A Polite Revolution
Photo by Virginia Turbett. Reproduced without permission
by Steve Taylor
Smash Hits, 9th-22nd July, 1981
Ultrapop that is. Depeche Mode invite Steve Taylor to Basildon for
a short course in one U.P. Manship.
"When Simon Bates introduces us on Top Of The Pops", Depeche Mode’s singer Dave Gahan is saying on the afternoon before their television debut, "he makes a special point about us coming from Basildon – why?" "Because nothing good ever comes out of here?" suggests one of Gahan’s three synthesiser playing colleagues, Martin Gore. We all ponder for a minute or two, perched up here in a tacky plastic-lined pub above the concrete shopping mall. Silence. Next question.
Basildon deserves special mention as one of those sprawling new-ish towns built to house London’s "overspill" population in the post-war period. Like Basingstoke, it stands in some people’s eyes as a cliché for soul-less suburban development around a boring – the word is "alienating" – centre where the entertainment is hard to find. The very stuff of Plays For Today. The very stuff, you might be forgiven for thinking, of classic Urban Synthesiser Gloom.
Well, here’s the surprise; not that Depeche Mode come from somewhere like Basildon, but the fact that they play frothy adolescent pop – with a tinge of moodiness, sure, but nothing that would qualify them for the Throbbing Gristle award for making the listener feel more suicidal than ever before.
Depeche Mode have a little joke about it. Vince Clark [sic] calls the other camp of synthesiser bands "B&I", standing for "bleak and industrial". Dave Gahan, swaggering and laughing more than usual after a pint and a half of lunchtime lager, gets the slogan wrong: "We’re P&U", he proclaims. Everyone looks baffled. "You know," says Gahan, "pop and up." Vince puts him right. "The phrase is U.P. and it stands for Ultrapop!".
They have every reason to be cheerful right now, having achieved the enviable exposure of a Top Of The Pops slot – with an independent label single, mind – and having become one of the subjects of a forthcoming "Twentieth Century Box" on London Weekend Television within only a year of first playing together.
Within the last few months they’ve all given up whatever stopped them being Depeche Mode full-time. Gahan was politely asked to leave college, where he was studying window dressing; Clark’s fellow synthesiser players Martin Gore and Andrew Fletcher gave up their jobs as bank clerk and insurance clerk. Vince – "I’m a Vince Clark" – with least to lose, signed off the dole. With a cheap and portable stage set-up they now live solely on income from gigs – a fact which they’re justly proud of.
"We’ve got no transport costs really," explains Gahan, "all our gear goes in the car. We don’t employ any roadies. So if we get paid £250 for a gig and £50 goes on hiring the PA, we can come out of it with a reasonable amount each. Everything about us is independent, even the promotion for the new record we hired ourselves.
"Dreaming Of Me", Depeche Mode’s last single on the Mute label, reached number fifty-seven in the singles charts and number one in the independent singles. "We’re going to be The Beatles of the indies," crows Fletcher in a fit of bravado.
This is all a long way from the scene less than a year ago when Gahan remembers he stood outside the venue for their first performance as a four-piece, Nicholas School where Fletcher and Gore had been pupils. "You spent half an hour outside trying to calm down," says Fletcher. "You had about ten cans of lager." All Gahan can remember is repeatedly saying to himself, "I don’t want to do it, I don’t want to do it."
The three instrumentalists were old hands at this, having played all of two gigs as a trio of bass and two synths – once at Scamps in Southend and another at "Deb Danahay’s party". Vince isn’t going to let anyone ask a fool question like "What were they like?" "They weren’t even minor successes," he says. Andrew puts Vince’s reassessment in context: "The crowd didn’t react so Vince lost his temper with them – plugs were kicked out." "There were a lot of fourteen-year-olds," adds Martin, "who’d never seen a synth before, so they were fiddling with the knobs going ‘What does this do?’."
Not that the three of them had been introduced to the synthesiser that long before. Vince and Andrew had their musical baptism in a gospel folk duo which played the local churches and clubs; Martin, who still goes to Methodist church once a month, was the guitarist in a middle-of-the-road West Coast orientated band which played "nice songs".
So, though they were too young to be early 1970s glitter kids and readily admit to not having been diehard punks, they were all musically involved enough to be touched by crucial innovations. As Clark says, "You appreciate things much more when they’re past." Gahan describes the band’s tastes as running "from folk to P.I.L.".
"Punk," says Clark, "wasn’t all good, but the enthusiasm…"
Fletcher takes up the thread: "We’ve always liked groups like Roxy and people like Bowie who kept their respectability."
"Electronic music," says Vince, "connected the two, Roxy and punk. We liked groups that used synthesisers – OMD, Human League, Gary Numan – that was what we were listening to at the time we got together. And," he concludes with a grin, "synthesisers are very easy to get a good sound on."
With the arrival of Gahan, who they heard crooning Bowie’s "Heroes" at a jam session with another band, their distinctive style began to shape up and audiences reacted accordingly. Gahan recalls their four-piece debut at the Top Alex, a Southend pub that’s normally an R&B stronghold: "We went down really well – they were banging their heads to our pop."
Circulating an early demo tape got them a valuable few gigs, mostly at the Bridge House in London’s Canning Town – "Terry, the promoter there, was the only bloke who believed in us then" – and at Crocs in nearby Rayleigh. "We must have played at Crocs fifteen times," says Fletcher, "and that gave us a lot of encouragement; we weren’t really nervous any more." "Speak for yourself," bounces back Gahan.
Crocs was also the place where their audience first started dressing up in frills and makeup, though now Gahan says that’s toned down: "Everyone’s not trying so hard to be different from one another, it’s smarter." The band have swopped their cute Romanticism for macho leathers at the moment, though Gahan says it’s not a policy decision, they just go for "anything that looks good."
The Bridge House, meanwhile, set them on the path for Top Of The Pops. They met Daniel Miller, the unassuming proprietor of Mute Records and an aficionado of electronic pop, there and were eventually invited to do a one-off single. After doing the dispiriting rounds of the major labels, Miller was "the first one we could trust; he said that if either party didn’t like the other, we’d call it a day."
The imminent success of "New Life" and the fact that the formerly indifferent majors have suddenly started "finding" Depeche Mode’s demo tape and ’phone number is a great confidence booster for both the band and Miller. "All the majors told him he wasn’t going to make it and he’s proved them wrong," says Gahan. "And as for us, so far things have just happened – and at this rate we’re happy just to let them keep happening."
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.
Electro-pop band Depeche Mode, from Basildon, headline at The Bridgehouse, Canning Town, tonight.
And the gig is more than just a chance to pay off the HP instalments on their battery of synthesizers.
