Synopsis of Pop Music
"Lift up the receiver, I'll make you a believer...”
It is time now for a post-punk sermon. In the beginning (for the band that became Depeche Mode, at least), there were guitars. But guitars begat synthesizers, and synthesizers begat an 'electro-synth' pop sound, and that sound begat an 80's music archetype. Depeche Mode is French for 'fast fashion,' but this band had a lot more staying power than that tongue-in-cheek name suggests.
Hailing from Basildon, England, Vince Clarke, Andy Fletcher and Martin Gore were a guitar-playing trio at first, but with the addition of vocalist Dave Gahan, they abandoned the guitars and drums—synthesizers were easier to carry to gigs, after all. In 1980, calling themselves Composition of Sound, they played all over London and built up a fan base, then were discovered and signed to Mute Records. Three singles followed, the last of which was the chipper “Just Can’t Get Enough,” a Top-10 hit in England and a favorite on American alternative radio.
After the release of 1981’s Speak and Spell, the band’s LP debut, Clarke left to form Yazoo with Alison Moyet. Alan Wilder joined up and took over the serious synth duties; Gahan took up most of the vocalist reigns; and Gore wrote most of the songs. Thier songs, incidentally, were becoming more mature all the time (and exploring some very un-chipper subjects like spiritual doubt and soul-sucking capitalism), and their sound was becoming a bit more industrial.
1984’s People Are People and its hit title song gave Depeche Mode the kind of success in America that it had been enjoying overseas since the early 80’s, and the band propelled itself further in stateside charts with their fourth release, Some Great Reward. They were never very critically acclaimed, but as the music gods seem to have deigned from way back—and yes, it’s sermon time again—praise from the critics never had a lot to do with anybody’s concert profits. With 1986’s Black Celebration and the following year’s Music for the Masses (an album title that was meant as a joke, because no one figured the masses would actually give a hoot), world tours and huge stadium shows abounded. The double live album 101 and the eponymous concert film directed by D.A. Pennebaker (Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Jimi Plays Monterey) put a spotlight on, and gave thanks to, their devoted following.
After a long 1990 touring stint in support of Violator, their most popular album yet and the source of singles “Enjoy the Silence,” “Policy of Truth” and “Personal Jesus,” the band took a break from touring and re-evaluated its future—three of the four members had children they wanted to spend time with, and Gahan moved to Los Angeles.
Three years later, Songs of Faith and Devotion was released, and this record had a rock influence not yet seen from our sultans of synthesizer. Fletcher at this point had evolved into the group’s manager (replaced on stage by Daryl Bamonte, a long-time friend of the band) and their “Devotional” world tour spanned through 1993 and 1994.
Alan Wilder left in 1995 after fifteen years. In ’96, Gahan was found unconscious in a Los Angeles hotel. He was revived and forced to enter rehab for his drug addiction. The band went back to the studio (and back to a more electronica-based sound) for 1997’s Ultra release. In September of 1998, they included a few new tracks on their two disc single compilation The Singles 86>98, and hit the road for the first time in five years. Nearly three years later, the band released another studio album, Exciter.
With synthesizers or not, their devoted minions wait and listen for more. We've still got the black eyeliner to cake on, and if Depeche comes to town, don't think that we won't use it.
Artist Release History1981 - Speak and Spell
1982 - A Broken Frame
1983 - Construction Time Again
1984 - Some Great Reward
1984 - People Are People
1985 - The Singles 81>85
1985 - Catching Up with Depeche Mode
1986 - Black Celebration
1987 - Music for the Masses
1989 - 101
1990 - Violator
1991 - The CD Singles Box Sets, Volumes 1-3
1993 - Songs of Faith and Devotion
1993 - Songs of Faith and Devotion, Live
1997 - Ultra
1998 - The Singles 86>98
15 May 2001 - Exciter
Pop Sub Categoriesalternative
Essential Music AlbumsThe Singles 81>85 (Mute)
The Singles 86>98 (Reprise)
Band MembersDave Gahan vocals
Martin Gore synthesizer
Andy Fletcher bass synthesizer
Alan Wilder synthesizer