The story of Depeche Mode is phenomenal. From their earliest work in the early 1980s with Vince Clarke, and their work with keyboardist Alan Wilder from 1982-1994, to the profound lyrics and timeless songwriting of Martin Gore, and the booming baritone vocals of electrifying stage performances in their front man Dave Gahan, in conjunction with collaborations with record producers Daniel Miller, David Bascombe and Mark Ellis, the band has had a roller coaster ride of successes and tribulations. The core trio of the group have relied on each other and their fanatical fans around the world are grateful that Dave Gahan, Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher were able to keep the band together through all of their massive achievements as well as their misfortunes.
Martin Gore’s meaningful lyrics contributes to their depth and his bass guitar drives fans crazy, especially when he jams the beat to their masterpiece, Enjoy the Silence. Martin Gore’s words stroke the heart and provoke the mind in a beautifully melancholic way. Dave Gahan’s voice is intensely concentrated, especially in their 2001 release of their 10th studio album, Exciter, where he sings subtly with captivation on their best track, When the Body Speaks. He has such a deep and profound voice that one can easily feel his requests and commandments through the lyrics. When Dave steps off the stage, Martin shines with songs like Blue Dress from the bands best selling album, Violator, which sold over one million copies when it was released in 1990. Or, how about when Martin Gore sings the darker, electronic synth version of Depeche Mode in their 5th studio album, Black Celebration, where he performs the track Question of Lust with ethereal beauty, or when he performs Judas from their best ranked album, Songs of Faith and Devotion, which reached #1 on the Billboard 200 in 1993, with such passion and emotion. The history behind the recording of Judas is controversial, apparently it is when he and Alan Wilder had major creative differences. Their 9th studio album, Ultra, is an album that’s not talked about enough, and he did the same thing on that record with The Bottom Line; writing and performing a meaningful song that can be interpreted by being about God or being under the whims of a woman.
Martin Gore needs the bands lead singer, Dave Gahan, just as much as Dave needs him. Together, they’ve made dark themes popular by combining it with timeless songwriting. Dave Gahan’s voice is commanding and moves you to a degree of influence and persuasion. His on stage performance capability is electric, dictating vibes to over a hundred thousand people at times; most notably the bands famous 101 concert from 1988 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, where Depeche Mode were performing their last concert after singing at 100 different live events around the world for their Music for the Masses tour, their 6th studio album, which starts with three remarkable tracks: Never Let Me Down Again, The Things You Said and Strangelove. The latter being their most provocative song about romance. The fact that these tracks are laid out consecutively is mesmerizing. Dave Gahan has mentioned that aside from Strangelove, the song Nothing on this record is his favorite because it sounds the best when performed live. Listen to Depeche Mode perform the live introduction to Never Let me Down Again at their magical concert in France, titled One Night in Paris, when they were on their Exciter tour, and witness the crowd go wild from hearing the first few seconds.
Alan Wilder’s entry into the band on their 3rd album, Construction Time Again, followed by Some Great Reward, geared Depeche Mode toward a darker sound that became an instant classic on Black Celebration in 1986. It is believed by many fans that without Alan Wilder’s contributions in audio engineering and influencing the bands sound toward that direction, Depeche Mode would not have recorded such popular albums back to back, like Violator and Songs of Faith and Devotion.
An thought provoking question for Depeche Mode fans around the world has always been: which Depeche Mode are you? The answer is, to choose your favorite Depeche Mode album and the catch is, you can only pick one. It’s a fun thought and an accurate one for your mind to hold on to, because there are many genre categories Depeche Mode’s music falls under, and the album you choose says a lot about your taste in their music. They’ve been around for ages and have evolved with the times. We’re talking a fantastic career that’s spanned over four decades. May the universe continue to bless them because they are living legends. Their life gives their fans life. It is refreshing to see them celebrated by being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2020. From the first song they ever recorded, Photographic, in 1980 from their album Speak & Spell to their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame forty years later is a landmark achievement. They’ve recorded such amazing electronic synth-pop music from the lighter tones and melodies of their earlier albums with powerful vocals of the young Dave Gahan on Some Great Reward, to the darker and heavy emo style of Black Celebration, followed with the new wave style of their 6th album Music for the Masses. Alan Wilder joining the band prior to Construction Time Again, from simply responding to an advertisement, was a game changer and further darkened their sound on Black Celebration in 1986. It is believed that Wilder convinced the group to modify their pulsating, up-tempo masterpiece anthem Enjoy the Silence from its original slower version on Violator. Policy of Truth and their first implementation of the acoustic guitar on Personal Jesus became worldwide hits further enhancing the great anticipation for the release of their alternative rock album, Songs of Faith and Devotion, which is the record that reached #1 on the Billboard 200.