The young foursome will be watched by a cluster of record companies after catching the eye when they supported the highly-acclaimed Fad Gadget there last week.
The line-up is Vincent Martin [Martin is Clarke's actual surname - BB], Andrew Fletcher, Martin Gore and David Garn [sic] – all from Basildon.
Said Vincent: "Some people travelled from Southend to see us with Fad Gadget and we’re hoping some fans will make the journey tonight. It’s probably our most important yet."
The band are a regular attraction at the Saturday electronic rock nights at Croc’s, Rayleigh.
Basildon Evening Echo, 1st December 1980
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SEE ALSO: Early Mute Records press release
This brief plug for the band appeared in the 'Independent Bitz' section of the 5th March, 1981 issue of Smash Hits. The first mention of Depeche Mode ever to appear in the magazine. Words by Red Starr.
AMONG THE contenders at the Cabaret Futura recently have been a young Basildon (Essex) band called Depeche Mode. Looking scarcely a day over 14 but claiming to be 18 plus, the band consist of vocalist Dave Gahan and three synthesiser players: Vince Clarke and Martin Gore plus Andrew Fletcher. On the fringes of the Blitz Kids scene by virtue of their electronic music and evident taste for make up and flash clothes, Depeche Mode in fact far outshine many a better known name by virtue of their ability to write GREAT TUNES and treat them right - like a cross between the bright synthetic pop of The Silicon Teens and the more weighty personal song/stories of Foxx, Numan etc.Two of these gems have now been committed to vinyl and the simply wonderful "Dreaming Of Me"/"Ice Machine" (Mute) is unreservedly recommended to absolutely everybody. Tasteful and tuneful, danceable and intelligent, it deserves to be utterly huge. Buy it!
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This brief introduction to Depeche Mode originally appeared in the 'Bitz' section of the 30th April, 1981 issue of Smash Hits.
"We just liked the sound of ‘Depeche Mode’ – it has no meaning at all." That’s how the band describe the way they came to adopt their name (literally "hurried fashion") (I thought it meant Fashion-conscious fish – Ed.) from a French magazine, but in some ways it also neatly sums up the band themselves.
Depeche Mode have been in existence for just over a year now, formed initially by Basildon school pals Martin Gore and Andrew Fletcher with songwriter and ex-folkie (!) Vince Clarke. Vocalist Dave Gahan arrived later after auditions and completed the present line up.
Around this time the band were still using conventional instruments but these were abandoned, according to Vince, because the band were "fed up with the sounds, or their inability to create interesting sounds". Intrigued by a synthesizer which Martin had acquired, they opted instead for all-synthesizer instrumentation.
This in turn attracted the interest of Daniel Miller, head of Mute Records, this country’s most important electronic label and already the home of The Silicon Teens and Fad Gadget. [Read an interview with Daniel Miller here .] The outcome of Daniel’s interest was the excellent "Dreaming Of Me" which has been hovering outside the Top Forty for the past few weeks.
Apart from the single, the band have also contributed "Photographic" to the recent "Some Bizzare" futurist compilation but, despite the fact that Dave was once a regular Blitz attender, it’s a connection which the band are keen to play down. Already their own use of make-up and flamboyant clothes has been toned down. They view futurism as an artificial creation and it’s not an image they want to be saddled with for life.
"It’s just a fashion," says Vince, "It’s a word that’s caught on, that’s all."
"Just because we use synthesizers," echoes Dave, "we get classed as a futurist band. Our music’s not futurist. Vince just writes pop songs."
In fact Depeche Mode are quite happy to describe their light, uncomplicated and very melodic sound as ‘pop’, something they see as covering lots of fields. ‘Nice’ and ‘happy’ are other words they use when talking about their music.
"It’s not serious," Vince agrees. "That’s quite good in itself."
Nor are there any messages coming over in their lyrics. Andrew maintains that the music is more important than the words while Vince admits that his main interest in the lyrics is in "the sound of the words rather than the meaning."
Which is where we came in, is not not?
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THIS YEAR'S MODE(L)
by Betty Page
Sounds, 31st January, 1981
Depeche Mode escape from Basildon bondage to pioneer Electronic Pop
DISPEL FROM your minds the untenable notion that Futurists are either bored Mummy’s boys tinkering with expensive gadgets or desperately earnest avant-garde merchants trying to preach the gospel according to Kafka: the current resurgence, or (in fact) emergence of electronic-based bands is at a truly grass-roots level – an increasing number of fresh-faced young men (and women) are taking to synthesisers and drum machines for their amusement rather than cheap guitars to create cut-price, instant tunes.
As the great Gal [Gary] Numan himself said: "You can use just one finger and still produce the most amazing sounds!" Such a sage. After all, the capital outlay of one or maybe two synths plus a rhythm box compares rather favourably with paying four or five dodgy musicians when you can get away with less with reliable hardware. You know it makes sense for a good start in music life!
Some new futurist boys favour walls of noise, some boys favour experimentalism. Some boys like electronic pop and others electro-disco.
The very young, tender and fresh-as-a-mountain-stream Depeche Mode favour our third category.
Natives of Basildon, Vince Clarke (synth), Martin Gore (another synth), Andy Fletcher (yet another (bass) synth) and David Gahan (vocals and electronic percussion) used to play guitars but gradually shed them in favour of more modern toys.
Six months ago they ventured into Croc’s Glamour Club Rayleigh to find themselves resident on the Electronic Saturday Night, followed by brief showings at the mightiest of oi-some venues, the Bridgehouse.
Twas in that dark, unromantic setting that their fairytale rise commences; synth-svengali Daniel (The Normal) Miller spotted les Modes, took an instant and profound liking to their brand of melodic electro-pop and decided to whisk them away to do a single on Mute Records, the result of which is "Dreaming Of Me/Ice Machine", which will be out on February 20.
Just the right time, methinks, to attack our touch-sensitive ears with their brand of sweet, simple, precise rhythm and lightweight synthetic pop, which, with the luck of the gods, will launch a full-frontal campaign on the complacent legions of Orchestral Manoeuvres kiddies who know a good hookline when they hear one.
But before this solo effort comes their contribution to the long-awaited Stevo-inspired compilation of ‘futurist’ bands, ‘Some Bizzare Album’, out at the end of this month, plus appearances on the accompanying tour of ‘Bizzare Evenings’. Busy, buzzing boys. [To read the Sounds review of the 'Some Bizarre Album', see Appendix A .]
DEPECHE MODE are so fragile and new that this was their first press-ganging, which resulted in a bit of an impasse. Those words which were imparted were precious few, just innocent observations on their still embryonic state. Without wishing to sound condescending – out of the mouths of babes comes forth truth. But it’s great: four young men making simple, commercial music about which they have absolutely no pretentions. Refreshing as a glass of Andrews.
