Depeche Mode Press File


Photo of the band by unknown photographer. Reproduced without permission



by Mark Jenkins
Melody Maker, 22nd September, 1984

With a major tour coming up and a new album, 'Some Great Reward', wrapped and ready to go, DEPECHE MODE are back in the limelight. Mark Jenkins plays quizmaster while Tom Sheehan takes pictures.

DEPECHE Mode have a problem. It's not enough to be big in Britain any more - they have to think about being big everywhere at once. That makes considerations like having a single banned by the BBC fade into insignificance, although there's a good chance that will happen if the choose to follow up "Master and Servant" with the closing track of "Some Great Reward", their new album.

" ‘Blasphemous Rumours’ is really not an anti-religious song," insists Dave Gahan. "Of course it’s a personal statement on Martin’s part" (Martin Gore’s writing again dominates the album) "but at the same time it’s a statement of how everybody must feel at one time or another. We all had a bit of a religious upbringing, Andy particularly, and I went to church regularly for a year or so when I was about 18, so there’s obviously a bit of a rebellion against that. It’s just that – some of the things we noticed, like there’d always be a prayer list for certain people and the one at the top always died. Things like that…

"My mother’s side of the family were always religious, involved with the Salvation Army and so on, but she lived through so much tragedy… I don’t know how I’d feel by now, but then I’ve never been religious although she stuck to her beliefs. I used to go down to Sunday School with my sister on our bikes and instead of going in we’d just ride around for a couple of hours, and when we got back we’d say it was great."

The others agree that it’s not religion itself but having religion (or politics or any other belief) forced onto you that they dislike.

"People get too much preaching – even around the town in Basildon, you know? People cling to religion through fear of death," offers Martin. "It’s not a bad thing to be religious, in fact I think I’d be happier if I did believe."

"I turned away from religion because I found I was leading a really boring life," says Andy. "I wanted to live life to the full but I was trapped, and I thought ‘if I die tomorrow that’ll be it’… it’s a shame that Christianity is perverted and hyped so much, because it does have something to offer."

It turns out that Dave Gahan’s first public appearances were singing carols with the Salvation Army around the age of eight, something he couldn’t think of going back to because "so many unhappy things have happened that I just feel it can’t all be true." But "Blasphemous Rumours" is a strong (as well as catchy) song and needs a strong place on the album, BBC or no BBC.

"You have to take risks… you can’t be safe all the time, even if the kind of people you might offend are just the sort to kick up a fuss and start petitions and that sort of thing. They’re still a minority; we even had problems with ‘Master And Servant’ when the BBC called for a copy of the lyrics to check them out, but only one guy thought they were obscene, and he was away on holiday when the final decision was taken! The girl who took the decision agreed with us that it’s about love and life, which of course it is."

Pressured into making some comparison with Frankie, Dave goes thus far and no further. " ‘Master And Servant’ is a bit more subtle than ‘Relax’ but then it’s got a very different point to make. Frankie’s records sound good – but we don’t like to make a lot of comments about other bands…"

WRITERS like to sum up albums at a stroke, whether the artists want to make it that easy or not. Suggesting that "Some Great Reward" is dominated by "anti-love" songs brings a considered but emphatic "No" from Martin.

" ‘Lie To Me’ isn’t an anti-love song… it’s about a situation of paranoia which anybody could find themselves in. ‘Somebody’ is pretty much a straightforward ‘I love you’ song if you like, certainly not an anti-love song. The album’s about all sorts of things apart from love through… power, religion, life."

"Some Great Reward" has once again been produced by the band, engineer Gareth Jones and Daniel Miller, the man behind Mute, The Silicon Teens and The Normal. But Miller’s been quoted as saying that he doesn’t see himself as a producer…

"It’s a co-production. Daniel takes ideas from the band as well as giving them, but it’s difficult to explain what goes on over a period of four months. It’s all quite diplomatic, and he won’t make us use anything we don’t like, but every team works in a particular way that’s very hard to explain. We need an outside view or we wouldn’t take so much care over the songs and the sounds – if it wasn’t for Daniel we’d have a lot more arguments too!"

The band feel that their standards have gone up on this album, and swear that the backing tapes from the "Speak And Spell" tour now sound horribly sloppy to their newly-trained ears.

"We spent days doing just one or two sounds or rhythms this time – we went over the top really and it cost us a few bob, but it’s paid off because this is the first album we’re all really proud of. Not that we don’t like the others, it’s just that this one is so much better in terms of sound quality."

On the subject of backing tapes, was there any desire to try to play a completely live set on the forthcoming tour?

"We’re aware of the limitations of using a backing tape, it takes away a lot of the spontaneity, but we can’t see ourselves playing with a live drummer at this stage. Nobody could play precisely enough or give us all the sounds we’ve used in the studio, but we’ve found other ways to make things a bit more visual.

"We’ve got a moving set with lots of scaffolding, slide screens and so on to match the album sleeve – Jane who worked with us last time wanted to take some of the ideas a bit further – but we don’t think there’s any danger of being compared to industrial bands like Einsturzende Neubaten.

