On 31st January 1983, Depeche Mode released a new single. That single, Get The Balance Right!, was landmark in many ways. Firstly, it was the first release with Alan Wilder as an official member of the band. The band's then fanclub, the Depeche Mode Information Service, announced Alan's arrival in the October 1982 newsletter:
|Picture courtesy of DM Live Wiki|
Secondly, it marked Alan's first songwriting credit with the band with the B-Side The Great Outdoors! a song he track he co-wrote with Martin. Thirdly, the band released their first ever Limited Edition and fourthly, finally and less relevantly, Get The Balance Right! contains the line that this blog was named after. The logo I use is what you might call influenced by the sleeve design too.
Let us then, almost entirely predictably, take a look at Get The Balance Right! As I will inevitably forget to add the exclamation mark on every occasion I type the song's name, from this point, let's forget about the exclamation mark.
ALMOST PREDICTABLE...ALMOST - GET THE BALANCE RIGHT
Get The Balance Right was recorded in Blackwing Studios in 1982. Alan recalls that the band deliberately produced a "dance 12" " that was "very much geared towards the clubs." The dancefloor smash envisaged is obviously more apparent on the towering beast that is the Combination Mix, more of which in a bit. The 7" version of the song is certainly danceable enough if that is a phrase, and it's propelled along on a glorious, thudding bassline. If Leave In Silence hinted at a new direction for Depeche Mode, then Get The Balance Right confirmed that shift. The song is not without its poppy side of course, but its harder sound and general sense of dark urgency clearly stand it apart from the first couple of singles from A Broken Frame. Martin's lyrics are more inward looking than his previous efforts, sounding a bit like a man struggling to grasp fame and the demands it has on him. He was obviously busy as his diary was full until "Next Thursday." It's a fascinating song really and its release as a one off single makes sense as it wouldn't have fitted on A Broken Frame and isn't quite in keeping with Construction Time Again. The fact it was recorded after A Broken Frame would of course have stopped it from fitting on the album too.
Oddly of course, Get The Balance Right features on the Construction Time Again 12" Boxset and on the reissue CD/DVD from a few years ago. Shake The Disease and It's Called A Heart feature on the Black Celebration reissue CD/DVD but sadly, and wrongly, didn't appear in the Black Celebration 12" boxset. Sorry for the non-sequitur, but that point is always worth making. I'll be making it again in a few blogs time.
The single was released on 31st January 1983 and entered the charts at number 32 on 12 February. The band's appearance on Top Of The Pops on 10th February helped push the single up to 22 on the 19th of February
Poor Alan - already relegated to drums. The single remained at 22 for a further week before climbing to its chart high of 13 on 5th March. From there it went to 15, 26, 40 before finally taking a joyride to its house in the countryside via a final stop at number 62.
The reviews of the song were the usual mix of the positive and insulting. Smash Hits loved it, saying it was "fascinating enough structurally to keep it around (the charts)longer than most. " Sounds liked it too, saying it was "the sort of thing they do better than anyone else." Time Out however were not big fans of the song, reviewer John Gill saying "I have often wondered why God bothered with Depeche Mode." A man with too much time on his hands clearly.
The band haven't played the song live that much, perhaps reflecting its status as an in-between albums single. It has been played live a total of 62 times, first being heard on 23 December 1982 at the Brixton Ace on the A Broken Frame tour. It appeared 48 times on the Construction Time Again tour, last being played on 2nd June 1984 in Ludwigshafen.
As I mentioned above, the B-side is a Martin and Alan co-written instrumental called The Great Outdoors! Another exclamation mark. The song was written in the studio and "all done very quickly" according to Alan and that is evident when you hear the song. It starts off well enough, in a similar early electronic experimentalism way to Oberkorn (It's A Small Town) but it goes a bit odd 1 minute 38 seconds in when it becomes the soundtrack to a dodgy cartoon in which a gnome is having a series of jaunty dreams. Or something. Anyway, that carries on for 3 minutes or so before more dark electronic swooshes return us to something a bit more like it. The song has never been played live. I know - surprising right?
Once again, we have a video that doesn't match the marvellousness of the song. We start off with the band dressed as scientists, watching small child play with a crane before Alan wanders in and starts miming the song. The child rightly tries to hide in his bed screaming "For f**cks sake, can SOMEONE tell the Director that this is Alan Wilder and NOT Dave Gahan. Dave is the f**king singer, not f**king Alan. Alan is the new boy. He plays f**king keyboards. SOMEONE CALL MY AGENT."
Alan tells the story slightly differently saying that the Director Kevin Hewitt thought he was actually the singer and the band were too shy to tell him he was wrong. They very much got the balance between shyness and being stroppy wrong there. Ho ho.
Fletch appears as a scientist again and then Martin pops up with a bowler hat and waistcoat. The lack of any sense is added to by Dave appearing as a magician. He twiddles his hankies (NOT a euphemism) before the scene changes and we see all four DM lads attempting to coax us into a fairground. All very odd. Quite rightly, the child stays where he is and instead the Depeche boys, now in suits, play space invaders while four milkmen stand behind each of them waiting to play on the machines.
I can't believe I wrote that sentence.
