great thing. Its' 5 tracks are Stripped (Highland Mix), But Not Tonight (Extended Remix), Breathing In Fumes, Fly On The Windscreen (Quiet Mix) and Black Day. The Highland Mix of Stripped was mixed by Flood and is pretty cool. As a Scotsman, the Highland Mix reminds of misty days walking across moors playing bagpipes and chasing haggis(es) or at least that's what I think it was designed to do with its' bagpipey sounds ;). The remix of BNT extends and remixes the song as promised. Breathing In Fumes is an interesting track. I guess the band took a lead from the On U Sound remixes of Master and Servant and People Are People when creating this track. It takes samples from Stripped and turns them into a booming 6 minute track. We then have yet another version of Fly On The Windscreen which is always good to hear and then we end on a strange wee thing called Black Day which was written by Martin, Alan and Daniel Miller. It features Martin singing lines from the then unreleased Black Celebraton over electronics and harmonica. It's a fine track but don't worry if you don't have it. The German 12" version came in one of two colours - a blue/white marble vinyl and a white vinyl. If anyone has any spare white vinyl copies kicking about then I'll happily take them from you! A red 7" vinyl is available too. Finally the video is ok featuring big TV screens, hammers, smoke and cars getting smashed up. Put it this way, it's a billion times better than the It's Called a Heart video....

Instead of a new single the next release from the band was an album - Black Celebration. Even now, 25 years after its release, the album sounds new, fresh and is just bloody brilliant! The vast majority (I've learned not to say all!) love Black Celebration and rightly so. It was the last of the Hansa albums and indeed was the last produced by the band, Daniel Miller and Gareth Jones. If for some reason you don't have it, put this down, find a record shop and buy it. My fear with this blog is that I will go on and on and on about the sheer genius of Black Celebration in ways that will bore even hardcore Depeche fans so in an attempt to at least keep some viewers I will restrict myself to saying that it is second only to Violator for me. When I eventually get to the Violator blog you'll see what I mean about going on and on! Anyway, Black Celebration (right) was released on 17 March 1986 on LP (STUMM26) and cassette (CSTUMM26) and features 11 tracks: Black Celebration, Fly On The Windscreen (Final), A Question of Lust, Sometimes, It Doesn't Matter Two, A Question of Time, Stripped, Here Is The House, World Full Of Nothing, Dressed In Black and New Dress. Every one (and yes that DOES include Sometimes - I like it and I will defend it!) is top quality and the whole album works perfectly as an complete album from start to finish. I dont imagine anyone had used the phrase Black Celebration before but Depeche did and the album starts as it means to go on with a track celebrating life, love and happiness albeit from a darker perspective than usual. Fly On The Windscreen then makes another appearance this time in its' classic guise. A larger than usual Martin section then follows with three songs - A Question of Lust (more below), Sometimes (it's fine - leave it alone!) and It Doesn't Matter Two, so called because It Doesn't Matter appeared on Some Great Reward. IDM2 is my favourite Martin track here - musically and lyrically it's perfect. A quickfire double of classics follows (A Question of Time more of which to come and Stripped) and then we land at Here Is The House. I'll go out on a limb here and say that EVERY Depeche fan loves this song - prove me wrong ;). It's odd that it hasn't featured more live as it was only played a couple of times on the Black Celebration tour and then revisted acoustically by Martin on World Violation. Maybe all the harmonies and counter melodies make it too hard to recreate live - who knows? It's just a pity we haven't heard more of it. Next we find a fourth Martin track (did Dave have a sore throat?) World Full of Nothing which is lovely and then Dressed In Black. DIB essentially sums up all Depeche fans everywhere as anyone who's been to a Depeche gig will confirm! Martin has played this in solo spots on tours which always ends in an extended WOAH-OH part at the end. Finally, Martin gets political with New Dress which takes down the media in four verses. As I'm typing this I'm trying to find a news channel that isn't droning on about the forthcoming Royal Wedding - New Dress seems appropriate in the circumstances.

The German edition of the LP is available in grey vinyl. A cd version was released after the initial release date adding Breathing In Fumes, But Not Tonight (Extended Remix) and Black Day from the Stripped 12". I won't say any more about the album other than demanding once again that you buy it if you don't already have it.