"Granted, we use a lot of metallic sounds, but so do a lot of people from Bowie onwards, and in any case we’re using those ideas in the context of pop songs. Hitting bits of metal is very visual, and you can’t get away from the fact that some of our old TV appearances with three pairs of hands playing keyboards were just boring!

"You need something else, and when we’ve got something more visual we look more confident – that’s why we do things like playing the shawm (a Chinese oboe) on the ‘Everything Counts’ video, even though it was just another keyboard sound. Some people wrote to us to say they felt cheated that we hadn’t spent three months learning to play a shawm, but I don’t see that at all…"

Dave’s main pleasure in the band is still live work, despite the feeling that they’ve taken on a lot in the new gig schedule.

"The fewer gigs you do on a tour the more you enjoy yourself. I love the audience contact, it gives me a big kick that you can’t get in the studio or on TV – I always feel a great deal of power when I can make 6,000 people do what I want. We’re about to embark on a huge tour, though – more dates than we wanted to do really, ending towards Christmas and taking in Germany, Sweden, Holland, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland.

"There are a few days off, but the gigs are mostly back to back – when we get a day off it’s always a Sunday in Hanley. Have you ever been in Hanley on a Sunday? You look at a couple of antique shops, you wander about thinking ‘what the hell can I do?’, you go back to the hotel and watch a couple of videos. It’s awful.

"After this lot most of us will be wanting a holiday. The last German tour finished right before Christmas and by that time it had got very difficult to do something different every night. My mind used to drift sometimes and I’d forget the words – it’s even worse for the others because they’re going to be stuck behind two Emulators, and there’s no way you can move them around, but a lot of the audiences don’t seem to notice that we don’t move much. I like moving about the stage now – at one time I used to keep still and just clutch the mike stand – but now I go to different parts of the audience and play up to them."

One song on the album which shows a complete departure from the electro-dance style is "Somebody", which features a rare performance on piano from Alan. Martin takes the vocal, and says the song’s simplicity "is based on a sort of Jonathan Richman back-to-basics theory. It’s performed all together – it just needed three takes, mainly to get the sound okay – and really uses the bare essentials.

"In fact I sang it completely naked in the cellar of the studio which we use for ambience, and the others sent the female tape op downstairs while I was doing it to ‘check the connections’."

Dave recounts how they stood with baited breath until a small Germanic scream tipped them off – he mimics Martin’s (possible) reaction, and goes on to say that if every song on the album had been done as quickly they’d stand a better chance of making some money out of it.

COST is an increasing preoccupation in the band’s considerations while recording, but working in the German Hansa studio rather than London’s Music Works at least means fewer interruptions, although it still demanded a month of recording time. The first album cost around £8,000, which was cheap for the time, but now the band are much more satisfied with the results even if they’ve had to pay the price.

Dave comments: "I’m very pleased with the vocal sound on this one – it’s a lot to do with having confidence and a lot to do with being comfortable with the engineer. Also, I took a couple of lessons with Tona deBrett, scales and things, and I didn’t see much application to singing pop songs but I wanted to do more for the breathing control.

"Sometimes when I’m running across the stage and singing I get very out of breath. On this album we took more care on the vocals – if you like, it’s our ‘together’ album which is why a line from one of the songs is quoted on the sleeve, ‘the world we live in and life in general’."

"Some Great Reward" seems a more personal album than "Construction Time Again", which the band agree could be called a "political" album "but only for want of a better word".

"It’s not as if we’ve suddenly returned to playing pop," says Martin, "it’s just a more mature album. We feel 100 per cent confident about it, and a good few of our friends have been pleasantly shocked when we played it to them – they couldn’t believe that we could record something like this. A lot’s changed since Vince left three years ago, and the people who gave us less positive reactions in the past when we deserved them aren’t afraid to tell us now that they like what we’re doing.

"That’s really good – through being with Mute we were given a chance to develop in our own time without being manipulated into giving away posters or free singles or anything like that. When we do a remix of a single we make sure it is something really different that gives value for money – Daniel’s against a lot of fancy packaging anyway – but we’ve been lucky in that the real fans have always bought the singles. In four albums and 10 or 11 singles we’ve never really had a low period, the fans have been very loyal, and if we did put out ‘Blasphemous Rumours’ and it got banned they’d still be buying it."

The band are totally involved with sleeve design and set design and pity others who don’t share this enviable position ("after a while you realise how much some other bands are manipulated…"). They’re doubly lucky in that Mute owns all the computer equipment they need to record, since it’s also used by other acts on the label.

The gear lets them exploit ideas from all the different types of music with which they come into contact ("Systems music – Steve Reich – Philip Glass – Gamelan orchestras – all sorts of things!") and have infinite flexibility as to who plays what and how each sound is created.

Some of the sounds on "Master And Servant" – such as the whip effect – are based on Daniel Miller standing in the studio hissing and spitting ("we tried to sample a real whip but it was hopeless"). Anything that’s impossible to play live ends up on the backing tape for stage purposes, although Dave, Martin and Andy have a healthy respect for the potential of Alan’s more developed keyboard skills.

