Photo of the group by unknown photographer. Reproduced without permission
The following article appeared in the 26th April, 1986 issue of Sounds.
by Dave Henderson
Pop idols and young businessmen of the year, Depeche Mode teach Dave Henderson the art of touring. Ronnie Randall gets the holiday snaps.
IT'S GREAT to be here… wherever we are. I feel road weary and bleary eyed already, but the group are in full flow. The Bristol Hippodrome is a classic venue.
Royal boxes flow forth with gesticulating girls. Everyone dances. It’s hot. David Gahan twirls like a majestic Pat Nevin slotting in a last minute winner for Chelsea. Sweat-stained, he turns again, his leather clad rear end sending the crowd into fits of orgasmic delight. It’s hit after hit after…
What’s your favourite track?
A hyper sweaty teenster admits to "loving it all".
Personally, my favourite must be ‘Everything Counts’. I think. Or is it… well there’s plenty more. With 14 hits and another one on the way, Depeche Mode really are a law unto themselves. And this tour… Now that’s an even more complicated story.
Bristol is nine dates into the British leg of the Dep’s world tour. Tomorrow it’s Bournemouth, then there’s two nights at Wembley, 24 dates in Europe, followed by the USA and Japan and other far Eastern delights. We’re talking big business here and the organization for such an event is understandably sprawling.
After three encores, an assortment of personnel flood the backstage area. It’s been a successful night, everyone’s happy and the daily ritual of autographs, photos with fans, chatting, etc, begins.
Andre, the mohican ‘minder’ come personal assistant, keeps things in check. A walkie-talkie links him to the road crew, the tour manager, and the tour co-ordinator, among other people. Sheffield support act Hula are surreptitiously devouring Depeche Mode’s stash of sandwiches, Pils lager is flowing like Pils lager and the temperature is beginning to rise again.
A Japanese girl whose name is unspellable and unpronounceable sidles in. She came here to learn English, fell in love with the group and has been taking in as many dates on the tour as possible. Do you like any other groups?
Have you made it to all the dates?
"No. Not Oxford."
Depeche Mode fans are very keen. And rightly so. The group treat their audience with a great deal of respect. And that audience spreads right across the spectrum simply because they feel comfortable.
At the Hippodrome, boys, girls and mums danced and clapped. Flash bulbs shone and scarves waved. But right here, you can forget that cynical teeny veneer that some have dolloped on Depeche Mode. By no means is that a reality. Depeche Mode are a multi-level experience. Live, in their floppy-disc-juggling-Emulator-stimulated style, they produce a spectacle of mammoth proportions. They are The Beatles (but younger).
"That’s nuthin’," points out Ron from Hula, "You should have seen the audience in Birmingham, they just went berserk. It was 6,000 people hell bent on having a brilliant time. And they did."
And there’s more. The response in Europe is reputed to be yet more ecstatic.
"Over there," recalls Martin Gore, his handcuffs severely restricting him from standing up to adjust his body stocking, "they just go crazy."
And that’s one of the reasons why security has to be so tight. On the continent, it seems, people think little of turning up to concerts with firearms and suchlike.
In England, however, it seems that the mass adulation, although still obviously there, has been tempered by the fact that the group’s staunch following have grown with them. And the word is still spreading.
AS WITH all tactical manoeuvres, there’s confusion. Dave Gahan and Andy Fletcher have to prise themselves away from the gaggle of enthusiasts to return to London for a slot on TVam. The rest are left to drink the fridge dry. They fail miserably and return to the hotel for more autographs and maximum zedz.
The TVam appearance doesn’t quite live up to the expectations of the Deps. Fletch is less than pleased and shatters illusions about the nation’s second rate Princess Di…
"Anne Diamond was really false, but Nick Owen was good. We were outdone by Bamber Gascoigne who got loads of time and they just decided to slot us into five minutes showing about a minute and a half of the video."
With Depeche Mode now switched to full touring setting, the organizational prowess of the team is being tested to the full. Depeche Mode have their business acumen in gear, but do they have American Express cards?