The band's next single appeared on 14 April 1986. A Question of Lust was a Martin sung single which the by now confirmed as cloth eared UK record buying public failed to embrace leading to the song stalling at their second lowest position (if we include Dreaming of Me which is a bit harsh) of 28. The single came in three formats. Firstly, we had a 7" (7BONG11 - right) which was backed with a new instrumental b-side called Christmas Island, a cracking track. The 12" (12BONG11 - left) was yet another 5 track spectacular featuring A Question of Lust, Christmas Island (Extended), People Are People (Live), It Doesn't Matter Two (Instrumental) and A Question Of Lust (Minimal). Whilst not as good a collection as the Stripped 12" it's still an interesting 12". The live version of People Are People is from Basle on the Some Great reward tour and the instrumental of IDM2 is just that. The best track on the record is the Minimal version of A Question of Lust - a nice take on the lead track. There was no limited edition 12" this time. Instead the first ever Depeche Mode cassette single was released (CBONG11 - left). It's a great little item this featuring a cassette, a booklet containing some quite dreadful photos and a badge. The packaging has a handy little ticked list of contents just so you know what you're getting when you buy it! There are 4 tracks on the cassette - A Question of Lust (Flood Mix) (great) and live versions of If You Want, Shame and Blaspehmous Rumours again from the Basle gig. The only snag with this release is the envelope the package comes in - it's quite tought to open and the part you open tends to rip. It also ruins the sticker on the back of the pack. The Germans are an inventive lot however and so to avoid this they released the cassette as a 12" on yellow vinyl. The lead 12" comes on black and white marble vinyl and a red 7" is available too. The black/white vinyl was the one I needed to complete my collection (other than the rare JCGE and Stripped 12") a few years ago and I DEFINITELY spent too much money on it. Worth it though! Finally the video shows Martin singing and the band hitting things.

The last single from Black Celebration was A Question of Time which was remixed for its release on 11 August 1986 and ended up climbing to number 17 in the UK. The 7" (right - 7BONG12) featured A Question of Time (remix) and a live version of Black Celebration from the Black Celebration tour gig at Birmingham NEC. The remix is a decent enough remix but the live B-side is the interesting track here. The band who were undertaking their first full UK Arena tour now sounded like a band destined to play on the bigger stages as the live versions of the new songs showed. As the tour went on the band added larger and larger venues worldwide and played their biggest US shows to date including a prestigous show at Radio City Music Hall. The 12" release (12BONG12 - left) featured Black Celebration from the 7" and added more live tracks from the same show - Something To Do and Stripped. There was also a further remix of A Question Of Time, the rather good Extended Remix. We then got our first limited edition 12" of the Black Celebration era with L12BONG12 (right) which is either a three or a four track 12" depending on what version you have. The first two tracks on the four track 12" are the New Town Mix of A Question of Time and a live remix of the same. They two tracks run into each other meaning that on later re-issues and the cd single from 1991 they are listed as one thing called New Town Mix/Live Remix. All a bit of a fuss other nothing really - the remix part is ok and the live remix features a frankly terrible organ type sound for the main riff. The remaining two tracks were the Black Tulip Mix of Black Celebration (nice) and a live version of More Than A Party from the NEC show. German editions are a red vinyl 7", a black and white marbled 12" and a grey limited edition 12".

The most interesting thing about this release is the video and thus far I have NEVER said that! This was the band's first video that was directed by Anton Corbijn and it represented a beginning of a dramatic shift in the band's visual presentation. The video is a black and white affair showing a mix of live footage and a story that seems to involve Alan waiting for a baby to be delivered to him by a man in a motorbike and sidecar. I admit that doesn't sound great but it is especially when compared to all DM videos prior to it!

The lengthy Black Celebration tour took the band to the next level globally and the album's much more mature sound attracted many more listeners. The next step would be huge taking the band into stadiums and bringing their music to the We'll look at that next time.

Tuesday 12 April 2011


Having decided they needed time off, Depeche Mode chose not to release an album in 1985. Instead, they decided to bookmark the end of a hugely successful first five years with a singles compilation more of which in a bit. The band did release a new single, however, in the shape of the, at that point, stand alone single Shake The Disease which was released on 29 April 1985. Somehow or other the song only reached number 18 in the UK charts.

Number 18.

Just into the top 20.

Two of the top 10 biggest sellers in the UK that year were I Know Him So Well by Barbara Dickson and Elaine Paige and Frankie by Sister Sledge. Honestly, there should be some sort of trial where music buyers of 1985 are asked to justify why Shake The Disease was something they chose to ignore. There should be recriminations. Number 18 - madness.