Since so many "real" sounds are creeping into the music, are we likely to see Depeche Mode assuming rockist guitar poses again in the near future? Martin thinks not – "I played an acoustic guitar on stage last time, and we mime to some of the drum parts on ‘Master And Servant’, but I don’t feel too happy about it. We use samples of guitar sounds if we like them but we don’t think about whether they come from guitars or not, we just want a new sound.

"We don’t think about being ‘anti-guitar’, but a lot of the old electronic bands are going back to guitars, and if we did that just for the visual effect or so that we could move around a bit, we’d end up being blander instead – looking just like anybody else. We’re prepared to do things for TV to make it look a bit more exciting though!"

DESPITE their willingness to play up to the cameras, the band are convincing in their insistence that "the new album is 100 per cent sincere. We’d like people to see in it passion, intensity and sincerity. The last one got good reviews so we expect a few iffy ones this time – usually your enemies slag it off and your friends are so positive that they don’t tell you anything really. A lot of people still tend to write us off, but we think ‘Construction Time Again’ was a turning point and a lot of new people now know what we can do."

And as for the image (or lack of one)?

"It’s really as unified as it’ll ever get now. We’re misfits – we don’t fit into an area, although other companies might have pushed us into one. In the long run it’s a benefit, but we do find people can’t put faces to our music even now."

Dave adds, "… and that’s a good thing – we’re on the edge now, between commercial and non-commercial music, and I think that’s a good place to be."

Questioned on the expected reception of "Some Great Reward", Dave offers: "I took a lot of time getting to know all the songs on this one and I think we deserve a lot. ‘People Are People’ was a German Number One and ‘Master And Servant’ is at 15 in Germany, so it ought to do well, but some of the reviews can be very negative.

"One guy who slagged us last time told us he only listened to half the album at four in the morning and that he’d got to like it since, but by then the damage had been done – when you’ve spent three months recording an album that sort of thing is really disgusting.

"A lot of people are going to be expecting ‘Construction Time Again Part Two’, because they liked the ‘political’ content of the last one, but that’s not what ‘Some Great Reward’ is all about and we might get slagged for that.

"We hope that everybody will see it as our best yet, but journalists can be unpredictable. Then again, so can we…"

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only. Photo by Tom Sheehan reproduced without permission.


SOME GREAT REWARD - released September 24, 1984

Greatness And Perfection

"And to think that not so long ago Depeche Mode were regarded as a bit of a joke. Those desperately shallow early singles, the tedium of the TV appearances, the sheer monotony of most of the "Speak And Spell" live show. And then a very strange thing happened.

Suddenly, the Basildon boys took a quick look at what they were doing, decided to dump it in the nearest garbage can, and emerged into the brand new daylight with a body of truly wonderful songs, topped by a hat which has "politically aware" written all over it.

With the dubious benefit of hindsight, it is now clear that the departure from the ranks of Vince Clarke was an almighty blessing in disguise, freeing the massive songwriting potential of young Martin Gore. Under his guidance, Britain’s finest exponents of the beast known as electropop developed into something that even their most loyal supporters from the salad days could not have thought possible. Namely, a band that was truly popular and populist all at the same time, and one which threw in the odd dose of proletarian consciousness just for good measure.

As hit followed hit followed hit, it suddenly became clear that we were looking at a most remarkable phenomenon. Good God, I do believe that we are talking about a sparkling Eighties version of the Jam.

There is a truly remarkable development in the Voice of Gahan. He’s either been hiding the old tonsils underneath a very big bush for the last few years, or else some rather serious lessons have been taken in recent months. Either way, the end result is a most strange kind of wonderful, with a deeper, more mellow croon now dominating the proceedings. It’s apparent right from the word go, with "Something To Do" proudly pushing it right up into the front of the mix, as if to say "well here you are now ladies and gentlemen, this is what you all wet your pants over in the bad old days".

As if all that isn’t quite enough to be thinking about, "Lie To Me" suddenly booms out of the speakers with what I swear to George Clinton sounds very like a Funkadelic breed of slapping bass smeared all over the place. Indeed, it says quite a bit about the general standard of the first five in a row here that "People Are People" sticks out only through its relative mediocrity.

Gore has always said that "Some Great Reward" heralds a return to the more poppy side of things, but what he forgot to mention was that this seemingly retrogressive step would actually include (deep breath) ballads. That’s right, slow songs, songs that meander around all over the place, songs a million miles removed from the standard frenetic dash of the early product.

"It Doesn’t Matter" and "Stories Of Old" are splendidly pathetic in the true sense of the word, the one sounding vaguely OMD-at-their-bestish, while the latter is much more vintage Basildon beat with a few background noises that have somehow made their way across from a record made in the late Sixties called "The White Album".

How did that get in here? God only knows, so we’ll turn the damned thing over before it bites and just quickly point out that "Master And Servant" fulfils the same role as its predecessor on side one by looking very duff indeed when it decides to keep such exalted company.

"Somebody" is simply stunning, the best vocal ever recorded without its clothes on, while the already controversial "Blasphemous Rumours" may get the braces in a twist up at Broadcasting House but will undoubtedly make a lot of sense out there in the real world. Apart from the fact that it’s destined all the way for the top, ban or no ban, it is basically just a simple and suitably muddled query about the seemingly irreconcilable link-up between blind faith in an essentially Beneficial Being and the harsh tragedies of everyday life. And yes, you can dance to it.

