Wednesday 18 March 2020


Picture courtesy of Richard Blade/Depeche Mode Facebook 

To many British people in 1990, the idea of Depeche Mode causing a riot would seem far fetched at best. Bands like Bros attracted legions of crazed, mainly female teen fans while bands such as The Jesus And Mary Chain had caused riots mainly due to their somewhat confrontational feedback laden gigs. Depeche Mode were not that type of band. Who could be bothered getting mildly agitated about them, never mind rioting because of them?

Americans is the answer.

Thanks to the band's rapidly growing American fanbase, when KROQ, Mute and Los Angeles record shop The Wherehouse announced a signing session on March 20th in The Wherehouse, the band's fans descended on the shop en masse. Some fans were so keen to Fletch that they camped out overnight just to secure that precious signature.

In the end, 17,000 or so Depeche Mode fans headed to The Wherehouse, each hoping to meet their heroes, The event was broadcast live on KROQ and Depeche turned up around 9pm to start signing endless copies of the Belgian 7" of The Meaning Of Love and other items. Fans quickly became aware that they weren't all going to get in, so people started jostling and trying to push their way up the nearly two-mile long queue. Other fans positioned themselves on a car park roof opposite the shop and the combination of all these Depeche mad fans meant that the event was ultimately called off.

200 police officers eventually took control of things assisted by mounted units and officers in full riot gear. It's remarkable to read that really. Only seven years before this, the band were arseing about on a funfair ride dressed as milkmen in the entirely rightly maligned video for Get The Balance Right. Now, they were globe straddling electro-titans, causing entire blocks of Los Angeles to shut down. They had become the Basildon Beatles.

I recently had a chat with Mike LaJoie (@black_tonight on Twitter) from Seattle who attended the event. He filled me in on what happened on the day.

Picture courtesy of Mike LaJoie

APA: When did you first hear about The Wherehouse signing session and what made you go?
MLJ: To be honest, I don’t remember for sure. Probably a day or two before from Richard Blade on KROQ. I was an avid listener and KROQ was always the first to announce anything Depeche. As to what made me go, it was a rare opportunity to meet the band and get an autograph. I came very close at the premiere of 101 around a year before, but wasn’t able to get close enough.

APA: When did you arrive on the day?
MLJ: Having experienced the crowd for the premiere of 101, I took the day off of work so we could get there early enough. We arrived 10-11 o’clock and parked in the big garage for the Beverly Center across the street and headed down.

Depeche Mode's limo arrives - picture courtesy of Mike LaJoie

APA: Where were you in the queue?
MLJ: By the time we got there, there were 200+ people in line I’m guessing, maybe more. The line started at the entrance to the store which was off the street around the inside of the little shopping center. It continued out to La Cienega in front of those now famous windows. We were past those windows before the line turned the corner onto 3rd Street.

APA: What was the atmosphere like?
MLJ: Back in those days when concert tickets went on sale we were allowed to camp out. It felt much like that. As the day progressed people were getting more and more excited. Everyone had their favourite item with them and were guarding it with their life. That was until about 5pm. As people were getting off work, more and more people were showing up. I heard KIIS FM had announced the signing and with Enjoy The Silence breaking the top 10, that’s when the “masses” showed up. We were hearing rumours that the lines was getting in the double digits of blocks long.

APA: Did you get in and get anything signed by the band?
MLJ: We never even got close. We progressed about to the back entrance of the store. KROQ was doing a live broadcast of the event and indicated how many people were reported in line. When the people around the corner heard that there were upwards of 15,000 people there it was clear not everyone was getting in.

Looking down from the parking garage - picture courtesy of Mike LaJoie
APA: When did it all kick off? Did you take part in the "riot"?
MLJ: That’s when all hell broke loose. It was like a tsunami of humanity. I’ve never seen anything like it. We tried getting a little closer when there was no longer any semblance of a line. We saw the limo pull up and thought “that’s not good!”. Soon after we saw the band dart out the back door into the limo and take off. I was standing right there! By that point there were people everywhere. Bottles started flying about, people climbing trees, it was mayhem. At that point we decided it wasn’t safe to stay down there so we retreated to the 2nd floor of the parking garage where we had a bird's eye view of the riot police trying to organize the chaos. It’s not like we could get out anyhow. It was probably at least 60-90 minutes before we could leave.

The tsunami of humanity - picture courtesy of Mike LaJoie

No-one expected that sort of outcome of course. Mute, KROQ and The Wherehouse were concerned that litigious fans might seek to Clean up (ho ho), so the label hurriedly put out an now inevitably collectible promo cassette called The Wherehouse. To get your hands on it, you had to send a stamped addressed envelope to KROQ and that got you the tape which featured band interviews and the soothing sounds of Something To Do (Metal Mix) which was previously unavailable in America.

Imagine that. You have just recovered from the psychological trauma of having had your Enjoy The Silence maxi cd not only not signed but also crushed by over zealous DM fans. Upbeat and pleased by Mute's gesture, you pop on The Wherehouse cassette and are then smacked in the face by Something To Do (Metal Mix)'s tinny, aggressive opening. A novel choice of track to day the least.

If you want to hear the interview that appears on the cassette, the ever magical DM Live Wiki will provide - Something To Click

The Wherehouse cassette cover - picture courtesy of DMLiveWiki

Local television crews picked up on the social disMODEr (sorry) and the event ended up receiving more publicity than even the most optimistic record company PR person could imagined. In 2014, Daniel Barassi put together this Archives special for the official Depeche Mode site. Watch this and see just how powerful Depeche Mode were in 1990.

Archives Special - The Wherehouse In-Store (March 20th, 1990) from Depeche Mode on Vimeo.

Ultimately, all publicity is good publicity I guess. Violator got more coverage on mainstream media than it would otherwise have had and the band geared up for the American leg of World Violation in the knowledge that they'd developed a reputation as band with an edge. 

All they needed was one small riot. 

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