Ranting aside (number 18? Really?) let's try and be objective about the song. Shake The Disease is a bloody brilliant song (bye objectivity...), lyrically, musically, and yes I'll say it even as the video itself was.....(drum roll)....NOT TOO BAD BY DEPECHE MODE STANDARDS! Ok, Martin looks really quite strange, Alan's hair is either half mad or brilliant depending on your views, Dave and Fletch are both blonde and someone tries to play a metal fence at one point but I don't care. It has everything that period Depeche should have. Brilliant metallic music, docks, metal, black leather and more metal. The song itself remains one of my favourite Depeche songs and at the time of its release was surely Martin's finest effort. It was played live up until the World Violation era (the version from that tour is well worth checking out) and then was resurrected by Martin on the last two tours as a hugely fantastic part of his solo set. The single came out on the two standard formats of the era - 7 inch (7BONG8 - left) and 12" (12BONG8 - right). The 7" was backed with a brand new b-side called Flexible which isn't great but does the job just fine. I often ask myself if it is indeed a sin to be flexible when the boat comes in purely as a result of having heard that song. I am yet to find the answer. The 12 " contained a princely two tracks - Shake The Disease (Remixed Extended Version) and Flexible (Remixed Extended version) both of which chose to lengthen and sonically re-arrange the 7 inch versions i.e they remixed and extended them. The remix of Shake The Disease is great and still one I play. The Flexible one isn't that good but again is ok. The Limited Edition 12" (L12BONG8) is a different beast entirely. It houses a whopping 4 tracks, is beautifully packaged (below) and really is a rather fantastic thing. Because I was a Violator era convert I had to play catch up with Depeche Mode and for some years this 12" was something of a holy grail for me. I eventually found it in the second hand section of One Up in Diamond Street, Aberdeen for £2.29. I was 20 at the time but when I found it, paid for it (Me - "I cant believe you're only charging £2.29 for this" Beyond Indifferent Assistant "Its only Depeche Mode mate") and left the shop I actually ran back to my flat to play it. I still would too. Anyway, the tracks - Shake The Disease (Edit The Shake), Master and Servant (Live), Flexible (Pre-Deportation Mix) and Something To Do (Metal Mix). The Shake The Disease mix is good, the live version of Master and Servant great to hear and the Flexible mix passable but the star here is the remix of Something To Do. It's abolutely fantastic albeit dont listen to it on headphones at a loud setting initially as the first 15 seconds will cause you some form of hearing loss. This remains one of the great Depeche Mode vinyl releases and I demand you all get it if you can. The German releases didn't let the side down either with a red 7" and a lovely black and white splatter vinyl of the standard 12 " and the same splatter vinyl for the L12". As with the UK release the star of the show is the release of the limited edition which in Germany came on cd. And it only got to number 18! My vinyl collection is pictured below

To show the UK record buying public that they were cloth eared buffoons the band decided to release another new song on 16 September 1985 to promote the forthcoming singles compilation. This song was going to be a huge smash that would entrance everyone who heard it giving the band their long overdue first number one. Due to an error at the pressing plant however, It's Called A Heart was released instead.

Or at least that's what I presume happened. Compared to Shake The Disease, It's Called A Heart is a baffling choice of single. The lyrics are shocking albeit medically accurate (a heart is inside the body and does indeed beat), the music's all clunky and a tad novelty and the video is nothing more than a horrorshow with voodoo people, an oddly tanned Dave and lots of running about in fields. I just dont get it. The song is even more baffling when one considers its b-side (7BONG9 - right) Fly On The Windscreen. This must rank as the band's best ever b-side and is a song so good that it popped up on Black Celebration, will feature on the new remix album and was played live in 1986 (AMAZING version - you have to find it), 1993 (the slower version which is still good) and 2009 (great apart from (1) the trumpet sound which is a bit Bontempi and (2) the fact they dropped it from the set before I saw the tour). It's 1000000 times the song It's Called a Heart is. My version of the 7" comes with a poster - I dont know if all versions did and would be delighted of someone could let me know. (EDIT - not all versions came with a poster) The 12" version (12BONG9 - left) added an extended version of both tracks both of which are absolutely fine and it could be said that the extended version of the lead track improves it somewhat. I should say that for all my badmouthing it, the live version of It's Called a Heart from the Black Celebration tour is pretty good too. Instead of an L12 this time the band upped the stakes somewhat and issued a D12 - not an early version of Eminem's chums but a double pack 12" featuring two 12" singles. As the label on the record said it was a Special Limted Edition Twin Set and it was to retail for no more than £2.99. Tell that to ebay. This bumper pack of fun (D12BONG9 - right) featured four tracks - the two Extended versions from the normal 12", the fantastic Death Mix of Fly On The Windscreen (set to feature on the new remix album) and the horror show war crime of It's Called A Heart (Slow Mix). It was a slower version of the title track akin to when you play a 45 rpm record at 33rpm but nowhere near that good. Honestly lads (if you're reading this (which I doubt) (but if you are I hope you like it)) what were you thinking. Alan is on record as saying he cant stand this version and I agree entirely. The German editions here are the red 7", a lovely blue vinyl 12" and a cd version of the double pack albeit with only one cd.

