is an influential English electronic music band, formed in 1980 in Basildon, Essex. They are one of the longest-lived and most successful bands to have emerged from the New Wave
and New Romantic
era; they were part of the "futurist" scene, alongside the likes of Soft Cell
, The Human League
and Gary Numan. Many of their videos have been in heavy rotation on MTV
As of 2006, it was estimated that Depeche Mode
has sold over 73 million albums worldwide and has had forty-four songs in the UK Singles Chart. They have had more top 40 hits in the UK without a Number One hit than any other artist. They have influenced many of today's popular recording artists, in part due to their recording techniques and use of sampling. Though very influential in the modern electronic dance scene, they generally remain classified in the alternative genre.Depeche Mode
was founded in 1980 by David Gahan (lead vocals), Martin Gore (keyboards, guitar, vocals, chief songwriter after 1981), Andrew Fletcher (backing keyboards) and Vince Clarke (keyboards, chief songwriter 1980—81). Vince Clarke left the band after the release of their 1981 debut album; soon replaced by Alan Wilder (lead keyboards) who played with the band from 1982 to 1995. Following Wilder's departure, Gahan, Gore, and Fletcher have continued to perform as a trio.Depeche Mode's
origins can be traced back to 1977, when Vince Clarke and Andrew Fletcher formed a band called No Romance In China
, with Clarke on vocals/guitar and Fletcher on bass. In 1978, Clarke played guitar in an "Ultravox rip-off band", The Plan
, with school friend Robert Marlow on vocals and Vince on guitar/keyboards. In 1978–79, Gore played in an acoustic duo, Norman and The Worms
, with school friend Philip Burdett (who now sings on the folk circuit) on vocals and Gore on guitar. In 1979, Marlow, Gore, Clarke and friend Paul Redmond formed a band called The French Look
, Marlow on vocals/keyboards, Gore on guitar, Clarke and Redmond on keyboards. In March 1980, Clarke, Gore and Fletcher formed a band called Composition of Sound
, with Clarke on vocals/guitar, Gore on keyboards and Fletcher on bass. The French Look
and Composition of Sound
once played live together in June 1980 at St. Nicholas School Youth Club in Southend on sea, Essex. Soon after the formation of Composition of Sound
, Clarke and Fletcher switched to synthesizers, working odd jobs to buy them, or borrowing them from friends. Gahan joined the band in 1980 after Clarke heard him perform at a local scout-hut jam session, crooning to a rendition of David Bowie's 'Heroes', and Depeche Mode
was born. The new name was taken from a French fashion magazine, "Depeche Mode", which translates to "Fashion Update" or "Fashion News Dispatch" (depeche = dispatch) though it has commonly been mistranslated as "Fast Fashion", due to the confusion with the French verb "se depecher" ("to hurry up").
The band became part of Daniel Miller's Mute label by verbal contract, and released their first album, Speak & Spell
, in 1981. While the band was promoting the album, Clarke began to publicly discuss his discomfort with the level of success that Depeche Mode
was achieving; he felt they were becoming too popular after the success of their second major hit single "Just Can't Get Enough". He soon left the group and went on to form several other bands including Yazoo
in the U.S.) with Alison Moyet, The Assembly
with Eric Radcliffe, and later Erasure
with Andy Bell. More than 20 years after, Depeche Mode
still include the aforementioned "Just Can't Get Enough" in their live performances when touring, which has become kind of a humorous tip of the hat to their audience and a "flashback" break during their performances, given the much darker general tone that their compositions achieved in years to come compared to the naiive synth-pop style of this song.
After Clarke's departure, Martin Gore, who had written "Tora! Tora! Tora!" and "Big Muff" on their debut album, took over as the band's primary songwriter. In 1982 the album A Broken Frame
was released by the remaining trio. Prior to this, Alan Wilder replaced Vince Clarke on tour, but he did not contribute to A Broken Frame
. Shortly afterwards, he became a full-fledged member of Depeche Mode
, in time for their 1983 non-album single "Get the Balance Right". He wrote "The Landscape is Changing" and "Two Minute Warning" for their 1983 album, Construction Time Again
, "In Your Memory," the B-side to the "People Are People" single, and "If You Want" on the 1984 album Some Great Reward
, and co-wrote with Martin Gore "Fools", the B-side to the "Love In Itself" single but his main contribution to Depeche Mode
was in technical and musical production.
