The news that Depeche Mode were releasing their first new album in four years was news that got the by now fully active Depeche Mode forums buzzing with anticipation. Remixes 81-04 had kept Depeche Mode fans happy enough and solo work from Dave and Martin had generated a reasonable degree of interest, but a new Depeche Mode album was what people really wanted.
Precious was chosen as the album's lead single and what a single it was. Ok, we all heard it first in fairly dodgy quality when it was leaked along with the video by someone at the company that made the video (more of them in a bit), but it was warmly received regardless. This was the first Depeche Mode release in the internet leaking era and for a fanbase as rabid as Depeche's, anything and everything was seized upon. The frenzy that greets any Depeche leak is the reason so many people wrongly dislike Fragile Tension remember. Don't sit there shaking your head - it's better than most of Sounds Of The Universe. Yes, even better than that song.
Anyway, 2009 will come. Let's focus on 2005, a new single, Mr Feathers, a storming B-Side and a quite horrendous Depeche Mode Go Sailing video.
A MASTERPLAN - PRECIOUS
Precious, BONG35, was released on 3rd October 2005. I'm typing this on 4th October 2021 and have just realised that this would have made for a decent anniversary post yesterday. Oh well. The single was very well received when it was sent to reviewers.
The Irish Times said:
"With a chiming riff and echoes of Enjoy The Silence, the Mode are back. They’ve got Doves and Blur producer Ben Hillier in for the new album Playing The Angel; no danger of Depeche ever having to do the 80’s revival circuit"
Release Magazine (no idea), got excited about the song and the forthcoming Playing The Angel:
"Precious, a typical Martin Gore tune, is the first sample from "Playing the Angel", and supposedly doesn't sound much like the rest of the album songs. It's an all-electronic, retro-flavoured pop tune that makes me think of old Depeche Mode songs. There is an immediate quality to "Precious", making it easy to like instantly. The verses are bouncy and the chorus is unusually catchy for a Depeche Mode song of today. "Precious" is solemn and sombre, yet upbeat. Mr Gore still has it, and he sticks to writing about love and God. All seems to be right in the world of Depeche Mode, once again. Give me October now."
The Observer chose not to compare it to Enjoy The Silence but something unnamed and older:
"Precious is great, of course, thrumming away like something vintage from 1987. It's a lithe pop song, which is what they've always done best."
Finally, Mojo went back to the Enjoy The Silence comparison:
"Precious, the first single, may share the same musical space as Enjoy The Silence, but it stands in its own right as one of their best."
All fair enough really. In a burst of promotional, ahem, madness, the band turned up on Top Of The Pops:
Do you see what I did there? Suggs of Madness fame and Fearne Cotton introduce the band with some poor banter with Suggs claiming Depeche Mode used to be called The Smarties. Now, most of you have the same problem I have and know too much about Depeche Mode, certainly more than the band do. They were never called The Smarties at any point though were they? Suggs, do email in and clarify this.
Anyway, this is standard late period Depeche TOTP stuff really. Martin noodles about on his guitar and Fletch has a good go at maiming his keyboard. Dave looks superb throughout and really seems to be having fun which is exactly the opposite of what we all thought would happen given his 2003 solo interviews. Oddly, the fun fact Top Of The Pops chooses to kick things off with is about Vince being a former member of Depeche Mode. That's not all they are known for.
Precious gave the band their biggest UK hit in years and their equal highest chart position in their home country. It smashed into the charts at number 4 and then failed to do anything else, dropping to 16, 26, 48, 71 and finally 88. Clearly, God had no masterplan that involved the band's first UK number 1.
I do love Precious. It is a wonderful song and really is improved by the personal nature of Martin's lyrics. I know a lot of non Depeche Mode fans who adore the song and, like their previous biggest hits, it did reach beyond the Depeche fanbase. It's proved to be a popular live track too, featuring 403 times on the four world tours that followed its release. The dog themed video for the Delta Machine tour was just utter nonsense however.
