Depeche Mode Press File

Dressed In Black



STRIPPED - released February 10, 1986

"Depeche Mode must rate as one of the most consistent if not one of the best pop bands of the 80s. They have a distinctive sound, but not so much so that each release sounds like the last one.Their lyrics actually mean something without being pretentious and over the top. Yet they never seem to get the adulation that their competitors get. Strange that.

Let’s hope that the haunting stillness of ‘Stripped’ puts them up where they belong, before Frankie and Spandau reappear."

Mark Booker
No 1, 22nd February, 1986

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"Depeche Mode were becoming very predictable but this is the best thing they've done in ages. "Let me see you stripped," sings Dave Gahan and bang goes their appearance on Saturday Superstore. Actually, I think it's all about going back to nature and "discovering yourself". Slow and atmospheric, even though you can't work out what he's going on about."

Unknown reviewer
Smash Hits, February 1986

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'Stripped' single release news item



by Max Bell
No. 1, 22nd February 1986

Depeche Mode explain themselves.
Interview: Max Bell. Photos: John Stoddart.

For Depeche Mode Berlin has become a second home. It’s a city which suits their temperament and throws a reflection across their music. Berlin is a strange, eerie place, an island surrounded by a wall and bordered by a no-man’s land littered with crosses marking the graves of those who tried to escape from the East and failed. In February Berlin is chilling in every sense, it has an edge and Depeche Mode like that.

In the past three years, Modey have spent a third of their lives here, mostly in the famous Hansa Studios where they recorded "Construction Time Again" and "Some Great Reward", and are now finishing the new LP, "Black Celebration".

Walking out of Hansa’s control room, the members of Depeche Mode are a black celebration themselves. Dressed from head to toe in black leather, their skinny frames and pale faces make them appear mean. In fact they’re all exceedingly placid and pleasant but the image suits them like a second skin.

"I feel ill," Dave Gahan announces, indicating some stains on his brand new leather pants. "Sick." Alan Wilder and Martin Gore follow him into the rehearsal rooms and hit the fridge. It’s not just armies that march on their stomachs. When Depeche are on tour or in a studio they keep a well stocked larder of vegetarian goodies for snacking on.

Martin examines a cheese roll with that customary far away look in his eyes. He always looks like he’s just about to say something earth-shattering. But he never does.

Fletch is bumbling about in his usual fashion. He reads a story in the Sun about "Simon [Le Bon] Jilting Yasmin for model" and tuts. "There’s no truth in it but these people ask for it." Fletch is a moralist.


Eventually Dave Gahan feels well enough to chat. I ask him what the fascination is with Berlin?

"It’s the atmosphere. It’s a little place and it feels very cut off. There are no distractions like in London. I can’t work in England anymore. It’s funny. The studio is right next to the Berlin Wall but none of us has ever been to the East. Martin tried once but they refused him entry. Didn’t like the way he was dressed. Thought he was a hooligan.

"People imagine we work here because it’s wow, you know, really heavy, but I don’t feel that. The place is quite suburban. Berlin’s like Brixton."

Fletch puts down his paper and we talk about the new single "Stripped". All the band are excited about the song which sounds quite risky after the cheerfully old-fashioned pop of "It’s Called A Heart".

Fletch: "The idea of "Stripped" is to get away from technology and civilisation for a day and get back to basics in the country. It’s about two people stripping down to their bare emotions. In the video we’re seen demolishing a car and taking a TV apart… it’s a bit, er, symbolic."

Gahan says: "It’s not about sex. It’s to do with having nothing except yourself. The people in the song could strip off if they wanted to though."

"The song is also a bit chancy. It doesn’t capture you immediately. Some people hear it and say "Is that it?" Others go "Brilliant!"."


All the band agree that the single will stand out on the chart but Dave seems to like it more than the others. "I stuck out for it ’cos it excites me. It feels powerful to sing. The chorus is rousing and mob-like which I can get off on. Our last single was just alright."

From what I heard of the new album, "Black Celebration" is going to surprise everyone who still thinks Depeche are a weedy pop group. Martin Gore’s writing gets closer to the bone every day.

The title sounds a bit morbid I venture. "Yeah it does," Dave agrees, "but it’s a common thing. At the end of a working day you go out and drown your sorrows no matter how shitty you feel or how bleak your future looks."

Martin and Alan join in, but first Martin makes a rare announcement. "I feel at the moment I’m coming across totally wrong in interviews. And it’s all my fault. I can’t do anything about it. I say the wrong things."

Having made this rather strange little speech Martin falls silent for a second. "The problem is, I can’t open up and explain the songs. When I write it all seems logical. I create the right atmosphere – which is an attempt to get away from the softness of contemporary pop – but I know we’ll never be totally extreme.

"Depeche Mode is a democracy and that stops me writing everything in one direction. Apart from that I still believe in an old-fashioned song style and I like lots of melody. Some people can’t handle that. We can be really poppy one minute or we can sound harder and moodier."

Alan Wilder reckons that the band are "alienating some of the teen market but gaining more respect. We don’t put ourselves across very well but we look better these days."

Depeche Mode always put a line on their album covers which tries to sum up the mood of their work. This time the line is "Life In The So-Called Space Age", a typical example of Martin Gore’s mixture of cynicism and commonsense.

"It means that despite all this," he gestures vaguely around, "all this can go on and nothing is changed. People are still emotionally numbed by material possessions."

Wilder qualifies the statement. "So many interferences surround you in the Western World, they take the place of your emotions. People say Martin’s songs are simplistic but that’s a positive factor. He gets his point across."

