Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode are an electronic band formed in 1980 in Essex, England. They are one of the longest-lived and most successful bands to have emerged from the New Romantic and New Wave era; they were part of the ‹futurist› scene, alongside the likes of Soft Cell, OMD, The Human League and Gary Numan.

As of 2006, it was estimated that Depeche Mode had sold over 91 million records (56 million albums / 35 million singles) worldwide and have had forty-four songs in the UK Singles Chart. They have had more top 40 hits in the UK without a #1 hit than any other artist. They have influenced many of today’s popular recording artists, in part due to their recording techniques and innovative use of sampling. Although very influential in the modern electronic dance scene, they generally remain classified in the alternative genre.

Depeche Mode began in 1980 as David Gahan (lead vocals), Martin Gore (keyboards, guitar, vocals, chief songwriter after 1981), Andrew Fletcher (backing keyboards) and Vince Clarke (keyboards, chief songwriter 1980—81). Vince Clarke left the band after the release of their 1981 debut album; soon replaced by Alan Wilder (lead keyboards) who played with the band from 1982 to 1995. Following Wilder’s departure, Gahan, Gore, and Fletcher have continued to perform as a trio.
Early history

1977–1980: Formation

Depeche Mode’s origins can be traced back to 1977, when Vince Clarke and Andrew Fletcher formed a band called «No Romance In China», with Clarke on vocals/guitar and Fletcher on bass. In 1978, Clarke played guitar in an «Ultravox rip-off band», The Plan, with school friend Robert Marlow on vocals and Vince on guitar/keyboards. In 1978–79, Gore played in an acoustic duo, Norman and The Worms, with school friend Philip Burdett (who now sings on the folk circuit) on vocals and Gore on guitar. In 1979, Marlow, Gore, Clarke and friend Paul Redmond formed a band called «The French Look», Marlow on vocals/keyboards, Gore on guitar, Clarke and Redmond on keyboards. In March 1980, Clarke, Gore and Fletcher formed a band called «Composition of Sound», with Clarke on vocals/guitar, Gore on keyboards and Fletcher on bass. «The French Look» and «Composition of Sound» once played live together in June 1980 at St. Nicholas School Youth Club in Basildon, Essex.

Soon after the formation of «Composition of Sound», Clarke and Fletcher switched to synthesizers, working odd jobs to buy them, or borrowing them from friends. Gahan joined the band in 1980 after Clarke heard him perform at a local scout-hut jam session, crooning to a rendition of David Bowie’s ‹Heroes›, and «Depeche Mode» was born. The new name was taken from a French fashion magazine, «Dépêche mode», which translates to «Fashion Update» or «Fashion News Dispatch» (dépêche = dispatch) though it has commonly been mistranslated as «Fast Fashion», due to the confusion with the French verb «se dépécher» («to hurry up»).
1981–1983: Early releases
Speak & Spell – the band’s debut full-length album.

Whilst playing a live gig at the Bridge House in Canning Town[1], the band were approached by Daniel Miller (an electronic musician and founder of Mute Records), who was interested in them recording a single for his burgeoning label.[2] The result of this verbal contract was «Dreaming of Me b/w Ice Machine», which was released in February 1981, and managed to reach #57 on the UK charts. Encouraged by this surprise success, the band recorded its second single «New Life», which significantly topped the previous one, climbing to #11. Three months later, the band released «Just Can’t Get Enough» – their first single to enter the UK top ten, peaking at #8. This record was in many ways a breakthrough for the band, and its success paved the way for their debut album – Speak & Spell, released in November 1981, and eventually reaching #10 on the UK album charts. Critical reviews were mixed – Melody Maker described it as a «great album… one they had to make to conquer fresh audiences and please the fans who just can’t get enough»[3], while Rolling Stone was more critical, calling the album «PG-rated fluff».[4]

During the touring and promotion for «Speak & Spell», Clarke began to privately voice his discomfort at the direction the band was taking. He later expressed his agitation that «there was never enough time to do anything».[5] In late 1981, Clarke publicly announced that he was leaving Depeche Mode. Soon afterwards, he joined with blues singer Alison Moyet to form Yazoo (Yaz in the US). With their primary songwriter gone, Depeche Mode needed a new direction. Martin L. Gore, who had written «Tora! Tora! Tora!» and «Big Muff» for their debut album, took over as the band’s new songwriter. In January 1982, the band released «See You», their first single without Clarke, which against all expectations, managed to beat all three Clarke-penned singles in the UK charts, reaching #6. In the ensuing months of that year, two more singles were released («The Meaning of Love», and «Leave in Silence»), and the band embarked on their first world tour – known as the «See You» tour. Their second album A Broken Frame was eventually brought out in September. This album is generally viewed as a transitional release, with Gore’s songs split between poppy, Clarke-influence tunes («The Meaning of Love», «A Photograph of You») and considerably darker territory («Leave in Silence», «Monument»), hinting at the direction the band would take in following years.
Construction Time Again saw the band explore contemporary political and social issues.