We got a proper B-Side here too. Free is a cracking tune and one that would have been an excellent addition to Playing The Angel. At this point, I'd usually mull over what track if any it could replace - the answer would of course be Lilian. Easy. Free has never seen the light of day live as Depeche Mode don't really do that sort of thing anymore. That's a shame as I think it would go down very nicely indeed.
Precious was compared to Enjoy The Silence by many people. There are certainly similarities but once area in which I think we can all agree the two songs are vastly different is the video for each. Enjoy The Silence is arguably the most recognisable Depeche Mode video there is and is iconic. The video for Precious shows Depeche Mode on a computer generated boat.
The mastermind behind this is Uwe Flade, the mastermind behind the Enjoy The Silence (Reinterpreted) horror show. As that was a video for a pointless remix, it's easy to forget about it. This however was the video for the lead single for a new campaign and a song that was embraced all over the world. Depeche Mode were BACK and the world was going to see them playing the role of a cruise ship band on a computer generated steamboat. Christ almighty.
We open on various shots of the boat before we see our heroes rocking along to Precious in what looks like a big ballroom on the computer ship. Dave legs it and is soon walking very slowly along one of the computer boats may corridors no doubt looking for a virtual life boat.
Fletch and Martin aren't forgotten though and we soon find them in a room somewhere on the boat, prodding away at their synths as shelves of computer synths whirl around pointlessly. Dave, meanwhile, in another attempt to escape this rubbish has shrunk himself and hidden in the computer's engine room no doubt hoping to be crushed by a badly animated piston.
The boat then seems to come under attack from either hammers disguised as squid or squid that have bred with hammers. They launch themselves at the boat just as Depeche Mode hit the sun loungers on deck. It is of course completely dark and they are fully clothed. For no reason whatsoever, we then get some dragon like beasts floating around the boat and Dave once again makes for the engine room. Good lord this is incredibly bad. Bring back The Meaning Of Love - at least it had a story. Sort of.
As the middle section begins, we head underwater again and see a mechanical fish. By this point I am fully convinced that Uwe Flade hates Depeche Mode and has been sent to destroy them.
Back aboard, we find Dave singing on his own in the big hall and the boat trip and the video mercifully come to an end. The band depart the computer boat and walk through a computer field. You would like to think that the crops in the field are a nice nod back to Never Let Me Down Again but they won't be. Uwe Flade hates Depeche Mode remember.
I know I joke about the Hole To Feed video and rightly so as, along with Peace it's up there as being one of the band's worst ever videos, but those singles weren't the big comeback singles were they? Wrong was a brilliant video, as were Strangelove, Personal Jesus, I Feel You and Barrel Of A Gun. The video for Precious is fucking terrible.
If it's 2005, that means promos, digital only releases, slipcases and a picture disc 7" albeit one that only came to be thanks to the dedicated work of depmod.com. The first of the promo 12" singles was P12BONG35 which is pictured above.
This 12" has the same tracks as the standard issue 12". On the A-Side there is Precious (Sasha's Spooky Mix - Full Length).
The AA-Side contains Precious (Sasha's Gargantuan Vocal Mix - Full Length).
PL12BONG35 contains the four remixes of Precious as L12BONG35. On side A there are the Misc. Full Vocal Mix and Michael Mayer Balearic Mix.
Side AA contains the Motor Remix and Misc. Crunch Mix of Precious.
The promo CD RCDBONG35 is a one track release.
It will come as no surprise to any of you that it contains the Radio Version of Precious.
There is a second promo CD. PCDBONG 35 is the Club Promo CD.
It features the six remixes from the two promo 12" singles but spares you some of the pain by featuring edited versions of the two Sasha remixes. There are a further five UK CD-R promo releases.
12BONG35 features the two Sasha remixes I mentioned above in the same order they appear on the promo 12".
