Condemnation, the third single from Songs And Faith Of Devotion was something of a departure for Depeche Mode. There was no screeching noise opening the song, nor were there walls of gloriously gothic synth noises propelling the song along.
Instead, we had a Depeche Mode Does Gospel track - and they did it very well.
Let's examine this surprise UK Top Ten hit.
HERE ON THE STAND - CONDEMNATION
Those of us who were lucky enough to attend the band's show at Crystal Palace on 31st July 1993 got this flier in the gift bag available to purchase on the day. As you can see, mine isn't in the best condition, but it does tell me that Condemnation was coming out as a single. BONG 23 duly appeared on 13th September. As we will see, the CD and 12" mentioned there featured a fourth track. You'll also have noticed a limited release featuring live tracks mentioned.
Because it was the 90's and people used the post rather than, say, Snapchat to deliver news (I'm very much "down" with "the kids"), promotional postcards would get sent to people and the one above popped through my letterbox one day in September 1993.
As you can see, the fourth track on the first CD confirmed, but there is now no mention of a 12". We had a new picture of Dave, hands on hips, looking for the Hole To Feed demo tape that Martin had thrown at him. Four new Depeche Mode live tracks - exciting times.
|Picture courtesy of Michael Rose/depmod.com|
The Melody Maker advert above spelled everything out for people who weren't on the mailing list, again omitting a standard 12". Curiously, it seemed Condemnation would appear in a remixed form. How do you remix that? Would the music press like it?
Sort of. In the NME, John Harris wrote:
"Perv-gospel, if you listen to this lift from Songs Of Faith And Devotion in the right way. 'Feel elation / High / To Know I can trust this / Fix of injustice,' thunders Dave Gahan, as a newly added choir draped in ecclesiastical robes do the backing vocals, Martin Gore hammers at a church piano and a vicar lurks in the vestry with a horse-whip."
Alan Jones in Music Week said:
"One of the more atypical singles in Depeche Mode's career, this slow gospel style song bears a lusty fill force vocal, but a reverential and reserved instrumental track. Subtle and stylish."
Reasonable enough. There was, naturally, no Top Of The Pops appearance but the single performed remarkably well. It actually entered the charts at number 9 - a certified Top Ten smash. This was the highest new entry in Depeche Mode's career in the UK and with the single least likely to do it. Impressive work. Ok, the next week it fell to 22, then 43 and the finally, felt no elation at all as it slipped to 68 and then into the darkness outside the Top 75 forever. Number 9 though. How very odd.
The single version of the song is remixed but not in bad way. The Paris Mix, so called because Alan and Steve Lyon remixed in it Dortmund, adds some beats, a few new sounds and the impressive vocals of Samantha Smith and Hildia Campbell, all of which works together very nicely indeed. The song has been played 237 times by the band. It started off featuring every night on Devotional with Dave on vocals but, as Devotional turned to Exotic, Martin took over the vocals because everyone was too focussed on having too nice a time on tour. I really like Martin's version, especially the way he sings the secondd line/word of each verse. Clever stuff. Dave then took back the mic for the Singles Tour before the song basically disappeared, surfacing only occasionally on subsequent tours with Martin taking lead vocals from time to time.
The B-Side is Death's Door (Jazz Mix). Death's Door is a song recorded by Alan and Martin after World Violation for the Wim Wenders film Until The End Of The World. Dave didn't want to come to England so Martin sings the song which features, among other things, some off-cuts from Nils Tuxen's steel guitar playing from Clean and parts of Martin's guitar lines from Blue Dress. The Jazz Mix is so called because it features what seems like fourteen hours of jazz noodling. It's fine, but the soundtrack version is better and the Devotional version better still. There was no promo 12" released for Death's Door by the way. If you see one, it's a bootleg.
If you are in Budapest being a rock star, the one thing you don't want to do is get dragged to the Hungarian countryside after a night's refreshment and be made to pose around dressed either as a monk or 1993 era Dave Gahan. Well Anton doesn't care about that sort of thing, so that's what happened to Depeche Mode for this video.
What in God's name is going on here? We open on a woman standing beside a huge haystack and it soon becomes obvious that she's arranged to meet Dave as he approaches her, very slowly indeed, surrounded by what look like very young monks. Naturally. They wander up a never ending farm track as a couple snog on a roadside.
"Is that Dave Gahan and a bunch of monks?"
"Gary, I have work in ten minutes. Either kiss me or give me a lift back into town."
The Monk Train then wanders past an even younger couple and they seem to have their heads glued together. Dave, locks flowing in the cold Hungarian breeze, finally meets up with his date and, oddly, two old men and one old woman nod on approvingly. It was the 90's - a new sense of liberation permeated the whole of Europe.
Dave sings the chorus at his date so she sends him away and he reboards the Monk Train as a half nude couple giggle beside another huge haystack. This farm track really is an odd place - the longer the video goes on, the more couples we see frolicking happily while an international rock star wanders around surrounded by monks. This must happen all the time in Hungary.
"Is that Dave Gahan and a bunch of monks?"
"Of course it is Nigel. You know what this place is like. Last time you and I got frisky, Jon Bon Jovi wandered past with a bunch of nuns."
"How did I forget that?"
Wait a minute - who's that? It's Brothers Wilder and Gore and Friar Fletcher and they are here to save Haystack Woman from having the chorus sung at her again. Martin, holding a book saying Condemned on it, makes no effort whatsoever to hide his hangover, Alan just looks angry, really angry in fact, and even Fletch looks vexed. Martin might actually be asleep standing up, like a drunk, synthgod horse with a mane of fluffy hair.