A final point to note about It's Called A Heart is that it reached number 18 in the UK charts. The same as Shake The Disease. I give up.

As I mentioned above the band chose to release a Singles compilation in 1985 mysteriously called The Singles 81-85. This smashed its way onto record and cassette players and into the charts on 15 October 1985 (MUTEL1 and CMUTEL1) reaching number 6. It takes all the singles from Dreaming Of Me, slaps them in chronological order and lays the first few years of Depeche on a plate for your listening pleasure. The sleeve is an absolute disaster, as we can see to the right. There are many things I love about Depeche Mode but I really must question their decision making in the early years. Did they actually see this cover before agreeing to it? The inner notes of the album are a nice touch as they take a bad review and a good review of each song which makes for a fairly amusing read. There are also a load of photos on the gatefold sleeve of the vinyl which I guess must be from the band's personal collections. It really is a top notch compilation which shows the progesstion the band made in only 5 years. The vinyl excludes The Meaning of Love (hoorah!) and Somebody (boo!). There is also a German grey vinyl version. The cd version came out later in the 80's and then the whole thing was reissued and repackaged to misquote Morrissey on 26 October 1998 (left) to tie in with the later singles package. The tracklisting was the same with the addition of Just Cant Get Enough (Schizo Mix) and Photographic (Some Bizarre Version). Get it for the latter track alone. This was a song that featured on the legendary Some Bizarre album and until this release was only available there. The reissued album was available on LP, cassette, CD and MiniDisc.

The Singles 81-85 represented the end of Chapter 1 of Depeche Mode. Filled with highs (Shake The Disease, Construction Time Again, Some Great Reward) and lows (The Meaning Of Love, It's Called A Heart) the band's first five years had seen them gradually grow in popularity globally whilst perplexingly losing support at home. The next few years saw them explode worldwide, the key to which was the classic Black Celebration album which we'll look at in a few days.

Tuesday 5 April 2011



As well as consolidating their position in their homeland, Contsruction Time Again also brought Depeche Mode to the world's attention, especially in Europe. The band were playing bigger venues than ever and their fanbase was growing and growing. The next release by the band then would be crucial for their long term success as they sought to continue to establish themselves and as it turned out they exceeded all expectations.

People Are People was released on 12 March 1984 on 7 inch (7BONG5 - right) backed with another Alan Wilder track called In Your Memory. People Are People is a landmark Depeche song given its popularity at the time - it reached a record number 4 in the UK chart, had a huge impact in the US charts and hit number one in Germany. This was a massive step forward for the band and whilst the chart success in the US wouldn't be repeated for some years it led to them playing much biggers shows than ever before in America and really opened the door for them there. The song itself is good but not their best by any means. In Your Memory is a decent enough track too. Actually given the propensity for a plethora of remix by numbers remixes we get these days I really shouldnt complain about In Your Memory. Both were remixed to great effect on the 12" (left - 12BONG5) especially on the Different Mix of People Are People. The Slik Mix of In Your Memory extends the original. Finally a limited edition numbered 12" (L12BONG5 - right) was released featuring the two 7 inch tracks plus the frankly top notch On U Sound Remix of People Are People. It's loud and clangy - that's good enough for me. It's easy to have a go at People Are People for its' cringey lyrics but muscially it's a great tune. The band were still leading the way in sampling in pop music and were making full use of the 64 track Hansa technology. The video (below) showed them on HMS Belfast attempting to play various bits of the ship - as with any video until Anton Corbijn got involved it's to be forgotten about. Once again the German coloured vinyl editions of all three vinyl formats are well worth seeking out with the nicest being the green splatter vinyl for the standard 12". There's also the red vinyl 7" and a red/green marbled vinyl limited edition 12"