Perched nervously round a creperie table, they responded blushingly and politely to my thrusting questions. I ventured, foolishly, that a fair description of their music would involve comparing them to Orch Man, but with lashings more melody.
David, the trendiest, best coiffed Mode, denied any such connection: "We wouldn’t like to be categorised with them or associated with them at all."
This may have something to do with the fact that OMD started life as a nauseously trendy Liverpool band along with such luminaries as the Bunnymen and only reached their hit potential later on.
DP reckon to be fairly confident of their instant commercial viability and would be extremely happy to see themselves in the charts and on TOTP tomorrow.
"Yes, please!" they chirped in chorus.
Because of this shameless advocation of hit singles, they also refuted any association with the Sounds-spawned Futurist scene.
David: "I don’t like that scene at all. All the bands involved with it are in one bunch together and they’ll never escape from it. Soft Cell are about the only ones with a good chance. I don’t like to bitch, but Naked Lunch have been going for years… We write pop music, electric pop, so we couldn’t get tagged by appearing on that album. Once people hear the single, they’ll change their minds!"
And that, punters, is hopefully what you’ll think too. It’s the right place, right time for new blood in the charts, a prospect which seemed unlikely mere months ago, but pioneers like the Spands [Spandau Ballet, who started their recording career as a 'futurist' band - BB] have made it easier for on-coming bands. Popular electronic music so far hasn’t used synthesisers too intelligently (thanks to Numan) or lightheartedly; DP don’t depress, they uplift – something you up there, North of Watford will be able to sample at the start of next month.
Watch out for their four gigs at the most style-conscious clubs in Leeds, Preston, Liverpool and Manchester. But don’t think that just because you don’t sport a fine quiff and startling technicolour threads that you’ll feel like a cat amongst pigeons at a DP show; they attract Blitz-like characters but don’t wish to be cliqueish and welcome all peace-loving gig-goers.
THE MODES generally concur that they have just as good an opportunity to achieve their aims on Mute Records as they do signing to any large conglomerate record label you care to mention.
Vince: "We’ve got a better chance on Mute. Daniel’s been good to us and we like the way he operates. We listened to a few other companies seeing what they had to offer but we decided to stick with him. He had a big success with the Silicon Teens, and we’ve got that same sort of lightweight feeling to us. Daniel’s got a good nose for things like that. He’s an underestimated man."
"Filming and screening / I picture the scene / Filming and dreaming / Dreaming of me" (‘Dreaming Of Me’). A flirtation with romanticism, of seeing yourself up there on the screen. It may happen for DP sooner than they think; the time for diversification is ripe after the Numan plateau and with the likes of Visage and Ultravox surging into the Top 30. It’s early days for Depeche now, but they may come across criticism for using drum machines instead of a real live drummer.
David disagreed: "I don’t think it’ll happen now. The tapes we’ve got now sound like real drums anyway. I know Orchestral Manoeuvres were put down for using a drum machine on stage but the worst thing they ever did was to get a drummer. It was really bad after that. We don’t need one anyway – it’s just another person to pay!"
Seems like eminent business sense to me. The live version of Depeche Mode should prove interesting, due to the total reverse of normal stage practices: one vocalist, plus three others all playing keyboard synthesisers.
The band may remain static, but they believe in entertainment and encouragement of dancing. The gyrating stops at pop, though, as DP are certainly not thinking of branching into funk (the next big thing!). Vince claims they simply don’t understand it!
APART FROM the great Stevo tour, Depeche Mode are forging their way into more fashion-conscious realms when they take to the stage of the Rainbow on February 14 for Steve Strange and Rusty Egan’s People’s Palace St Valentine’s Ball (phew!), along with their favourite new burlesque dance troupe Shock and the hitherto untrendy Metro.
For a future that’s bound to be exciting, stylish, fun and constantly changing, Depeche Mode have their place in the scheme of things; the charts may well prove to be their oyster. Ain’t it a shame, for a band who are no strangers to the charms of the tape recorder, to clam up when facing one in a different scenario… Maybe once they see the world outside Basildon they’ll give away their trade secrets.
Until then Depeche Mode are content to remain something of an enigma ...
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DREAMING OF ME - released February 20, 1981
"Deadpan vocals, programmed rhythm rejoinders and a candyfloss melody."
New Musical Express, 28th February, 1981
"Floppy fringe music, as predictable and well crafted as any Ultravox song."
"Bright propulsion, a pert tune and understanding synths just about redeem this one; it suffers from affected vocals that nearly become overbearing. The spoken words at the end are particularly effective, surrounded by tinkling sounds that evoke the dreamy atmosphere of the subject."
Melody Maker, 7th March, 1981
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"Boys keep swinging. Depeche are among the best of the new breed of techno poppers and this wistful, melodic, soft ditty, verging on (eek!) electro-folk is destined (cross fingers) for Silicon Teens – style success. Romantic and dreamy right down to the reflective ‘ooh la la las’ bringing up the rear. Refreshing for its total lack of anything deep, meaningful, heavy or arty. Very much an instant, Now sound."
Sounds, 28th February, 1981
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.
BASILDON A LA MODE
by Chris Bohn
New Musical Express, 21st March 1981
Chris Bohn tell Depeche Mode the meaning of narcissism
MUTE MAESTRO Daniel Miller has a notoriously sweet tooth - one that’s balanced by a taste for bitter extremes. The opposite poles of the spectrum are reflected on his label by Non’s noise at the one end and the insipidly saccharine Silicon Teens at the other. No surprise then that he has helped produce the fluffiest meringue of the moment in Depeche Mode’s "Dreaming Of Me".
"Dreaming" is one of those instant airplay records that are more a matter of intuition than contrivance – like OMITD’s debut "Electricity". An infectious synth melody should guarantee it playlisting, but it’s the earnest, clutching teen vocal that elevates it.
Ironically, writer Vince Clarke is the only one of the quartet who’s no longer a teen. He is – ulp! – 21. "Twenty," he lies gracelessly when the others reveal their ages during a short confrontation in a backroom at Rough Trade.
Due to their extremely shy natures the four have chosen to be chaperoned by producer Miller, whom they refer to as Uncle Daniel. Only nine months into a fruitful career, they haven’t done many interviews, and generally support the picture of a guileless but adventurous pop group that one might glean from the single.
Depeche Mode come from Basildon. (Sentence Of The Week – Ed.). They are bass synth player Andrew Fletcher, an insurance man; David Gahan, lead vocalist, electronic percussionist and trainee window dresser; the silent Martin Gore, synthesist and banker; and Vincent Clarke, writer, synthesist and otherwise unemployed.
