The official website says this single was released in the UK, Alan Wilder says it was released in France only, yet there are UK versions, German versions, Belgian versions, Spanish, Italian and Dutch versions. Does anyone actually know where it was released?
Was it even released at all? Does it exist? Well, yes it does of course and there are a few formats to look at. There is also a video too remarkably.
Here then is a briefer than usual blog looking at the single that possibly never was or maybe is in fact Little 15.
LITTLE INTRIGUES - LITTLE 15
Martin told BONG37 that the band's French label thought the single was a great one for the French market and, despite the band saying that Little 15 was in no way a single, it was released on 16 May 1988. Almost predictably (ho ho), it was a flop in France.
Due to the hardcore Depeche Mode fanbase at home, no doubt enraged that Depeche product was being made available in some European countries, the single actually charted in the UK. It entered the UK charts at number 61 and zoomed up the charts the following week to number 60, before disappearing.
There is much that is odd about this. Firstly, it came out just as the Music For The Masses tour was winding up in America. As we saw with Strangelove, the end of the tour didn't stop Sire re-releasing that single in 1988 after the tour ended as they wanted to grab a music award. There doesn't seem to have been any similar aim on the part of the French record company however - they just seemed to think it would be a hit.
In France, the single got what one might call the normal catalogue number, in this case 90420 on the Virgin 7". The copies that you could buy in Britain however had a unique catalogue number - LITTLE15. Instead of a BONG number then, we had 7LITTLE15 and 12LITTLE15. That does tend to suggest that it was released in Britain albeit in a catalogue confusing way. All very odd.
The band seem convinced that it was not released in Britain but the official site and the unique British catalogue number say otherwise. The 12" of course appears in the Music For The Masses 12" boxset but as those boxsets have thus far failed to reproduce some 12" singles that were officially very much released in Britain, the appearance on Little 15 in the 12" boxset doesn't tell us much. It also appears on the The Singles 86>98 where it is tacked on at the end after Only When I Lose Myself, perhaps indicating that it wasn't released in Britain.
BUT, when you look at the tracklist of that compilation, you see that Everything Counts (Live) is then added after Little 15 despite the fact that it was released in the UK. What on earth is going on?
Now, you may already think that I've spent too much time on this and lord knows I do too, but I have spent a few days wondering whether or not to even include Little 15 in this increasingly time consuming blog series and I concluded that I should. All the evidence would suggest that it was officially released in Britain and that it was done so by accident. Perhaps the band were desperate to get the wonderful B-side Stjarna out to a wider world and they only way they could do that was by releasing this single? Does anyone actually know the answer? The two tracks on the single have been basically ignored since the thing came out. Little 15 has been played live on three occasions, all acoustically by Martin on the World Violation tour at the gigs at Radio City Music Hall gig on 18th June 1990, San Diego Sports Arena on 31st July 1990 and finally, and French record company pleasingly at Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy in Paris on 23rd October 1990.
It's a lovely song of course and really quite different to the rest of Music For The Masses, feeling a bit more Black Celebration like than anything else. An odd single then and a baffling release. Not as baffling as the decision to actually officially release Hole To Feed of course, but there is little more baffling than that in the band's career.
The video was filmed at Trellick Tower in London near where Fletch was living at the time and filming took place between the European and Japanese legs of the Music For The Masses tour. It was directed by Martyn Atkins.
The budget for this one clearly wasn't huge. We open on Alan in full Wilder Mode winding up an alarm clock. I don't mean that he's taunting it, calling its alarm stupid or anything, he's just standing there, winding the hands round. A coffee gets stirred, a 14 gets pulled off a calendar revealing a 15 (do you see what they did there?) and then Dave appears, leather clad and singing along.
We are then taken down some grim looking stairs before being bundled into a grim looking, filthy car just in time for the "and if you could drive" line - again clever stuff. In the video for A Question Of Time there was another odd kidnap type thing but that was only the open roads of America with Alan enjoying the sunshine on the porch of a large house. Here, it's someone bundled into a grim car on a grey day in a grey part of London. I blame Margaret Thatcher.
