It took Depeche Mode only 8 months to get over the Black Celebration tour and record a new album - fast work especially by their recent standards.
The first the world got to hear of this new work was on 27th April 1987 when Strangelove was released. There's a lot in this one - promos, US releases, odd Japanese floating heads and so on.
Let's have a riverfull of Strangelove.
YOU HAVE TO MAKE THIS LIFE LIVEABLE - STRANGELOVE
BONG13 was announced with a series of rather lovely posters (subway one above) and adverts initially promising a new 7" and 3 track 12" single. A dazzling new format, a CD single, was later advertised alongside a limited edition 12". To celebrate the new release, the band threw a party and invited Smash Hits.
Everyone got drunk, the party made the cover of the magazine and the promotional trail and the partying kicked off. Smash Hits guest reviewer Gary Numan gave the song Single Of The Fortnight in the 22nd April edition.
In the same edition, Smash Hits featured a lyric poster. Martin, you appear to be wearing a parachute harness - please see a stylist immediately. Alan has returned to around 66% leather you will note.
The NME and Melody Maker were naturally less enthusiastic. The NME claims that the song lacked previous singles' "clumsy naivety" and remarkably said the song was "another sortie into Soft Cell territory." I like Soft Cell a lot but this is nothing like one of their songs. Melody Maker said "...(W)here have all those invigorating, off the wall ideas gone? The last one they had was all leather and lace and I think it's about time they all got their heads together and had another one." The usual tripe.
Undaunted, the band appeared on Top Of The Pops on 7th May.
The single entered the charts on 9th May at the low number of 23. While a second or third single from an album might be expected to perform like that, it was not an encouraging number for a brand new single. The Top Of The Pops appearance led to the track jumping up seven places to 16 the following week however and no wonder. A sea of black, a quite wonderful song and...wait a minute...A GUITAR??! What nonsense is this? Depeche Mode are an electronic band. This is a disgrace etc etc. Guitar hilarity aside, even Alan's hair appears to have turned leather by this stage.
The British record buying public continued their Depeche Mode boycott and the single tumbled to 20 the following week then 30 and finally 49 before the public quite clearly had had enough of this particular sea of love. All of this despite the single being released on the fancy new slice of the future CD single format in the UK. Depeche Mode embraced the future and their home country told them to sod off.
Strangelove is of course a wonderful song as you all know. I think I still prefer the album as it's just a bit darker but the single version starts off incredibly. The only thing that grates is the Level 42 style slap bass type bassline. Fine for them, not right for Depeche Mode. Strangelove was initially a live favourite too, being played at every Music For The Masses and World Violation date. It then disappeared untul the Sounds Of The Universe tour where it popped up 28 times on the first run of dates. Where the Music For The Masses tour version, best encapsulated by the glorious 101 version, was sensational and the World Violation version hugely enjoyable, the 2009 version just didn't really work. It starts like the 101 version of course but the drums immediately detract from its power and it just limps on from there. All a bit toothless like much of that era's sets. The Anton video the band used is awful too. Thankfully, the song's 34 renditions on the Global Spirit Tour were more fun, with the song recreated as a Martin solo with piano from Peter. For a song many fans love, and for one that is an emotional highpoint of 101 (one of its many emotional highpoints), the fact it has only appeared 251 times is a pity.
The B-Side of Strangelove is of course Pimpf. By any standard, its bloody marvellous. It's been played live 101 times though not really as it was just the tape which it famously started but as we all love Pimpf, we can all agree that it formed a vital part of the 87/88 gigs.
The good news was that the band had retained Anton Corbijn after the baby kidnapping A Question of Time video and with Strangelove, Depeche Mode found their image. Grainy black and white, Paris, leather, underwear models and even a laugh or two. This is the exact point Depeche Mode began to look incredible.
We open on a Parisian balcony with Alan and Dave (leather content 135%) stepping out to admire a headless woman before Martin and Andy do the same (leather content 76.9%) albeit from another balcony and with a different headless women. The Bong Megaphone is spotted in on of Paris' many beautiful parks before any notion of subtlety is forgotten entirely and we see Alan holding the megaphone in a wholly phallic way as we see the model with freshly grown head wander around near the Eiffel Tower. She pops up as we variously see Dave dancing and waving his arms and he and Alan looking like hugely bored entirely leather clad schoolchildren on a trip to Paris. "Yes that tower is really impressive but they sell booze to under 12s here so can't we go and do that?" We've all been there albeit with less leather and no megaphone in the nether regions.