Not everything on "Black Celebration" is so sombre although one song, "It Doesn’t Matter (2)" is, Martin says, "very desperate. Very very morbid. There is one quite funny song called "Sometimes" which is about someone who questions their surroundings and ends up becoming tiring and over apologetic." Gore laughs nervously because he is a very autobiographical pop writer and the song is about him.

A beer arrives so Martin perks up. "We’ve got this new minimal concept. I try to do the least amount of work possible so I’ll get paid the same and be able to go out clubbing more."

The rest of the band have a Martin Gore theory according to Alan. "The theory is Martin is a lazy sod who writes an entire album in an afternoon but pretends he hasn’t so he can take ages to think about other things and do nothing." Martin makes another of his off the cuff statements. This one is a real cracker.

"Four people is the right number for a pop group. History bears me out. Five people looks wrong and three is plain stupid. Four looks powerful."

You’ll be able to see just how powerful Modey look and sound when their five month world tour kicks off in late March.

Dave is enthusiastic.

"We haven’t played England for a while but I’m dying to get into the big halls again. I imagine some fans are a bit cross that we’re doing Wembley but we have to break out of this credibility thing. I thought The Cure doing Wembley was brilliant and I know I need large crowds these days to excite me."


In this mood Depeche Mode are showing every sign they’ve grown up, moved on, as they put it. Gahan isn’t one for any false modesty. "No, we’ve influenced a lot of bands into a harder sound, Arcadia perhaps, Tears For Fears definitely. It paid off for them. Frankie did that too. I can’t stand bland, textured music. No one goes out on a limb. Glammy pop bores me silly. Obviously I won’t name them because I hate everything in the charts. I ignore it. I suppose A-Ha will take away everyone’s girl audience for a while because they’re hunky good looking chaps," Gahan chortles. "The problem is that they probably speak funny."

Fletch looks worried. "They probably speak better English than you do."

Dave: "Rubbish. I bet they don’t." Gahan has got the bit between his teeth. "We haven’t got any competition. We’re out on our own. You can’t categorise us. Maybe sometimes we’re a bit fussy with not putting pictures on covers but it’s better not to go downhill and be stuck with a stupid image. Look at this stuff about Simon Le Bon: poor bloke’s just got married but because the Sun have got a grudge against him they’ve stitched him up. For us it’s a fluke that we’ve avoided all the crap but I could see us getting huger. The German press invents stuff about us all the time."

One of last year’s best kept pop secrets was Gahan’s wedding to long time girlfriend Jo. "That was good. Just me, Jo, Fletch and Grania [sic] (Fletch’s girlfriend), mums and dads. Alan and Martin missed the registrar’s but came to the party. It hasn’t changed the way we are. We’ve been together ages."

Dave is the last Basildon boy left in Depeche. Even Fletch has moved out. "Best thing I’ve ever done. It’s the first time I haven’t either been with parents or in a hotel room." I ask them what they think about tax exiles and Fletch, who is normally the most self-effacing member, explodes: "It’s DISGUSTING." He shouts. "It’s a joke. All these so called socialists. Look at Spandau! You take a year off and your career suffers. There’s no place like home. I believe in the welfare state and if that means paying 50% tax I’ll do it."

Gahan agrees. "It’s like the 70s all these bands living in mansions. If we did that the band would split up. And the money they save on tax they spend on first class air fares. They all come home every weekend!"

Fletch is really hopping mad now. "Mansions! Air fares! They’ve got no confidence in their own futures. It’s like they’re making it while they can. We intend to stay around."

Dave Gahan gets up and wanders towards the control room. Before he goes in he turns round and says, "The thing is, by Christmas we’ll all be millionaires anyway. We know that."

I’m not sure if he was joking or not.

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only. Photo by John Stoddart reproduced without permission.

SEE ALSO: "I love the idea of wearing leather and I love the idea of being tied up, because I love the feeling of helplessness..."


BLACK CELEBRATION (LP) - released March 1986

Black In The Night

"The same old song. That Depeche Mode are willing to worm their way out of their lucrative niche as mega-cuddlies is encouraging even if they’ve been at it so long they’ve fashioned a career from sweet abrasion. Damn sure they know they’ll never swap their teddy bear image for chart terrorism but the effort has become the sole fuel to Martin Gore’s fixations.

It’s depressing, though, that in their own small struggle for personal and artistic dignity, Depeche have only managed to trade in one set of cliches for another – white for black, bright for bitter, tunes for twisted chants.

"Black Celebration" finds Depeche even more over-anxious than they were on the depressing "Some Great Reward" to shock for the sake of it, pussycats desperate to appear perverted as an escape from the superficiality of teen stardom. "Dressed In Black" is just "Master And Servant" revisited, an adolescent masturbatory fantasy. Similarly, "Fly On The Windscreen" attempts to evoke the claustrophobic swamp intertia of Mute labelmate Nick Cave’s "Wings Off Flies". These songs tell us, time and again, that they’re desensitised to love, that the only release open from spiritual malaise is a momentary tactile passion, a lunging, groping lust.

More saddening still is "New Dress", an unbridled attack on press hypocrisy which, in its humourless juxtaposition of headlines, ("Famine horror, millions die") against its refrain ("Princess Di is wearing a new dress") recalls nothing more than a secondary school poem.

As always, it’s difficult to discern whether Martin Gore’s clumsy lyrical truisms are intent on promoting his over-apparent desire to assume a sinister dimension or whether he’s honestly concerned for his subject matter. Are the Depeche of "A Question Of Time" revelling in the scenario of under-age sexploitation as an exercise in biting the hand the feeds, or are they genuinely dismayed at the inevitable moral decay of this rotting nation?