During the early stages of recording for A Broken Frame, the band recognised that it needed a fourth member for touring and other commitments. In late 1981, they placed an ad in Melody Maker stating «Keyboard player needed for established band – no timewasters.» Alan Wilder, a 22-year old keyboardist from West London responded – and after two auditions with Daniel Miller, he was accepted as the fourth member of Depeche Mode.[6] Despite this, however, Daniel Miller informed Alan that he wasn’t needed for the actual recording of the album, [7] as the band wanted to prove that they could succeed without Vince Clarke. Alan’s first musical contribution to the band was in 1983, on the non-album single «Get the Balance Right!».

For their third LP Construction Time Again, Depeche Mode decided to work with producer Gareth Jones, at John Foxx’s Garden Studios.[8] The album saw a dramatic shift in the group’s sound, due in part to the introduction of the Synclavier and Emulator samplers, in addition to their previously-used analogue synths.[9] By sampling the noises of everyday objects, the band created an eclectic, industrial-influenced sound, with similarities to groups such as the Art of Noise and Einstürzende Neubauten. Similarly, Gore’s lyricism was rapidly evolving, focusing increasingly on political and social issues. A good example of the new sound was on the first single from the album «Everything Counts», a commentary on the perceived greed of multinational corporations, [10] which got to #6 in the UK. Alan Wilder also contributed two songs to the album («The Landscape is Changing», «Two Minute Warning»).

1984–1988: Growing success

In their early years, Depeche Mode had only really attained success in the UK, Europe, and Australia – however, this changed in March 1984, when they released the single «People Are People». The song – a comment on racism, climbed to #13 on the US charts, as well as reaching #4 on the UK charts – and gave them their first #1 (in Germany). To cash-in on the surprise success of the single, Sire, the band’s North-American record label, released a compilation of the same name. A month later, the band’s proper follow-up album «Some Great Reward» was released to generally positive reviews. Melody Maker claimed that the album made one «sit up and take notice of what is happening here, right under your nose.»[11] «Some Great Reward» saw the band exp
erimenting with even darker subject matter, exploring sexual politics («Master and Servant»), adulterous relationships («Lie to Me»), and arbitrary divine justice («Blasphemous Rumours»). Also included was the first Martin L. Gore ballad («Somebody») – a concept that would become a staple on all following albums. The album was also their first to enter the US album charts. In 1985, Sire released a second North American compilation «Catching Up with Depeche Mode», designed as a companion to the aforementioned «People Are People» compilation, and including a new single – «It’s Called a Heart».

It was during this period that the band became associated with the gothic subculture, which had begun in Britain, and was slowly gaining popularity in the United States. There, the band’s music had first gained prominence on college radio and modern rock stations such as KROQ in Los Angeles, and WLIR on Long Island, New York, and hence, they appealed primarily to a decidedly cultish, alternative audience who were disenfranchised with the predominance of «soft rock and «disco hell»»[12] on the radio. This view of the band was in sharp contrast to that in Europe and the UK, where Depeche Mode, despite the increasingly dark and serious tone in their songs. [13] In Germany (and other European countries), Depeche Mode were considered teen idols, and were regularly featured in teen magazines, providing their detractors with more ammunition to use against them.
Right after the Music for the Masses tour, the band released their first live album 101 a rockumentary documenting the band’s unprecedent success in the States.

Depeche Mode’s largest transformation came in 1986, with the release of their fifteenth single «Stripped», and its accompanying album Black Celebration. Jettisoning much of the «industrial-pop» sound that had characterised their previous two LPs (although they retained their often imaginative sampling), the band introduced an ominous, highly atmospheric and textured sound, accompanied by some of Gore’s bleakest, most insightful lyrics to date. Also included on the album was a revised version of the song «Fly on the Windscreen», which had originally appeared as the b-side to «It’s Called a Heart». The band recognised the song’s promise, and decided to improve it and include on the album, renamed as «Fly on the Windscreen – Final».[14]

The music video for «A Question of Time» was the first to be directed by Anton Corbijn,[15] beginning a working relationship that continues to the present day. Anton has directed 19 more of the band’s videos (the latest being 2006’s «Suffer Well») and live performances, and has been responsible for some of the band’s albums and singles covers.

