Tuesday 26 January 2021



Is there anything that says mid 1980's Depeche Mode more than Master And Servant? Chains, Berlin, leather, whips, drills and lyrics all about kinky sex. This was Depeche Mode as a 16 year old teenager, striking out on their own, thinking they were being all edgy, when all they were really doing was looking a bit silly but in a lovely way.

"Awww...look at wee Martin with his leather clothes. And doesn't Fletch look adorable swinging around on those chains?"

Don't get me wrong, Master And Servant is simply fantastic and it is rightly beloved by Depeche Mode fans of all ages. So let's all slip into something black, squeaky and unflattering, wrap ourselves up in a chain or two and read all about Master And Servant.


The Single

The Depeche Mode Information Service newsletter of July 1984 told the world that a new Depeche Mode single would be released on 20th August, the as then untitled Martin written track backed by another Martin song that was apparently "very boystown." Nope, me neither. The following month's newsletter confirmed what was going on, announcing the release of Master And Servant. 

The single was released before Some Great Reward and, like People Are People, it gave a clear indication of where the band were headed with its use of samples of items such as drills, air compressors and Andy Fletcher's arse. Yes, as Andy confirmed in a 2009 interview for a German magazine "I was once whipped. The result can be heard on Master And Servant. That was really strange."  Poor Fletch. That sort of thing wouldn't have happened if Martin had stayed in Basildon.

The song was subject to the usual mixed reviews. Dave Walters in Time Out stated "What do you expect from this bunch of lame dickheads, which was a tad harsh. Robert Hodgens of one hit blunders The Bluebells didn't like it either, telling Smash Hits readers "I'm afraid that, except for the lovely See You, Depeche Mode have consistently failed to evoke any melancholy in me"  and Paul Simper of No. 1 magazine simply said that the song saw "their simple formula reduced to drivel." Lovely stuff.

The British public of course paid no attention to this. Following the song's release on 20th August, it entered the charts at 24, leading to the above performance on Top Of The Pops on 30th August. This performance was the exact point Alan Wilder turned into that Alan Wilder. No longer the new boy, Alan stands there leathered up with sunglasses on, gargantuan hair and a chain round his neck that could only reasonably be used for pulling something the size of an elephant out of a hole. Like Martin he spends the whole 3 and a bit minutes hitting things and, let's all be quite honest here, he looks great. Martin is fully clothed oddly, this being the only day in the period 1983-1988 that he wasn't topless. He is sporting a jaunty leather beret however and the make up levels are rapidly increasing. Dave dances a lot and sports the single drumstick he was holding for the People Are People appearance we read about last time. Fletch has been promoted however, good behaviour seeing his drumstick and cymbal rations doubled from last time.

The song climbed the charts the following week, moving to 12 and then 11. It didn't stall there however as another Top Of The Pops appearance on 12th September when the band appeared as cover act Depechey Mode and played "The Master And The Servant" saw the song leap into the Top 10.

Honestly, how hard can it be to actually read the title out correctly? Anyway, that performance is worth watching for Martin's hugely unenthusiastic drumming. The next week climbed to number 9, giving the band yet another Top Ten hit, before it fell to 14, 24, 33, 50 and then somewhat appropriately 69, before leaving the charts

I don't need to tell you much about what Master And Servant actually sounds like as you all know that already. It's a deliberately loud and thumping track that the band somehow managed to take seven days to mix. It was a live favourite for many years, appearing 345 times on the Some Great Reward, Black Celebration, Music For The Masses and World Violation tours. Each different version is worth checking out on dmlive.wiki. It disappeared post World Violation but made a surprise return on the Tour Of The Universe in 2009, appearing 25 times before being binned for much better songs like Hole To Feed. The 2009 version was rather flat and the new arrangement pretty poor. That said, I do wish it had stayed in the set as I would have loved to have seen it.

As we saw earlier, the B-Side of Master And Servant was a track that promised to be "very boystown." Now, I have no idea what that means but if (Set Me Free) Remotivate Me is a boystown track then fair enough. Alan was given a rest from B-Side duties and Martin came up with this pleasant enough poppy track. There's not a great deal more to say about it really. It's never been played live, but that's not a surprise is it?

The Video

OK. Where do we start with this one?  The first 8 seconds alone are truly terrifying. We thought and indeed hoped that we had seen the back of the Basildon Boyzone after Everything Counts but here they are once again and this time, they have a quite horrendous dance routine. Add to that the first of many shots of band members swinging about on chains and you are almost pining for Leave In Silence as at least that made you feel like you were on drugs. Just as you get over that and attempt to ignore Dave's grey suit, you are then bamboozled by the introduction of footage of women in kitchens loading dishwashers and so on. What? Oh wait...there's an old guy putting cement in a cement mixer. This must all mean something right? RIGHT? At this point we are only 17 seconds in. There's a man laying a paving slab. And some people in gardens. Hmmmmm.

At this point, confused yet still just holding it together, your eyes begging you to close them, you are greeted with something that no Depeche Mode fan should see. It feels like a month since the video started, but it's only been 23 seconds. It's at this point, we see this:

Dave's shoes, or to put it another way, sandals. With socks. What the hot buttered Christ is going on here? People still have a go at Martin about the way he dressed in the 80's but no-one brings this up. IN a career littered with clothing issues, this is the low point. Perhaps it's never mentioned because they are trying to ignore it or perhaps the shadowy forces of Big Sandal do all they can to put the focus on Martin - who knows? All I know is that if this series of Depeche Mode Singles blogs ends here, you all know that the murky forces behind the Master And Servant Sandalgate have got to me. 