For many fans, the progression from Black Celebration in 1986 to Songs of Faith and Devotion in 1993 is a fascinating process. The transformation of their living legend, leading front man and vocalist Dave Gahan, was wild and its reasons were justified. After the major success of Violator, the groups fame sky-rocketed and the band temporarily went their separate ways. Dave Gahan moved to Los Angeles where he spent time with alternative rock and grunge bands in addition to developing a drug addiction. Regardless of the transformation, every true Depeche Mode fan knows the gist of the story in the bands creation of Songs of Faith and Devotion. Prior to that, the band would go to the studio to record and return to their respective lives, maintaining somewhat of a normal work life existence in taking breaks from one another throughout the week. This time, upon Dave Gahan returning from Los Angeles, they rented a villa in Spain, turning it into a studio, and lived together for several months while jamming, creating and recording. They ultimately reached the inevitable level of claustrophobia and cabin fever states of mind which caused the band frustrations and quarrels to the degree of being unable to stand the sight of each other.
There was shock that came for fans when Alan Wilder, the bands classically trained synth player, decided to leave, while inadvertently breaking the hearts of the bands enthusiasts around the world. The songs from that album are unlike anything Depeche Mode has ever created. I Feel You, Walking in my Shoes, Judas and In Your Room are all gems from their discography and the band made a statement with such a bold transition of genre styles that was nothing foreign to this legendary group’s previous behavior. From the synth-pop dance sounds of Speak and Spell with Vince Clarke, to the darker synth-rock style of Black Celebration with Alan Wilder, and the crisp New Wave melodies on Music for the Masses, to the globally famous anthems of Violator, they made their mark with Songs of Faith and Devotion as an electronic alternative rock masterpiece of an album. Two of Depeche Mode’s greatest pieces of work are known to be In Your Room and Walking in My Shoes. The distress, anger and frustration from the recording of that album fueled the production of their best ranked record in their 40 years of music production.
The living legend Dave Gahan has reportedely mentioned that when his heart stopped in 1996, for two minutes, he heard a loud and deep voice inside of him, yelling “This is wrong.” Thank God for that, and thank God for their next studio album, Ultra, in 1997. Many would say this is their darkest album. I beg to differ. It’s uplifting and positive. The song It’s No Good has lyrics providing confidence and patience about a man’s pursuit of a woman using faith, patience and confidence in order to be with her. And personally, I find the music video for this track, directed by long-time collaborator and feature filmmaker Anton Corbijn (A Most Wanted Man, The American) to be hilarious. The song Freestate is an uplifting track about stepping outside of the box and staying true by being authentic and exposing yourself to the world by stepping out on to the stage, opening your mind to the advantages of freedom and letting go by being free from your own self-imposed mental state of saving face. Another song from this album, The Bottom Line, performed beautifully by Martin Gore, is an ambiguous song that could be about a girl or God. This album was their first without Alan Wilder and even with his departure from the group, it deservedly reached #5 on the Billboard 200 in 1997, further proving that the band can sustain with misfortunes.
The names they choose for their album titles or artwork are always simple yet eccentric and sometimes a joke or by mere chance. The coolest decision they’ve ever made is choosing their band name. Dave Gahan was, and is, quite the fashionable dresser and it only suits these living legends in Andy Fletcher, Martin Gore, Alan Wilder and the one and only master, legendary singer, performer, the bands heartbeat and vitality, Dave Gahan, to be apart of a band that was inspired by the name of a French magazine which translates to English as ‘fast-fashion’. They lived up to their name and more through amazing music that evolved with the times and their edgy fashion pushed boundaries resulting in a remarkable career that’s still going strong. The music of Depeche Mode lives inside the minds and bodies of their millions of fans who walk the Earth with these marvelous sounds and meaningful words embedded inside of them. From a career that commenced in 1980, recording 14 studio albums, to their induction with the Class of 2020 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Depeche Mode has made their mark as living legends of music history.