1987’s Music for the Masses saw further alterations in the band’s sound and working methods. Dave Bascombe (who had previously worked with Tears for Fears) was brought in as a producer (although his role ended up being more that of an engineer),[16]and the band (for the most part) abandoned sampling in favour of more musical experimentation.[17] Although the chart performance of the singles («Strangelove», «Never Let Me Down Again», «Behind the Wheel») was disappointing, the album was almost universally praised by the music press – far more so than any other album the band had released. Record Mirror described it as «the most accomplished and sexy Mode album to date».[18] and, more important than that for the band, it made an impressive breakthrough in the American market, something which the band had failed to achieve with their previous albums.

On the heels of Music for the Masses, the group played a follow-up world tour in 1987—88. The tour culminated on 18 June in a concert at the Pasadena Rose Bowl with a sell-out attendance of 70,000 (the highest in eight years for the venue). The tour was documented in 101 – a concert film by D.A. Pennebaker, and its accompanying soundtrack album.

Middle history

1989–1994: Two hit albums

In mid-1989, the band began recording in Milan with record producer Flood. The result of this session was the single «Personal Jesus», which featured a bluesy, country-western-influenced sound, radically different from anything the band had released thus far. Prior to its release, advertisements were placed in the personal columns of UK regional newspapers with the words «Your own personal Jesus.» Later, the ads included a phone number one could dial to hear the song. The ensuing controversy helped propel the single to number 13 on the UK charts, becoming one of their biggest sellers; in the US, it was their first gold single and their first top 40 hit since «People Are People», eventually becoming the biggest-selling 12-inch single in Warner Brothers Records› history.[19] The song has been covered by (amongst others) Johnny Cash, Gravity Kills, and Marilyn Manson. It has also been sampled in Jamelia’s Beware of the Dog – with a remix of the two featured on the 2006 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in Los Angeles. In September 2006, it was voted by readers of music monthly Q as one of the 100 greatest songs of all time.
Violator was a major hit in Europe and the US

During this time, the band were gaining additional prominence in the US, where their influence on the techno and house music scenes was becoming increasingly recognised. Techno pioneers Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson and Juan Atkins regularly quoted Depeche Mode as an influence in their development of proto-techno music during the Detroit Techno explosion in the late 1980s.[20]

In February 1990, «Enjoy the Silence», became one of Depeche Mode’s most successful singles to date, reached #6 in the UK; a few months later in the US, it became Depeche Mode’s first (and to date, only) Top 10 pop hit, reaching #8, and earning the band a second gold single. It won ‹Best Single› at the 1991 Brit Awards. To promote their new album Violator, they held an in-store autograph signing at the Wherehouse Records music store in Los Angeles, which attracted approximately 17,000 fans and caused a near-riot.[21] Violator went on to reach top 10 in both the US and UK, and has been certified triple platinum, selling over three million units. The subsequent World Violation Tour was another notable success, with 40,000 tickets sold within eight hours for the New York Giants Stadium (in East Rutherford, New Jersey) show, and 48,000 tickets for the Los Angeles Dodger Stadium show sold within an hour of going on sale. Two more singles from the album, «Policy of Truth» and «World in My Eyes» were moderate UK hits.

By 1991, Depeche Mode had emerged as one of the world’s most successful acts. A one-off contribution to the Wim Wenders film, Until the End of the World, entitled «Death’s Door» and a third solo album released by Alan Wilder under the Recoil moniker bridged the gap between albums.
Songs of Faith and Devotion reached No. 1 in both the UK and US.

Depeche Mode significantly changed pace in 1993 with Songs of Faith and Devotion. Another substantial departure for the band – «SOFAD» saw them experimenting with more organic arrangements, based as much on heavily distorted electric guitars and live drums (played by Alan Wilder, whose debut as a studio drummer was the track «Clean» on Violator) as on synthesizers.[22] Live strings, uillean pipes and female choir vocals were other new additions to the band’s sound.

