Saturday, 30 October 2021

DEPECHE MODE - THE SINGLES 1981 TO 2021 PART 46: MARTYR

 


We didn't have to wait long for new Depeche Mode material post Touring The Angel.  To accompany the new compilation The Best Of Volume 1, a new single was announced. Martyr, a track recorded during the Playing The Angel sessions was that song and it's a decent enough track.

The Best Of Volume 1 really is an odd one isn't it? That's a discussion for another time (see future blog Depeche Mode - That Is An Odd One Isn't It) but I still can't help but wonder why it exists other than to satisfy a contractual obligation.

Anyway, enough of that. Here's Martyr.

I KNEW WHAT I WAS LETTING MYSELF IN FOR - MARTYR

The Single


Martyr, BONG39, was released on 30th October 2006.  Funnily enough, I'm writing this on 30th October 2021 so happy 15th birthday Martyr. 

Reviews of this single have proved hard to find and it seems the song was overlooked by most reviewers when they were writing about The Best Of Volume 1. It's a shame really as it's a decent song and it continues the Playing The Angel vibe nicely. It perhaps wouldn't have fitted on that album given its slightly poppier feel mind you. One thing you could do when Martyr was released was download the stems for the song to remix it yourself. My attempts at that were of course disastrous, extending only to repeating the bass line and adding a drum loop or two, but the stems did reveal that the song was filled with interesting parts and noises. The bass line itself is a wonderful thing for example.

The band did no promotion for the single whatsoever which by now should be no surprise to any of us, That didn't stop the single reaching an impressive number 13 in the UK however. ok, it entered at 13, immediately fell to 41 then went to 65 and finally 100 but still, a Top 20 hit nonetheless.

By the time the band returned to live duties Sounds Of The Universe had been released so we were thrilled with the likes of Peace, Hole To Feed and so on, meaning that Martyr didn't get a live run-out. It's still never been played live and it's unlikely that it ever will be. Poor Martyr.

The Video


This is an odd one. The lack of interest shown by the band in promoting the single is mirrored by the "will this do?" feel of the video. In what I presume is a nod to The Best Of Volume 1, the video takes excerpts from other Depeche Mode videos, puts them together and gives us an almost entirely forgettable four minutes or so. The songs that it uses are:

Barrel Of A Gun
Stripped
Enjoy The Silence
Precious
It's No Good
Strangelove
Suffer Well
Personal Jesus
Walking In My Shoes
A Question Of Time
But Not Tonight
See You
Pimpf
Shake The Disease
Just Can't Get Enough
It's Called A Heart
Love In Itself
Never Let Me Down Again
Dream On
Behind The Wheel
Blasphemous Rumours
People Are People
Master And Servant
Strangelove 88
Everything Counts

It also features footage of the band in photoshoots, what looks like some footage of Dave driving the car he drives in World In My Eyes and some snippets of 101, Devotional and Touring The Angel.

That's all there is to say about the video really.

The Formats

The formats are where Martyr gets interesting as we got a splendid limited edition 12". To promos first however:


The first of these is P12BONG29. 


It contains the same three tracks as 12BONG39 so we'll come to those shortly.


Next up we have PXL12BONG39. "Hang on David," you are all screaming, "where on EARTH is PL12BONG39? Are you mocking us David? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" Well, my angry friends, I can only report the facts. There was a white label PL12BONG29 but there was no actual promo 12". Incredibly annoying for fans and lovers of catalogue symmetry but what can you do? On the A-Side of PXL12BONG39 we have the rather lovely Just Can't Get Enough (Dirty South Mix). The label features the crown icon from Speak And Spell which is a wonderful touch.


The B-Side has Personal Jesus (Timo Maas Remix) which is decent enough. The Violator rose appears on the label which is nice.


The firs of the promo CDs is RCDBONG39 which features on track only - Martyr (Radio Version).


PCDBONG39 is the "Club Promo" and it features six remixes of Martyr - Single Version, Paul Van Dyk Radio Mix, Paul Van Dyk Vonyc Lounge Mix, Paul Van Dyk Dub Mix, Paul Van Dyk Remix and Booka Shade Dub Mix.  Rather Paul Van Dyk heavy.