Their decision to switch from the more conventional guitar trio to an all electronic line-up was obviously influenced by the attractive pop of The Normal and OMITD. They recruited David, bought synths on the HP – "Costs £25 a month," reveals Andrew. But why the switch?
"We didn’t get into them just for the fashion," insists David. "It just happened that way. A few of our friends were into them and we just liked the sounds."
"And the sounds come easier than with the guitars," admits Andrew.
Meanwhile, the escalation of interest in electronic dance music meant that hometown and nearby discos like Rayleigh Crocs were giving over their busiest nights to le Beau Monde, mixing soul with the pop of Numan, Human League, Normal, Ultravox, Visage, etc.
"It’s strange," reveals Vincent, "that the kids who went to soul clubs are now moving over to this; we’re playing an old soul club in Dartford soon which Rusty Egan’s opening as – "
"It’s just that electronic pop is commercially viable now, whereas two years ago it wasn’t," interrupts Andrew. Yeah, even Human League have got a hit now after three years of trying. And a hustling DJ like Stevo manages to convince Phonogram of the viability of an electronic pop compilation, the misnamed "Some Bizzare Album".
Probably more attracted by the electronic line-up than the "normal" pop Depeche Mode make, Stevo flattered them into contributing "Photographic" – great tune, shame about the words – to the record.
"We met Stevo at Crocs and he asked us to do a track for the album," recalls Vincent. "At the time we had no record company contract and we were kind of interested in this sort of thing so we did it. We kind of regret it now because of the "futurist" connotations."
"And we don’t like to be tagged," adds David. "What is really looking forward is what’s going on at Cabaret Futura – not Classix Nouveaux or us really."
Martin: "Our music doesn’t really look into the future or say anything about the future."
Apart from the subject matter of photographic, I’d agree, though the title "Dreaming Of Me" and the band’s predilection for dressing colourfully might wrongfully link them with Le Beau Monde. There appears to be a tendency towards narcissism ("What does that mean?" they all chorus, nonplussed) but that’s countered by their guileless enthusiasm. What’ll they do when the innocence is gone?
"Grow into something else I suppose. I dunno," puzzles Vincent. They haven’t contrived any particular image for themselves, he adds. "If people draw any conclusion from the lyrics it’s up to them. We don’t set out to portray any particular image of innocence, we don’t pretend or anything."
Innocence isn’t something that can be convincingly manufactured – as The Human League’s very belated breakthrough confirms – and if you need proof of that check the wholly natural "Dreaming Of Me". It is obviously a hit – though one wonders if it being on the independent Mute will hamper its progress.
"All I can say is that we’re making every sort of legal effort to make it a hit," states Daniel Miller. "We have had some experience with The Silicon Teens in terms of marketing and how best to approach it. I think we’re at a stage now where we can make a really concerted effort – hopefully doing the right things at the right time. In a way it’s sort of a test case. Everybody here (at Rough Trade, Mute’s distributors) from distribution through to the promotion side of things (RT do more promotion these days and an independent radio "plugger" is hired) has learnt a lot in the past few years and that’ll hopefully benefit this record.
"It would be nice for it to reach its natural level – be it number one or at 74…"
The problem is that "natural levels" of most chart singles are unnaturally stimulated by the sort of gimmicks and incentives for DJs and radio producers that independents can neither afford nor want anything to do with. But that’s another story…
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only. Photo by unknown photographer. Reproduced without permission.
Click here to read a reprint of another early interview with the band
NEW LIFE - released June 13, 1981
"Tinkly bonk excursion groping in the dark for the switch that will hopefully turn on the torchlight of success."
Sounds, 13th June, 1981
"This is the way honest synth pop should sound."
Hot Press, 10th June, 1981
To read an interview with the group at the time of the recording of 'New Life', click here
To read an interview with Vince and Dave at the time of the single's release, click here
by Betty Page
Sounds, 27th June 1981
Correct your pronounciation the BETTY PAGE way
FIVE MONTHS ago the prospect of doing an interview shut inside an airless, sterile studio would have made Depeche Mode run all the way home to Basildon. But then five months, as Wowington Woy would say, is a long time in the wacky world of wock and woll. One look at Vince Clarke sitting confidently behind the mixing desk and shorts-sporting Martin Gore’s welcoming smile and I knew things would be hunky dory.
Dan "The Man" Miller quickly ordered Martin back in front of the mike to contribute his part to the now characteristic Mode quasi-barbershop harmonics on a new track which might be the new single, or possibly the start of the (gasp) album.
"I just can’t get enough, I just can’t get enough," sung Mart.
But he had, and stopped for a cuppa and a chat.
Les Moders, as I’ve hinted, are now 100% more confident, talkative, witty and brighter than all other known brands of washing powder. (Shurely shome mishtake?) Vince set his synth onto random programming to break the icky atmosphere and we commenced. How appropriate! With one record set straight – ie Depeche Mode aren’t shy, incommunicative, fragile young things at all, here’s the official mode of pronunciation: Depech-ay, if you please. "It’s probably grammatically wrong," said Vince. "But we like it that way."
Okay. Depecheeee Mode are laying down lotsa new tracks, having come to a halt after mucho gigging around London following the surprise success of "Dreaming Of Me" and even bigger surprise of "New Life". Up until now Andy and Martin have had day jobs so the touring principle is only now an ongoing viability. Offers of the calibre of Classix and Toyah had been pouring in, but Vince reckoned it wasn’t the best thing for them to do at the time. Martin considered that the Classix tour may have tied them irrevocably to the futuromanticism tag which they’ve steadfastly been trying (unsuccessfully) to avoid.
But of the bands who secured deals following the "Some Bizzare" LP, Depeche have fared the best: their simple, uncomplicated synthi-pop tunes are terribly hard to dislike, after all.
"We had a sad day on Tuesday, though," said David Gahan, crest suddenly fallen, "we expected "New Life" to go up a bit more. I think we all thought it wasn’t gonna do much at first, but inside… You can’t tell."
Funny, ’cos "New Life" is definitely even more instant than the debut… Vince: "It’s really up isn’t it."
David: "We learned a lot from "Dreaming", came in here and just did a better job on the next one."
And that riveting little synth riff is still locked in my head, reminding me of God-knows-what. Just an old r&b riff, said Vince. No, it’s a good job they do have insistent hooks – David reckoned people have beaucoup de trouble remembering the name:
"I bet they get to the shop and forget the name. They go in, hum the tune and say oh, can’t remember the name, I’ll have that Duran Duran one instead!"