In the early 1980s, the band's popularity was largely confined to Europe, coupled with some recognition in Australia. However, in 1984 Depeche Mode
made inroads into the United States, spawning the North American-only releases of the compilations People Are People
featuring their first transatlantic hit of the same name, "People Are People", and the subsequent CD, Catching Up with Depeche Mode
This period is seen as the beginning of the band's long association with Britain's goth subculture that was gaining popularity in the United States. Meanwhile, the music intelligentsia in Britain dismissed Depeche Mode
throughout the 1980s as "fluffy synthesized teenybopper pop stars" because of the cheery and "cute" style of many of their early songs, such as "Just Can't Get Enough" and "The Meaning of Love", in spite of the darker, more complex sound they had developed. In Germany and other countries in continental Europe, Depeche Mode
were considered teen idols, despite the darker and more serious songs in their repertoire, and were regularly featured in teen magazines, which provided their detractors with more ammunition to use against them. But in America, where the band's music had first gained popularity on college radio and modern rock stations such as KROQ
in Los Angeles, and WLIR
on Long Island, New York, Depeche Mode's
appeal was to a decidedly different, more cultish audience.
The gothic tag the band was given in the United States may have owed more to its sound than to its image, due to the band's late exposure to the American market and its unfortunate string of inconsistent, budget-driven music videos prior to this time. As heard with 1984's "Blasphemous Rumours", a bitter commentary on the unfairness of life, and the B-side to 1985's poor "It's Called a Heart", called "Fly on the Windscreen" (thereafter remixed and released as "Fly on the Windscreen — Final" on the 1986 album Black Celebration
), the dark, brooding Depeche Mode
After the video of their 1986 single "A Question of Time" garnered attention, its director Anton Corbijn began a long-lasting friendship and working relationship with the band, eventually directing 20 of their videos (the latest being 2006's "Suffer Well").
On the heels of their 1987 album Music for the Masses
, Depeche Mode
played a follow-up world tour in 1987—88 to sold-out venues. The tour culminated in a final concert at the Pasadena Rose Bowl with a sell-out attendance of 80,000+ (the highest in eight years for the venue). The tour was documented in a film by D.A. Pennebaker, notable for its portrayal of fan interaction. An album release of the concert, titled 101
(the show was the 101st and final stop on the tour) became a bestseller in 1989 and is considered an excellent live document of their 1981—1987 recording years.
Later that year, after Martin Gore had made a brief detour to record his Counterfeit EP
, with six cover versions of some of his favorite songs, the band recorded the bluesy country-western-influenced "Personal Jesus", in Milan. Prior to its release, advertisements were placed in the personal columns of UK regional newspapers with the words "Your own personal Jesus." Later, the ads included a phone number one could dial to hear the song. The ensuing controversy helped propel the single to Number Thirteen on the UK charts, becoming one of their biggest sellers; in the US, it was their first gold single and their first top 40 hit since "People Are People." It was also the biggest-selling 12-inch single in Warner Brothers Records history. The song was later covered by Johnny Cash, Placebo
, Gravity Kills
and by Marilyn Manson
. In September 2006, it was voted by readers of music monthly Q
as one of the 100 greatest songs of all time.
In the mid-1980s and 1990s, the band's popularity in the U.S. grew, as did their influence on the emerging techno and house music scenes. Techno pioneers Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson and Juan Atkins regularly quoted Depeche Mode
as an influence in their development of proto-techno music during the Detroit Techno explosion in the late 1980s.