Then again, it’s precisely Gore’s naively logical lyrical equation, wedded to the established Depeche linear musical mode, that occasionally adds up to something successfully whole, something that incorporates optimism. The title track’s a throbbing metallic purging of the daily grind, "Stripped" is pleasingly minimal, if mannered, and there’s a wonderful hope in the appalling "New Dress": "You can’t change the world/But you can change the facts/And when you change the facts/You change points of view/If you change points of view/You may change a vote/And when you change a vote/You may change the world".

But it’s when Depeche are being unconsciously throwaway, when they relax their straining against their reputation, that they attain the sublime. "A Question Of Lust" is gorgeous, an Almondesque torch vocal mounting a simple electronic code worthy of The Human League. Mostly, though, "Black Celebration" is Depeche fucking with their formula and the real shock is the insight it provides into the troubled psyche of Martin Gore, a lad struggling to grow in public and, for all his opportunities, finding only sleaze and filth to feed off. They’d have it sickening – Gore a willing victim desiring the symptoms he purports to despise.

Silly boys."

Steve Sutherland
Melody Maker, March 1986

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.

See the original review here

Nipple Erectors

"Somewhere, between Basildon and Berlin, is a place that Depeche Mode call home. It's an uncomfortable abode though it gleams and sparkles with pristine decor and designer-built functionalism, a matt-black (naturally) dream home whose geometrical symmetry hides a thousand sins. Although Depeche Mode - and their mainman/songwriter Martin Gore especially - long for that certain Euro-ambience, these four suburban boys are forever blighted by a peculiarly English sense of propriety, a pop protocol that drips with politeness.

This well-behaved music threatened to slip from its axis on '83's quite invigorating 'Construction Time Again' when the awakening promise of 'Everything Counts' and 'More Than A Party' approached the realm of cheeky subversion. Alongside Gore's political awareness grew an unhealthy fascination with the sturm und drang of German industrial culture, the viral music of Neubauten and our own Test Dept. Yet what tension Depeche Mode possessed of late - and there was little to be detected on last year's atrophied 'Some Great Reward' - came from the frisson of Gore's dark Teutonic pretensions with the continued tyranny of studied, harmonious order that his three accomplices seemed quite happy to perpetuate. As a virus, Depeche Mode's music is closer to sleeping sickness than to any nerve-wrenching disorder. Worse still, the psychology-by-numbers cant of a song like 'Masters And Servants' [sic] teetered ominously close to the chanting histrionics of a Tears For Fears' "Shout! Shout! Let it all out!" exegesis.

On 'Black Celebration', the contradictions continue and continue to remain unresolved. Martin Gore's presence is stamped all over this album, not least in the sex-death-lust angst which informs virtually every lyric whilst the accompanying music, although often hinting at impending disorder, is a paradigm of well mannered electro-pop. Opening with the title song, 'Black Celebration', which has nothing to do with the recently established Martin Luther King Day and a lot to do with being stoical in the face of life's sheer mundaniety, the album establishes a mood that is dark yet faintly ridiculous. Over those perfectly constructed jigsaw melodies, David Gahan's cloyingly winsome voice ennuciates Gore's adolescent fragments of despair. 'Fly On The Windscreen' includes the immortal line "death is everywhere" over a propulsive, multi-layered background complete with dismembered voices and cut-up sound patterns that are actually quite winning. Again, on 'A Question Of Lust', the overblown introspection of the lyrics defeats serious analysis whilst 'Sometimes' approaches the analyst's couch as Gore, via Gahan [Martin in fact takes the lead vocal on this track - BB] , informs us, without a hint of irony, " ... I'm the first to admit/If you catch me in a mood like this/I can be tiring/Even embarressing". Never.

It is left to the music to provide what relative highlights there are and, within their own parameters, Depeche Mode create a resonant, if undemonstrative techno-pop tapestry where the various percussive and melodic components often lend a rich textured sheen that is not without a certain depth. 'A Question Of Time', with its rising and falling structure, manages to perfectly complement an exceptionally curt and aggressive Gore lyric whilst 'New Dress' ruptures the prevailing introspective and fingers the media trivialisation of "real" news. Indeed, when the songs address topics other than the composer's state of mind - as on the evocative exploration of loneliness that is 'World Full Of Nothing' - Depeche Mode sound like a lot more than just a high tech, low-life melodrama. For the most part, however, they continue to provide a soundtrack for the up-to-date, matt black bedsit: dark, yet faintly ridiculous."

Sean O'Hagan
New Musical Express, March 1986

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See the original review here

"Depeche Mode are one of those bands whose music shouldn't be given the 'gut reaction' treatment. Following last year's 'Some Great Reward', this LP sees Martin Gore following much the same lines. He will persist in asking the kind of questions that there really are no answers to. Musically there is a riot of atmosphere which should ensure many a Depeche fan will be dipping into this one over and over again. Best tracks, aside from the single 'Stripped' are 'Here Is The House' and 'World Full Of Nothing'." ****

Unknown reviewer
Smash Hits (AUS)

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"Despite their seemingly endless stream of brilliant singles Depeche Mode always seem to go a bit wonky when faced with a whole album to fill. Not this time though. "Black Celebration" doesn't only see them go a bit weirder with lots of dark, mysterious percussive episodes (sung by Dave Gahan) snuggling up agains sweet, fragile and rather sinister ballads (sung by Martin Gore) but is also the first time thay haven't had to throw in any second-rate stodge. Their best album yet (apart from the very brilliant "Singles" LP, that is)." (8 out of 10)

Chris Heath
Smash Hits (UK)