ANDY FLETCHER suggested Dep Mod as an abbreviation in fine Orch Man tradition. An imaginary lightbulb above Vince’s head suddenly fired him with a cracking good idea.
"When your photographer comes," he smirked, "can we have a picture taken in the back of Dan’s Renault? Just like Spandau Ballet? Only there’ll be five of us in the back, and we’ll all be squashed up like this …" (David imitates dead sardine)
OK, wrench those tongues out of yer cheeks, boys. Mutemobile, indeed? It is true that they did well in the US Disco charts and have great appeal for Europe too… deals are currently being set up with several different majors to get Mode released in France, Germany et al. Many doubted the ability of Mute and Miller to break the Modes, but for an indie they’ve broken the required barriers.
David: "We would much rather have had points than big advances, and we’ve got that with Daniel – he’s proved he can get us what we want, there’s nothing he can’t do – that we haven’t found out yet!"
Andy: "Indies are at their height, they never used to get in the charts before."
David: "And radio stations are more likely to play indies."
Vince: "They have to pay less royalties!"
David: "Radio One have been very good to us – 3 plays a day on this one. They said they’d stick with it, give it lots of airplay."
So from the insecure, nervous and unsure start, things have actually turned out as they’d hoped?
Vince: "It has really. You learn things very quickly. With Mute we know everything that’s going on, we’re in contact with distributors, pluggers and promotion people every day."
Andy: "What we don’t know is what a major is like. We’re quite happy with our set up, but we don’t know if the distribution could be better."
Aah, but Rough Trade gets you into those little shops that the hordes of independent buyers frequent, you lucky boys.
Andy then proceeded to go off at a tangent (this is not unusual), musing about how the band’s audiences had changed, become much younger. No-one else agreed.
David: "We get a varied audience, you can’t say that at all!"
Vince: "In clubs an’ that, the audience is already there, they haven’t come to see us."
David: "Don’t be silly! You can’t say everywhere we play has a fixed audience!"
Andy: "You’re getting worse than Martin now… Martin hasn’t said one thing yet!"
Martin woke up. "I’m saving it up, it’s all going to come out in a minute, I’m just waiting for the right question."
WE LAUNCHED into a discussion about clubs, people not dressing up as much as they used to and the sight of Midge Ure sending lace-clad young girls into the water and into a frenzy at Crystal Pal [Palace] last week.
This caused much amusement.
Andy: "That’s what Martin does!"
Martin: "You’re asking for it, Fletch…"
To avert a full-scale war, I mentioned my liking for the "Rio" mix of "Shout!", B-Side of their first ever 12". They love the rhythm, but the song? David loves it, Vince hates it, Martin says so-so. Humph. It’s the first dancefloor oriented thing they’ve done tho’, eh?
Andy: "Apart from the things we did when we were Light Of The World…" Silence… laughter!
They all paused to watch Daniel frowning in the control room, doubtless searching for that stray note out of tune. A conspiracy brewed. "What was that thing we wanted in Jaws [Sounds gossip column - BB] about Daniel?" they whispered. "Nooooo – don’t put it in, he’d know it was us… if you say it, Andy, you’re the one – we all tried to stop you!"
Andy turned to me with a probing question. "Who told you about the folk group and church hall thing?" (Referring to a gossip item about their acoustic past). "We practised in a church hall, that’s all."
And they’re recording in a deconsecrated church now!
David: "Yeah, we just love churches."
Martin: "You wait till you hear our new single – it’s a gospel song."
David: "It’s called "Have You Got The Sunshine Smile"."
Andy sung the words, gesticulating his finger at his smiling lips in Sunday School teacher style.
David: "On the picture bag, there’s Andy’s face, and when you press his nose, a finger comes out and there’s Martin inside showing the actions. Martin doing the Mode!"
And they chorused: "Have you got the sunshine HA-HA-HA HEE HEE." I think this is what we in the trade call a joke…
On entering studiospace, I’d noticed Darryl, Fan Club President and original Silicon Teen, scribbling away replies to D Mode fan mail. Are they getting lots?
David: "Not really. We were just trying to impress you! We were s’posed to have this Postman come in just after you with a great big sack!"
Andy: "Yeah, binfuls of used biros, hard skin on our fingers where we’ve been writing so much!"
Well, I saw at least ten letters.
David: "A lot of them are really young. This 13 year old boy wrote us a story using words from the singles and sent us some badge designs."
Vince: "We’re pop! Ultra pop!"
Andy: "People write to us from up North but they haven’t seen us. We want to branch out from London, but first we must rehearse new material, we’ve been doing the same set for 4 months. The live show should be better, more danceable."
DANIEL LOOKED quizzical again. The boys told him to stop listening in.
Andy: "He’s a great man. Look – the ultimate picture of Daniel Miller, father of electronic music…"
Vince: "Grandfather, more like."
Daniel the scolding father retorted, "I can hear you."
A man from ITV arrived to discuss Dep Mod’s appearance on a 20th Century Box prog on the Essex music scene, past and present. Depeche are to be filmed live at Croc’s in Rayleigh, and filmed au naturel around Basildon, all to be shown sometime in August.
"You can film my usual Saturday morning routine," joked David. "Have a sauna, go to a brothel, then a commando course… Nah, it’ll be Andy waking up at 5am, having ’is toast and going down the newsagents for his paper round. Boys next door!" He concluded, sensibly: "It doesn’t matter if we’re sitting on the loo – a minute on tele is better than a thousand radio plays."
Andy came over all pensive again, wondering why so many of their interviews spent more time talking about Daniel than the band.
"There’s nothing really that people can say about us is there? All other bands go on about political things, we don’t talk about our views."
Dave: "We don’t have political views, I don’t think."
Andy: "There’s always an extrovert member of a band with strong views."
Vince: "We don’t stand for anything united do we?"
Andy: "We haven’t got a person who’s domineering."
David: "That’s good!"
Andy: "On the other hand, that’s why our interviews are very empty, ’cause usually the loudmouth of a band goes on about what the Labour party are doing or something."
Martin: "Sexism always comes up too, especially with HM bands."
David: "They always talk about sex."
Vince: "It’s all that macho stuff."
Macho. Dep Mod certainly aren’t Macho. Now they were in a more reflective mood, I asked what their immediate hopes for the future were.
Chorus: "Ultimate success!"
David: "We’re happy as it is, we’d just like some money."
Vince: "We want to change our sound, get some new stuff together, get a good live show."
Vince: "We don’t want to get like Kraftwerk, we don’t want to use tapes any more. We’ve got a rhythm unit with a TV screen that plays Space Invaders as well!"
Andy: "We want to give the show more of an aura."