"No," says press officer Chris Carr.
And are they members of the AA?
The journey from Bristol to Bournemouth is harrowing; two and a half hours spent on winding roads. Andre is watching The Godfather – picking up tips? – while co-ordinators and managers work out the correct millimetre size of plastic glasses for their trip to America. And, hey, what do they call Clingfilm over there?
Alan Wilder and Martin Gore don’t like being interviewed.
"We don’t like being intereviewed," they say.
So we opt to talk instead. Anyway, you’ve had the definitive story. You’ve probably heard all the records and no doubt your decision on whether you like or loathe Depeche Mode has already been made.
So, this is the Black Celebration tour – your new album – that sounds as good a place to start as any.
Martin: "Well, that was done half in London and half in Germany with Daniel Miller and Gareth Jones, the same team we’ve used for some time."
And already its spawned two singles with ‘Stripped’ and the brand new ‘Question Of Lust’. It’s been suggested that you’re trying to work more on the American market. Is that true?
Alan: "No, that’s not right at all. Our music’s never aimed at any particular kind of market. And really, if anything this is the least American album because it’s less dance floor orientated."
Well, a slap on the wrist for Richard Cook then.
"Yeah," continues Martin, "the American record company just think of us as a disco band and they usually release our B-sides. We haven’t had a lot of chart success in the States, for instance the last album only got to number 50 in the charts, but it ended up selling over 500,000 copies which is more than we sell in any other country."
"Yeah, but, er," photographer Ronnie Randall snorts a few dribbles of sense before launching into a tirade about Martin’s dress sense. "I mean, are you trying to subvert young girls, and, er, break away from your pop image…?"
"No, I just like dressing like this."
The bus is beginning to make me feel ill. Things are falling off the table. Let’s talk about technology.
Well, you’re obviously influenced by a lot of technical hardware, computer software and things like that. Does that limit you in any way? Do you move quicker than the inventions?
Alan: "No, not at all. There’s so many things coming onto the market each week you just can’t keep up with it. In a way we’re able to cover a much wider scope than most people because we don’t limit ourselves to being a guitar based band or a keyboard based band, we’re just a sound based band."
AND AS technology becomes more available to your average Joe, there should be a wave of kids picking up their Commodore 64s and producing rebellious jukebox music in the same way that torrents of Beatles babies boomed some time back.
But, is there life after pop? Do Depeche Mode want to diversify? Will there be film acting roles, or maybe a solo album from Martin featuring covers of Neil Young numbers?
"You were close enough with that one," nods Martin.
And so, it goes on. Tonight’s game of sardines takes place in a massive sports complex. Depeche are similarly stunning. The response is excellent, the ambience and multi-harmonies punctuating the enormous sound perfectly. ‘Black Celebration’ is a physical dance celebration. Sweat city.
The stream of fans are hunting for names again but a six-a-side football fixture of great importance is arranged between the Deps and Hula. Martin is forced to remove his spurs, eventually linking up with myself and Mr Randall (guests for the night) for a mammoth drubbing of the support act. (Dear Ron Atkinson, I scored two goals… message ends.)
The walkie-talkie romance goes on. Security is hurried up and the coach is filled with sweaty heroes. Tonight the bar stays open, and the coach is being followed.
"Permission to lose them," croaks the driver.
Half an hour later a press officer is delighted in mixing methyl alcohol and weedkiller (with a dash of cream) for all to taste.
Depeche Mode are in a strange situation. A string of diamonds has already secured their future. They’re moving onward and upward, but can they sustain their rampant rise to the top? Will they just end up being yet more rock reclusives?
Alan: "I think the problem is you just get bored of answering the same old questions and having to explain everything you do."
Martin: "I can understand why Bowie very rarely tours and never gives interviews. He’s done it all before. I mean, we’re in such a lucky position but sometimes you just think, ‘Where’s the excitement?’"
"Hey," gurgles Ronnie, "is it true about the whips?"
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only. Photo by Ronnie Randall reproduced without permission.