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"Here are some things to admire about Depeche Mode: (1) their self-sufficiency, (2) their refusal to follow anything but their own fashion, (3) their refusal to be anything but themselves, (4) their unswerving ability to come up with great, fresh melodies. "Black Celebration" is a comfy progression for the Deps, but it contains no huge surprises. It keeps to the rules they set for themselves in terms of quality, value for money, tunefulness and experimentation. It kicks off with three killer tracks – "Black Celebration", "Fly On The Windscreen" and "A Question Of Lust", the latter being a prize crystal-clear, soaring Mart-on-vocals special. But it really is like putting all your cards on the table before the game’s finished. Of the raunchier numbers, "A Question Of Time" stands out, as does the single "Stripped" and the moody "Dressed In Black". "New Dress", although it pumps and throbs, has rather excruciating lyrics, ditto "Sometimes", one of the rather too many sweet little ballads. Although the melodies are gorgeous, Martin seems preoccupied with sounding like the gawky school choirboy. Mr. Gore is again lyrically concerned with tenderness, sweetness, closeness with another, and putting his heart on his sleeve. That’s fine, balanced against Depeche Mode’s more exciting, sinister side. Beware the girly swot notebook with the arrow through the heart, boys, and you’ll rool OK. Strength through wimpery!"

Betty Page
Record Mirror, 15th March, 1986

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.

"Routinely dismissed as a band of synth-pop robots, Depeche Mode actually uses its machines to make some of the most human sounds around. Black Celebration is certainly this British quartet's most melodic effort to date: the clanging disco-concrete fusion of early LPs like Construction Time Again has mellowed into a brand of brooding, romantic music only hinted at on last year's Some Great Reward. "I haven't felt so alive in years," gushes singer Dave Gahan on "But Not Tonight," this LP's ghostly closer, although for composer-lyricist Martin Gore, even celebration is pretty bleak.

Gore dissects his gloomy obsessions with wit and intelligence. He's abetted by his bandmates, inventive technicians who understand that machines weren't meant to sound like souped-up electric organs. Despite its campy horror-show title, "Fly On The Windscreen - Final" is the sort of matter-of-fact meditation on mortality most people flash on behind the wheel of a car. A bank of synths buzz ominously through the verses of "Fly", amplifying the unease, then whoosh gratefully when the first chorus reaches for life's only solace: "Come here kiss me NOW."

Most of these ditties are unabashed love songs, albeit brutally honest - quirky ones that pick apart popular notions of emotional independence ("A Question Of Lust") and adolescent sex ("A Question Of Time", "World Full Of Nothing") to an itchy, mechanized beat. Songs like these and some serious image-mongering have won Depeche Mode a loyal teen following, appropriately enough. But underneath their bleached-blonde, black-leather pose lurks musical maturity and a wry sensibility deserving of a wider (read adult) audience."

Mark Coleman
Rolling Stone

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by Bruce Dessau
April 1986

More than five years on, Depeche Mode are still going strong. What’s the secret of the
Basildon Bond?

NOT nice. The coldest Sunday night in forty years and I’m walking alone in the dark in a deserted patch of East London’s post-industrial Non-Enterprise Zone. My only solace is the paper on which is scrawled the address of my rendezvous with Andy Fletcher and Martin Gore of ‘top pop band’ Depeche Mode.

Top pop band? Last autumn saw the release of the ultimate cultural signifier in terms of ‘Pop Band’ – The Singles 81-85. The collection charted their chart history from the dodgy futurist days of 1981’s Dreaming Of Me to last autumn’s somewhat sombre It’s Called A Heart. As the run-off groove remarks, a veritable ‘Bag O’ Hits’. In fact, not many groups – Madness is the only one that instantly springs to mind – have been so consistently successful over the same period. Andy: "I can remember our first Top Of The Pops like it was yesterday. Gillan and The Whicker Rap." Indeed. Joboxers and Roman Holliday, where art thou now?

Yet Depeche Mode are hardly your archetypal Pop Band. Their new album, Black Celebration, recorded in Berlin over four months last autumn, sees the continuing development of Martin Gore as a song craftsman par excellence. Before they set about recording, he had already been residing in Germany with his Teutonic girlfriend and both in physical appearance and in style of writing he had changed not inconsiderably.

Always the extrovert of the band dress-wise, possibly compensating for a distinct shyness, he has recently renewed his teenage affair with leather, though now his manly cow-hide strides have been superseded by a natty Mary Quant mini-number, kept company at hip level by a pair of sparkling NYPD standard issue handcuffs.

Lyrically too, he has moved on from the popcorn pop of See You and Just Can’t Get Enough [Just Can't Get Enough' was penned by Vince Clarke - BB] to the controversy-begging Master And Servant and this new album’s darker side, including the title track, wherein we are exhorted to cheer the fact that we have lasted to the end of another gruesome twenty-four hours – ‘Let’s have a black celebration… to celebrate the fact that we’ve seen the back of another black day.’

In the studio, the band are laying down backing tracks for their forthcoming world tour, which includes two, yes two, dates at Wembley, yes Wembley, Arena. Depeche Mode are no Johnny-come-lately passengers on pop music’s magic bus, but one of its big time pacemakers. It’s a long way from Southend Tech and hanging around outside Rough Trade in the hope that Mute Records majordomo and obsessive Chelsea supporter Daniel Miller would cast his critical ears over their dodgy demos.

Five years later they are still on the independent Mute and Miller continues to co-produce most of their material. His part in their success cannot be underestimated, even though he wasn’t that taken by the band at first.

Martin: "We were all big fans of Mute Records so Vince (Clarke) got the address off the back of a sleeve and sent Daniel our tape. He didn’t really like it, but then by accident he saw us supporting Fad Gadget at the Bridge House Canning Town and quite liked us."