David: "Down the Bridgehouse?!"
Now there’s a thought… anything else?
David: "Yes, Andy would love to have a cult following, be underground. We have gigs in here when Vince is getting down on the mixer, and Andy sings! Things get on top of you in the studio – you have to do something to let it all go, so we come in here and scream and shout."
The lads played me a tape of impromptu raw electro-punk with Crass-style vocals by Andy, featuring a cover version of "Simple Simon Says", "You’re Gonna Lose That Girl" and a sensitive rendition of a popular school hymn. There’s that religious influence again… But they need this relief valve from the precise orderliness required to produce their brand of neatly-packed pop songs – operating, generating new life for our pop kids.
A lot of people know the name Depeche Mode now. Now you know who they are, what they are. Like their boss, they’re all heart – boys next door who turn into Ultra Popsters at the flick of a switch. Mode: strictly not avant-garde.
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only. Photo by Virgina Turbett. Reproduced without permission.
The Venue, London - July 23, 1981
"Those arbiters of modern taste - and as you will see from this issue, they lurk even in the most prestigious camps - who would wish on you the indecencies of things like Spandau Ballet, are generally the same people who can be seen laying into that very great group The Ramones. But behind the real scenes are less fad-conscious figures who will always know better. Daniel Miller, the producer of Depeche Mode, is one of them. He knows that the distance seperating those four middle-class vagrants of Forest Hills from these four working class cherubs of Basildon is not so very great.
In fact, The Ramones are to Depeche Mode what, at her absolute nadir, Patti Smith is/was to Duran Duran. Where those Brummie phonies were reared on, and now exist in a purely nostalgic relation to, glam rock, Depeche, so much sweeter, so much neater, are young enough to be both new and non-industrial.
Depeche Mode make music for the milk bars of a 1990's Late Call. New life, new towns - they've yet to lose their own milk teeth. The Dole Age needn't be one of hysteria and blind narcissism.
At the Venue, the group came across very professionally as a kind of English working-pop Kraftwerk, and were received with nothing short of rapture. A companion made the observation that one doesn't so much dance to Depeche Mode as respond/flinch to the direct stimulus of their machines. The capacity audience bore this out - each member seemed another computed digit, constituted by the purest input/output system, each one a metronome of regular tempo, swinging back and forth with minimal regard for the four figures on stage.
The point is that they hadn't come to see a show, just to be placed facing some kind of system. It's the very immobility of the Depeches which permits such robotic gyration. It's the disco of the bathroom, a privacy of disguise, the sweat merely condensation on the interchangeable tiles of faces.
Dave, Andrew, Martin, and Vince (perfect names) are four little birds in four little cages; every note they utter is so immaculately saturated in a texture they don't personally weave that it's almost as though the sound were being channelled through them, bypassing their hearts, minds, and bodies.
Depeche Mode are too young for the melancholy of Kraftwerk, and their underpants are too clean for the despair of D.A.F. At an extreme - when the three synths splutter, jam, and freeze on 'I Take Pictures' - they are only children staging pile-ups with toy cars. Their machines navigate such unfurrowed paths. Safe, quick, hygenic; fashion in a hurry.
Depeche Mode won't come up with anything as damagingly beautiful as 'As If It Were The Last Time' in a million years - just as, if they were a "guitar" band, they couldn't conceive of a song like 'Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World'. Nevertheless like D.A.F., they are part of the vital resistance to the vulgar hype of Duran Duran.
And it is hardly irrelevant that behind their "innocence" and unpretentiousness lurks the displaced mind of an American intellectual."
New Musical Express, 1st August, 1981
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only. Photo by Peter Anderson. Reproduced without permission.
See the original review here
To read a review of the Mute Records 'label night' at the London Lyceum featuring Depeche Mode, see Appendix A
THREE MODES IN A BOAT
by Paul Morley
New Musical Express, 22nd August 1981
Paul Morley skinnydips with the electropop heart-throbs from Basildon.
Anton Corbijn pictures it
SO I'M surrounded by three of the sweet Depeche boys, impressed by the variety of their haircuts, surprised by their simplicity, and I do what any responsible writer would do. I go boating with them.
Basildon is close to Southend, Essex, a half hour journey on old stock from a little-known London station. Depeche Mode – "hurried fashion" – are in between a British tour that ended in Edinburgh last Saturday and the recording of their debut LP, and are meeting the NME at Basildon station. The NME is twenty minutes late! "Sorry, it’s his fault," I glibly blurt, pointing at the lanky lensboy. Depeche look annoyed, don’t say much, and hang around the station entrance until their instant photographs have been processed.
We walk through the new town: unlike a close, dirty and snaggy city, Basildon is flat, open light grey and fresh brick red. The sky looks close. I bet the tap water is moderately drinkable. We stroll past the square shopping centre, probably a local attraction for the postcards, cross a busy dual carriageway, an odd sign of speed, towards the indoor swimming pool.
"A lot of people," Andrew Fletcher – a redhead, with new, dangerously close-cropped hair – tells me, "think that Basildon is a little country village." Thatched roofs and jukebox-less pubs. "In fact it has a population of 180,000," Martin Gore – derelict blond curls, a couple of days’ tender fluff on the chin – affectionately mocks him. "Oh, Andy knows everything, even the population."
"Believe me," continues Andrew earnestly, "It’s got an electoral roll of 107,000 and that’s not including kids. That’s the biggest in the country, and next time it has got to be split up into Basildon East and West."
Have you lived in Basildon long? I ask singer Dave Gahan – black hair with a strange lie and an abbreviated fringe pointing down the centre of the forehead. "Since I was four," he says. Depeche Mode are the formalist tingling sound of young Basildon, the alert geometric sound of the new town, the soundtrack for all cosmetic optimism, an evocative representation of the functional artificiality of some environment. Sunshine suits Basildon, all interviews with Depeche Mode should take place in the open air.
The Swimming Pool is set in a small tidy park: next to the swimming pool is a boating pool, near the boating pool is a putting green. Teenyboppers on school-holiday burn their legs in the sun and look numbly happy in the peace and slowness. Depeche and the NME sit on strictly mown grass under a toy tree; missing is songwriter Vince Clarke, who from past interviews appears to be the most prepared to attempt to rationalise the anti-romantic anti-intellectual Mode pop.
