Thursday, 4 February 2021

DEPECHE MODE - THE SINGLES 1981 TO 2021 PART 14: IT'S CALLED A HEART

 


Shake The Disease showed the world that there was a new Depeche Mode sound, a darker, glorious one that would go define the band's next few albums. It was a fine way to round off the first stage of their career and the decision to release The Singles 81-85 made sense as it provided a nice conclusion to that first stage.

Shake The Disease wasn't the only new track on that album however. Following the conclusion of their 1985 festival dates, the band recorded a couple of new tracks this time with Daniel producing alone as Gareth Jones had heard the demo of It's Call...sorry...was busy. One of these new tracks would carry on Shake The Disease's work by honing the new Depeche Mode sound further and focussing primarily on death.

The other was perplexingly chosen as the next single. It features a double 12" with a controversial remix, a terrible video and is not actually that good. If that hasn't whetted your appetite, I don't know what will. This is It's Called A Heart.


THERE'S A LOT OT BE LEARNED - IT'S CALLED A HEART

The Single

The Depeche Mode Information Service Newsletter of August 1985 announced that a new single was to be released on 16th September. The same issue promised a surprise too, saying with grammatical unhappiness "Keep your eye open for some surprises a few weeks after it's release too!" We'll come to the surprises shortly.

Let's be frank at this point. It's Called A Heart is not Depeche Mode's worst single - that is Hole To Feed, it is NEVER anything else - but it's not far from it. It's a poor song, especially by comparison to the previous few singles, and it's hard to disagree with Alan when he says that the song was "a backwards step" and that it was "an ultra-poppy number that did nothing for (DM's) reputation."  On the Black Celebration re-issue DVD, Martin pointed out that the song was his "least favourite track that we've ever recorded" though that did predate Hole To Feed.


Having been released on 16th September, the song (BONG9) entered the UK charts on at number 21 on 28th September and the boys opened the 26th September edition of Top Of The Pops as you can see above. It's an odd performance in many respects including the fact that Martin is fully clothed. The set is replete with many of the, erm, tribal things that feature in the car crash of a video and Martin even plays some sort of vertical xylophone thing that doesn nothing at all to add anything to the performance. Where are the hammers and bits of metal? Why is Alan not 100% leather? Why has Fletch got a tiny gong? If you're going for a gong, surely you go for a big gong? 

This oddball performance did see the song climb the charts however and it soared to number 18 the next week before dropping to 36, 53 and then, having been in the charts only on loan, fell out of the top 75.

By the way - number 18. That's the same number Shake The Disease reached. Remarkable.

There are good things about It's Called A Heart of course. It's a jaunty enough pop number, but Depeche Mode hadn't done that sort of thing since A Broken Frame. It has some pleasing noises ( I love that "simo-yes" noise for example) in it and, as ever, an eminently hummable melody, but where's the inventive spark that Depeche Mode were adding to every song they released at that stage? It does feel like a backward step, especially after two ground-breaking albums in Construction Time Again and Some Great Reward.  The song was played at every date on the Black Celebration tour and the live version is far superior to the 7" version and much more in line with the really rather good Extended mix which we'll come onto. Check dmlive.wiki's Black Celebration tour page to hear some very good recordings of it.

The B-Side was of course Fly On The Windscreen. Again, let's not beat about the bush here - it's the superior song of the two. Alan claims he was outvoted when talk turned to which one of the two should form the A-side and it seems the label were reluctant to include a song that featured the word "death" so prominently. That argument is somewhat watered down when you consider the previous single actually had the word "Disease" in the title. 

This blog series is not about the B-Sides however (don't worry - that's bound to come at some point) so we'll leave Fly On The Windscreen there. It has been played live an impressive 221 times making it probably the band's most played B-Side though I know that most of you are currently frothing at the mouth screaming "It's from Black Celebration - look I have the tracklist tattooed on my thigh beside several pictures of someone who looks in no way at all like Dave."  I know that but this is a singles blog after all, it did first appear as a B-side and I make the rules. So there.

Finally, neither It's Called A Heart or Shake The Disease featured in the Black Celebration The 12" Singles boxset which makes no sense at all especially when they featured on the Black Celebration reissue and DVD. There's no place this point actually fits in this blog so it's going here. Not including them was a stupid decision.

The Video
 

Oh for f**ks sake.

Firstly, this video was filmed outside Reading, in England, The lyrics somehow inspired director Peter Care to imagine an Indonesian jungle scene and that's what we open on. A lake, some flames and a sense of quickly deepening dread. We're only four seconds in.

We eventually crawl to shore and then see all four members of Depeche Mode walking through a cornfield led by a singing Dave who Alan is doing his very best to hide behind. If the song had been called It's Called A Cob, and let's face it, it may as well have been, that would have worked. Alternatively, if they'd crawled through a field of artichokes (do they grown in fields? I have no idea), then fine. Corn though - nonsensical. I'm not even sure it grows that near water or in Indonesia. I'm actually surprised it grows in Reading. Anyway, I can't stall any longer - back to the video.