Since then the partnership has been constant, though no formal contract has ever been signed. Occasionally there is an odd burst of resentment which comes from seeing records on EMI being hyped into the upper echelons of the charts while their own singles are still unavailable in the major record shops of their home town of Basildon, but overall, the relationship with Mute is one of mutual high regard, although at times working with Daniel Miller can prove to be something of a strain.

Andy: "When Daniel is with us, we tend to work really long hours. He’s a real workaholic – he makes us feel really guilty when we suggest a break after twenty-four hours. He won’t leave until things are perfect…"

MAYBE it is this constant striving towards perfection which has kept the band at the peak of pop for more than half a decade. There certainly appears to be something in the Basildon water which keeps those hits coming for them.

Andy: "I think they must put something in the sewers… Corporation Wine… It’s funny, though, five years ago we were being asked how long we thought we’d be around and we said a year. Now, who knows? It’s different now, though, because we’ve become a business, with so many people to support we couldn’t really stop."

Part of their strength, however, must be said to reside in the sharing of roots. Apart from Alan Wilder, who answered the proverbial Melody Maker ad when Vince Clarke left, the other three members have known each other since their schooldays, which must have engendered a certain loyalty. The Basildon Bond.

Andy: "Dave came from the (adopts quasi-dramatic tone) other side of town, but everybody in Basildon seems to have the same sense of humour. It’s been really good, in six years we’ve never had any bust-ups. Maybe when Vince left there was the thought for just a moment that we should all whack him after we’d just given our jobs up and all that, but even the split was quite amicable, we just went straight back into the studio and carried on recording."

For Martin in particular, Vince Clarke’s departure was a blessing, giving him the opportunity to reveal a pop sensibility tempered with some nifty subversive tendencies which might otherwise have passed unrealized. It’s a role which he relishes, although he is modest about his achievements.

By his own admission and yet contrary to popular belief, he is quite cheerful, yet his poppier tunes contain lyrics which "tend to be inspired by darker things" – an artistic criss-crossing which is also reflected in his musical predilections, from German avant-garde through to fifties Rock and Roll, and particularly at the moment doo wop. Gore on pop…

"I like to make my lyrics interesting by touching on taboo social issues. It’s very easy to play songs on the radio which nobody takes a blind bit of notice of. Yet you only have to stray slightly to shock people, which I quite like doing…"
As if to confirm the rigid structures of the pop world, even the video for their last single Stripped incurred the wrath of an incredibly sensitive British viewing public…

Alan: "It was amazing, really. Just because in the video we are demolishing cars – the British can’t bear to see material goods wantonly destroyed. We had lots of complaints. After it was on there was probably a film of someone having their head shot off on the news…"

For me, it is in fact this meshing of pure candyfloss pop with more dubious activities which brings out the best in Depeche Mode and makes them so utterly compulsive. It is all well and good for Cabaret Voltaire and Psychic TV to preach the gospel of William Burroughs and Aleister Crowley pontificating on conspiracy theories and all things illicit. But why scream in an empty room? The beauty of Depeche Mode is that (usually) their records do get played on Radio One in the daytime, and people listen. Theirs is true living-room subversion.

Would that they had been invited to appear on Live Aid and thus inaugurate true global village subversion. But Geldof proves to be a touchy point.

Andy: "Because we are on an independent label we just don’t have the contacts, so we weren’t asked to appear. I don’t think Geldof was aware of how many records we actually sell internationally. At the time we were bitter, but the whole thing has just become so tacky – all those ageing rock bands appearing solely to boost their own career – that in a way we are quite glad we weren’t involved. Of course the money raised can’t be criticized… but it would have been a lot more if they had added the money that went on their cocaine bill…"

BACK to sweet subversion. Twenty-four hours on and we are reassembled in the dressing rooms at the BBC’s Shepherd’s Bush Theatre. Depeche Mode are due to appear live on Wogan. Now, this is their niche. Prime pop for the primetime slot. As if to honour the occasion, full leather regalia is the order of the day. Backstage, handcuffs and chains jangle and leather lets out the occasional creak and squeak. Not so much the Village People or Boystown Gang, but looking every inch the New Town gang. Suburban studs.

While a bit-parter from Hi-De-Hi whips up the audience into a state of pre-broadcast tepid dementia ("Come on you lot from Aldershot, let’s see if you can make more noise than these Winchester W1 layabouts"), Dave Gahan and myself struggle past an archetypal be-rollered, middle-aged Beeb cleaner into a vacant dressing room for a moment’s head to head.

Of all the Mode-men, Dave Gahan appears after five years physically the least changed. After an unsatisfactory blonde rinse, he has returned to his (almost) natural coal black bog brush and sartorially he has returned to simple if stunning Kings Road leather. Similarly, while all the other members are now located permanently within North London postcodes, Gahan lives outside Basildon in Laindon with his long-time girlfriend, who he recently married.

I wondered if this constant touting of their vinyl wares ever becomes a mite tedious.

"Well, we are a bit blasé about these things now, without trying to sound flash, simply because we’ve done them so often. I don’t really like this, but it’s all part of the process of getting your records heard by as many people as possible. It’s particularly important for us to do this, because we’ve got a very loyal following who will always buy our new singles and get them into the Top Twenty, but we need Wogan to get across to people that might not hear us otherwise, and then might say, hey, that’s better than Sigue Sigue Sputnik or this week’s number one or whatever…

"But I think we’d only go so far in compromising ourselves. A few years back I thought I ought to have proper singing lessons and went to Tona De Brett, who did Lydon, Adam Ant, everyone. All she did was try to make me sing like Barbra Streisand, which was not much use to me. I try to get a feeling when I sing. I might not get every note right, but I don’t think that’s important…"

At which point we are interrupted and informed that we are in Charles Dance’s dressing room. Dave goes off to be made up as Alan Wilder, already pansticked to the eyeballs, returns. Twenty minutes to showtime, folks…

If Dave is the showman, Martin is the hit machine and Andy the stabilizing centre of gravity of Depeche Mode, where does that place Alan Wilder?