In February 1990, "Enjoy the Silence", one of Depeche Mode's
most successful singles to date, reached Number Six in the UK; a few months later in the US, it became Depeche Mode's
first (and to date, only) Top Ten pop hit, reaching Number Eight, and earned the band a second gold single. It won 'Best Single' at the 1991 Brit Awards. To promote their new album Violator
, they held an in-store autograph signing in Los Angeles, which attracted 17,000 fans. The album (Top Ten in the UK and U.S.) and the subsequent World Violation Tour were further successes. To date, the album has gone triple platinum in the U.S., selling over three million units. Notably, 40,000 tickets for the (New York) Giants Stadium (in East Rutherford, New Jersey) show sold within eight hours, and 48,000 tickets for the (Los Angeles) Dodger Stadium show sold within an hour of going on sale.
By 1991, Depeche Mode
had emerged as one of the world's most successful acts, relying on a proto-techno sound to distinguish it. A one-off contribution to the Wim Wenders film, Until the End of the World, entitled "Death's Door" and another solo album released by Alan Wilder under the Recoil moniker bridged the gap between albums.
The band changed pace in 1993 with Songs of Faith and Devotion
. The arrangements were based as much on heavily distorted electric guitars and live drums (played by Alan Wilder, whose debut as a studio drummer was the track "Clean" on Violator
) as on electronics. Live strings, uillean pipes and female choir vocals were further departures from the band's earlier sound.
The album debuted at Number One in both the U.S. and the UK; highlights included the country-blues/techno "I Feel You", the soulful "Walking In My Shoes", and the gospel-tinged "Condemnation". The 14-month "Devotional" world tour followed. A second live album, Songs of Faith and Devotion Live
, was released in December of 1993; essentially a track-by-track reproduction of the eponymous album, it proved a critical and commercial failure. By 1994 Depeche Mode
were amongst the world's elite global bands, alongside U2
and The Rolling Stones
. The strains became apparent when Fletcher declined to participate in the second "exotic" leg of the tour, due to "mental instability." During that period, Daryl Bamonte, who worked with the band as personal assistant for many years, filled in for him, playing keyboards.
In June 1995, Alan Wilder left the band, citing "unsatisfactory internal working conditions". He continued to work on his personal project, Recoil
. His departure was quickly followed by news of Gahan near-fatally overdosing at his home in Los Angeles; he later entered a drug rehabilitation program to battle a heroin addiction.
In 1996, with Gahan out of rehab, Depeche Mode
held recording sessions with producer Tim Simenon; the next year, the album Ultra
and its two preceding singles, "Barrel of a Gun" and "It's No Good", were released. The album again debuted at Number One.
A second singles compilation The Singles 86-98
followed in 1998, with the new track "Only When I Lose Myself". The band set off on a four-month tour that cemented their place as a quasi-permanent attraction, with a large touring attendance regardless of album sales. (U2
, the Rolling Stones
, and Rod Stewart
are some others in this category).
Also in 1998, the tribute album For the Masses
was released. It featured Depeche Mode
covers by among others The Smashing Pumpkins
, The Cure
and The Deftones
In 2001, Depeche Mode
, which was produced by Mark Bell (formerly of the pioneering techno group LFO
). Whilst the album was still a commercial success, it failed to achieve the same levels of sales as the band's previous three releases. Interestingly, it was the first studio album by Depeche Mode
to chart higher in the US than the UK. The critical response to the album was also decidedly mixed. Whilst it received rather enthusiastic reviews from some magazines (notably the L.A. Weekly, NME, and Rolling Stone), who saw the album as a fresh and mature reinvention of the band's sound, many others (including Q Magazine, PopMatters, and Pitchfork Media) derided it as sounding underproduced and lacklustre.
Gahan's solo album, Paper Monsters
, was released in 2003, followed by a worldwide tour and a DVD taken from it, titled Live Monsters
; Martin Gore continued his solo career with the release of Counterfeit²
(a follow-up to his 1989 release Counterfeit
); and Fletcher launched his own label, Toast Hawaii (the most notable outcome of which has so far been the synth-pop group, Client
In August that year, Mute released the DVD version of Devotional
, filmed during their 1993 world tour, as well as a new remix compilation album Remixes 81—04
that covers some new and unreleased promo mixes of the singles from 1981 to 2004, including a re-release and new renditions of their classic "Enjoy the Silence". The single peaked at Number Seven in the UK, but did not fare as well in the U.S.