Nine tracks then, two of them already released to ecstatic reactions despite the fact that they’re by far the weakest songs on the whole thing. There’s certainly more than enough here to shut all the critics up once and for all, but just in case you still fancy a little row it might be best to bear this in mind. It used to be okay to slag this bunch off because of their lack of soul, their supposed synthetic appeal, their reluctance to really pack a punch. "Some Great Reward" just trashes such bad old talk into the ground and demands that you now sit up and take notice of what is happening here, right under your nose.

No? Ah well, snobbery always was the greatest sin of all."

Barry McIlheney
Melody Maker, 29th September, 1984

 Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.

Modeahead? Uh-Uh…
But How Do You Rate The Review, Lads?

"IT'S PECULIAR how Depeche Mode continue to pursue a career of mild critical favour and reasonable chart success – year after year, hit after hit. From Vince Clarke to playschool socialism, from tinny teen pop to bits of metal, Depeche Mode have never been objects of vilification, or flavour of the month. Like teapots, they just seem to be there.

Part of the reason for this tepid enthusiasm must be Depeche Mode's inability to escape the limits of their interest of the moment, or, more accurately, to fulfil the expectation aroused by such interests. While journalists raved about the band's sudden charge into revolutionary socialist electro-bop, all DM actually came up with was "Everything counts/In large amounts".

And when they were well suited to be the band that melded the more accessible ideas of Einsturzende Neubauten and the like with day-to-day pop, they failed to produce anything from the two styles, other than add the odd bonking noise and clatter. It was novel on 'Everything Counts', but when the same bonk and clatter turns up on 'Master And Servant', the wrong kind of repetitiveness is recalled.

Some Great Reward accordingly suffers from too many missed grips on good ideas. It ought to be an intelligent chart contender, a mix of commercial class and magpie manipulation of the unconventional; it isn't. When that bonk and clatter is used on this album, it's just a nod to left-field, rather than use of the sound.

Often the tunes are ordinary; Martin Gore, as ever, favours a bit of a drone. In small doses (singles) this is fine. Over 40 minutes, the interest begins to wane. Dave Gahan's voice has improved greatly – in that he's learned how to use its limited range – but like the melodies, it imparts mucho sameiness to the record. Put together, they cause the toe to tap vaguely.

It's the lyrics which prove a further disappointment. They avoid the usual trite havens of pop writing, but Gore's choice of subject-matter is never met by an equally striking way with words. 'People Are People' may well be directed toward a noble theme, but it offers as much insight as 'Ebony And Ivory'. And what ought to be the most striking song, the closer, 'Blasphemous Rumours', is a lucky-bag of soap-opera cliche. Its theme – "I don't want to start any blasphemous rumours/But I think that God's got a sick sense of humour/And when I die/I expect to find him laughing" – is illustrated with tales of young girls on life support machines the moment they find the Lord, tears falling from mothers' eyes, and so forth. If it's a subject you wouldn't find on Into The Gap or Human's Lib, it's still treated with almost the hamfistedness of Howard or Alannah.

All of this is annoying more than anything else; because for their attitudes, for the way they approach pop songs, for what they want to achieve, and for the times they do achieve it, Depeche Mode can be one the few acts worthy of the name "pop group". It's just that they should be so much better."

David Quantick
New Musical Express, 6th October, 1984

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.

"The pleasant surprise of the year as former electropop prettyboys grow up. "Some Great Reward" has songs that are sentimental with the right touch of cynicism, it's Depeche Mode with some new maturity in lyrics. The music itself is a little harder too - an almost industrial, metallic sound now comes through. The real standout is "Somebody", the most unlike Depeche track on the album. It's a voice and piano piece which is the best summing up of the perfect person everyone wants in their life. The two top dance singles "People Are People" and "Master And Servant" are included. A couple of throwbacks to the early 80's Depeche sound just stop the record from being perfect." (9 out of 10)

Ross Clelland
Smash Hits (AUS)

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"Opening with what sounds like an overheating brain scanner, the LP ends with a human breath. What lies inbetween is a complex interaction between a metallic, computarised rhythmic core and more organic sounds ranging from spanking to spinning tops. Like "Construction Time Again", it analyses politics, power and the more ideologically unsound aspects of life, framing all this in sturdy pop songs riddled with intoxicating melodies. One word of warning: it sounds wrong on an old record player. Definately music for Walkmans with added compact speakers." (8 out of 10)

Peter Martin
Smash Hits (UK)

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"This is a difficult record. Its qualities are sometimes too subtle and its mistakes painfully obvious. It can have you hating it one minute and begging for more the next. Essentially it is fine modern music. I say modern because Depeche Mode have no influences. Something that can't be said for today's endless array of 60s regurgitators. I'm going to sell a lot of my records soon, this will be one I keep."

Mark Phillips
Rip It Up

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"The sadly under-rated Depeches turn out consistently excellent singles. But 45s rather than LPs remain their forte.