The album debuted at #1 in both the UK and the US, on the heels of the bluesy, grunge-influenced single «I Feel You». The 14-month «Devotional» world tour followed. It was documented by a concert video of the same name, and a second live album, Songs of Faith and Devotion Live. The live album was essentially a track-by-track reproduction of the eponymous album, designed to help boost sales figures of the studio album, and it proved to be a critical and commercial failure. By 1994 Depeche Mode were amongst the world’s elite stadium bands, alongside U2, R.E.M., INXS, and The Rolling Stones. Strains, however, were beginning to em
erge. Dave Gahan’s heroin addiction was starting to affect his behaviour, causing him to become more erratic and introverted. Martin L. Gore experienced a series of seizures, and Andy Fletcher declined to participate in the second «exotic» leg of the tour, due to «mental instability». During that period, he was replaced on-stage by Daryl Bamonte, who had worked with the band as a personal assistant for many years. [23]

1995–2000: Continued success through turmoil

In June 1995, Alan Wilder announced that he was leaving Depeche Mode, citing his «increasing dissatisfaction with the internal relations and working practices of the group».[24] He continued to work on his personal project Recoil, releasing a fourth album (Unsound Methods) in 1997.
Ultra – the first record following Alan Wilder’s departure.

Wilder claimed that he had contributed the lion’s share of work on past albums, and that «this level of input never received the respect and acknowledgement» it deserved.[25] Following Wilder’s departure, many were skeptical of whether Depeche Mode would ever record again. Gahan’s mental state and drug habit became a major source of concern, with an alleged suicide attempt (which Gahan has consistently denied), and a near-fatal overdose at his home in Los Angeles. In mid-1996, he finally entered a drug rehabilitation program to battle his heroin addiction.[26]

Despite Gahan’s increasingly severe personal issues, Gore tried repeatedly during 1995-1996 to get the band recording again. However, Dave would rarely turn up to scheduled sessions, and when he did, it would take weeks to get any vocals recorded. Gore was forced to contemplate breaking the band up, and releasing the songs he had written as a solo album.[27] In the end, Gore’s worries were unfounded, and in 1996, with Gahan out of rehab, Depeche Mode held recording sessions with producer Tim Simenon; the next year, the album Ultra and its two preceding singles, «Barrel of a Gun» and «It’s No Good», were released. The album again debuted at #1 in the UK. Due to the stress of the previous world tour, the band decided to forego touring altogether for Ultra. Despite this, the album received a lacklustre reception from the press and fans alike. The band have also recognised Ultra’s poor reception; live dates following the Singles Tour after the release of Ultra have seen only one Ultra song being played, or on many tour dates, none whatsoever.

A second singles compilation The Singles 86-98 was released in 1998, preceded by the new single «Only When I Lose Myself», which had been recorded during the «Ultra» sessions. The band set off on a 4 month tour that cemented their place as a quasi-permanent attraction, with a large touring attendance regardless of album sales. (U2, R.E.M., the Rolling Stones, and are some others in this category). The same year, a tribute album For the Masses was released, featuring Depeche Mode covers by bands such as The Smashing Pumpkins, The Cure and The Deftones.

Depeche Mode in the 2000s

2001–2004: Exciter

In 2001, Depeche Mode released Exciter, which was produced by Mark Bell (formerly of the pioneering techno group LFO). Bell introduced a minimalist, digital sound to much of the album, influenced by IDM and glitch. The album failed to achieve the same levels of sales as the band’s previous three releases, with many fans and critics feeling that the album was lacking depth, uninspired and underproduced. It was the first studio album by Depeche Mode to chart higher in the US than the UK. The critical response to the album was mostly apathetic and unexcited. Whilst it received reasonably positive reviews from some magazines (NME and US magazines Rolling Stone and L.A. Weekly), most others (including Q Magazine, PopMatters, and Pitchfork Media) derided it as sounding underproduced, dull and lacklustre.[28]. As with Ultra, the band have recognised Exciter’s poor reception; live dates following the Exciter tour have seen only one Exciter song being played, or on many tour dates, none whatsoever.

2003 saw the release of Gahan’s solo album, Paper Monsters, followed by a worldwide tour and an accompanying DVD, titled Live Monsters; Martin Gore continued his solo career with the release of Counterfeit² (a follow-up to his 1989 release Counterfeit); and Fletcher launched his own label, Toast Hawaii (the only outcome so far been the synth-pop group, Client).

In August that year, Mute released the DVD version of Devotional, filmed during their 1993 world tour, as well as a new remix compilation album Remixes 81 – 04 that compiled new and unreleased promo mixes of the band’s singles from 1981 to 2004, including a reinterpreted version of «Enjoy the Silence» by Mike Shinoda entitled «Enjoy the Silence 04», which was released as a single, and reached #7 on the UK charts.

2005–present: Playing the Angel and current events

On October 17, 2005, the band released their 11th studio album Playing the Angel and received very good reviews.
Depeche Mode, 2005.

