Ultra proved Depeche Mode could still function without former member Albert Winder or whatever he was called and The Singles 86-98 and its accompanying tour reintroduced them to the world of touring. All good so far.
It could be said that Ultra was very much a rebound album - a response to the trials of 93/94 and Alvin's departure. The next new album would be keenly anticipated and thoroughly scrutinised. How would the world's biggest electronic band come back? More Ultra like fuzz and noise? A return to the pristine electronics of Violator?
Neither. Once again Depeche Mode surprised everyone with the sparse electronics of Exciter. The first introduction we had to that album however was even more surprising. A Depeche Mode single with an acoustic blues like riff that ran all the way through it? That was certainly different. Here is the story of Dream On.
CAN YOU FEEL A LITTLE LOVE? - DREAM ON
|US Promo card rear|
The new Depeche Mode single Dream On, BONG30, was released in the UK on 23rd April 2001. The single was announced in BONG 47, the Depeche Mode fanclub magazine, in a fairly unexcited manner:
"The first single Dream On will be released on April 23rd with Easy Tiger on the B-side. The catalogue number will be BONG30."
Fair enough. The single managed to gather a few positive reviews. The NME said:
"After a decade wracked by overdoses, bust-ups and nervous breakdowns, the Mode's first all-new album since their drug-scarred 'Ultra' four years ago dips a toe in the water in the shape of this broody spaghetti western landscape. It begins unplugged and naked with a finger-picking guitar, and Dave Gahan in breathy, sombre mood. One minute later, the elemental passions and stark electronics kick in, with dark allusions to parasites and body horror. This is a stripped-down Modeworld, shorn of Spinal Tap self-parody, and reconnected to their techno-pop roots by LFO/ Bjork producer Mark Bell. A functional first single from an expansive and adventurous album."
A fair review really and interesting to note the intriguing comments about the yet to be released Exciter. I remember going to Easy Internet (ask your grandkids) in my lunchtime around this time to pay my money to listen to 20 or so second clips of each Exciter track as they were added to the band's official site. I doubt the NME reviewer had to go through that.
Billboard magazine said:
"It's hard to remember the last time the group did anything so organic and Dream On proves to be surprisingly refreshing. The guitar line is a catchy head-bobber and the minimal melody sounds like a winner."
Music Week told us that the song had "slithery dark beats" and who are we to argue.
Dream On saw the band return to the Top Of The Pops studio too:
Jamie Theakston, the presenter for those who have until now lived in a Jamie Theakston free world, looks about 11 years old there. There is much to enjoy here. Dave looks superb and his live vocal is very good indeed. There are a couple of hints at the snarling stage persona he would develop for the Exciter tour but they are kept under control. Fletch prods away at his keyboards at moments that don't necessarily match with the music and twiddles his portamento wheel like there's no tomorrow. Martin seems to be having a jolly time, partly seated and partly grooving around. He used to court controversy by wearing women's clothes as people will recall. It seems that his t-shirt which features a cactus "subtly" disguised as a penis was ignored entirely. Also Martin - never tuck your t-shirt in. It's never a good look. Finally, Christian is there too and is still there now, tom tom-ing away at the strangest of moments. The band also played the song on ITV's show CD:UK.
The single performed well in that it entered the UK charts at number 6 on release. From there however, it fell, first to 28, then 48 and finally 72 and that was that. It did briefly reappear in July however, storming into the charts at 100 for some reason on 7th July. It even climbed the week later all the way to the giddy heights of 99 before it once again departed.
Dream On is a song that really has aged well. It was certainly intriguing back in 2001. As we'll see next time I Feel Loved was perhaps the more obvious choice for comeback single, but Depeche being Depeche, they went with Dream On and rightly so. There's something mesmeric to the song and it is one I genuinely love and one that stands the test of time more than a few tracks on Exciter do. I am specifically looking at you The Dead Of Night. Dream On has not seen much live action. It featured at every Exciter tour gig but has never been played lived by Depeche again. It's a shame really as it worked well on its 83 outings and the chorus is a huge chance for a big drunk singalong. Dave's band played it on the Paper Monsters tour too.
The B-side is the almost entirely pointless Easy Tiger (Full Version) a song with a title very much of its time. It features on Exciter in shortened form and that's the form in which it is better enjoyed. The song formed part of the intro tape to each Exciter tour gig and was mixed with the Dream On intro during which Martin wandered on stage all feathered up, looking like a bewildered Aunt who had just been handed a guitar at a family party. As a consequence, Easy Tiger has featured live the same number of times as Dream On. We live in an odd world.
The band chose not to use Anton for the video this time so Stephane Sedanoui got the job. Hmmm.
We open with Dave kneeling down in a desert touching a ghostly figure who is lying on the sand. We may already be in visual analogy territory here if we presume the ghost is meant to be a dream. Dave soon speeds off, having already had enough of this nonsense.
His band mates are in the back seat and they look like they are having a fabulous time. No wonder too. Dave has popped on the demo of Hole To Feed to accompany them on their journey. Martin looks actually quite sad, and Fletch just stares out the window. An anonymous source recently sent me the audio from the car journey:
"You can moan all you want Martin, but you made me sing The Dead of F**ing Night for f**ks sake. You WILL listen to my bloody demos. I tell you, this is the last time my songs don't feature on a Depeche Mode album. 'We're in the Zombie room.' THE F**ING ZOMBIE ROOM! Bloody hell Mart."