Curiously, the milkmen push Depeche out of the way and steal money that seems to have come from the machines. They didn't work like that of course, but we are all in Keith Hewitt's world now. Scientist DM return, counting the money the milkmen are giving them before we suddenly see Alan on a fairground ride with the ever present milkmen hanging around. By this point, even Keith Hewitt must have been confused.
We then have fortune tellers, more fairground rides, more milkmen and more gibberish. It's all rubbish but at least it's not....come on everyone... Hole To Feed.
As was usual for the time, we had a 7" release in the UK (BONG2). As you can see above, it features 27 men holding hammers. 26 point one way and the last faces the other way. He's red too.
The rear is quite clever (above). Everything is back to front including, slightly curiously, the B-side name.
The UK 12" (12BONG2 - above) is a great thing as it features the Combination Mix of Get The Balance Right. You all know this mix by now - it's 7 minutes 57 seconds of booming dancefloor friendly Depeche Mode and it is a striking example of why they were pioneers in the world of remixing. What a remix. Incredibly, DJ's like Derrick May were apparently influenced by it with the clubs in Detroit taking to the track. I don't imagine that's what Alan had in mind when he said they were creating a dancefloor track.
There are two tracks on the B-side. As well as The Great Outdoors! we also have the first ever officially released Depeche Mode live track. Keeping with the every song must have an exclamation mark feel, a a rather lovely live version of Tora! Tora! Tora! recorded at Hammersmith Odeon on 25th October 1982 appears.
That one live track was a taster for what appeared on the band's first ever limited edition release which came out in late February and was announced in the March 1983 edition of the Depeche Mode Information Service newsletter. This is where multi formats began and this is where many collectors started their life long obsession. This release (L12BONG) is a beauty and a worthy holder of the band's first L12 title. The initial releases were numbered and came in a textured sleeve like the one above with gold foil on the sleeve giving it a very fancy look indeed. The labels are beautiful too. On the A-Side, we have the single version of Get The Balance Right.
The B-side (above) features four live tracks from the Hammersmith Odeon show - My Secret Garden (with a snippet of the Oberkorn intro), See You, Satellite and Tora! Tora! Tora!. They are great live versions that give a great snapshot of Depeche Mode at that point. The live versions have a few interesting variations on the studio versions and the screaming crowd is something to behold. Overall it is a really nice release and a great start to the onslaught of limited editions that we'd see from now on.
As with all the pre 1991 singles, a CD single (CDBONG2) arrived in the UK in 1991.
There are three German coloured vinyl releases to collect here alongside the normal, dead boring black vinyl. Firstly, the red vinyl 7" with the A-Side above
The B-Side and back of the sleeve can be seen above.
The standard UK 12" was available on gorgeous red vinyl in Germany. It had the added bonus of being a Super Sound Single. No, I've no idea either.
The B-Side was also Super Sound which is nice.
The coloured vinyl version of the limited edition 12" is a stunning thing. Just look at that. Every single thing about it is glorious and it cannot be criticised in any way ever by anyone.
The B-side is equally majestic. As you may have gathered, it's one of my favourite coloured vinyl releases. For those who think that the musical content is the interesting thing here, the tracklist is the same as the UK limited edition 12".
The Intercord blue stripe CD features the 7" tracks, Tora! Tora! Tora! live and the Combination Mix. There is another CD too.
When I first got into Depeche Mode, as my Violator obsession grew, I started buying anything with Depeche Mode on it. This was one of the first CDs I got and I was obsessed with it. I played it over and over and could and in fact still can say "Good evening everybody" at the same time Dave does when he walks on stage as My Secret Garden starts. As well as the 7" version of Get The Balance Right and the four live tracks, it also features the Combination Mix albeit named as Original 12" Mix.
There is also a German cassette single. Meanwhile in France...
The 12" cover was redesigned with all three tracks featuring on the front including the track length of the Combination Mix but, curiously, not the other two tracks.
The reverse of the sleeve lists all three tracks but not the Combination Mix track length.
The French limited edition 12" features 6 tracks. The A-side (above) features the 7" mix and Original 12" Mix (a.k.a Combination Mix).
The B-side features the four live tracks. As you can perhaps see, there is a picture of a cassette in the top right corner. This release also appeared on cassette in France, a hard to find release missing from my collection.
Oddly there isn't a French CD single of the 12". Instead there are a few variations of the German live tracks CD. The one above is the numbered version featuring the same 6 tracks as the French limited edition 12". There are two other variations too.
In other countries, the blue limited edition 12" appeared in Australia and Spain. Canada had a 12" which I have for some reason (we all know the reason):
It's a four track "speically priced maxi single" (see side of sleeve above) that is identical to the US 12" bar one key aspect:
As you can see above there is a small maple leaf in the top right of the rear sleeve.
With Get The Balance Right performing well enough in the charts, Depeche Mode regained some momentum. They would soon be back at work, this time adding Gareth Jones to their team and we'd soon see the benefits of that.
Metal bashing, sampling, Martin starting to be all Martin and Berlin were all on the way. With their next single, Depeche Mode would not only once again conquer the UK Top Ten but they would also turn into a very different band indeed, one that was ready to start taking the world by storm over the net few years.
Depeche Mode conquering the world? No-one could say that was predictable.