There is a third promo CD, PLCDBONG39. Unlike its missing 12" friend, this one exists. It's a lovely thing.


There are eight remixes on it and, the pointless The Sinner In Me remix aside, they're all rather good.


If you are going to buy this, beware of bootlegs. There is a version with the audio sourced from mp3. You can tell you have that one as it has no mould SID code, no Mediamotion logo in the matrix area and the text is different on the CD. There is another bootleg with blue text on the CD.


In offical releases, 12BONG39 comes with an embossed sleeve. The ridge of the rose is the embossed bit. On Side A (above) we have Martyr (Booka Shade Dub) which is alright but not that exciting.


Side B has two tracks, both remixes of Martyr -  Dreher & S.M. Art B.N. Reload Remix and Alex Smoke Gravel Mix. The second one is the best remix on the 12".


L12BONG39 is an absolute gem. It is a double 12" and comes in an embossed spot-varnished gatefold sleeve and is full of good things.


The inner sleeve of the gatefold features four pictures from the videos of the four tracks that feature on the records. The vinyl sleevs are spot-varnished and are glorious. Sides A and C are shown above. The icon matches the song on the remix. I will never tire of the Construction Time Again era logos.


Side A (left above) features Personal Jesus (Boys Noize Rework) which is pretty good. Side C features the outstanding Everything Counts (Oliver Huntemann & Stephan Bodzin Dub). The labels have the logos from the inner sleeves on them. Outstanding work.


The inner sleeves for sides B and D reveal what is in store on the records.


Side B (left above) contains the crunching beast of a remix that is Never Let Me Down Again (Digitalism Remix). It is fantastic. Side D has People Are People (Underground Resistance Remix). Again, the labels have the small logos on them and we all love that sort of thing.


The back of it looks like that.


We got another 7" picture disc. It comes sealed in a plastic sleeve and is numbered. Annoyingly, mine is upside down so that makes my picture look odd. I love you all of course, but I wasn't prepared to open it to sort that out. Side A has the Single Version of Martyr.


The B-Side features Never Let Me Down Again (Digitalism Remix) and that is never a bad thing.


The two CDs and DVD again had a box to live in.


The back of the box told you all you need to know about the content.


And that's what the content looks like.


CDBONG39 has two versions of Martyr - Single Version and Booka Shade Full Vocal Mix Edit.


A sticker on the front told you what to pay, or at least what to expect to pay.


LCDBONG39 has two mixes of Martyr (Paul Van Dyk Remix Edit and Alex Smoke Gravel Mix) and the Digitalism Remix of Never Let Me Down Again.


DVDBONG39 features the Martyr video and two remixes of the track - Dreher & S.M. Art B.N Reload Remix and Booka Shade Travel Mix.

There were a number of digital releases too. Firstly, a few versions of Martyr - Radio Version, Paul Van Dyk Remix Edit, Alex Smoke Gravel Mix, Alex Smoke Bare Bones Edit, Paul Van Dyk Dub Mix, Booka Shade Dub Mix and the remix stems for you to play with. Never Let Me Down Again (Digitalism Mix) was also available too. In the UK, there 5 CD-Rs too.

The single also saw two unique Greek promo CDs, a couple of Danish promos and a Belgian CD single.


There was no physical release in the US but there were two promo CDs. The first (above) features two version of Martyr - Radio Edit and Album Version. The second promo CD has all of the remixes of Martyr that we saw above with the exception of the Alex Smoke Bare Bones Edit.


That was Martyr then, a single that most people probably forget exists and one the band did nothing at all to promote. The odd The Best Of Volume 1 followed and then Depeche Mode went into hibernation, waking up two and a half years later with the splendid Wrong and the, erm, album Sounds Of The Universe.

We'll look at Wrong next time.

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

DEPECHE MODE - THE SINGLES 1981 TO 2021 PART 45: JOHN THE REVELATOR/LILIAN

 


The fourth and final single from Playing The Angel saw the release of Depeche Mode's second double A-Side. Blasphemous Rumours had been paired up with Somebody in 1984 to avoid any God and his sense of humour controversy and while John The Revelator has a religious undertone, it seems unlikely that the band feared any bad press so adding Lilian as a double A-Side seems a bit odd but what do I know?