On the plus side, the sleeve is really nice, the band feature on the rear sleeve and the labels are cool. On the negative side, both remixes are rubbish. To be fair to Sasha however, Precious isn't a song that's really designed for a remix.
L12BONG35 is a nice package again and, like 12BONG35, features the same four remixes as it's promo 12" equivalent.
Anton clearly thought this was still the Exciter campaign. The only remix worth bothering with here is the Motor Remix. It's great.
There were also two CD singles, a DVD single AND a box to hold them all safely in. CDBONG35 contains the album version of Precious and Precious (Sasha's Spooky Mix - Single Edit).
LCDBONG35 contains two remixes of Precious - Sasha's Gargantuan Vocal Mix (Edit) and Misc. Full Vocal Mix. Happily, it also contains Free.
DVDBONG35 has two more Precious remixes - Motor Remix and Michael Mayer Ambient Mix, the best of his three remixes. Cruelly, it also contains the video for the single too.
Mute emailed everyone on the DM mailing list to let them know that a limited slipcase box thing was available for no charge at all. All you had to do was order one and hope you were lucky.
The back of it contains all the info you need.
And that's what they all look like in their box. I see I have the DVD single at the top, LCD below and CD on the bottom. That is the wrong way round and I apologise.
As the Playing The Angel campaign rolled on, (spoiler alert), each single had a 7" picture disc release. That meant that Precious was the odd one out and that sort of thing does not sit well with the collector element of the Depeche fanbase. Depmod.com rallied the troops and Mute were petitioned to release a Precious picture disc. Fearing the wrath of people who can recite the barcodes of all Ugandan only acetate 10" singles, they relented, and on 11th December 2006, a picture disc 7" was released.
It's numbered and in a plastic sleeve and has a psychedelic A-Side. On that side there is the album version of Precious. On the B-Side (above), we have Precious (Michael Mayer Ambient Mix)
There were a number of digital downloads too. The tracks you could get by buying every download were all remixes of Precious:
Calderone & Quayle Damaged Club Mix
DJ Dan's 4am Mix
DJ Dan's 6am Dub
Sasha's Gargantuan Instrumental Mix
Michael Mayer Ambient Mix
This release was a Europe wide one so there aren't too many European variations. There's a Belgian 2 track CD, a French 3 track that includes the video, a Danish promo CD and two limited Greek promo CDs.
The US once again went for a double 12" featuring seven versions of Precious. On Side A there are Album Version and Sasha's Spooky Mix - Edit. On Side B, Sasha's Gargantuan Vocal Mix - Edit and Misc. Full Vocal Mix.
Side C has the Michael Mayer Balearic Mix and Side D Misc. Crunch Mix and Motor Remix. The US CD single features the same six remixes as PCDBONG35.
The US also released three promo CD singles. The first contains the US Radio Version and Album Version of Precious with the former being a full 7 seconds shorter. The second promo CD drops the Album Version of Precious from the double 12" and adds Calderone & Quayle Damaged Club Mix and DJ Dan's 4am Mix. The third promo CD contains the Radio Version and Misc. Full Vocal Mix of Precious and Waiting For The Night (Bare).
In addition to these promos, there are also 10 CD-Rs and 4 DVD-Rs. Good luck finding those.
As a comeback single, Precious was a fine choice. Rather than go down the "let's release a loud one first and then the potential hit" route, they released the potential hit first and it worked. Ok, the video was dreadful and the remixes mainly awful, but we got a slipcase, a belated 7" picture disc and a superb B-side.
What mattered most was that Depeche Mode were back, a notion that had not looked that likely during the solo campaigns between Exciter and Playing The Angel. The comeback album would proved to be a stunner and the subsequent world tour a triumph.
All in all then, Precious was a success. Next they'd release another slipcase, B-side and picture disc filled single and once again would accompany that with a dreadful video. We will...sorry...see if we can get used....I apologise,..to that pain next time.
(That was terrible)