Anyway....the video carries on and we see Dave singing, once again interposed over footage not of wars this time, but of Alan pulling Martin about on the floor by chains that have wrapped young Martin up at the wrists. Is this the chain Alan was wearing on Top of The Pops? Who knows and, more importantly, who cares? At 51 seconds, we see Alan and Martin on the floor, this time being dragged along by Fletch as they hold onto his ankles, mistaking him for Dave in a doomed attempt to get rid of the sandals. This video is genuinely dreadful.

There then follows a relatively normal 30 seconds or so of Dave jiving around and Martin and Fletch floating about on chains. Oddly, a woman appears in the video singing along as if she is in the band. I have no idea why. We then see quite a bit of footage of the anti nuclear campaign at Greenham Common in England as the first "It's a lot like life/and that's what's appealing" section is played in a move that boldly puts two things together that have no business being put together at all. The mood is lifted by Fletch appearing looking very serious as he drills into a wall for no obvious reason.

On we go, with things once again relatively normal. There's more stock footage, more Dave dancing, band members buggering about on chains and the occasional glimpse of the s****ls but nothing too terrifying. And then, 2 minutes 28 seconds in, it happens. The "It's a lot" section. Oh my word. How this got past quality control I will never know.  It's like a compilation of the worst parts of the preceding couple of minutes minus the footwear - chains, people rolling around, more Basildon Boyzone and more chains. Any attempt the song made to sound a bit underground is quickly and terminally undone. It then mercifully heads to a conclusion using all the tricks it has used before with the addition of some sterling drilling work by the boy Wilder.

As it ends, you close your laptop and stay silent for a while. There's a lot to take in there and a lot more to try to forget.

The Formats

BONG6 appeared on the then usual three formats. 7BONG6 has sleeve art that fits the theme as you can see above. The label is great too and that band name font one of their finest.

The boystown side is much more befitting of the poppy nature of the track that it features, with the emphasis on confetti and good times rather than chains and darker times.

12BONG7 features yet another solid gold masterpiece of an early Depeche remix. The Slavery Whip Mix may have a fairly useless name but it is a bloody marvellous thing. It's thundering beast of a remix that takes the song on a 9 and a half minute sonic adventure, twisting and turning it in several directions at once before ending on what can only be described as a pissed up singalong acapella version that is splendid in every way. 

The B-side (above) houses two tracks, We have the Release Mix of (Set Me Free) Remotivate Me which is quite excellent in places, and Master And Servant (Voxless) a slightly remixed, instrumental version of the song. Instant Depeche Mode karaoke.

You can pick up a white label of this track if you so wish. I got the one above a couple of years back with its handwritten label. I have played it and happily it is the 12" and not some random record.

The September Depeche Mode Information Service Newsletter announced that "Depeche Mode have released a Limited Edition Radical by Adrian Sherwood" and that "radical" remix appeared on L12BONG7 (above). Titled An ON-USound Science Fiction Dance Hall Classic, the remix is more experimental than the previous On-Usound remix of People Are People but it is really rather enjoyable. 

The B-side features the seven inch version of (Set Me Free) Remotivate Me alongside a real Depeche Mode catalogue oddity. Are People People is another Adrian Sherwood remix that takes People Are People to a very strange place indeed. It occasionally sounds as if your record is damaged but has some interesting moments, The "dang dang dang zoom zoom zoom bop bop bop" sample is from the song When I Woke Up This Morning by The Citadels.

The 1991 CD single reissue took the tracks from the 7" and standard 12". Now to head to Germany.

Another lovely red vinyl 7" is our first exhibit.

It's as lovely on its A-Side as it is on its B-Side.

The 12" comes in the gorgeous marble coloured vinyl above. 

It features the same three tracks as the UK 12"

Not to be outdone with Radical Remix 12" singles, the Germans also put that out on marble viny too.

Again it features the same three tracks as the UK version.

It is of course available in boring black vinyl too.

The blue stripe CD takes the 12" tracks and adds the 7" version of Master And Servant.

The French CD single does the same. There's also a French version of the 12" and L12.

While we're on France, a random 12" promo from 1995 is available. It is for an album called Les Annees New Wave and it features Master And Servant. It seems odd to have it on a bus, but it's at least not a bus that's covered in a lie about NHS funding to fool people into voting for Brexit. 

The US had their own 12" which features the US Black & Blue Version on its A-side. It's a decent enough remix but lacks the punch of the Slavery Whip Mix.

The B-side features the US 12" Mix of (Set Me Free) Remotivate Me, again a decent enough thing, and Are People People?

Picture courtesy of depmod.com

There is also a US promo 12" featuring the two tracks above. I have this but can't find the bastard thing, so I've borrowed from the wonderful depmod.com.

Another single, another top ten hit for Depeche Mode. The lyrics had caused an issue or two at the BBC but nothing that got the song banned. Curiously, this would be the last time Depeche Mode would visit the UK Top Ten until 1990. If only Dave had worn better shoes....

The BBC's failure to ban the song angered Martin so he was determined to once again wind them up with the band's next single. Thankfully, the lyrically explicit and frankly violently offensive Somebody was made a double A side with the much more palatable Blasphemous Rumours and we'll take a look at that next time.

1 comment:

  1. Thé 7" covers of M&S is the best from all their discography.
    Thanks for this another wonderful review