The band's next single was controversial. It's funny to think of it now especially when artists like Rhianna release songs actually called S&M, but Master and Servant's lyrical themes caused much consternation at esteemed homes of family broadcasting such as the BBC. All nonsense really. Released on 20 August 1984, the 7" (7BONG6 - right) was backed with a new track (Set Me Free) Remotivate Me which is by no means a classic but again let's not grumble too much. The song was another huge success hitting number 6 in the UK charts despite yet another comedy video featuring chains, a daft dance, more chains, a drill, chains and Martin in chains. The 12" (left- 12BONG6) had a massive three tracks - Master and Servant (Slavery Whip Mix), Set Me Free (Remotivate Me) (Release Mix) and Master and Servant (Voxless). The first track is a cracker - yet another band made remix. The latter two are respectively extended and voiceless and neither are hugely memorable. Another mumbered limited edition 12" was released (L12BONG6 - right) featuring another three tracks. The first was another On USound remix of the title track called Master and Servant (On USound Science Fiction Dance Hall Classic) which like the remix of People Are People is nice and noisy. Track 2 was the frankly baffling Are People People. As even those least familiar with Depeche Mode will guess this was an attempt at a remix of People Are People. I'm sure that there was a point there originally and that one drunken night the remix sounded like it was great but it really isnt. The last track was the 7" version of Set Me Free (Remotivate Me). It's a nice 12" for collectors but it's not one that you'd listen to a huge deal. Master and Servant is a good song and is still very popular amongst DM fans although I guess that's more due to its age and the fondness with which it's looked back on. It was a welcome addition to the Tour of The Universe setlist and much missed when it was dropped. If you want to find a good live version of the song I'd recommend the 101 version. For the German fans a red vinyl 7" and grey marbled vinyl versions of both 12" were released.

Next came the classic album Some Great Reward on 24 September 1984. The album reached number 5 in the UK and was released on LP (STUMM19) and cassette (CSTUMM19). A German grey vinyl edition is available too. SGR is a fantastic album with very little filler to be found in its 9 tracks. Most of the tracks will be familiar to all Depeche fans - Something To Do, Lie To Me, People Are People, It Doesn't Matter, Stories of Old, Somebody, Master and Servant, If You Want (by Alan Wilder) and Blasphemous Rumours. Something To Do and Lie To Me are two of the band's best songs. ALL DM fans love Lie To Me and beg for its inclusion in any live setlist - the live versions of the song from 1984 are fantastic. Something To Do is also a fan favourite (at least of this fan anyway) and stayed in the live set for years even getting a one off outing on the Devotional tour. The weakest songs (although that is harsh to be fair) on the album are It Doesn't Matter and Stories of Old although the latter got a nice reworking on the bonus dvd in the boxset of Sounds of The Universe. Alan's track If You Want is pretty decent too although pushes the whole building site metaphor of the time a little far. Overall it's a great album and one that was hugely successful for the band. A video (STILL no DVD) of the tour punningly entitled The World We Live In and Live In Hamburg is available and is a good watch if only for Dave's ..erm... "dancing". It was their first live video and is worth getting for that alone.

The final single from the album brought condemnation from Church leaders for its God questioning lyrics. I guess the band must have been slightly wary of causing controversy and on 29 October 1984 instead of releasing Blasphemous Rumours as stand alone single they chose to put it out as part of a double A side with Somebody (remix) (7BONG7 - left). The single didnt do too well in comparison to the previous two reaching number 16 in the UK. As well as their first double A side the band also released their first 7" ep (7BONG7E - right) featuring four tracks - Blasphemous Rumours, Told You So (Live), Somebody (remix) and Everything Counts (live) with both live tracks recorded at the Liverpool Empire Theatre on the tour in support of the album. A 12" was also released (12BONG7 - below left) featuring Blasphemous Rumours and 4 live tracks from the same concert - Somebody, Two Minute Warning, Ice Machine and Everything Counts. Two German coloured editions of the 12" are available as I discovered the other night when I looked through my record boxes in preparation for this - one yellow and the other grey. There's a red vinyl 7" too. Blasphemous Rumours is a decent enough track albeit a little lightweight despite the message it seeks to get across. It stayed in the live set until 1988 and features on 101 - worth a look for the girl going mental singing along to it at the Pasadena show. Somebody is still much loved despite slightly odd lyrics and is regularly wheeled out by Martin for encores. Finally, there were two videos in support of the song - Blasphemous Rumours looks to recreate their live show of the time and Somebody is Martin singing cut with shots of Alan playing piano and the others walking about moodily.

By the end of the SGR tour in 1985 the band had essentially been on the road for 5 years and were starting to get slightly pissed off with each other. A break was needed and so 1985 meant no new album for the band. It didnt stop them releasing music however as we'll discover next time.