The Exciter tour ended on 5th November 2001 in Mannheim, Germany and Depeche Mode chose to celebrate that by releasing the third single from the album, Freelove. Quite why they waited until the end of the album campaign is a mystery but who am I to question their decision?
With the release of Freelove, we got a DVD single, more promos than we could possibly know what to do with and a host of remixes including one by Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs.
Ah....that's why they waited until the promotional wheel had stopped spinning. Let's take a look at Freelove and its many formats. Ok, and that remix too.
LET'S MAKE IT CLEAR - FREELOVE
Freelove, BONG32, came out on 5th November 2001. BONG 48 told us that this "beautiful ballad" was on its way on 22nd October which proved to be yet another barefaced BONG lie. BONG 50, released in December 2001, put the matter right confirming that the single was postponed and eventually released on November 5th. They are retrospectively forgiven.
As the tour had ended, Martin was too busy having his feathery tops dry cleaned to do any promotion. It seems that most of the music press gave Freelove a swerve too as they are very few, if any, reviews of the single around.
The song was received well when Exciter was reviewed however. Alternative Press called it "one of the best tunes Martin has written as far as pop-ability since Enjoy The Silence," which is high praised. That type of review leads you to conclude that when Fletch gave his standard pre-album interview in which he says:
"I was in a taxi/my house/a hot air balloon/ my personal underground bunker when Martin phone/faxed/sent a carrier pigeon with a new song I was blown away. It is his best since Enjoy The Silence/best ever/a sure fire hit"
he was talking about Freelove. You can play Fletch Promo Bingo for any album since and including Exciter. The accompanying games are Martin Downplays His Efforts bingo and Dave Avoids Talking About Any Songs Except His Own Other Than To Mention That He Thinks Martin Now Gets Him bingo. I'll make cards for us to play along when the next album comes out in 2027.
Back to the reviews of Freelove. The Guardian referred to the song as "gorgeous" and "humble," and Q Magazine described it as an "unapologetic love song" in which "Gahan's voice (is) warm and intimate."
In The Observer's review of the Paris gig on 10th October, Sam Taylor rather cruelly called Freelove "the risible new single." Sam did however say earlier in his review "They begin by playing the worst song of their entire career - The Dead Of Night" so he can be forgiven.
In chart news, the single managed three weeks on the UK chart. It entered at 19 and then dropped to 37 and finally 58 before disappearing forever.
The single was remixed for release with Flood returning to the fold. His remix, Freelove (Flood Mix) is wonderful and a mix I prefer to the album version as it seems to suit the song more. It's a pity that of all the official releases, only Flood's remix does anything decent to the song. Freelove was played on every Exciter tour gig and rather marvellously popped up in Martin's solo slot four times on the Sounds Of The Universe tour. It was last played on 20th February 2010 at the O2 in London and I was there to enjoy it albeit it took me and my friends a while to work out what it was because we had enjoyed a very entertaining day in London before reaching the O2 and were thus not as focussed as we ought to have been.
The B-Side (in old money) of Freelove is Zenstation which is an instrumental. It's fine as these things go but there hasn't been a fun DM instrumental since Kaleid has there? It plods along for 6 minutes only brightening up when Martin's "ahhh-ahhhs" appear. It's never been played live and that seems entirely reasonable to me.
John Hillcoat returned to directorial duties, so we can safely presume the band hadn't watched the I Feel Loved video. The video was filmed in New Orleans in July 2001 while the band were there on tour.
We open on a deserted street along which a driverless truck drives. There are megaphones on the truck so something musical is surely about to happen. Well, no. As you would expect, the driverless truck goes offroad and knocks over a few crates of oranges. An infuriated passer by picks one up and squeezes it, enraged at the needless orangey carnage.
All of a sudden however, the truck's purpose is revealed. It's Dave! The Depeche Mode Travelling Roadshow is in town.
Dave and Martin are on the back of the truck, Dave promising everyone "freelove" and Martin rocking about unsteadily playing his guitar. Various people including the angry orange man (that means something entirely different in Glasgow) are beckoned to the truck by this siren song and we see them each taking turns sitting in or writhing on Dave's throne.
They have of course been fooled. These travelling roadshows are nothing but rip offs as all you wise readers know and the throne people soon realise their mistake. Instead of the promised free love, they are brought to their senses as the demo for Hole To Feed suddenly blares from the speakers. Dangerous Dave Gahan and his Dastardly Mode strike again as each of the victims fall under the song's spell. The only reason Freelove was played over the video was to ensure that Hole To Feed didn't affect anyone else.
The Depeche Mode Travelling Roadshow continues to wind its way through New Orleans with its driverless cab picking up more and more people, each turned to zombies by the sounds of Hole To Feed. Dangerous Dave Gahan and His Dastardly Mode's attempts to create an army bewitched by the smooth sounds of this future classic are on track.
There's no stopping them now. Fletch makes a brief appearance as does Christian Eigner which is slightly odd as (a) he isn't a band member and (b) if we're allowing the musicians onto the Depeche Mode Travelling Roadshow, where is Peter Gordeno?
The Zombie Army are taken out into the countryside and abandoned, left to roam the land singing "When you get/What you need/There's no way of knowing" forever as they attempt to persuade anyone who will listen that while it was technically a double A side with Fragile Tension, we all know what the real lead track on that single is.
I don't know. I tried my best here but ultimately, that's a dreadful video.