We see Alan banging away on a drum looking very serious in between shots of the walking Mode and it's at this point that some order is restored as we note that Martin is not wearing atop. A leather coat, a dress of some sort and a cowboy hat yes, but no top. Phew. Fletch starts banging a leather cymbal of some sort and Martin plays a lower down version of the Top of The Pops xylophone and you start wondering if this is all a badly directed dream. There's then a bit where Dave is singing and getting followed by the band holding up what I'm going to call lit up voodoo heads and at that exact point, I realise that I'm yearning for the serious art of the Leave In Silence video.

This tripe carries on until we see a small TV playing some odd tribal footage. That's a TV in the "jungle" by the way, a place not known for its electricity supplies. We also see the band mucking around in what is now daylight throwing something to each other. It's bloody ridiculous.

From here, assuming there is any hill left, it goes down it. More TV's, angry wooden voodoo people, presumably annoyed because they'd been told this was actually the A-side, Alan and Andy blowing into something in one of those "here's what we sampled" moments that is clearly a lie.

It mercifully ends but not before the baffling words "Filmed entirely on location in Japan" appear. What? Of course it wasn't. Perhaps I'm the only person that's ever made it to the end of the video and am therefore the first person ever to see that. Someone have a look please. Perhaps I'm now in a coma having watched that video and am imagining things.

This is a very bad video.

The Formats


7BONG9 was available in two different ways. Firstly there was a standard 7" as we see above. The Shake The Disease hairy man has returned and while he may have outrun the turtle chasing him on the rear sleeve of 12BONG8, he's now being eaten by a big pink swan thing. Life is hard.


The B-side art is just feathers. What is nice about this release is the labels. They are really cool.


Keen eyed viewers who observed the poster earlier in the article and Depeche Mode collector nerds (hello fellow nerds) already know the other 7" variation. For those who are still asking (1) why they are reading this and (2) what variation, here it is. Early versions came with a poster and that poster showed the cover photo from the forthcoming The Singles 81-85 showing Martin's left nipple in all its, erm, glory.


12BONG9 is a two track affair with both songs from the 7" version presented in Extended form. The Extended remix of It's Called A Heart is fantastic and very much a hidden gem. Do check it out. The cover art appears to show Mr Hairy either dancing or being attacked by a neon snake.


The Extended mix of Fly On The Windscreen is a really good remix as well. The jiving swan beast on the rear sleeve clearly agrees.


Do you remember the Depeche Mode Information Service newsletter telling you to keep your "eye open" for a surprise (what was the other eye doing?)? Well here it is - the band's first ever double 12", D12BONG9. They wouldn't repeat this trick again until the Fragile Tension/Hole To Feed doubler so, if there's a lot be learned from this, it's double 12" = shoddy single. The front cover shows the jiving swan from the rear of the 12" chasing our hairy friend and above the swan it says "Special Limited Edition Twin Set Costing No More Than Two Pounds & Ninety Nine Pence." That's 75p or so per record. Decent value. The first 12" is the same as the standard 12".



Side 1 of record two, or side 3 as the lovely labels call it, is Fly On The Windscreen (Death Mix). It's great. Side 4 is not great. It features It's Called A Heart (Slow Mix) that is simply a slowed down version of the song which sees it slowed to half speed and played in full. Why? What on earth inspired that? Bloody nonsense.

Picture courtesy of depmod.com

There is a wonoderful 12" promo too with a hand stamped label. I've had to use a picture from depmod.com as this is the only UK 12" promo I don't own, Far be it from me to use this platform as some sort of open begging letter, but if you have a spare one of these, do get in touch....


The UK CD single from 1991 CDBONG9 takes the tracks from the 7", 12" and the Death Mix of Fly On The Windscreen aside and promises them they can appear on a CD if they forget the Slow Mix exists. They agree.


Let's leave the flaming lakes and voodoo heads of the UK and head to Germany. Firstly, we have the usual red vinyl 7"


It of course features the same tracks as 7BONG9.


The blue vinyl 12" is a splendid thing


Again, it features the same tracks as 12BONG9.


The German blue stripe CD single rather oddly takes the D12BONG 9 tracks and calls itself CDD12BONG9. One for fans of the Slow Mix.


Germany and France had their own vinyl versions of D12BONG9 but in today's "Why on earth do I own this"section, let's have a look at the Scandanavian release (above). It's a doubler as you can see although it issues no price orders on the front. What makes it fancy is this:


It's a gatefold. Yes, it's not only 7" purchasers who can keep their free eye on Martin's nipple - Scandanavian fans can too, this time in 12" form. The record that is, not the nipple. That would be very odd.