The odd one out, born just down the road in boring old West London, he joined the band after they had already established themselves. His first role was simply to make up the body count on television, not actually playing on the records. But now he is a bona fide band member. In fact, Alan Wilder clocks in as the obligatory muso…

"Generally me and Martin deal with the music side, and we seem to complement each other quite well. He is much more involved in songwriting and melody, while I’m more interested in the rhythms and overall production. Martin gets bored with this side of things really fast – given half a chance I think he’d like to write, record and put out an album in a week."

As someone who entered affairs at a later stage, he sees different reasons for the band’s longevity – the clear delineation of each other’s roles so that there is no crossing over and clash and the fact that Mute has never been the kind of company that would push the band into doing things that they weren’t absolutely happy about. If there is a nagging doubt about the set-up, it rests in the inherent problems of a democracy.

Alan: "The NME made the point that we were not adventurous enough. They said that we could pull more out of the bag, that we were actually quite lazy. That is true to a point, but it comes from the problem that as a democracy we always tend to end up with a compromise between the adventurous and conservative sides of the band. However, we don’t actually work to a rigid formula like some bands…"

True. In fact, although it is a notable observation on the band, the judgement still smells unjustly harsh, judging Depeche Mode by wider perimeters than those set out by pop. Wham are permitted to rewrite the entire Motown back catalogue because they have no pretensions to do anything beyond pop. For Depeche Mode, their dallying with the trappings of intellectualism as well as popstardom suggests that they should be setting themselves constantly higher challenges, greater goals, steeper peaks…

And so, as if to answer this lofty summons, they are called into the hospitality room stage left. Twelve minutes before their three minutes and they are fooling around with the long-suffering but loyal Modie roadies, arguing about past chart positions and trying to spot which members of the audience have come to see them. It isn’t the Winchester W1.

Lights down, hush and on. The be-rollered Beeb cleaner turns out to be Jane Russell hawking her autobiography in knuckle gnawingly dull fashion. She is surely the only person in W12 tonight with more make-up on than Martin. At this range, the beads of sweat on the puffy visage of Wogan can be easily counted. An equally visible sigh of relief is noted as he spies the dry ice being pumped, nay swamped over the band as they assume the position. "Thank you and good night, Jane (cue applause) Russell, and now Depeche Mode with their latest single, Stripped."

The backing track, replete with motorbike sound effect, takes over. Andy thrashes one drum into mute submission, Alan does the same to another, Martin pouts and (mock) harmonises while Dave goes into that spindly dance routine of knee bends and foot shuffling that he is famous for. Wogan guzzles a glass of either water or neat gin and taps his foot. Three minutes later, the band leave Shepherd’s Bush.

They know they will be back.

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The following four items review concerts performed on the British leg of the 'Black Celebration' world tour.

Brighton Conference Centre - March 31, 1986

"I arrived in time to witness a novel opening ceremony featuring a gauze screen between Depeche and hankering audience. Halfway through 'Black Celebration' the barrier dropped to lascivious shrieks... and there they were, leather clad and lovely (but what about the tunes? - Ed).

The most intriguing aspect of 'A Question Of Time', which followed, was undoubtably Dave Gahan's obsession with his trousers. The poor boy seemed unduly paranoid that he might be exposing something he shouldn't.

'Fly On The Windscreen' saw Dep Mode getting into their stride and Fletch getting into his individual brand of gyrations. It easily surpassed the vinyl version with its Big Brother-ish voices echoing around the cavernous hall.

With three keyboards and an array of electronic regalia, the Deps were evidently using their floppy discs to the full. In fact, the taxing selection of said objects proved Alan Wilder's sole exertion.

'Leave In Silence' heralded a new found confidence in the trousers' staying power, with brazen David indulging in a vigorous spot of bum-wiggling.

Martin relinquished his post to stride upstage and assume vocal duties on 'Sometimes' and 'A Question Of Lust'. Mart had the most disappointing apparel though - military jacket and black leggings (at least he has the legs for the latter - please note, J Kerr) [Jim Kerr, Simple Minds' singer - BB]. He later stripped to reveal a fetching cutaway black polo neck. One has to wonder how many chaperoning fathers later questioned their offspring about that alluring blond at the back.

The Deps' weak points weren't remotely disguised tonight - samey sounding songs and lyrical tweeness both reared their heads, the latter exemplified by 'New Dress'. I sincerily hope Dave Gahan was singing 'Princess Di is wearing a new dress' with tounge firmly embedded in cheek.

Still, you can't call them predictable. 'Master And Servant' was interrupted by an instrumental break straight out of 'Una Paloma Blanca'. Move over Martin Degville [Sigue Sigue Sputnik's singer], your 15 minutes are up: Martin Gore and co have several more minutes to go."

Lesley O'Toole
Record Mirror, April 1986

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Maysfield Leisure Centre, Belfast - April 4, 1986

"Visually, Dave Gahan now has a very snappy line in dance bum sculpture and can hop along almost as dizzily as Chris Sullivan used to. His mate Bubbles, the only other Depecher to come down off his pedestal, is a little kinkier, in his designer hand cuffs [sic], SS boots and the remnants of his girlfriend's lingerie torn round his tits.