They've progressed a million musical miles from their boppy origins, but Martin Gore's lyrics haven't kept up. Over a whole LP, their gaucheness is a major distraction from the record's musical merits. Love the group, but I only like 'SGR'." 3/5

No. 1, 29th September, 1984

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"Pop goes to your house! OK, so I already expected to like this album, despite the Test Dept image plagiarism, despite the teen paper glamour and even the pop fashionability, Depeche Mode have always won through with that most endearing of qualities – good tunes. I just didn’t expect to be surprised. Thundering rhythms, offbeat drum machines, you know the kinda thing. Great for the singles, terrific for the first album, but then? Depeche Mode, however, have kept a trump card well up their sleeves – a crazy little thing called love. The Depeche boys are in lerv and doesn’t it show! This album leans away from sheer power, from anti-capitalist ideas or whatever, and heads itself firmly in for feelings. And the combination of the Depeche strength of vocal and now the Depeche delicacy is going to be hard to beat. This package is a carefully assorted, daintily arranged symphony. It’s a tender trade-off, one that carries emotion, devotion and yet never gives way to feebleness or predictability. "Somebody", for example, quietly pumps its way into the dominatrix tale of "Master And Servant" (as yet unblemished by the Mike Read school of morals), a recipe of unexpected variations and a tasteful blend of effects that lasts right through the album. This is Depeche turning from general issues inwards, experiencing and then illustrating life and how to live it. "Blasphemous Rumours" is a harshly melodic, highly cynical look at God; and to make that work, there has to be a new confidence. OK, as you’ve probably guessed, the lyrics look trite, often naïve and frequently cliched when printed out in industrial grey and white. Yet Depeche have the right balance and necessary gauche to pull it off. Perhaps it’s simply that power – never mawkish – that sustains it. Whichever way, the combination locks in. The Depeche Mode clicks. This is an album I can see myself settling down with over the long winter months."

Carole Linfield
Sounds, 29th September, 1984

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.



Empire Theatre, Liverpool - September 29, 1984
Some Great Reward Tour

"DESTRUCTION time again? Let’s hear it for the great misunderstood masters of ignored creativity.

If Depeche Mode think they should be taken more seriously, perhaps it’s not just their critics they should be worried about. And if they want to be listened to, perhaps they’re not in quite the right place tonight. The music starts and so do the screams, the whole theatre bouncing by the time the curtain rises on four ramps, three lots of keyboards, a tape recorder and one leather-clad hip-swiveller.

But their music doesn’t bounce these days – or, rather, doesn’t just bounce – and the signs say there’s something here that should be important. The stage set, an impressive design in fashionable grey, combines hi-tec metallics with occasional projections and dearly wants to say something about the music. But, if there’s any metal in the sound, it’s molten. There are no edges.

Whether the failure’s technical or artistic is hard to say – perhaps the screams are submerging the subtleties of the songs. For the most part, though, the music is no more than a subliminal accompaniment to the event: those hips, those screams, the hardware and the lights. Whether the music’s bubblegum, metal-bashing or ballads, the ‘event’ is simply pop and the strongest messages are visual.

The packaging of the LP, "Some Great Reward", is an opposition of work and romance, real life and illusion. On stage, the packaging extends that opposition with the same quasi-industrial background and, out in front, pop stars. They beg reappraisal but they play the old hits.

Despite the 50/50 mix of boys and girls, it’s the gyratory aspect that seems most important to the audience and the responses soon become wearisome and predictable. The agile Dave Gahan plays to the audience with unremitting energy and every time those leather legs move in the slightest, the screams drown the music.

Depeche Mode are caught between two stools at the moment, unable to discover a means of presenting their serious aspirations, compared to The Thompson Twins, this is art but do Test Dept. instigate clap-alongs? On this stage there’s a choice of modes. At this stage, it’s a choice that will soon have to be made."

Penny Kiley
Melody Maker, 6th October, 1984

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only. Photo by Tom Sheehan. Reproduced without permission.

To read a review of the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall gig on October 2, 1984, click here


SOMEBODY/BLASPHEMOUS RUMOURS (Double A-Side) - released October 29, 1984

"These guys may bash bits of scrap metal together and stick it over a dance beat but when it comes to the crunch they're softies underneath like the rest of us. This is a big lush ballad with tasteful sound effects."

Unknown reviewer
Smash Hits

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"Depeche Mode are becoming a Very Important band indeed.

Pretentious though it may sound, Depeche's powerhouse Martin Gore is one of the few songwriters genuinely concerned with the politics of life in the '80s - unhampered by side-issues of style and blatant commerciality.

'Somebody' gently unfurls the map of a modern relationship and explores every fold. The double A-side, 'Blasphemous Rumours' weighs religion and reality with precision and feeling.

Thought provoking stuff."

Martin Townsend
No. 1, 3rd November, 1984

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"'Blasphemous Rumours' ... is a routine slab of gloom in which God is given a severe ticking off."

Neil Tennant
Smash Hits, 8th November, 1984

"IT'S not one of the best Depeche records I've ever heard. "Somebody" just doesn't work at all, which is a pity because generally I like them. I think Martin's got to be very, very careful. "People Are People" was a classic example of a great record spoiled because of the way he strings his words together. I mean, "Why should we treat each other so awfully?" or whatever it was - hardly a classic rock 'n' roll line is it?
He does verge on the twee sometimes but then one of the things I like so much about Depeche is that they can drift off and try things and succeed very well and still maintain that teenybop audience. Now that's pretty damn clever by anybody's standards."