The Wembley concerts were the last played on the British leg of the 'Black Celebration' world tour. The band played Wembley from April 16-17, 1986. Supported by Hula.
LUST FOR LIFE
"Depeche Mode are a funny breed. Thirteen-year-old girls in mini-skirts and boys who look like Third Division footballers wearing Chinese Slippers. Most of them hung around in the dusty corners of the venue, discovering the joys of under-age alcoholism and ongoing puberty, while Hula hammered and tickled quietly from behind the curtains. The cleaning lady swept, a lot of gum got chewed and Hula sort of got forgotten. Rest assured though that every young witness woke up the next morning with love blisters all over their bodies. Hula aren't about to be ignored.
Surprisingly, Depeche Mode manage to make their performances more than mere spectacle, channelling and distorting more energy than at just about any other concert I've ever seen. Whereas Durranies are forced to wobble and wander in a sea of unfocussed oomph, Depeche fans are skillfully shaped by a sort of punk pomp cut into chunks of hyperactivity. You get the feeling that in between the squeals and the roars, these people could kill.
From the moment the black curtains drifted to the floor like a chiffon scarf and the boy in front of me went bonkers, to the resonant blip of the second encore and hour-and-a-bit later, Depeche Mode skimmed electropop of the highest order somewhere between brain and groin level.
David took his coat off and swivelled his leather hips on the giant video screen above the stage. "People Are People" crashed into "Master And Servant", hacked at the knees of "Everything Counts" and came to rest in the bushes with "Stripped".
Real star of the show was Martin, complete with body harness and backless top. He manages to convey an air somewhere in between bewildered virgin and experienced dungeon master, while hammering away with his vocal contribution to the new "Question Of Lust" single.
Unfortunate slabs of stadium rockism began to impinge towards the end of the show but the rest was sharp, slithery pop - way ahead of the pack. Depeche Mode make Test Department look like navvies."
Melody Maker, April/May 1986
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only. Photo by Richard Butchins. Reproduced without permission.
See the original review here
"Five years ago Depeche Mode were one of the worst live groups ever imagined. Sheepishly standing behind their synthesisers, they’d plink and plonk away while Dave Gahan sang and swung his hips mechanically from side to side. It wasn’t very exciting.
But these days that hip motion has developed into one of the most famous bits of bottom waggling ever and Depeche Mode have developed into… well, simply brilliant performers. Dave Gahan bounds madly around the stage clapping his hands over his head, twirling round, wiggling that bum and sweating buckets. And Martin Gore, who in the early days used to look like he wished the stage would open under him and he could just disappear, has changed completely and actually seems to be enjoying himself – particularly during "A Question Of Lust" when he steps down to the front of the stage, displaying his usual "off-beat" dress sense (i.e. a black mini-skirt over his trousers and a couple of leather belts strapped across his chest), and sings in his fragile but really effective voice.
Now, Wembley Stadium is a pretty huge place and the chances are that you’re going to be sitting miles away from the stage, but Depeche Mode have taken care of that by rigging up a huge video screen to relay the performance (with all sorts of arty "mixing" and special effects thrown in). So wherever you are in the vast hall, you can see the group as they stand on platforms surrounded by science fiction-type lighting and turn out hit after hit from behind their keyboards, occasionally whacking strange, tree-like objects with drum sticks to produce loads of weird metal bashing noises, and occasionally even grinning. You can also see – quite clearly – that, five years on, Depeche Mode are a shockingly good live group."
Smash Hits, 7th May, 1986
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To view the original review with photos and mini-poster, click here
Depeche Mode Synthesizes At The Tower
Tower Theater, Philadelphia - June 3-4,1986
Black Celebration Tour - USA, Canada and Japan leg
"Depeche Mode, the English band that performed last night at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, consists of four members and makes all of its music on synthesizers of various sorts.
This might seem limiting - after all, how many sounds can you pull out of a machine, right? Depeche Mode's music suggests, however, that you can, in fact, create catchy pop music of quite tolerable diversity from such a setup.
At the Tower, the quartet concentrated on the sort of vehement, implacable rhythms that have made this group a favorite in music clubs: This is good music to dance to.