"There was a guy who interviewed us for the Daily Star, Ricky Sky, and he was desperately looking for a headline, an angle, and he was saying to us – haven’t you done anything really exciting, what’s been happening? We said well nothing really, although when we played at Ronnie Scott’s once all the lights went out! He was excited by this, then he started to talk about looks and he said do you think it’s an advantage to be good looking and in a band? Vince said Yeah, obviously, it’s an advantage in life to be good looking. Rick Sky made it out that Vince had said UGLY BANDS NEVER MAKE IT, IF YOU’RE GOOD LOOKING THEN YOU’RE NUMBER ONE. Since then Vince has never ventured out of his flat! He is so upset. It really hit him hard. He hasn’t been out for six weeks and he had a real bad depression."
At the station I felt that Depeche Mode were going to be surly and silent: pop technicians simplifying their calculated art so that it fits into "the interview". Actually, they like talking: what they like talking about most is nothing in particular. There is a residue of scurrilous schoolboy values, an innocently mutinous streak. They’re in no hurry: they’ve a cheerily vague idea about where they’ve been, and aren’t too concerned about where they’re going. Yet! Tomorrow is just another day: yesterday was a bit of a laugh. Today: flick the switch, talk to the man, fiddle with pieces of grass. Depeche Pop: for all the time in the world and no time at all.
DAVE: "It’s just the pop sound of the ’80s, that’s what I would describe Depeche Mode as."
Andrew: "Yeah, I don’t think tours play a major part in what we do. I think most of the people who bought our record have never been to a gig in their life and will never go to one. They’d rather see a picture in a magazine … A lot of housewives bought the record, I reckon, old ones as well as young."
Dave: "My mum always tells me if a song we’ve made is bad, if it’s too choppy she doesn’t like it. It’s got to have a good beat and run melodically."
Andrew: "A lot of people still don’t realise that the whole of our set is pop. Virtually all our songs are pop songs. I think people think it might not be like that."
What do you think people think?
Martin: "They think we’re jokes!"
Andrew: "Naah… a lot of people have still got this thing – synthesiser, he must be moody. You get a lot of Numanoids coming to our gigs."
Dave: There was this bloke come to see us the other day and he said to me after the show – I think it’s really bad the way you have all your friends in the audience talking to you and that, and then we’re all over here and you don’t react to us. I said well what do you mean? He said: I think it’s really bad that you have like all your friends in the changing room. I said well what do you want me to say c’mon all the audience into the changing room. He said – well have you got lots of friends? I said well I’ve got a few. He said – well I haven’t got any. Well pity you mate! Isn’t that a friend, a guy who was with him. He said – yeah he’s a friend, but not a friend like that.
"It was really weird! I couldn’t be bothered talking to him. He thought that we should be like Gary Numan and have the distant lonely look and image. Because we play synthesisers and we’re supposed to look strange at people, and not smile. The bloke didn’t like the way I smiled at people!!"
DEPECHE MODE electerrific pop is a mazed glitter reflection of fast life and new values, the subjective sense of populist culture, the sound of flashing lights, a minimalist activating caricature of repentance and reason, a clinging ringing radiance. Soothing and exciting, pop’s equivalent to the TV commercial. Their songs are successive transformation of images, precise parodies of the sense of interplay between technology and man. They’re simplifications, curt cuts, ironic pop sculptures, lively chairs, a spiked soft drink.
Talking to them – especially without Vince Clarke, the missing trinket – you can’t directly appreciate the subtle merit of Depeche pop, where the intention seems to be to disclaim reality as messy and stale, to condemn daily life as heartlessly indifferent to the needs of imaginative life. Depeche Mode is a figurative pop that is the result of a collision between SENSITIVITY and INSENSITIVITY, RESPECT and INDIFFERENCE.
There is more going on than it seems: there will be more going on. Mode’s literate, significantly glossy pop has a superficiality that is contradicted by an inner consistency that hints at emotion, tragedy, spirit, or perhaps an anticipation of impatience with the present format. Depeche Mode are moving between the over candid and value-less simplification of Numan, and the convincing confrontation of new possibilities of Cabaret Voltaire. Listening to the focused pop of Depeche Mode – "to sound like a fairy tale full of silent machines, robots, consumer imperatives and mute children in love with the sky" – can put this listener in the best possible mood to take in the day. Today …
Minus Clarke, Depeche Mode talk like teenyboppers: no complications! Depeche unpretentiously admit that they’ve ended up this way today through a series of lucky breaks. Unlike distant rubbing cousins like Cabaret Voltaire or even The Human League there’s been precious little sense of purpose. They find it difficult to frame their new fame. Ingredients, colours, ideas, references, styles were generously, haphazardly scattered: the accidental pattern that’s formed is brilliant, attractive and the bright basis for a special design. Depeche are a supreme example of the electronic vitalisation of the basic pop format, and it’s the beginning.
Depeche Mode haven’t appreciated this yet. They’re still adjusting, playing truant. That they’re an obvious part of the evolution from Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Cabaret Voltaire, The Human League and DAF – musically and conceptually – whose observation and explanation of SURROUNDING is dislocated and oddly associated indicates that DeMode have the potential to be a shade more provocative than their fakerist contemporaries. Tomorrow…
THERE IS no impudent statement about Mode’s employment of electronics; though they relish the opportunities. To them it was natural, a rewarding route to constructing intelligent pop songs. There is no rigorous or possessive art background. They’re all under 20. Vince Clarke may well have a folkish background – try singing "New Life" with a finger in the ear, acapella like Steeleye Span singing "Gaudete". Andrew was a rock snob – pre-punk into The Who and Deep Purple, out of that when punk churned along, and then fond of the Pistols and Parker. Martin, whose previous group performed the theme from Skippy, likes Sparks, The Velvet Underground and Cabaret Voltaire. Dave’s background associates the group with the swift shifts of Egan clubland, has placed them near to the air the cults with names breathe.
"Yeah, I was a soulboy, I’ve done it all, I’ve been everything. I used to like soul and jazz-funk like The Crusaders. I used to go to soul weekends and hang around with the crew from Global Village and I went to, like, The Lyceum on a Friday night." He got interested in punk, and when that burnt out went back to the clubs for the exotic new electronic fun, the floating fading fantasy of The Blitz and Studio 21.
Depeche Mode were originally Vince, Martin and Andrew, bass guitar and a drum machine. Dave joined up, Depeche Mode became two synthesisers, a drum machine a vivacious front boy. Yesterday…
"We were just a band and we played in front of friends and that… we didn’t start off being a pop group, that’s just the way it went, it was just the music we liked making. We never said let’s form a band, let’s get in the charts, let’s be enormous. We didn’t intend it to be a career, we were still at work until recently. We just never planned anything. We would have signed any deal, we just wanted to put a record out."
They didn’t anticipate the recent shifts from IRRELEVANT BIGNESS towards mobility, colour, commotion: the newest pop urge to participate more in the bombardment of the senses? Pop in discos: pop as part of the rushing crushing soundtrack for the day. "I think we’re lucky to fit into all that. We have had a lot of lucky breaks."