We got a video that featured hot live action, another DVD and some spellcheck unfriendly remix titles. Here is the story of John The Revelator.

Oh, and Lilian too.

WHO'S THAT SHOUTING? - JOHN THE REVELATOR/LILIAN

The Single




John The Revelator/Lilian, BONG38, was released on 5th June 2006, a couple of months before Touring The Angel came to a halt. There didn't really seem to be a need for a single to be perfectly honest but we got one anyway.

The single was reviewed in the Manchester Evening News on 2nd June 2006 (thanks to Depeche Mode Press File):

"Fuse Dave Gahan’s obvious cynicism about religion – and Christianity in particular – with a partial reinterpretation of Son House’s gospel classic, John The Revelator, and what do you get? Well, you just get Depeche Mode, really, doing the trademark brand of electronic rock that we’ve all come to expect from these electro stalwarts. There’s a few bips here and a smattering of plips there to fuel the digitised feel of everything and it scores fairly highly for Gahan’s vocal performance alone, but the tune is unlikely to win the Mode any more converts. AA-side Lilian is musically DM circa-1981 and lyrically somewhere around 1989, which makes for a curious mix that doesn’t really hit the spot."

A reasonable review although Dave gets a little more credit for the song writing than seems fair.  In their review of Playing The Angel, The Observer said:

"Depeche Mode's most satisfying songs have usually been their most direct. Those ranks are swelled by the murky gothic swing of 'John the Revelator'. It's not a straight cover of the country-blues standard, but it lets rip in a way little else does."

Q magazine felt the song mined "the gothabilly seam they invented on Personal Jesus." The Guardian said:

"There's a (Nick) Cave moment in their decision to cover a 1930s blues song, John the Revelator; true to form, however, rather than keeping it minimal, they lift it with a gospel choir that has you punching the air. Does that defeat the object? I don't know. It's good, though."

On Lilian, Graeme Thompson in the Observer Music Monthly felt it was "classic Mode" despite spelling it with two Ls. 

The band naturally did nothing whatsoever to promote the song because they were having fun playing in big open spaces around Europe. That lack of enthusiasm didn't stop it being a Top 20 smash in the UK however. It slammed into the charts at 18 and then fell to 58 and 82 before being sent home on the morning train forever.

John The Revelator is a good song and one that the band spoke about a lot when Playing The Angel was released mainly because it involved the novel concept of a song being written in a studio while the band were recording an album. To other bands this may seem normal, but not our boys who were attempting to restart the Mode mothership while trying to overlook everything Dave had said while promoting Paper Monsters.

It featured live 118 times on Touring The Angel then a further four times on the Delta Machine tour mainly where they were playing two or more nights in the one place. 

Lilian which is the album's weakest track along with the pointless I Want It All, has never been played live. It really shouldn't have been on the album either as it just seems like they're trying a bit too hard to do the synthpop thing. Newborn or Free would have been much better.

The Video


Touring The Angel was a very good thing. Lively setlists, a very odd but strangely enjoyable stage set up, big space ship like keyboard stands, Martin's hat and some great surprise songs. The DVD released after the tour is utterly dreadful however as it is filmed in the most pointless way. Just show the band playing the bloody songs.

John The Revelator's uses footage from the live shows but as it is directed by Blue Leach, the creative "genius" behind the DVD, the footage is spoiled by the crappy effects. 

It is of course great to see the band going through their live paces and the energy of that era's shows comes across ok, but you end up longing for something that is either a live video or a standard video, not this pointless hybrid. Even Hole To Feed tried to be a video albeit with no real success.

It's just annoying really.

Lilian didn't even get a video. Poor Lilian.

The Formats



The tried and tested Playing The Angel formula was followed again with promos, a box of CDs and a DVD and a 7" picture disc available. The first promo is P12BONG38 the A-side and front cover of which you can see above.


The three tracks on it (one on the A, two on the B (above)) are the same three tracks as appear on 12BONG35, more of which shortly.


There is a second 12" promo, PL12BONG38.


Mine came with an info sheet which you can see in full at the start of this post. I wonder if anyone did "hit" the author "up" for copies.