They kick off playing "Black Celebration" behind a massive black curtain of muslin. The screen drops and they pound into "Stripped", with the tantalizing, lurching thrill of the floodlight unveiling like the peeling off of a stocking. Next, it's straight bang into a run of the last few singles, riding the audience's randy rush for the next 25 minutes and cresting with "Shake The Disease".

But ... all too soon the mid-section new album sampler starts - "Dressed In Black", Fly On The Windscreen" - with its "new" directions and tales of ordinary mid-poplife crisis and all the rest of the bunk and bleedalong that's a bit difficult to pass off.

But later, away from the numbers, and down in the train station at midnight, you could still hear the tail end encore strains of "Just Can't Get Enough" beatboxing through the Maysfield walls, synching perfectly with the axle grind of the rolling stock. And for a split second it seemed the Mute men had briefly achieved the awkward synthesis of sugar pop and heavy industrial monster sound desired."

Adrian Maddox
Melody Maker, April 1986

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S.E.C. Glasgow - April 6, 1986

"Chuga Chuga Dunk ... chuga chuga dunk ...

If you like that sort of thing, it was probably worth standing in a venue that looks, feels and smells like a shopping precinct and paying seven quid for the privilege. Glasgow audiences aren't that stupid so only half of them turned up - I was unlucky enough to be in that half, the half watching some of the most insane mediocrity to ever rise like scum to the top of the British pop business.

Depeche Mode ... are ... eh ... well, talentless in the most comic way possible. Apart from being impossibly dull with their rinky dinky metal music; their self conscious posing behind keyboards that sound well sluggish (next time use Duracell, lads, you know it makes sense); their inflatable neon pyramid set; their well-meaning air of intense cerebral activity; that feeling they imply of their music being important is ridiculous to the extent of being really embarrassing.

Who really cares in the end whether Dancing Dave rips off Michael Jackson or Jim Kerr? If Martian Martin can't sing? Five thousand screaming teenie-weenies can't be wrong - Depeche Mode are completely unobjectionable. Most of the time.

What is totally objectionable is the way they feed their adoring audience with ideas so badly expressed as to be mentally constipated. Just because you're 13 doesn't mean to say you're thick, therefore why waste time and embarrass yourself in later life by mouthing "people are people" in public? Or, even worse, the chorus of a new song about the corruption of truth in the daily rags which goes "Princess Di is wearing a new dress". How do they have the brass neck to look meaningful while they sing this? How do they have the gall to make the audience sing along? Why don't they hire a lyricist? Why am I here? Why stay for the encores when you can go to the pub?"

Andrea Miller
New Musical Express, April 1986

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N.E.C. Birmingham - April 9-10, 1986

"They must have spent a fortune on the elaborate stage set and ritzy light show. Yet for all of the hi-tech special effects, it's the more mundane and distinctly lo-tech effect of Dave Gahan taking off his jacket and wiggling his leather-clad bum about which sends the audience into raptures.

A question of lust? Not really. It's more a question of providing vulnerable young minds with a safe and unthreatening foundation on which to build romanticised adolescent fantasies. The girls, I suspect, can see themselves swooning in the Boy David's arms. The boys, I imagine, can see themselves taking his place and holding the girls - all in soft focus.

Somebody has to do the job. But what a shallow way to earn a crust, constantly turning the other cheek so that both sides of the hall can get an eyeful. The music is incidental, a synthesised soundtrack to a story that's at least as old as Elvis Presley And His Amazing Gyrating Pelvis. Every song sounds the same, with that dreadfully flat beat which synths generate, the uncompromisingly monotonous melody lines and the lyrics which strain to rhyme.

There's nothing very much wrong with Depeche Mode. But there's nothing very right with them either. By studiously avoiding anything so dangerous as originality or imagination, Depeche Mode are simply keeping the customers satisfied. The customers, unfortunately, seem to be easily pleased."

Geoffrey S Kent
Sounds, April 1986

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by Max Bell
No. 1, April 1986

Max Bell takes a look at Depeche Mode before, during and after their Black Celebration!

"Name the only two South American countries that don’t border on Brazil?" Martin Gore is sitting at the back of Depeche Mode’s luxurious coach firing silly questions at Andy Fletcher as the band speed from the Holiday Inn to Birmingham’s 8000-seater NEC.

At times like this, 90 minutes from showtime, the Modey nerves are starting to get jittery so Martin and Andy play Travellers Trivia in between regular toilet visits.

The coach pulls into the NEC to screams of recognition and Depeche slip into their pop star mode, signing autographs and chatting to fans before their two German confidants, tour manager Harold and massive Mohican-haired minder Andre, whisk them to the dressing room. Depeche Mode don’t attract the kind of mobbing that eventually distances a band from their following but should anyone step too close then Andre can always fall back on one of the four martial arts he has up his sleeve for emergencies.

Andre used to train Vietnam marines.

Martin tells me a delightfully gory tale to illustrate this. "Andre gave me a few hints to use on potential assassins," he laughs merrily.

"The best one is a quick karate chop to the bridge of the nose followed swiftly by a forearm smash that pushes the nose bone into the brain. Death follows in three seconds." Charming.


In the meantime support band Hula have finished their set and the Modeys are beginning to add finishing touches, get made-up and sort out their onstage wardrobe. The dressing room is cleared so the band can start getting psyched up.

We take our seats underneath two huge video screens which will bring the concert closer to those sitting at the back of this huge hall. Already the familiar high-pitched female screaming has started. The wails rise to a roar as suddenly four shadowy figures are seen behind the safety curtain. The three musical Modeys are raised on plinths and Gahan is practising his bum wiggles.