Chief songwriter Martin Gore comes up with just enough variations on the danceable beat to keep your interest up, and falters only in the area of lyrics, which tend to be exaggeratedly bleak.
In one song after another, couples dress in black and stare morosely at each other; a choice Gore metaphor is to compare humanity to squashed flies on a car windshield. Cheerful our Martin is not; it's no wonder that the band's new album is titled Black Celebration.
The good thing about Depeche Mode in concert, though, is that the music is brisk and loud; this permits you to ignore the words while appreciating the intricate interplay of rhythm and repetition that comprises most of the group's compositions.
The young women in last night's Tower audience - a majority of the crowd, to my eye - screamed delightedly at the wiggles and hip-shakes of lead singer David Gahan.
Last night's opening act was Book of Love, an all-synthesizer band that was less successful in injecting much warmth or humor into its machine-dominated performance.
Depeche Mode and Book of Love are to perform a second, sold-out show at the Tower tonight."
The Inquirer, 4th June, 1986
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.
A QUESTION OF TIME - released August 11, 1986
"Remixed and remodelled, 'A Question Of Time' is an anthem: Depeche Mode's answer to Big Country. It just stutters on in frantic waves of guitar and synth keyboard. Depeche Mode's fans seem to crave for a diet of rigid, thrashing beats. That being so, 'A Question Of Time' is neither here nor there. It's just yet another Depeche Mode single."
New Musical Express, August 1986
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.
ARTICLE"If you call yourself a pop band
you can get away with anything"
by Andy Strickland
Record Mirror, 23rd August 1986
Armed with this trusty philosophy, a few leather mini skirts, a bra and a large acoustic guitar, Depeche Mode are beginning to clean up in Europe. Is their dark, winding pop more appreciated on the continent? And how many bottles of lager can an rm hack drink without falling over?Rimini report: Andy Strickland. Photography: Joe Shutter
Sitting, sweltering in the back of a shiny new Italian taxi, I’m gripping the seat and singing the new Depeche Mode single, ‘A Question Of Time’, to myself and thinking – yep, it’s only a question of time before we pile into an oncoming car, a group of bronzed pedestrians, or one of those stupid three person bikes that holidaymakers insist on wobbling about on in places like this. Rimini – it was nice while it lasted, I think to myself.
Our driver puts his foot down into overdrive, nips back onto our side of the road (for once) and delivers us to the immaculate Grand Hotel. Quick, to the bar – we are Englishmen abroad after all. That’s why it costs 6,000 Lire (£3) for a bottle of beer!
Amid the heat, the private beaches, and the crazy moped teenagers, wander Depeche Mode and their minder. They’ve been on tour for five months now, and by the looks of their tans (Fletch excluded) they’ve managed to fit in more than a few hours copping some rays. Gathered around the pool (well, it’s as convenient a place as any), we sip on mineral waters as I suggest that this must surely be one of the band’s favourite countries to work in. Dave Gahan rubs his bare stomach and laughs.
"Probably our worst actually," he corrects me. "It’s nice to come at this time of year when, obviously, the weather helps, but it’s chaos! The actual country’s in total chaos!"
Martin Gore squints through some rather fetching bright green mascara and agrees.
"They’re nice people and everything, but they’re renowned for their disorganization. A lot of the time it’s untrue what countries are famous for, but in Italy’s case, it’s dead true. Ha ha."
Practically everything Martin Gore says is followed swiftly by a big grin and a cackle of a laugh. Not what I’d expected at all. How can a man in a rubber skirt, motorcycle boots and body stocking be so normal and jolly?
The previous evening’s gig here in Rimini had been a comparatively trouble free affair. At least they had electricity, which is more than could be said for the gig in Genoa. The crowd lapped up a very impressive set, particularly Martin’s rendition of ‘A Question Of Lust’, as Dave went through his Freddie Mercury meets Bono act and I was reminded just how many great singles this band have made. Even a large mouse came out of hiding and ran across my tapping foot as the football stadium erupted into a chorus of ‘Everything Counts’.