Feargal Sharkey
Melody Maker, 3rd November, 1984

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.


Hammersmith Odeon, London - November 1-4, 1984
Some Great Reward Tour

"The lesser spotted Gahan: a strange bird. Its mating cry of "Wooaargh" and strange ritual dances and twirls are expertly demonstrated as Depeche Mode breathe fresh life into the mausoleum known as Hammersmith Odeon. Gahan headbutts the air, showers the first five rows with sweat and the audience shout raucously in response. It’s the hips… it’s definitely the hips.

Never having seen Depeche Mode live, I realise I’ve been missing a whole different side to them. On record they have an air of musical maturity and lyrical innocence. Technically perfect, there’s a feeling of vulnerability which forms a major part of their wide appeal. Live, Depeche Mode are all this, with the added ingredient of FUN.

Dave Gahan is the moving part of the performance – only once is the centre stage taken from him as Martin Gore emerges to sing "Somebody", hands clasped in front like a rubber coated choirboy. A popular lad is Martin. Cries for him are only matched by the rabid yells accompanying Dave’s rippling shoulder muscles during the second encore. Alan Wilder and Andrew Fletcher, meanwhile, remain resolutely behind their stacks of boxes, only emerging to milk the applause at the end.

It was a night of greatest hits and choice album cuts, with "Blasphemous Rumours" standing out for the use of lights and slides to accompany it and "Shout" and "Master And Servant" getting the perspiration rate up nicely.

Depeche Mode proved tonight that they have more energy than all the new breed of clean cut, white-teethed popsters could summon up in a year. You really should rehearse a third encore you know boys."

Eleanor Levy
Record Mirror, 24th November, 1984

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only. Photo by Joe Shutter. Reproduced without permission.



by Don Watson
New Musical Express, 22nd December, 1984

You thought they were prissy pinkos. But no! They drink, talk to girls, wear leather mini-skirts! Don Watson walks tall with Depeche Mode, the new Neubatens of Basildon.
Photos by Derek Ridgers.

IT'S JUST one of those winter evenings.

Depeche Mode’s "Some Great Reward" LP plays inside the room while outside the window, and behind the opposite terrace, the tower block windows light up one by one.

The telephone rings.

Cracking down the line, a strained voice echoes the sound inside the record machine: "I can’t stand another drink / It’s surprising this town doesn’t sink… Is there something to do?"

Probably not, but then there’s another temporary reprieve in the offing – a few wild nights in Berlin, the chance to chat with the nice boys from Depeche Mode.

"Depeche Mode," crackles the voice in the phone, "who exactly are they anyway?"

Good point. Given half an hour I could name you all their singles; given half a bottle I could sing you a few as well, with a medley from the LPs as an encore. But describe a member of Depeche Mode? Well, one of them’s got a blonde fringe, but then so have I, one of them looks like an old friend of mine who looked sort of… normal. And the other two? Pass.

Flicking through the NME archives for further information, with the rationale that to recognise your interviewee might not be a bad idea, something begins to emerge.

"Are you a member of Depeche Mode?" a young Basildon boy asked Paul Morley in 1981.

"What happened to your fringe?" a Dublin girl asked X. Moore in 1983 (tantamount to asking Ian Paisley what happened to that nifty black beret and shades combo he used to wear to terrorist funerals).

By the time I arrive at the Munich hotel, to be greeted by clutches of wide-eyed and hopeful-looking Bavarian boppers proffering pens and paper and demanding autographs, I’m beginning to twig something – NOBODY knows who Depeche Mode are.

I consider really confusing them by signing anyway, but hell, why should I do the band’s PR work? I’m not him – eiben spien ein journalist! They clearly don’t believe me.

Later I discover a genuine Mode, Andrew Fletcher – Fletch, natch! – bright-eyed, ginger-haired and blessed with possession of a pair of black NHS glasses that never rest on face or in case for too long at a time.

"We actually base our style on the NME journalists," he explains, "in fact we were hoping to discuss a deal whereby you, X. Moore, Paul Morley and another of your choice go on the road for us, while we have a month off."

On the road? Shiver. Well, I’m not sure you could afford the other two, and I could foresee some disagreements on band direction.

"You big in Germany then?" enquires straight man photographer Derek Ridgers, who does not, during the entire stay, get mistaken for a member of Depeche Mode.

"About six foot two," replies Fletch gleefully.

IN FACT, Depeche Mode are moderately enormous in Germany. In Munich they play to a hall packed with hip and hysterical young things (and plain things), a capacity crowd of great haircuts, lousy dancers and lighter flames held aloft. In Berlin they play to a capacity crowd and a selection of fireworks in a cycle track.

Fletch pauses for thought. "Are we a mega-band?" he wonders.

Depeche Mode could sell-out the world, and still be one of the least mega-bands on the planet. They may play football stadiums, but their sound will still be stamped indelibly with the mark of the youth club disco – which is, in itself neither a good or bad thing, just a fact. Depeche are the original small town boys. The question is, given that, what do they do: and the answer is quite a lot.