The lights dim and a mixture of noises sweep through the auditorium, an eerie combination of human and electronic sounds that flood underneath the curtain and the "Black Celebration" has begun…

As a live group, Depeche must be one of the five best in Britain.

Always entertaining and capable of generating a genuine excitement that they sometimes lack on record, Depeche’s strength is to stimulate the electronic parts no other band in the pop mainstream reaches anymore.

Dave Gahan is the focal point for most, his natural exhibitionist tendencies and boundless energies stamp him as real trouper. Dave has studied the rock’n’roll sex symbol role carefully. His bum wiggle, which sends the girls into raptures every time, is a variation on a theme from Chuck Berry to Elvis Presley to Mick Jagger, and his throaty growling is borrowed from one of his heroes, Jim Morrison. Gahan adds his own sense of humour to what could be a grey, corny, old fashioned routine. He smiles a lot and his good humour transfers to the performance. He doesn’t take it all too seriously.

TOKYO 2000

Years of experience in large stadiums have taught the group the value of exploiting a stage set. The Black Celebration tour has swapped last year’s steep walkways for platforms and two ghostly blue fluorescent tubes. The only other props are two bizarre metal sculptures that can be used as percussion instruments. When they’re not being hit these symbols resemble strange Japanese symbols and transform the backdrop into a cross between Bladerunner and Tokyo in the year 2000. The stage set cost £25000 but it will last for five months. "It’s better value than a month in the studio," Gore told me earlier.

The songs are well balanced between the moodier Gothic feel of "Flies On The Windscreen" [sic] and enigmatic pure pop singalongs like "Shake The Disease" and "It’s Called A Heart". Unlike most other guitar groups their crystal clear sound allows a greater variety of noises, from acoustic guitar to industrial metal screeching. The effort is almost atmospheric.

Half way through the evening Gahan leaves the stage and Martin Gore moves from his pedestal to crouch at the front and croon "It Doesn’t Matter" and new single "A Question Of Lust", two of the new songs which are the most personal numbers of the "Black Celebration" record. This being Martin they are also quite depressing ballads but just when you’re reaching for the razor, Gahan bounds back and tears turn to screams.

If the video to "A Question Of Lust" doesn’t convince you that Depeche Mode have buried their "nice boys next door" image then the reaction to songs like "Stripped" and "Master And Servant" will. Gahan turns the latter into a classic example of dominance and submission with the audience eating out of his hand. The controversial "Blasphemous Rumours" is even better, it changes from a graceful organ fugue to full scale punky anarchy.

Only "New Dress" is a weak point. The song is slight and even Gahan doesn’t sound convincing singing about Princess Di! No matter, "People Are People" and a quartet of nostalgic hits, "Photographic", "Boys Say Go", "Just Can’t Get Enough" and "More Than A Party" leaves the NEC boiling with excitement.

The group take their bows at the front and pick up their bouquets like opera stars. Backstage there is no talk about the show which Alan Wilder says "was just alright." Instead they tuck into the snacks. "I’m starving", says Fletch, "and we had a three course meal before we went on". Sandwiches in hand, the band gather in front of a TV and watch Chelsea hammer Man. Utd. Bottles of Grolsch are raised by Fletch, Gahan and Mute Records boss Daniel Miller – Chelsea fans all. Martin Gore pretends to be interested but football doesn’t really go with his leather image.

The fans go home happy. Fans like Vikkie Smith and Charlotte Meyerson who travelled from Birkenhead on the Merseyside coach. They’re happy because Depeche Mode got their little note and read it out. Everything counts in large amounts but it’s the little things that really endear a group to its fans.

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A QUESTION OF LUST - released April 14, 1986

"Like unwilling bedfellows thrown together by sheer happenstance, Depeche Mode and yours truly meet for the third time on the singles page. Each successive release convinces me afresh that the only factor impeding this groups' ascent to ultrastardom is the unrelenting glumness of singer Dave Gahan. A less oafish reviewer would recognise his juiceless tones for the affirmation of his sensitivity they obviously are; I hear a pretty good song, which incorporates the swelling grandiosity of Godley and Creme's "Cry", rendered stultifying by Gahan's pallid murmer [Martin Gore in fact takes the lead vocal on this track - BB]."

Unknown reviewer
Melody Maker, April 1986

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"Wherein the Modals continue their explorations of the meaning of love. 'Lust' is a fairly serious affair - well, as serious as a song written by a man in a leather skirt can get. Dave Gahan proves that his voice can travel, while the Dep Mode sound is as ever wonderful - this group knows more than any other how to use sound.

"I need to drink more than you seem to think/Before I'm anyone's" sings Dave wryly, while synthesisers disport themselves sparsely and an almost gorgeous melody ensues. The 12" mix is up to par, too - bits of minimalism display the infinite variety of quiet bits, and a ping-pong ball makes an uncredited appearance."

Unknown reviewer
New Musical Express, April 1986

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"With a "provocative"word in the title and a couple snogging on the cover, one would expect this record to be at least slighty "steamesque" and pervy. But no. They don't take any of their clothes off at all! Once the black electro clanks of the intro have settled down, we are presented with a floating, melancholic tune and a wheezing, breathy voice that's singing about "love" not "lust" (a word employed solely to rhyme with "trust" and "dust"). Moody and pretty but entirely sauce-free. What a swindle!"

Unknown reviewer
Smash Hits

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"After a series of, shall we say, disappointing singles, the Deps have wheeled out a more moody, atmospheric track than many of late. While their golden period seems to have vanished in the haze, this shows that at least their emotion hasn't deserted them too. Walks along the towpath of your auditory canal rather nicely, yet sadly never releases the floodgates."

Unknown reviewer
Sounds, April 1986

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 May-December 1986