"Hope it paid!" says Fletch dryly when I inform him later. "Why should it?" asks Dave. "Two thousand Italians didn’t!" A reference to the Italian police’s seemingly random way of throwing some fans out and letting others in buck shee.
"The crowds here are very good, really excitable," says Dave. "Even though we don’t actually sell many records here, at least not up until recently."
It’s always struck me what a strange animal Depeche Mode is: ‘Top Of The Pops’, ‘Saturday Superstore’, girls screaming… All the usual ‘pop’ things you’d expect, but hang on a minute – listen more closely. ‘Master And Servant’, ‘Blasphemous Rumours’, ‘A Question Of Lust’ – they’re not exactly twee pop songs are they? The band’s recent Wogan appearance when they performed ‘Stripped’ was positively subversive! Over in this part of Europe at least, Depeche Mode are recognized as having more in common with the Cure than Wham!.
"Yeah definitely,’ says Dave signing the hotel VIP guest book. "I think we’re in a weird position in Britain, we’re very much out on our own, whereas in Germany, France and here in Italy we’ve got very much the same audience as ‘new wave’ bands like the Cure. In Britain, I don’t think there are that many people buying Cure records who also buy Depeche Mode records. It’s all down to our ‘pop’ tag and our background."
Of course this could be an artistic drawback to Depeche Mode inasmuch as the pop tag can become a heavy burden at times. There’s no evidence of it happening though, if their latest album ‘Black Celebration’ is anything to go by. Rather it means they can write and perform material to a large audience that nobody else, save perhaps Marc Almond, would get beyond the demo stage.
For their part, the band are well aware that they get away with far more than the average group. Songs about bondage, lusting after 15 year olds, sex – but sshh! Let’s keep it a secret between the two of us. If this ever got out…!
"It’s not until people actually come to see us live, or listen to the albums, that they start reading anything into the band at all," explained Dave. "People just think of us as another pop band."
Martin seems to enjoy the prospect of Depeche Mode chipping gently away at the staid morality of Eighties Britain. "We kinda subtly corrupt the world," he says triumphantly and adds, "basically if you call yourself a pop band you can get away with anything, ha ha."
Not that Depeche Mode have sailed through their recent string of record releases without anyone noticing the odd lyric here and there. More than one eyebrow has been raised, as Dave reveals.
"We had a lot of trouble with ‘Top Of The Pops’ over ‘Blasphemous Rumours’. The BBC got a lot of letters complaining about it and we got a lot of stick for it. In the States they don’t bother to release some of the singles and the ones they do release don’t get any radio play. We did get a lot of letters from crazy Christians and stuff, but because we’re not absolutely huge in Britain but we’re pretty big in Europe, we can actually do what we like pretty much and we do get away with a lot, without being noticed."
But does Martin ever feel constrained because of the band’s young audience? Does he ever write a set of lyrics and decide they’re too near the knuckle to be used?
"No, not really," he ponders. "I never think about what’s going to become of the songs when they’re finished, and because we’re in this weird position of calling ourselves a pop band and doing what we like, we just seem to get away with it. I don’t think it’s a question of having to restrict yourself."
At this point we’re interrupted by a well-heeled English holidaymaker – mid thirties, gold rimmed shades, Keegan perm and well spoken, who asks the lads if they’re "that English group staying at the hotel". He hasn’t a clue who they are, but his wife has. "They’re very famous," she calls after him as he asks a series of inane questions about ‘the business’. "So how’s life on the road?" he asks. "Darling," his wife interrupts again, "staying at the Grand is hardly life on the road!" Miaow!
"Middle class berk," offers an anonymous Depeche person. "They always get round to asking you how much money you’ve made," says Dave. "You can guarantee they’ll ask if you’ve made your first million. I always tell ‘em I’m well on my way to my second. That usually shuts ‘em up."
I make a note not to ask about money. The new single ‘A Question Of Time’ is my favourite Depeche Mode single for ages. It’s as close as an electronic band has ever got to making great driving music (except Kraftwerk’s ‘Autobahn’) and once more the lyrics could cause the boys one or two problems. Just who is this 15 year old that Martin Gore’s ‘got to get to you first’, I wonder aloud?