As the song ends, most of the monks run off and we find Dave left with Samantha and Hildia who at this point must really have been examining their contracts. "We agreed to sing, but this bollocks was not part of any deal." Martin wakes up briefly and moves his hands, revealing that the book isn't called Condemned, but is in fact called Condemned To Love - available in limited edition massive book and smaller book no doubt. Samantha and Hildia march Dave up to Haystack Woman having threatened to smack him over the head with Condemned To Love if he (1) sings the chorus to the woman again and (2) doesn't let them finish up and get back to their hotel.
As Dave fannies about looking all windswept, Samantha and Hildia lose their patience and chain Dave and Haystack Woman together as the three Depeche Monks look on, all hungover in Hungary. No-one asks Samantha and Hildia where they got the chains. Everyone just wants to get back to a warm hotel room.
There was also a live video too, taken from Devotional. It features no monks and no snogging Hungarians but a visibly chirpier Samantha and Hildia.
|Picture courtesy of depmod.com|
Once again, there was no 7" single released in the UK. There was a 7" promo however, BONG23, and it's pictured above. I don't have this so the kind people at depmod.com allowed me to use a picture of theirs. Condemnation (Paris Mix), so called because Alan and Steve Lyon remixed it in Stockholm, is on the A-Side and Death's Door (Jazz Mix) is on the B-Side.
The cassette single, CBONG23, features the same two songs, thrillingly playing them on both sides of the tape.
There were two promo 12" singles released for Condemnation though one of them is really for Rush. P12BONG23 features the two tracks from CBONG23 on the A-Side.
On the B-Side, we get the Spiritual Guidance Mix of Rush.
PL12BONG23R presumably features and R because the record contains three mixes of Rush and the release is viewed as a Rush promo rather than a Condemnation one. On the A-Side, we have the Spiritual Guidance Mix again.
The B-Side features the Amylnitrate Mix (Instrumental) and the Wild Planet Mix. This one is quite hard to find although there are five on Discogs just now, the cheapest at £130. Presumably if you live in Brexit ruined Britain, it'll cost you £76 to get it posted to you through our "world beating customs system."
12BONG23 is a a lovely thing. A shot of the Devotional film for the song adorns the cover and, once again, we have a deluxe inner sleeve. Lucky us. Some come with the opening you can see below in mine - a slight crescent shape cut out at the top - and others with the usual squared off opening. That's your fact for the day.
This record is a 5 track 12" and, unlike when they did so for Stripped, there's no boasting about that on the cover. One the A-Side, we get the two CBONG23 tracks.
Anton thoughtfully and incredibly scruffily wrote the lyrics on the back. On the B-Side, the three Rush remixes from PL12BONG23R turn up. They're all really rather good.
CDBONG23 features four tracks.
It contains all the songs from 12BONG23 with the exception of the Wild Planet Mix of Rush.
It comes in a trifold digipack. Initial copies featured a sticker telling you the live CD and 12" were also available.
L12BONG23 is a beauty - a gatefold 12" with yet another deluxe inner sleeve and four cracking live tracks. I particularly enjoy the way the tracks are listed in the top right corner.
Look at the luxury on that. The A-Side features Condemnation and Personal Jesus recorded live on June 4th 1993 at The Forum, Milan.
On the B-Side, we get Enjoy The Silence and Halo from the same gig. It really was thrilling hearing these at the time. On the back there's a small picture of Martin singing Condemnation.
Inside, we get pictures of all the band with a particularly cool one of Dave. Not a monk costume insight either. Initial pressings of this 12" featured a sticker that alerted you to the existence of CDBONG23.
LCDBONG23 features the same four tracks.
Martin pops up on the back again, waving his wee arms.
Once again, it's a trifold digipack. I love that picture of Martin on the inner sleeve above. This also featured a sticker telling you about CDBONG23.
The 2004 CD single features all 9 tracks from both 12" singles.
Germany gave us a 7" which is very nice of them.
It features the two CBONG23 tracks and has a particularly enjoyable depecheMODE font. A 7" single could also be had in Belgium and the Philippines and Spain both produced promo versions.
In France, there was a 2 track card sleeve CD which is a nice thing. Similar releases crept out in Belgium, Germany and Sweden.
The Spanish equivalent of L12BONG23 is interesting as it is not in a gatefold sleeve. The French and German 12" singles come in gatefold sleeves.
The US 12" is basically an album, On the A-Side we have Condemnation, Enjoy The Silence and Halo all live from Milan and Death's Door (Jazz Mix).
On the B-Side, you get the three Rush remixes from PL12BONG23R and Condemnation (Paris Mix).
The US CD single drops the Wild Plant Mix, rearranges the track order and comes in that odd ECO pack thing. There are four variations of this, each with a different sized or coloured opening clip. There is no Condemnation promo CD from the US by the way. You may hear it exists, but it doesn't.
Somewhat to my surprise, I have the Canadian CD single too. It features the same seven tracks as the US CD but in a normal box.
Finally, we end in Japan with a CD single that features the same tracks as CDBONG23 but adds a large OBI and a poster for good measure. Who knows, you may end up in a karaoke bar in Tokyo needing the Japanese lyrics for Death's Door?
So there we have it. Depeche Mode return to the UK Top 10 and they do so with a gospel(ish) track. Impressive stuff. The single itself was really more an advert for the ongoing world tour but it's always nice to get a new track, a few live songs and a remix or two of an album track.
The next time we would hear from Depeche Mode would be January 1994 and by that point they'd all been affected by the Devotional tour in one way or another. Yes, it's time to say goodbye to the tour, hello to a crucifix pack CD single and goodbye to the band's last single as a four piece band.
Yes, someone left after that. No idea who though.