"He does have a point Mar..."
"Shut it Fletch. 'We are here. We can love. We share something' is hardly Keats, Dave. And who feeds a hole? What on earth?"
"Don't you f**ing start Mr Houses and Trousers. Don't you f..."
The tape ends there sadly.
The video then just rambles on pointlessly really. A spooky woman appears by the road as Dave drives on. Martin and Fletch look sad. Dave, again looking incredible, keeps on trucking and that is really that. I don't know what the budget for the video was but it must have been in the high hundreds of pounds.
We finish on Dave once again kneeling before the sandy ghost woman, his journey at an end. That is the last time he gives those two a lift anywhere.
This release had a large number of promo releases including three promo 12" singles in the UK. These three 12" singles come in proper 12" sleeves with labels the colour of which matches the title bar at the top of each sleeve as seen above. Pleasing stuff and three very lovely items.
The first of these, P12BONG30 (above) is a two track affair. On Side A we have Dream On (Bushwacka Tough Guy Mix) which we will deal with later.
On Side AA (not B, that would be to easy) there's the Bushwacka Tough Guy Dub, a relatively pointless remix.
PL12BONG30 has another two tracks. Side A has the Dave Clarke Club Mix of Dream On which is in fact the Dave Clarke Mix as featured on the official release.
Side B or AA treats us to the aptly named Bushwacka Blunt Mix of Dream On.
PXL12BONG30 has four remixes of Dream On in total. Side A contains the Octagon Man Mix from the official releases and the Octagon Man Dub. Give that one a miss if offered the chance to hear it.
Side AA contains two of the official remixes - Dave Clarke Acoustic Version and Kid 606 Mix.
I am nothing if not honest, so I'll let you all know here that I have let every single one of you down. I don't own the promo CD, RCDBONG30, so I've nicked the picture above from Discogs. Unsurprisingly, the CD is now on its way to me. What an arse. Anyway, this CD contains the Single Version of Dream On and the Bushwacka Tough Guy Edit, a mix exclusive to this CD.
As well as these promos, there are also three "internal use only" promos which sound incredibly painful, and 4 CD-R promos that are only bought by people who memorise bar codes on Depeche Mode releases. No that doesn't include me. Bugger off.
The song was officially released on three formats. CDBONG30 is a nice thing in a cardboard sleeve that houses another cardboard sleeve holding the CD. You even get a free picture of the band.
There are three tracks on the CD. We have the Single Version of Dream On and the Full Version of Easy Tiger first of all. The third track is the result of a mysterious error at the pressing plant. What claims to be Easy Tiger- Bertrand Burgalat & A S Dragon version is actually a bunch of drunken elephants stamping all over expensive musical equipment having accidentally pressed record first.
I'm joking of course. It is in fact a staggeringly awful remix.
LCDBONG30 is another cardboard sleeve inside a cardboard sleeve thing. If I'm being picky, I should have photographed the inner sleeve the other way round for this but, having just realised I'd got all the promo 12" photos wrong (front sleeve matched with Side AA - argh) and thus having spent half an hour re-doing them and uploading them, sod that.
See what I mean? Annoying. Anyway, there are four Dream On remixes here. We have Bushwacka Tough Guy Mix (CD Edit), an edited version of the full mix which is NOT the same as the RCDBONG30 Bushwacka Tough Guy Edit because, well...who cares. It's joined by the superb Dave Clarke Acoustic Version, the presumably released by accident Octagon Man Mix and the so bland I've already forgotten it Kid 606 Mix.
On Side A of the three track 12" 12BONG30 we have Dream On (Bushwacka Tough Guy Mix)
Side B has the Dave Clarke Mix and Bushwacka Blunt Mix.
The 2004 CD single took all nine tracks and stuck them in the one place. That was the last of the CD single reissue series.
Elsewhere in Europe, it was CD singles all round with Australia, Argentina, Canada, Chile and Mexico following suit. In the US, it was a much different story with more promo CDs and CD-Rs than are necessary.
Firstly, there is a two track promo CD that features the Single Version and Album Version of Dream On. There is then this promo CD:
It features these Dream On remixes: Morel's Pink Noise Radio Edit, Morel's Pain Is Waiting Mix, Morel's Pink Noise Club Mix, Morel's Pink Noise Dub, The BRAT Mix and Dave Clark Acoustic Version. The various Morel mixes are ok, the BRAT Mix very good and we know about Dave and his acoustic version.
There are another 9 CD-Rs that feature various mixes, a few spelling mistakes and other things that people really shouldn't care about. There is a double 12" promo too that I don't have. If I did, I'd tell you what was on it but as I don't head over to depmod.com and check it out.
The US 12" is a double 12". Record one has Bushwacka Tough Guy Mix and Dave Clarke Acoustic Mix on side A and Dave Clarke Club Mix and Kid 606 Mix on side B.
I do like the rear sleeve. Record two contains Bushwacka Blunt Mix and Octagon Man Mix on the A-side and Bushwacka Tough Guy Dub and the comedy remix of Easy Tiger on the B-side.
In the US official release section, there is a 5 track CD single and a 7" with I Feel Loved on the B-Side.
Depeche Mode were back! Well, they were back in a curiously understated way. Dream On was a bold and ultimately hugely enjoyable return.
The next time we saw them, they'd put down the guitars, got out the keyboards and decided to go all Depeche-go-down-the-disco on us. We will see if that feels any love next time.