Everything was going so well for Depeche Mode. Dreaming Of Me saw them gain a large fanbase outwith their local area, New Life sold nearly 500,000 copies and made them a household name and Just Can't Get Enough built on that, turning the band into a Top Ten band in the UK. Their debut album Speak & Spell was about to be released and the world was their oyster. What could possibly go wrong?
|NME, 2nd January 1982|
Ah. The news of Vince's departure first appeared in December 1981 and that appeared to be that for Depeche Mode. Jaunty instrumental Big Muff and Tora! Tora! Tora! aside, Vince had written all the band's songs. Someone needed to step up and keep Depeche Mode going and that man was Martin L Gore. Turns out he wasn't too bad a songwriter at all.
WE CAN RELIVE OUR YOUTH - SEE YOU
|Picture courtesy of depmod.com|
See You was released on 29th January and entered the charts on 13th February at number 40. It crawled to number 31 the following week, but the band's appearance on the 24th of February edition of Top Of The Pops saw it fire up the charts to number 10. Another Top ten hit. Who said they were finished?
As you'll notice, there was a mystery fourth person with the band. That chap was Alan Wilder and, after initially joining as a live musician only, he soon became an official member of Depeche Mode. Alan stayed with the band until 1995 before quietly leaving with very few members of the fanbase noticing, a position that remains the same to date. People regularly say "I can't even remember if Alan was in the band" when his name comes up. He's a mystery and can only be remembered by very few fans indeed.
The single continued its relentless march up the charts, moving from 10 to 8 and then to 6, the band's highest chart position to date. It was an outstanding result for them. The single dropped from 6 to 11 and then 13, 27 and 42 before a final stop at 59 and then into the eternal darkness of life beyond the Top 75.
Before I move onto the single itself, we have to pause to appreciate another of the band's television performances promoting See You. As we'll see later, the single was released in West Germany on red vinyl 7" and on the cover there is a sticker that says "Aus der TV-Sendung Bananas" which basically translates as "as seen on the TV show Bananas."
There was a German pop programme called Bananas in 1982 and on the 27th of April that year, Depeche Mode appeared on the show performing See You. As you'd expect for a TV show, they just mimed to the track but they did so, and there is no easy way to say this, while holding chickens. Live chickens in fact. As you can see, the band did their best in what could only have been trying and highly troubling circumstances:
There is much to mention here from the notion of playing electronic instruments amidst bales of hay (surely a fire risk) to Fletch's "Focus on the chicken Andy FOCUS" face at 1 minute 8 seconds in while two Germans get frisky in the hay behind him. You could also embrace Martin at 1 minute 30 or so thinking "A fancy suit while holding a chicken is the limit. From now on it's leather, women's clothes and heavy make up. That'll get me taken seriously." I would heartily recommend you watch on repeat Alan at 1 minute 56 holding a prime piece of poultry, pondering his new job and thinking "What the fuck have I got myself into here?"
Whatever you do, do not forget to watch this most legendary of Depeche Mode performances. There is only seven years between this and Personal Jesus. That is remarkable.
See You is a gem of pop song and it was praised by most reviewers. Melody Maker came up with the rather catchy "Vince splits, world gasps, Depeche fade, no? No!" which I enjoy. Smash Hits claimed the single was "light years ahead of the rest," leaving Danny Baker to kill the buzz with the harsh "Their last single was trying and now this is insipid." That's Danny Baker for you - as a rule, if he likes it, it's usually bad. That means See You was therefore bound to be good.
|Smash Hits 23 January 1982|
See You is far poppier than any of Vince's Depeche work and it clearly has the aim of ensuring a chart smash. It's filled with glorious melodies and harmonies throughout and features some lovely bubbling electronics - what's not to love about it? For a band who were put in the position they were by Vince's departure it was a strong response.