Dave and Alan finally track the woman down and wander over to the camera to show off what they've been doing. Alan has a L on his right palm and Dave has an O on his. What could it all mean? Well, it's blindingly obvious but bear with me. Curiously, the woman they've been following all over Paris lets them into her flat and we get lots of footage of her on the bed as Alan and Dave hover in the shadows. Strange indeed.
What of Martin and Andy though? The quieter pair of the two pairs ramble around Paris and we see Martin sitting on his own in a park with a Bong Megaphone and happily, it's not in any suggestive place. He and Fletch appear around 1 minute 34 and Andy's poor choice of a white top under all the black makes him look rather like a priest who is taking a clearly troubled fluffy haired boy on a tour of Notre Dame. Dave continues to sing and groove and then Father Fletcher lets everyone down by doing the Bong Megaphone as a nob routine. We end up in another lady's flat and she displays her full array of rubber clothing as the band hang around in the shadows clearly terrified. "Why can't we be playing space invaders with milkmen?" Martin (possibly) says.
As we get to "Pain!" someone, probably Alan, kicks over a vase of roses and Dave appears with his sunglasses lit as if to suggest he's gone all demonic, The band then appear too singing "Pain" and then we see that Fletcher and Gore have copied the bigger, trendier boys and written a a V and an E on their respective right hands. L O V and E - once again, a Depeche Mode video uses unsubtle imagery to spell out its message, literally in this case.
The last 30 seconds of so are positively fun filled, we Dave pretending to faint, the band laughing because one of them forgets to sing the one word song title and much, much more, before it ends superbly on the Bong Megaphone surrounded by four chairs as colour bleeds into the film turning the megaphone orange.
It's an excellent video.
Strangelove (7BONG13 above) was released on four formats. The Bong Megaphone features heavily as you can see and the label of the 7" is a fine thing.
The rear of the 7" is less fancy, as is the label, though it is crammed with useful information.
12BONG13 sees the Bong Megaphone turn around to say hello. The nicely labelled A-side features the glorious Maxi Mix of Strangelove. Again, I know I'm an old man who wallows in nostalgia, but those really were the golden days of remixes.
The rear sleeve mirrors the 7" sleeve and the label copies the 7" B-side label. The two tracks here are odd - the Midi Mix of Strangelove is a minute and half or so of general pointlessness and Fpmip is Pimpf with the "Oh- EE - AHH" bit at the start as well as the end. Hmmm.
L12BONG13 is a much more satisfactory affair. Firstly, it says "Limited Edition" on the front and that sort of thing pleases me. The Bong Megaphone is seen in all sorts of poses too and the label is white and very nice indeed. Music wise, we have the Blind Mix of Strangelove which is just great and Pimpf.
The Pain Mix of Strangelove kicks off the B-side and it's yet another enjoyable remix. It is joined by the gloriously haunting Agent Orange, one of Depeche Mode's greatest instrumentals. A masterpiece.
There were 3 12" promos for some reason. SBONG13 (above) features the single versions of Strangelove and Pimpf on the A-Side and the Maxi Mix on the B-side.
CLUBBONG13 features the Maxi Mix and the Pain Mix.
Finally, DANCEBONG13 features the Blind Mix and the Fresh Ground Mix, a more minimal version of the Pain Mix but one featuring a prominent Cameo sample that meant it couldn't get released. This promo sheet came with my version:
There's a 7" promo too - RBONG13.
I mentioned earlier that this single saw Depeche Mode brave the new world of the CD single. Here then is CDBONG13. There are two variations - one with red writing on the CD and one with black writing.
The CD features the single versions of Strangelove, Pimpf and Agent Orange as well as the Maxi and Midi mixes.
Whatever colour the lettering on your CD, they both come in an oddly textured protective pouch.
During the odd run of late 80's singles appearing on CD in 1992, CDBONG13 appeared in an extended format featuring the original 5 tracks and adding the Pain and Blind mixes together with Fpmip.
Finally, the CD in the fourth CD singles box repeated the 1992 reissue trick and featured the same 8 tracks.
Heading to Germany, we once again had a red vinyl 7".