Produced by Ben Hillier, this Top Ten hit (peaking at Number One in several European countries) featured the hit single "Precious", peaking at Number Four in the UK charts. The album was backed by the band's first in-store signing since 1990, on the day of release in New York City. This is the first Depeche Mode
album to feature lyrics written by Gahan and the first album since 1984's Some Great Reward
featuring songs not written by Gore.
With a prototypical version having been leaked onto the Internet some months earlier, the official video for "Precious" was released on September 12 on the Depeche Mode
website, www.depechemode.com. The second single from the album, "A Pain That I'm Used To," was released on December 12, and the third single from the album was "Suffer Well," the first ever post-Clarke Depeche Mode
single not to be written by Gore (lyrics by Gahan, music by Philpott/Eigner).
Also on March 2, 2006, they released a video version of single "Suffer Well" sung in Simlish as it is featured on The Sims 2: Open for Business
PC game soundtrack along with accompanying video (the group featured as Sims). They join 1980s pop bands, Kajagoogoo
and Howard Jones
in the PC game as musical contributors with their performances in Simlish.
To promote the Playing the Angel
, the band launched the worldwide Touring the Angel in November 2005, taking them to fans in North America and Europe. The tour continued through the spring and summer of 2006. Depeche Mode
also headlined the 2006 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Some of the gigs were their first ever shows in certain countries like Romania and Bulgaria. In March 2006, the website announced two dates in Mexico (a country they had not visited for twelve years). More than 55,000 tickets for a stadium in Mexico City were sold immediately, causing the band to schedule another date for the same venue and demonstrating that their popularity in Mexico is as significant as in many countries in Europe, where their audiences are frequently of 40,000 people.
Recordings of 50 shows were officially released on CDs. These limited edition Depeche Mode
live albums published under the scheme title Recording the Angel were much sought after by collectors.
On April 3, 2006, remastered editions of Speak & Spell
, Music for the Masses
, and Violator
were released, featuring remastered audio on CD and DVD-Audio, extra tracks and B-sides. In addition, each album comes with its own documentary charting the history of the band and the production of each album. The second installment of remastered albums were A Broken Frame
, Some Great Reward
and Songs of Faith and Devotion
, all of which were released on October 2, 2006. The remaining four pre-Playing the Angel Depeche Mode
albums are planned to be re-released in March and April 2007.
On September 25, 2006 Depeche Mode
released their live DVD-CD set Touring The Angel: Live In Milan, directed by Blue Leach and recorded at Milan's Fila Forum on February 18, and February 19, 2006. The DVD has a full concert on disc 1, bonus live songs "A Question of Lust" and "Damaged People" along with a 20-minute documentary featuring Anton Corbijn, official tour announcement from Germany in the summer of 2005, and the Playing The Angel electronic press kit on disc 2, and disc 3 is a CD with live versions of tracks from Playing The Angel.
In addition, a "best-of" compilation was released in November of 2006, entitled The Best Of, Volume 1
featuring a new single "Martyr." An outtake from the Playing the Angel sessions, "Martyr" was actually the first song recorded for that album and was considered by the band as the first single, but they decided it was not a match in tone for the dark album.
On 2 November, Depeche Mode
received the MTV Europe Music Award in the Best Group category. During that same period Fletcher confirmed that the band was on a long break after the massive "Touring the Angel" tour and that they soon would decide whether to go on hiatus or if they should start to write a new album.
In December of 2006, Depeche Mode
was nominated for a Grammy award, for Best Dance Recording, for "Suffer Well." This is their third Grammy award nomination. The first being a Best Long Form Music Video award in 1995 for Devotional
and the second being for Best Dance Recording for I Feel Loved.
In mid-December, 2006, iTunes
released The Complete Depeche Mode
as its fourth ever digital box-set (following The Complete U2
in 2004, The Complete Stevie Wonder
in 2005, and Bob Dylan: The Collection
earlier in 2006).