The song was played live 211 times between the Crocs gig on 20 January 1982 and the gig at Torwar Hall in Warsaw on 30th July 1985 which was a show that marked the last live outing for a number of early Depeche tracks as we've already seen. DM Live Wiki has you covered for all recordings that exist of See You. I particularly love the version from the wonderful recording of the 21st February show at Tiffany's in my home town of Glasgow where the band sing the vocal sample line instead of using a sample. They do bloody well too - check it out on DM Live Wiki here
The B-side is a curious track. Now, This Is Fun initially sounds like something that should have very much stayed in the studio, but on repeated listens it gets catchier and catchier ultimately forcing you to admit that it is not too bad at all. The band played it live a remarkable 86 times on the See You and Construction Time Again tours with the last live airing taking place on 2nd June 1984 in Ludwigshafen in Germany. Lie To Me has only ever been played live 77 times, nine times less than Now, This Is Fun.
When Depeche Mode were preparing the A Broken Frame - The 12" Singles boxset, a photograph of the 12" master tape appeared on the band's Facebook page that showed the song was originally called Reason For Fun:
The See You video is, relatively speaking of course, on a far grander scale than Just Can't Get Enough's budget video. It opens over a smoke-filled railway platform with a bow tied Dave distracted from waiting for his train by a haunted photobooth firing out pictures of Dave and his girlfriend. The person playing the girlfriend was in fact Martin's actual girlfriend at the time, Anne Swindell.
As you can see, the story appears to be Dave goes out to buy a record and, while doing so, walks past his bandmates playing cash registers and stumbles upon another haunted photobooth which reveals his girlfriend has been hanging around with the other band members and mystery new man Alan Wilder. "Alan who?" you ask. I'll explain it one day. He used to be in Depeche Mode.
The video ends with Dave breaking all chart rules and actually buying his own single. He is still wanted in Essex for crimes against the Top 40 and remains an outlaw to this day.
There were only two formats released in Britain. Firstly, we have the standard 7":
The sleeve seems to show a very short man smoking while looking through a window at a very tall woman while the label is a lovely thing with a love heart at the centre because this is very much a love song. Now, This Is Fun isn't that, but as you can see below, it still gets the love heart label:
Sadly, despite its appearance, the sleeve isn't made of wood. The 12" single has an entirely different cover:
It features two tracks being Extended Versions of See You and Now, This is Fun
Neither remix is a radical reinterpretation of the song it remixes; in fact all the really are are slightly longer versions of each song. See You's 3 minute 55 second single version becomes a whopping 4 minutes 50 seconds long and Now, This Is Fun is stretched from 3 minutes 27 all the way to 4 minutes 45 seconds. The whole 12" then takes 9 minutes 35 seconds to play. I'm sure there's a version of Hole To Feed that is at least 4 times that long or perhaps it just felt that way (see future blog).
There were a few represses of this record and one of them stands out as it has a different sleeve. On the sleeve, the girl's face on the cover leans to the left:
Other than that, there is no difference between this and the standard 12". This one is more collectable and once sold for £58 according to Discogs. No, it wasn't me. See You joined the world of digital music as part of the UK CD singles boxset in 1991 and features the 7" version of Now, This Is Fun and the two tracks from the 12":
As I mentioned earlier, there is a German red vinyl 7" version of See You. This was the first of a series of such releases that ran all the way up to and including Never Let Me Down Again. Here is the front cover with that Bananas sticker:
It features the same tracks as the UK 7" as does the German 12". As well as a black vinyl release though, that format was also released on majestic red/purple marbled vinyl. Just look at this:
How lovely is that? If you like it, here's the back of the sleeve and the B-side as a treat just for you:
There is also the German blue stripe CD which is always a lovely thing:
The French CD is a nice item too:
The later re-press of that doesn't have the greyed out centre. If you are going to collect the French CD singles, go for the ones with the greyed out centre - that seems to be the thing to do.
The single was also released in America, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Japan and Sweden among others. In "Formats I Don't Yet Have But Want" corner, my favourite is the Spanish 12":
An especial discoteca indeed.
See You may not be regarded by many as one of the most important Depeche Mode singles there ever has been, but it's arguably the most crucial. They needed to come out fighting after Vince left and they did that with their own Martin-written pop gem. It kept Depeche Mode firmly in the spotlight, proved the doubters wrong and landed the band their biggest hit to date.
Plus it gave us the chicken video. We'll always have the chicken video.