The stated aim of pop music in 1984 appears to be regression, its position strictly foetal. Meanwhile the music press for the most part adopts an attitude of cowed condescension: "Yes that’s all very well, but if I was a mentally retarded six-year-old, I’d want Boy George telling me that war is stupid too."

In the Face of this, Depeche Mode are a Sound that in its own small way remains committed to the idea of pop music as a dynamic force – eclectic and even plagiaristic but always open. The difference between "People are people" and "War is stupid" as a statement may be minimal, but if you want a statement phone the bank; the difference between George’s Moonie chant and Depeche Mode’s shiny metal pop is where my interest lies.

The show in Munich is punchy, polished but still unpredictable enough to rupture the melodic surface. Dave Gahan, once the most unassuming of front men, races around the stage jerking hips and engaging the audience in call and response routines. If this were Bono I might throw up, yet in this context these gestures appear just what they are – a bizarre and rather amusing ritual.

"Full of 14 and 15-year-olds," bemoans one backstage sweetie who might just have scraped 16.

How do you feel now you’ve sold out, Fletch?

"Sick as a parrot."


At this point hordes of girls burst into the dressing rooms. "Depeche Mode, After Show" read the passes; scrawled below in thick black felt tip they all read "Sex".

Dave Gahan groans, conversation is interrupted.

DEPECHE MODE have become a big noise, but they’ll never be faces. In an age of stultifying conformity – of the well-rounded sound, the docile look and the manufactured style – they are a charming anachronism. They have a personal anatomy that bears no relation to the reluctant facelessness of Howard Jones and Nik Kershaw, because it is not a front for mediocrity. They are not non-entities struggling to be somebodies, they simply are – gawky, inelegant, likeable, sharp.

They’ll never record a masterpiece with the quivering angst of an "Art Of Falling Apart", but in their own clean way they continue to produce pop singles with a shiver of… well, if not the forbidden, at least the unexpected: "See You" with its echoed tones and buried vocals, "Everything Counts" with its offbeat sweetness and verbal slapstick, "Blasphemous Rumours" with its arch naivety and hidden percussive edge.

BY THE next day the fans who inhabit the lobby of the hotel seem to have worked out that I’m not part of the band.

The first thing I am faced with, in fact, is a TV camera (not before breakfast, please). The people behind the lens may not take me for a Mode, but they may have any number of unsavoury roles in their slice of fiction to slot me into – dealer, male groupie or leather skirt maker. For this is Bravo TV, an offshoot of Germany’s apocryphal pop mag.

"It’s no good refusing to talk to them," says Fletch, "they’ll just go ahead and make it up anyway.

"The last time we refused an interview with them, they made up a story about Dave having to be carried off-stage at the end of every performance, taken to a separate dressing room and kept supplied with constant fluids.

"The time before that they said we hated everyone under 20, which made us very popular with their readership."

As we make our way through the swing doors, Dave makes a theatrical fall on the hotel courtyard.

"Help! I need a cup of coffee," he wails as the rest of the band crowd around him.

"Oh God!" shams Al, "this happens all the time."

The camera moves in closer.

MARTIN GORE sports a blond fringe and an artificial tan. He was once asked if he was a member of the Osmond family, but then that was in Mauritius.

He drinks scotch and coke, lives in Berlin with girlfriend Christina, and wears his own leather mini-skirt on stage. The weight of post-Vince-Clarke-Mode songwriting lies on his shoulders rather lighter than the serious music press sometimes imagine.

Someone like the inexcusable Susan Williams, the repetitive hack who fast becomes the pantomime dame of the pop press, would lambast them in words of less than one syllable for the frivolity of "The Meaning Of Love" or give them the thumbs up (or equivalent favourable gesture from Witherington Smythe’s "Working Class Body Language For The Downwardly Mobile Socialist") for a line like All we need at the start’s universal revolution. In both cases what he’d miss is the humour with which the songs are constructed.

Martin looks at me with a certain incredulous gaze that says: "Aren’t you going to ask me whether ‘Blasphemous Rumours’ means I’m an atheist?"

I look back with a reassuring expression which says: "Frankly my dear Martin, your religious convictions are, in the nicest possible way, a matter of extreme indifference to me."

He smiles. "Humour? Yes! There’s always been a certain amount of humour about our music that people have never seen, we never even get asked about it. On the current LP there’s a verse that goes ‘You’re feeling the boredom too / I’d gladly go with you / I’d put your leather boots on / I’d put your pretty dress on’, and everyone just accepts it without a thought."

Instead you’re asked about the colour of your socks or the shade of your political opinion.

"Exactly, a teeny pop band, or the new messiahs."

Do you want to be seen to go around making serious comments on religion and politics?

"No," says Martin.

"It’s getting a bit like that, though," says Dave, "complete banality or the meaning of life – people seem to expect one or the other. ‘Construction Time’ was a really good LP I thought, but it was also a very simple LP. It wasn’t hard-hitting or trying to ram messages down people’s throats. It was a social awareness that came out of just noticing what was happening in the places that we’d visited.

"We were so naïve when we came into it, but by the time of ‘Broken Frame’ we were beginning to realise how much of the music business was just one big farce. We discovered all the corruption, the big business, the marketing campaigns."