"Well ummm, yes, it was written about a person in particular," he smiles nervously. "Full stop, no comment, ha ha."
"I think it’s just looking really, observing," says Dave coming to the rescue. "Rather than umm, umm, just writing about what would happen to that person, a young attractive girl who was very innocent, and obviously, once us lads get our hands on them, they change."
As if by magic we’re suddenly besieged by a host of tanned teenage Latin lovelies who thrust autograph books and naked limbs under the lads’ noses. "Keess, keess?" pleads one of the braver young ladies as she approaches Dave’s cheek. "No, no," he tells her firmly before amending that to "oh, alright then".
Having seen Martin a year or so ago in Belgium wearing his full kit (including a rather fetching pair of red tights) in the full heat of an airless summer afternoon, I’d decided he was bonkers. Having seen him stroll back onstage last night for an encore wearing a bra with a can of lager nestling in each cup, I decide perhaps I’ve got him wrong and broach the subject of his wardrobe.
"It’s just something I like doing," he says matter of factly. "It’s a laugh, it makes me laugh when I look in the mirror, it makes other people laugh when they see me and I’m making the whole world happy, ha ha!"
"And it makes people cry," adds Dave. "Especially Fletch. ‘You can’t wear that, oh God!’ he comes in with his new gear on and it’s quite a big event because we wonder what he’s got on this time."
Martin laughs loudly. "In France a couple of years ago, we’d never really had much success and I put on this gear in the dressing room when we were doing this TV programme and Fletch took one look at me and said ‘Mart, we’re never going to do anything in France if you go out looking like that!’ The next thing we knew, we had massive hits there. That was what started it."
Fletch isn’t around to deny or confirm this story. He’s off supposedly getting something to eat, but I have a sneaking suspicion he’s avoiding me as earlier I’d challenged him to a ‘whitest man on Rimini beach’ contest. I’d have won easily.
If Martin Gore’s genial, homely persona had come as something of a surprise, his constant musical companion also confounds all expectations. On the tour bus, in his room, at airports, in bars, anywhere in fact, Martin is accompanied by a large and very beautiful… wait for it – vintage Gibson semi acoustic guitar. He sits in a world of his own strumming away at Eddie Cochrane numbers or thumbing out a blues tune when you’d have put money on him having some mini keyboard stuffed somewhere inside his bodystocking. So, is Martin a closet guitar hero, Dave?
"I did catch him posing in front of the mirror the other day when I walked past the dressing room," he laughs.
And, come to think of it, while we were demolishing the contents of a few hotel mini bars in Martin’s room the previous night, we were listening to Wire and the Smiths, not DAF. Does this mean Depeche Mode are about to become a guitar band, I ask?
"Well, we often sample guitars, and we’ve used them on a few tracks but it’s a bit boring to go back to guitars," says Martin. "It’s like the next step, all the electronic bands seem to do it don’t they? Ha ha."
"We just prefer to find new sounds in the studio," adds Dave. "Though most of the music we listen to as a band is guitar based really."
Martin’s guitar even gets its own seat on the plane later today as we all head off for Milan. He clips the seat belt around it lovingly, as if it were some small child, then it’s on with the Walkman (Rosanne Cash, would you believe?).
Suddenly there’s howls of laughter as the Alitalia stewardess switches on the piped music and the unmistakeable vintage sound of Kenny’s ‘Do The Bump’ fills the plane. Dave leaps about in his seat while Alan Wilder tries to get on with the Kelly Le Brock feature in the inflight magazine.
At sizzling Milan airport, it’s handshakes all round as the band travel on for a gig in the South of France and photographer Joe Shutter and I move on for a rendezvous with several extortionately priced glasses of cold beer and positively the worst pizza either of us can remember ever eating. Still that’s Italy for you, a country full of surprises – a bit like Depeche Mode really.
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only. Photos by Joe Shutter reproduced without permission.