We return to the stairwell, see someone showing us their watch and are then trapped in a lift before we finally break free. We are on the streets of London and watch as groups of seemingly miserable people walk past us looking miserable. Lordy, this is no Leave In Silence.
It gets confusing from here really. We see the long haired boy who was running down the stairs kicking a pillar in a car park, so he seems to have got away from the kidnapper. A coffee cup appears again, this time empty, so perhaps he's perked himself up. All of a sudden though, we are back in the lift before Dave finally, mercifully appears and starts singing again.
Alan returns, clock in hand (stop that) as the grim car once again drives away though. Fear not however, as one of our best agents is on the case. Fletch makes his first appearance and he's keeping an eye on the kidnapper, staring at him through binoculars. I presume this made sense when they were planning the video. Alan, annoyed at not having binoculars to look through, gets his clock out again (I warned you) and starts winding the hands around.
More London street scenes lead us to the middle instrumental section and we see Martin for the first time, lying on the floor, playing a mini piano. Halfway through his piano section, he looks up at the camera, quite clearly seeking praise for his great piano work. Before we can give him that however, Alan's clock takes over (...unbelievable) and Martin looks away and continues tinkling.
We thunder towards the last verse literally behind the wheel of the grim car which turns out to be a more sinister than you imagined it would be Land Rover. It approaches the long haired boy. A woman gets out and the two of them wander off. Fletch is still tracking them though through the binoculars that remain pressed to his eyes. Martin returns, this time behind Dave as the two of them sing along together while we see the 15 torn from the calendar fall to the ground in front of a creepy man, before the Land Rover drives over the calendar page and heads off. The luckless piece of paper then gets kicked down a drain and ends up in a sewer. Poor thing.
Just when you think our man with the binoculars will save the day and sort all this out, Fletch removes them and somehow makes a complete arse of telling the time as his watch comes loose and, instead of keeping an eye on the bad people or just even checking the time, he starts laughing.
Did I mention that there is confusion about this single? Here is the not officially/actually released (delete as applicable) UK 7" single, 7LITTLE15. Our luckless calendar friend appears on the front and, as you'll see, the label is rather lovely. The single cover is a blueish sort of colour.
The rear sleeve gives a nod to the Bong Megaphone, revealing it to also be part of the calendar conspiracy. The label is less attractive tham the A-side and the track that appears here is of course Stjarna.
For a single that was only possibly released, the existence of a second format, 12LITTLE15, would appear to indicate that it was at least intended for semi-official release if nothing else. The green cover sees the calendar page attacking the Bong Megaphone and, if nothing else, it's nice to see it start taking the fight to someone rather than just getting kicked around. The label is lovely again. There is only one track and that's Little 15.
The B-side features two tracks - Stjarna and yet another B-side cover version, Sonata No.14 in C#m (Moonight Sonata), a Beethoven piece played by Flet....Alan. Apparently, Martin secretly recorded Alan playing this and as they'd clearly used up all the spare Music For The Masses material, it appeared on the 12".
The 1991 CD Single boxset brought all three tracks together in one digital place.
In Germany, as well the 7" and 12" there were not one but two CD singles. The blue stripe CD features all three tracks from 12LITTLE15.
There is also a lovely 3" CD that features the two 7LITTLE15 tracks and uses the same cover.
As this whole was it or wasn't it a single business started because of the French record company, it's only fair to see one of their formats. Here is the 12".
It features the same three tracks as 12LITTLE15. The single is also available on 7"and CD from France.
It's hard to draw any conclusion from this release really. It's never been clear what was intended by it other than a French smash hit and that certainly didn't work. The band and label obviously took it seriously enough but it will forever be viewed as an odd relative in the Depeche Mode family, one you see occasionally but can never remember how they're related to you in the first place.
When the single came out, Depeche Mode were busy playing shows in America including a little known one in Pasadena. Apparently it was recorded and a single featuring one of the tracks from that hugely unimportant gig was released as the band's next single.
If I can find out any more, I'll cover that next time.