Three tracks are featured - one on the A-Side and two on the B-Side (above), identical to the tracklisting of L12BONG38.


RCDBONG38 is the first of two promo CDs. It features the two single versions of the double A Side tracks and four edits of remixes found elsewhere on the release. They are four mixes of John The Revelator - Tiefschwarz Edit, UNKLE Edit, Bill Hamel's Audio Magnetics Edit and Boosta Edit. The full versions of the mixes are a bit more interesting than the edits but, the Tiefschwarz Edit aside there's really not much quality here at all, with only the UNKLE Edit getting a pass. I'm sure there must be a second hand television shop somewhere called Bill Hamel's Audio Magnetics.


The second promo CD, PCDBONG38 (the Club Promo), is 77 minutes long and most of those are wasted. The good bits - the dreadfully named mix of John The Revelator called Dave Is In The Disco Tiefschwarz Mix. The OK bits - UNKLE Re-Construction mix of John The Revelator. The other six versions of that song and the three versions of Lilian are really not that good at all. Let's be quite honest about that. There are four additional CD-Rs and a test pressing of the 7" we are about to look at if you want to be the kind of person who has everything that the words Depeche and Mode have ever appeared on.


In official news, we got another 7" picture disc, BONG38. It comes in a sealed, numbered plastic sleeve. On the A-Side, we have John The Revelator (UNKLE Dub).


The colourful B-Side contains a remix of Lilian. It is called Robag Wruhme Slomoschen Kikker. No-one has ever heard it as if the did they would want to Kikk the remixer and not in a way that could at all be described as Slomoschen.


The first 12", 12BONG28, features John The Revelator (Dave Is In The Disco Tiefschwarz Mix). Despite its title, it is rather good.


On the B-Side, we have John The Revelator (Tiefschwarz Dub) and Lilian (Chab Dub), a remix that sends you scurrying for the audio joy of the single version of the song.


L12BONG38 is a colourful affair. On the A-Side, it features John The Revelator (Murk Mode Dub) which I have genuinely just listened to and forgotten already.


The B-Side has the Boosta Club Remix of John The Revelator which makes you want to club innocent animals rather than actually attend a club and Lilian (Chab Vocal Remix) which can only really be called utter nonsense.


For the 2 CDs and DVD, you once again had the chance to get a box to hold them in by writing to Mute.


The rear of the box helpfully lists what is inside it so that you know never to take any of the contents out.


If you do remove the contents, they look like that.


CDBONG38 features two tracks - the Single Versions of John The Revelator and Lilian.


LCDBONG38 has five remixes of John The Revelator. We get the two from 12BONG38, the UNKLE Reconstruction, Murk Mode Remix and Boosta Club Remix.


Finally, DVDBONG38 has the video of John The Revelator on the visual side of things and two audio tracks. The second of those is Lilian (Chab Vocal Remix) so we can ignore that. The first of them however is the wonderful Nothing's Impossible (Bare) which is the best track on the whole release. all of the Bare tracks from that period should have had actual official releases. A waste.

You could get a whole lot of digital remixes too - John The Revelator had several: Bill Hamel's Audio Magnetics Buy One Get One Half Price...sorry...Bill Hamel's Audio Magnetics Club Remix, Dub Mix and Edit, James T Cotton Dub, Live From Milan, Murk Miami Remix, Murk Mode Dub UNKLE Dub, Edit and Instrumental, Boosta Edit and Tiefschwarz Edit.

As this was a Europe-wide release, there were very few other notable formats. Promo CD-Rs were released in Greece and Denmark with the two Greek ones limited to 100 each, both with unique sleeves. Taiwan released LCDBONG38 and DVDBONG38 with Taiwanese stickers on the front and that was that.

In the US, there is one promo CD and six different CD-Rs for completists to hunt down. The single was released digitally only in the US.


And with that, the Playing The Angel campaign was over. Depeche Mode had come back in fine style and the album, an album which still sounds superb today, and tour had been almost universally praised. As is now the norm, it would be another four years until we got a new album, but a curious Best Of would pop up before that.

That contained a new song too, one recorded during the Playing The Angel sessions. That song was Martyr and we'll look at that next time.