You know how this works by now - same tracks as on the UK 7"
The coloured vinyl version on 12BONG13 is a lovely orange record.
It features the same tracks as the UK 12"
There is a coloured vinyl version of L12BONG13 too. Again, it comes on orange vinyl.
It features the L12BONG13 tracks, I should say that all the German coloured vinyl releases I refer to on here and in previous blogs also come in standard black vinyl.
The German blue stripe CD comes in a jewel box and features the three single versions of the A-side and B-sides plus the Maxi and Midi mixes. There was also an 8 track CD single reissue in Germany in 1992.
As well as a 7" and the two 12" releases in France, there is also this CD single which features the same tracks as the German CD single.
This cassette single is available too. It says K7 in the circle on the top right of the sleeve. There will be a reason for that but I've no idea what it is. The cassette features the Maxi Mix and the three single versions of the A and B sides.
The Japanese 7" is bizarre but wonderful. As you can see, the cover features four floating Depeche Mode heads. Why not eh?
The four heads re-attach themselves to their host bodies on the rear of the sleeve and, as a bonus, you get the words to Strangelove in English and Japanese. The tracklist is the same as on 7BONG13.
The Japanese 12" is a lovely thing too.
It features the same three tracks as 12BONG13.
Strangelove reached number 76 on the Billboard chart and the single was released on a number of formats. The promo 12" above has a greenish sleeve and contains the Pain Mix, the Pain Mix (7" Edit) and Agent Orange.
The US 12" features the Maxi and Midi mixes on its A-side,
The Blind Mix and FPmip are on the B-side.
There was also a dreadfully sleeved additional 12". Look at that for God's sake.
This monstrosity contains the same three tracks as the US promo 12". There is also a cassette single available which comes in a longbox.
STOP PRESS - BONUS BLOG ALERT
The band's American label Sire saw fit to re-releases Strangelove on 23rd August 1988. It's commonly known as Strangelove 88 though it isn't actually called that. It came out even though the Music For The Masses tour had ended and it appears to have been released with the 1988 MTV Music Awards entirely in mind. It did better than the original release and reached number 50 in the Billboard chart. I wasn't going to do this as it technically breaches the rules I've set but I've come this far with Strangelove so I may as well finish it off
A new video was made and was directed by Martyn Atkins. Everyone is dressed in white and they all dance awkwardly as Dave sings, whirls around and generally is Dave, The very cool images and icons of the time are beamed everywhere and the video meanders on not doing very much at all. Full marks to Alan for singing "Pain" enthusiastically while Messrs Gore and Fletcher fail to put their backs into it. That's that really - there's not a great deal to say about it. In any event, this blog is now the longest thing I've ever done so I've probably said enough anyway.
There is a 7" which features a 7" edit of the Album version (the album version being used on the video) and Nothing (Remix Edit) which we'll look at when we get to BONG16. There is a cassette single too that contains the same two tracks.
The 12" has a lovely sleeve as you can see. The A-side features the Highjack Mix of Strangelove (one for BONG16 again) and Strangelove (Remix Edit) which is an edited version of the Highjack Mix.
The B-Side features two alright but not worth getting that excited about remixes of Nothing - Zip Hop Mix and Dub Mix. The latter mix is exclusive to this format and the promo 12". That promo 12" contauins the same four tracks as this 12" in a sleeve as equally hideous as the 1987 12" above.
A two track 3" CD was released in a long thin sleeve similar to the Japanese snap pack sleeves that we've not yet looked at. My copy is sealed and intact. It's increasingly hard to find them in this state these days.
The two songs featured are the Remix Edit of Strangelove and the Remix Edit of Nothing.
You'll most commonly find the CD like this above.
Finally, there is a fairly hard to find US promo CD. It features 4 remixes of Strangelove - Remix Edit, Album Version (7" Edit), Blind Mix (7" Edit) and Highjack Mix. The Blind Mix (7" Edit) is exclusive to this release.
The sticker on the sleeve "hypes" the band's appearance at the 1988 MTV Video Music Awards.
And that is finally that. Strangelove was poorly received in the tone deaf UK but much better received everywhere else. It served as an indication of the new look and sound of Depeche Mode and set the scene for the massive success the band were about to have.
Next time, we'll look the single that followed it, the titanic Split Mix and wonder if "houses" really does rhyme with "trousers."