The promos are the obvious starting point for Freelove. The first UK promo is P12BONG32. My copy came with the promo sheet above which makes a number of hilariously inaccurate comments about the various remixes that pollute the record.
The sleeve is rather nice, as are both labels and that is all we need concern ourselves with for now. Luckily, all five tracks on this record appear on the official releases so we can worry about them in a bit. On Side A (above) we have the Console Remix of Freelove together with the frankly laughably named but pick of the bunch remix wise Schlammpeitziger "Little Rocking Suction Pump Version" of the same song. That name of that remix is spelled wrongly on the sleeve. They have Zenstation - Atom's Stereonerd Remix to keep them company.
On the B-side, we are blessed with two staggering remixes of Freelove - Bertrand Burgalat (spelled wrongly on the label) and DJ Muggs Remix. Presumably everyone on earth was drunk when these were commissioned.
The second promo, PL12BONG32, is a lovely double 12" squarely aimed at people who went to clubs and therefore not me. On the first 12" we have Freelove (Deep Dish Freedom Remix) on Side A and Freelove (Josh Wink Vocal Interpretation) on Side B. The labels both make the same mistake as they say "Original version of I Feel Loved appears on the new Depeche Mode album Exciter." That is of course entirely accurate, but they probably meant Freelove.
The second 12" has Freelove (Deep Dish Freedom Dub) on Side C and Freelove (Powder Productions Remix) on Side D, albeit that one is called Power Productions Remix on the label. 4 out of 10 for spelling on these promos.
There was no promo CD this time though there were some CD-Rs but forget them. Let's move straight onto CDBONG32. It did appear with promo stickers on it in some places, but there was no bespoke catalogue number or difference between stickered ones and this official release. As with all Exciter releases, this one is in a card sleeve with the CD housed in another, thinner card sleeve inside. There is a wonderful picture of the band in there. Fletch and Dave came dressed up with Elvis wig and massive wig respectively. Given what Martin is wearing, it is hard to know if he dressed up or not. That could easily be Gore day wear.
There are three tracks on the CD. There's Freelove (Flood Mix) which is superb, Zenstation which isn't and Zenstation (Atom's Stereonerd Remix) which is the sort of thing that makes you think your CD player is unwell.
LCDBONG32 has another nice sleeve but is filled with a collection of remixes that is only saved by the one with the longest name.
Freelove (Bertrand Burgalat Remix) is the sort of remix that is exclusively enjoyed by people who thought Mike Flowers' Pops version of Wonderwall was funny. It's a smug, smartarse destruction of the song that you really never need to listen to. The remix of Freelove called Schlammpeitziger "Little Rocking Suction Pump Version" is, despite what you may think, actually quite enjoyable. Then we get Freelove (DJ Muggs Remix). I'm not going to waste too much time on this one as I just listened to it again to see if it was as bad as I remembered. It is. I have no idea at all how this remix managed to escape the studio.
The five track 12" 12BONG32 starts its three track A-Side with Freelove (Console Remix) which is bad, but not Bertrand Burgalat bad. Side A also contains Schlammpeitziger "Little Rocking Suction Pump Version" and Zenstation (Atom's Stereonerd Remix).
Two words describe Side B - Burgalat and Muggs. Actually, here's two more - go and away.
Finally, there was a first - a DVD single. DVDBONG32 is an odd beast really. The first thing you find on it is Freelove - Live "Bootleg" Video. This isn't a shaky thing taken from the back of an arena on a video camera where the footage is interrupted by people going to the toilet however. This "bootleg" is a montage of live and backstage footage shot on the tour with the live elements taken from the 30th June show at First Union Center in Philidelphia. There are four "short films" too. They are incredibly short in fact but that would have looked odd on the sleeve. They are: A meet & greet, footage of Black Celebration live, Dave on the Freelove video set and a bit of the soundcheck for In Your Room. Blink and you will miss all four.
The other tracks on the DVD are live audio versions of Breathe and The Dead Of Night (really?) from the same show. On the inner sleeve, Fletch goes full Elvis and why not?
Before we head to the US, let's have the Rest Of The World round up. Australia had one CD; Benelux the same four official releases as the UK plus a 2 track CD featuring Freelove (Flood Mix) and Zenstation; France had a promo CD; Germany a CD-R and a 5 track 12" and Scandinavia the 2CDs and DVD from the UK plus a 5 track 12" and a remarkable 4 promo CD-Rs.
In the US, there was a double 12" promo. It contains the same four tracks as the UK double 12" promo and even spells Powder Productions Remix correctly on the label. The sticker on the sleeve is shown earlier in this blog.
The US promo CD features three Freelove remixes - Dave Bascombe Mix, Flood Mix and, inexplicably, DJ Muggs Remix. The Dave Bascombe remix is fine. There are also 10 CD-Rs if that sort of thing is your sort of thing.
In official release news, the US CD single is a 6 track release containing all the remixes officially released in the UK with the exception of Freelove (Console Remix). The US version of the DVD single comes in a DVD style box. There was no 12" releasee.
That was Freelove then. It's an odd single really. It is definitely a lovely song and the Flood Mix really shows its potential but it was released at an odd time, had an odd format and featured a number of incredibly bad remixes. A missed opportunity.
Oddly, the band's Exciter releases didn't stop here. Next time we'll look at the curiously timed case of Goodnight Lovers.