Produced by Ben Hillier, this Top 10 hit (peaking at #1 in 17 countries) featured the hit single «Precious», peaking at #4 in the UK charts. The album was backed by the band’s first in-store signing since 1990, on the day of release in New York City. This is the first Depeche Mode album to feature lyrics written by Gahan and the first album since 1984’s Some Great Reward featuring songs not written by Gore.

With a prototypical version having been leaked onto the Internet some months earlier[29], the official video for «Precious» was released on September 12 on the Depeche Mode website, The second single from the album, «A Pain That I’m Used To,» was released on December 12, and the third single from the album was «Suffer Well,» the first ever post-Clarke Depeche Mode single not to be written by Gore (lyrics by Gahan, music by Philpott/Eigner).

Also on March 2, 2006, they released a video version of single «Suffer Well» sung in Simlish as it is featured on The Sims 2: Open for Business PC game soundtrack along with accompanying video (the group featured as Sims). They join 1980s pop bands, Kajagoogoo and Howard Jones in the PC game as musical contributors with their performances in Simlish.

To promote the Playing the Angel, the band launched the worldwide Touring the Angel in November 2005, taking them to fans in North America and Europe. The tour continued through the spring and summer of 2006. Depeche Mode also headlined the 2006 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Some of the gigs were their first ever shows in certain countries like Romania and Bulgaria. In March 2006, the website announced two dates in Mexico (a country they had not visited for twelve years). More than 55,000 tickets for a stadium in Mexico City were sold immediately, causing the band to schedule another date for the same venue and demonstrating that their popularity in Mexico is as significant as in many countries in Europe, where their audiences are frequently of 40,000 people. (To see information on «Touring the Angel» and other Depeche Mode tours, view Depeche Mode Tours)

Recordings of 50 shows were officially released on CDs. These limited edition Depeche Mode live albums published under the scheme title Recording the Angel were much sought after by collectors.

On April 3, 2006, remastered editions of Speak & Spell, Music for the Masses, and Violator were released, featuring remastered audio on CD and DVD-Audio, extra tracks and B-sides. In addition, each album comes with its own documentary charting the history of the band and the production of each album. The second installment of remastered albums were A Broken Frame, Some Great Reward and Songs of Faith and Devotion, all of which were released on October 2, 2006. Construction Time Again and Black Celebration were released on March 26, 2007 and both Ultra and Exciter are scheduled to be re-released in May 21, 2
007 and will be less remastered[30].

On September 25, 2006 Depeche Mode released their live DVD-CD set Touring The Angel: Live In Milan, directed by Blue Leach and recorded at Milan’s Fila Forum on February 18, and February 19, 2006. The DVD has a full concert on disc 1, bonus live songs «A Question of Lust» and «Damaged People» along with a 20-minute documentary featuring Anton Corbijn, official tour announcement from Germany in the summer of 2005, and the Playing the Angel electronic press kit on disc 2, and disc 3 is a CD with live versions of tracks from Playing the Angel.
The Best of Depeche Mode, Volume1

In addition, a «best-of» compilation was released in November of 2006, entitled The Best Of, Volume 1 featuring a new single «Martyr», an outtake from the Playing the Angel sessions.

On 2 November, Depeche Mode received the MTV Europe Music Award in the Best Group category. During that same period Fletcher confirmed that the band was on a long break after the massive «Touring the Angel» tour and that they soon would decide whether to go on hiatus or if they should start to write a new album.

In December of 2006, Depeche Mode was nominated for a Grammy award, for Best Dance Recording, for «Suffer Well.» This is their third Grammy award nomination. The first being a Best Long Form Music Video award in 1995 for Devotional and the second being for Best Dance Recording for I Feel Loved.

In mid-December, 2006, iTunes released The Complete Depeche Mode as its fourth ever digital box-set (following The Complete U2 in 2004, The Complete Stevie Wonder in 2005, and Bob Dylan: The Collection earlier in 2006).

Live supporting musicians
Peter Gordeno – keyboards, occasional electric bass and electric guitar (1998—)
Christian Eigner – occasional songwriting, drums (1997—)
Jordan Bailey – backing vocals (1998–2001)
Hildia Campbell – backing vocals (1993–1994)
Samantha Smith – backing vocals (1993–1994)
Daryl Bamonte – keyboards (1994)
Dave Clayton – keyboards (1997)
Janet Ramus – backing vocals (1998)
Georgia Lewis – backing vocals (2001)

Between 1998 and 2006, both Gordeno and Eigner were present on three consecutive tours; with Eigner on drums (and contributing to some of the songwriting on Playing the Angel with Gahan and Andrew Philpott) and Gordeno on keyboards.


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