This version is available in numbered and unnumbered form. I have no idea why. I have even less idea why I have both versions.


The US 12" is a different affair from the UK one as it features two new remixes - the Emotion Remix and Emotion Dub of It's Called A Heart, both of which feature on the A-Side. They're pretty decent remixes but not quite as good as the Extended remix.


The "flip" side features the Deportation Mix of Flexible which is probably the same as the Pre-Deportation Mix from L12BONG8. I can't remember. It also features the 7" version of It's Called A Heart.


And with that, Phase 1 of Depeche Mode was very much over. A compilation album popped out and the band, rather tetchy with each other by this point anyway, headed off to Berlin to get even more annoyed with each other and record a landmark masterpiece genius godlike album that I refuse to ever be anything other than over excited about.

The first slice of wonder from that album was the band's next single and we'll look at that next.

Farewell Phase 1 of Depeche Mode. Pack away those voodoo heads, deflate the spacehoppers, say goodbye to the milkmen and let's never speak of the Slow Mix again. 

Instead, let's have a Black Celebration.

11 comments:

  1. Another good blog. ICAH definitely splits opinion but listening to it now, you'd have to admit, it really hasn't aged well. It's utter madness that FOTW wasn't the A-side.

    [I may be imagining it but having read all of your singles blogs, I'm starting to pick up a little opposition to Hole To Feed]

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  2. Just listening to the extended mix and it is Modetastic! I know I shouldn't really like the single version so much as well but I've got a soft spot for it. Remember buying the double 12" from HMV in Glasgow back in the mid to late eighties (the beginning of my love of the band. I was desperately trying to be a cool kid with my other musical buys such as Cabaret Voltaire, New Order and Kraftwerk but Depeche were always my faves (remember it wasn't until Violator that they were suddenly accepted as a "cool" band which always annoyed me after the years of musical snobbery aimed in my direction. Anyway, enough of my teenage angst back to the double 12". Yes, the sheer disappointment at the so called "Slow Mix" little did I know that a certain seminal German band in the early seventies had already beat them to it, I'm looking at you Neu! Great stuff as usual chap, keeps us all going during these very trying times. Cheers me dears!

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  3. At the time i just dismissed ICAH as easily as I did Flexible on STD.... i put it down to pressure to put something out for the singles collection.... and faith was duly restored as Black Celebration carried me through my GCEs... Faith was only shaken again when Peace turned up on SOTU (i'd by this point survived Hole To Feed and thought it cannot get any worse, temporarily saved by Wrong, and then... )

    Anyway then Stripped hit, everyone realised DM were gods walking amongst us and music changed forever (in a parallel universe that's happening right now :) ).

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  4. I've never understood the hate for ICAH. It's a catchy little tune and is a memorable part of my journey growing up with Depeche Mode.

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  5. DMFC-HopesAndFears5 February 2021 at 06:17

    From todays point of view you're defintely right, its a bad song and a terrible video. But hey! In 1985 we were all teenagers, and we LOVED it!

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  6. I love ICAH. OK, the song is a bit poppy, but the production is hard and quite advanced. Regarding the Slow mix.. I think it had some weight to it. It isn't actually slowed down like you'd play a record with lower RPM, it's "Stretched" digitally in a sampler, thus adding information in between the stretched part. Never heard that before in 1985. I'd say it's innovating!

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  7. Remember first time hear ICAH.. In live versiĆ³n from a compilation cassette called "The Last Concert" was buy in a music shop in my city in 1986. This was few tracks from 'Dreaming of a new life" bootleg in Stuttgart 1986 west Germany. And surpresed with ICAH I used to like that very much.. Years later still like much on live version which 7 inch single..and of course FOTW should be a great single together Shake the disease.. In fact, always prefer FOTW final from Black Celebration album ( do you remember saw Miami vice in the 80's?? FOTW played with Sonny Crokket shooting in his car)

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  8. I love your reviews! Even when I largely disagree with them. “It’s Called a Heart” is not their best, but I like it. And it’s a better song than anything on the last 4 DM albums by far.

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  9. First of all, ICAH is not the worst single of DM, neither Hole To Feed. The worst single is Personal....hum, no it's Peace !
    When I look at the 2 singles "STD-ICAH", I really have the feeling of a particular world on their own with the songs, the remix (3 different versions of a masterpiece like FOTW) and the beeautiful paintings of Tamara Capellaro (why don't you never mentionned the name of the designers of the pre-Corbijn era..?).
    Rendal

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  10. Another great review. I too have far too many copies including both versions of the double and the US import.. but not the promo I'm afraid.. I wonder how many are out there?

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  11. Loving these posts...thanks so much for taking the time to put them together...they are brilliant. I do have that lovely 12" promo, but only the one, so can't part with it I'm afraid!

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