MEETING DANIEL MILLER was the sort of lucky break that can be turned into legend. Miller is Normal, Miller is Mute, Miller is ghost, Miller is catalyst. "If we hadn’t signed with Dan’s Mute label we would have signed with a major label and got immersed in all that stupid expense, the big rigs and the 20 roadies…"
DeMode certainly appreciate their fortunate independence: the flexibility. "We didn’t think about it before, but now we run our own thing, plan what we want to do, how and when we want to do it. It could’ve been the other way easily. We emerged just as all the big labels were searching for their "futurist" group." Depeche Mode appeared on Stevo’s Some Bizzare compilation and were therefore momentarily branded as "futurist". "We came very close to signing with a major. But we can do anything with Daniel. We could if we wanted do a record that’s just a continual noise for three minutes and he’d release it as a single."
If it wasn’t for Miller Depeche Mode would have been lost. They would have stood still. Miller has propelled them forward, is helping them see things clearly. His commercially practical yet unconventional vision has given DeMode a properly encouraging context to exploit and perfect their belligerently simple Pop Art. The story goes that at first he didn’t want to help them: when he first heard them they were scrappy and he was in a bad mood. Fate needed to make it happy ever after. "We really were lucky to meet someone like him. We’re surrounded by people we can totally trust. The people he’s got on his label, like Boyd Rice, really are out of order. He puts out a single even though he knows it’ll only sell 1,000. He just does it because he likes it… I still don’t understand Daniel Miller. I don’t see how he’s made any money until us. He’ll make a bit out of this single! But you know we just never really thought anything really. We just wanted to put a single out. Then we did "Dreaming Of Me" as a one off for Mute and that went into the lower charts and we were surprised. Then, in a couple of months, everything’s happened."
I SAW YOU just before the release of "Dreaming Of Me" at Cabaret Futura and you didn’t move – you were frozen!
Andrew: "That was really terrible… a really funny gig. We hadn’t learnt how to move. It’s very hard moving when you play synthesisers."
The next time I saw you, on Top Of The Pops playing "New Life", you were hipping and hopping like puppets with broken strings.
Andrew: "It used to be the main criticism of us, that we didn’t move enough on stage. But it’s really hard, we’ve relaxed a bit now and we dance but we used to be shy and we used to be really young."
Martin: "We used to be really young! It was only 6 months ago. We used to have this idea of having rails on the stage and we would be on platforms on stage so that we could be moved back and forwards on stage although we didn’t have to actually move! We really want to make our show good but we just haven’t had a chance to sit down and think about it."
I’ve seen people vainly try to imitate Dave’s daft dance but they can never do it.
Dave: "Did you see Razmatazz yesterday? We were on it and all these little girls in the background were trying to imitate me – copying me weren’t they? I didn’t know when we were doing it but they were there doing exactly the same dance – like you go through loads of times before the real performance and the girls must have perfected it towards the end."
Do you like appearing on television?
Andrew: "It’s alright. At first I felt a bit like a prune. Like pressing a keyboard and pretending you’re really doing it and singing into a mike with a lead going nowhere – half way through you think God what am I doing here, looking like a prat in front of millions of people. We’ve got used to it now."
Andrew: "Yeah, it’s just funny now."
THE INTERVIEW in the sun fades away after about 40 minutes. Depeche are obviously bored, and so they should be. We go boating. DeMode are recognised by almost everybody sunning by the pool. Now that they’re FACES are they into glamour? Shrug, stare into space, laughter.
"There’s no glamour. We drive around in Dan’s Renault… we don’t now because it’s broken, so we get trains. Don’t know about glamour. Nothing’s really changed. We might have a few more pennies in our pockets, and when I say pennies I do mean pennies, but same friends, same places to go to. You always think wouldn’t it be great to have a hit single, but when it actually happens nothing really changes."
They seem remarkably unaffected and unimpressed by their success: likeably irreverent. "Oh, it’s great fun…" Glad to hear it. The three muscle men who hire out the boats recognise the local goodies Mode. One of them chats to the boys as he helps them into a boat. "What number are you this week then?" "Fifteen" "That’s the way – go get ’em!" He points out the group to what looks like his dad. "Hey this is Depeche Mode, they come from around this way."
"Never heard of them."
"It’s really odd, at first you think God, imagine being on TOTP, imagine being in the top ten, but it all changes when it begins to happen. When we got into the lower charts we thought it was good for a while, but then we thought well it’s no good unless we get into the top 40. Then we thought well it’s no good unless we get into the top 20…"
Depeche finish their boat ride. "All the way to number one!" shouts a boat man. Depeche are confused about what they want, why and what for, and are just beginning to work out guidelines. They intuitively realise that there is MORE than Radio One recognition: the charts the glossy magazines will unusually form the background to a hard artistic growth. Depeche Mode are casual but not silly. Would they mind the mythical mishap of ending up as one hit wonders? "I don’t think it would put us off in any way – although some people in the papers would love it. We’ve done a lot already, we’ve learnt a lot, but I hope we’re not one hit wonders!"
I walk around the pool as Anton focuses. Two little girls ask me if I’m in Depeche Mode. It’s nice to be asked, but I point at the threesome. Two early teen lads come up to me and ask me what paper the articles going to be in. Are Depeche Mode local heroes: "Oh yeah really well known!" The two lads argue about whether Stiff Little Fingers are the other Basildon pop stars.
Dave walks the NME back to the station: the deal was all over inside 90 minutes, as it should be. Do they get recognised a lot in Basildon?
"Quite a lot… it’s funny. The people round here sort of think that if you’ve got a single in the charts you’re going to be driving round in a Rolls Royce, but we still use buses. They see you in the chip shop or the Wimpy and they think it’s really odd."
Is his mum excited? "Oh yes. Mum says to my aunts – make sure you see them on Razmatazz! She’s been really good about it - she’s kind of let me have my own way. She could have been harder."
She had a banking career in mind? "No, no… I went to college doing Design and shop display, but I left. The College were pretty good about it. They sent me a note the other day, saying congratulations on the success."
Detached Dave quietly says goodbye to the NME, and straight away seems to have forgotten about them. What did I do today? He might wonder later that night. Tomorrow is just another day… but the day after? Depeche Mode can make intimate and challenging pop art out of routine and insecurity! Dave walks off towards sunsets and sunrises and certain surprises. Depeche Mode will grow and grow. Tomorrow… all the time in the world.
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only. Photo by Anton Corbijn. Reproduced without permission.
ADDITIONAL READING: Two 1981 interviews in Record Mirror