And it didn’t make you want to give up?

"No, if anything it strengthened my resolve to go on, to learn more about it all."

Just awareness, that simple? Not Basildon’s red electro poppers? "Aaargh!" says Dave. "We even did a TV programme in Belgium, and they had this whole haystack set up, ready for us to play on top of, and these huge great red flags, blowing in a wind machine. Then there was a bunch of peasants who were supposed to stand behind us, waving bloody hammers and sickles.

"So we said, ‘We can’t do that. They just go, ‘Oh it’s OK, it doesn’t have the same meaning over here’. You’ve got twenty-foot long red flags behind you and all these heroic peasants and they expect you to believe it doesn’t have any meaning. Unbelievable."

"We’re all basically Sun readers," says Fletcher, eager to labour the point. "So many of the songs are really funny, though," he continues, "there’s a lot of, er… Baz phrasings."


"Things you’d hear people saying in Basildon, but not so much elsewhere. Most of them are quite humorous in themselves, but most people don’t get them, particularly if they’re not Basos. Things like ‘The world we live in and life in general’. I mean, people really seem to think we’re serious when we write things like that."

WHAT MAKES "Some Great Reward" a good LP, like "Construction Time Again" before, is a scattering of irony and a search for diversity in the sound. Any reference to their actual music in the recent rash of rather awful critical writing about Depeche, though, has concentrated on their apparent approbation of the metal motif. Most laughably, they’ve been termed a "smoothed out SPK". Anyone, of course, who has heard SPK’s continuing deterioration since the dreadful "Metal Dance" is aware that they are desperately struggling towards the form of commerciality that Depeche achieve with the grace of second nature.

"It’s not just metal anyway," interpolates Fletch, "when we first started sampling for the Synclavier, we went out and hit cars, we threw bricks at fings and everyfink."

"I think really we have nicked a few of Neubaten’s ideas," says Martin. "I was at their ICA date, when they did the metal concerto, and the power and the excitement of it was brilliant. What we’re doing, though, is using the ideas in a different context, in the context of pop."

Neubaten leader Blixa Bargeld, for his part, is in total agreement. He came along on the Berlin date and was thoroughly amused. He is currently working with Gareth Jones and Adrian Sherwood, the pair responsible for Depeche’s special mixes.

What impresses me about Depeche Mode is their lack of the ghost of a contrived idea. After four LPs, they’ve become more aware of the corruption that surrounds the music business, but through the protection of Daniel Miller’s Mute label, they’ve maintained a certain purity of vision. To them it still seems simple.

"Melody has always been very important to Martin," says Dave, "so I think we always will be a melodic band, but I think we’ll probably gravitate to the experimental side. We’ve always been interested in sound, and as the technology goes on, we’ll move with it. A lot of the time we actually are the first people to use the technology as it comes out, which is great because it makes the possibilities so wide. The things you can do with a Synclavier are really exciting.

"I look at a lot of other people that used sampled sounds in disappointment nowadays, they just seem to hire a Fairlight, sample a few orchestral sounds and that’s it. It all seems really boring. If you’re going to spend that amount of money hiring a piece of equipment, then why not explore it. We still haven’t explored it to the full, not in the slightest.

"There’s a lot of rubbish talked about electronic music at the moment," says Martin.

There’s a lot of rubbish made by electronic bands at the moment.

"Yes, that’s true, but it is still a modern form of music. I mean, look at the rest of it. We’ve got the jazz revival… again."

"We actually are using a lot of sounds that are natural sounds," says Dave, "but they’re processed through the Synclavier, which gives a sound that’s a lot fuller than a synthesiser, or a guitar, or anything that’s played in a very conventional way. I mean, it’s different the way that someone like Rowland S. Howard of The Birthday Party plays a guitar, he really takes it and tortures it, that’s creative. He’s trying to do something new with that sound, that’s what we’re trying to do with the Synclavier."

TOURING IS not the favourite activity of Depeche Mode.

"God, earlier in the tour I’d get through a bottle of brandy before and after the show," says Dave.

But I thought you were a wimp.

"People still say that about us you know," he laughs. "The girl from Bananarama – Bananarama, for Christ’s sake! – when she was on Round Table, the only thing she could think of saying was ‘I think they’re wimps’. How boring! The word got out – Depeche Mode wimps shock."

Hey Martin, what do people say about the leather skirt anyway?

"They probably all think I’m a pouf in the first place, but then I don’t think it matters in the music business."

Depeche Mode, I decide, will continue long after Heaven 17 have tripped over their own self consciousness, even after Susan Williams has ceased to scoop us all with the shock revelation that pop stars are sometimes a bit more naïve than your average trades union councillor when it comes to politics.

Oh, and they all wear boots so I never did discover what colour socks they wear.

HEADING OFF up the Kurfurstendamn, I’m pursued by a group of kids.

"Do you speak English?" one of them asks after a period of protracted staring.


"You’re a member of Depeche Mode."

Several autograph books are dropped as an inhuman scream echoes through the chill Berlin air.

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only. Photos by Derek Ridgers reproduced without permission.

On to 1985