Monday 16 March 2020


One of the most striking things about Violator is its iconic cover art. Its simplicity is eye-catching and matches the mood of the album perfectly. "Simplicity" was certainly Anton's watchword when designing the album sleeve. In 2010, he told Interview Magazine:

"Depeche Mode is different (from U2)....they're not very involved. They say 'Can you do the album?' and I come up with an idea. With Violator, I just painted a flower red and nailed it to a board and wrote under it 'Violator."

Seems pretty straightforward. It was certainly effective though wasn't it? What we're going to do today is look at the way Violator appeared around the world. There were many variations, each without exception beautiful in its own way. There are 31 days in March. Bear with me.

Years before Brexit made Britain a colossal global laughing stock, we produced bands like Depeche Mode. They looked to Europe as a friend and inspiration, picking a Dutch artist as the man to restore artistic credibility to them. Yes, that tortuous Brexit metaphor (please forgive all right minded British people my European friends) is a way of saying Depeche + Anton =  perfection. Violator  was just that - perfect. The picture above is the sleeve of the UK vinyl version. There is nothing I can usefully add about it other than to sigh at its sheer majesty. The back of the album cover is equally perfect:

A black celebration. Why would you need more than that? The inner sleeve however takes things to a staggering new level:

That is just perfect. The rose in a different pose and four black and white pictures of our heroes tucked away in the top right. There is no repeat of the "nipples Martin?" incident we saw on The Singles 81-85 and no "You're taking the piss here Anton" as we saw on the front of Songs Of Faith And Devotion." As with all the Violator era artwork, the key is simplicity. The art is the focus, not the people involved and that applies equally to the album artwork as it does to the music. 

The best things about vinyl in 1990 were that (1) it wasn't a cassette and thus couldn't get chewed up (my first A Question Of Lust cassette single still hasn't recovered) and (2) it had an inner sleeve that featured the lyrics. Violator did that of course and above we can see the lyric side of the inner sleeve. There is a rose there of course, and alongside it the lyrics to the finest collection of songs committed to record. Oddly, there are, perhaps not typos, but certainly odd mistakes. Sweetest Perfection is called The Sweetest Perfection and Policy Of Truth is named The Policy Of Truth. I imagine several of you know why - do let me know.

The original album is available in three variations  - one with a matt black sleeve, one with a semi-matt slightly lighter sleeve and one a glossy black sleeve.

The cassette version is a lovely thing too - all black and ominous. The cover art is slightly different to the album as the word "violator" appears to the right of the rose and not in the middle of it:

I first bought Violator on cassette and the version above is my original one. The CD art is again different. Here is the cover:

As you'll see, the title is still to the right of the rose, but the rose has been chopped in half. The band's faces appear in the booklet - Dave and Alan on the first page beside the rose from the album inner sleeve and Martin and Andy in the middle page beside the rose that features on the lyrics side of the inner sleeve. The band's faces don't feature on the cassette version by the way. That may be important to some of you.  The CD itself is a glorious thing:

Black other than the sing titles. Just as it should be. In 2006, the CD was re-issued with bonus tracks and a DVD. In the 16 years since the album was released, the rose had grown as we can see:

The rather nice booklet with the re-issue pushed the four pictures of the band out of the inner booklet and onto the rear of the release:

Interestingly (is it? Is it really?), the way the boys line up there (Martin, Alan, Dave, Andy) is different to their line up on the original album sleeve - Alan, Dave, Andy, Martin. The things you learn eh? If I applied myself half as much to my day job as I do to this type of trivia, I could really achieve something.  

Let's have a look at the various ways the rest of the world approach Violator.


The nice thing about having an album released all over the world is that you get different takes on the artwork that features on the records or CD's. There is fun to be had and, sadly, money to be spent in tracking down different versions if that is your cup of tea. It's time to have a look at a few of the different Violators using the combined might of my small collection and's large brain. To kick us off, here's the Belgian CD:

A nice attempt at a DM there (ignore the writing on mine) but a bit of a cluttered CD compared to the UK one. The Belgian LP version also uses the DM, a DM that seems to have put on weight since it first turned up in the Personal Jesus gatefold 7":

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In France, the album was released on two labels, Virgin and Vogue, for some reason. That meant to different CDs. Here's Virgin

and here's Vogue:

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Virgin wins.  The German CD was a lot jazzier, using the whole rose from the album sleeve:

It's a bit odd but charming in a strange way. The Italian CD is really rather dull however:

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The Spanish CD is rather cool. Nice use of the proper DM and the violator font:

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Sweden kept it simple but fairly dull. Better than Italy, but that's not too hard:

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You'll see I've not really mentioned any LP's so far. That's because most of the European issues are fairly standard and not that exciting. Spain kept up its impressive performance with a nice label on the vinyl version:

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This one from Yugoslavia is great albeit in a "what on earth is that?" way:

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The US CD version is quite nice - bonus points for the proper DM (I'm looking at you Belgium) and the font:

The best US release however was the Longbox version. All Depeche Mode's albums up to Violator are available in the US Longbox format. They look incredible and I don't have any of them sadly. They are bloody expensive now too. Here it is:

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As you can see, not only is it long, but it is also a box.

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The Canadian release featured the same CD as the American one albeit, for collectors out there, with different matrices. 


The Argentinian release called the album Violador and why not? The vinyl has cool labels with a nice Depeche Mode font and the song titles in Spanish:

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Two CD versions were released in Argentina, one mirroring the US release and one looking like this:

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The Brazilian vinyl is not very cheerful:

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and the CD is a bit dull

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In Ecuador, the slightlyt dodgy sounding label Teen International released both a vinyl version
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and a cassette version:

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The Paraguayan tape promised NEW DANCE MUSIC:

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A good Japanese release is one that contains many surprises and one particular Japanese version of Violator did just that. The double CD jewel case release by Alfa Records is an absolute joy. Firstly, the album sleeve is the vinyl version with the larger rose:

Open it up and you find the album on one of those gorgeous Japanese CD's, an English language booklet, a Japanese language booklet and, very thoughtfully, a piece of tissue to stop your CD being scratched.

That's not all though. The box opens at the other side to reveal another CD, this time an Enjoy The Silence maxi. You also get an Enjoy The Silence cover, another piece of tissue AND a calendar style diary thing that runs from April 1990 to March 1991:

Helpfully, the calendar diary thing is marked with the band's birthdays:

Happy birthday Martin

The Enjoy The Silence CD contains a mistake however. The Hands And Feet Mix at track two is in fact the Ecstatic Dub version, meaning the Ecstatic Dub is repeated twice, albeit the version at track 3 is 8 seconds shorter. The Japanese label then issued a replacement CD that comes in this cover:

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Finally, you could hear the Hands And Feet Mix in all its glory.

To have a fully complete Alfa double CD, you also need to have the OBI strip and a postcard to fill in and send to Mute. I'm missing those two parts


Buy one version of the album you love and play that is the best conclusion! You can go mad trying to collect all this stuff as there doesn't seem to come a point where the collection can ever end. Aside from the music, Violator's artwork makes it an object of desire and the different takes different countries took on it is a fascinating thing.

Anton may have thought he was keeping it simple, but for collectors, nailing a painted rose to a board meant life was going to be very far from simple.

1 comment:

  1. Violator's album cover is truly a masterpiece, however to add a bit of salt, I'll confess, one of my family members (no names) described it as quite dull and when asked which album cover is DM's pinnacle, the answer was "Sounds of the Universe"!!! Really?!