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Just can’t get enough of Depeche Mode

November 2023

On 5 November, I took my daughter to her first “official” concert: Depeche Mode. The band were on their Memento Mori Tour, in support of the album of the same name. I say first “official” because we had twice been to concerts before, once when she was eight, but we had to leave just as the main act came on stage. The other was a Queen tribute band, so I don’t count that an “official” first concert, as it wasn’t the actual band, although she was so enthusiastic about seeing the band that during the show, the singer came up to our seats and gave her the microphone so she could sing a few lines.

Depeche Mode are an English electronic music band, formed in 1980 by singer Dave Gahan and keyboard players Martin Gore, Andrew Fletcher and Vince Clarke, the latter of whom wrote most of the songs. Their debut album, Speak & Spell, was released in July 1981, featuring the infections pop song “Just Can’t Get Enough.” It was the only album to feature Clarke, who left in November 1981. Clarke would go on to form two other electronic bands, the short-lived Yazoo with blues singer Alison Moyet, and Erasure with singer Andy Bell, the latter of which continues to this day.

Gahan, Gore and Fletcher carried on, recording their follow-up album, 1982’s A Broken Flame, as a trio, before adding keyboard and piano player Alan Wilder. The quartet would go on to release a string of hit albums over the next decade: Construction Time Again (1983), Some Great Reward (1984), Black Celebration (1986), Music for the Masses (1987), Violator (1990) and Songs of Faith and Devotion (1993).

As the decade progressed, the songs, primarily written by Gore, started moving towards a harder and darker sound, with Gore’s lyrics taking on a darker and more pessimistic tone. The song “Personal Jesus,” released ahead of the Violator album in August 1989, was the first time a guitar, played by Gore, was used as a dominant instrument in a Depeche Mode song, although this wasn’t the first song to feature a guitar. This shift in instrumentation continued on Songs of Faith and Devotion, which featured heavily distorted electric guitars, played by Gore, and live drums, played by Wilder.

The resulting fourteen-month-long Devotional Tour/Exotic Tour/Summer Tour ’94, the largest tour they had undertaken to date, took a heavy toll on the band. Gahan, now sporting long hair and a beard, had developed a serious heroin addiction, one that culminated in a near-fatal overdose in 1996, in which his heart stopped beating for two minutes. Gore was succumbing to alcoholism, resulting in two stress-induced seizures, and Fletcher’s deepening depression resulted in a full nervous breakdown in the summer of 1994. Fletcher sat out the second half of the Exotic Tour/Summer Tour ’94, with Daryl Bamonte, a personal assistant for the band since 1980, replacing Fletcher on stage.

Growing tensions and difficulties within the band, exacerbated by the stress of the tour, led to the departure of Alan Wilder in 1995.

Once again reduced to a trio, Gahan, Gore, and Fletcher carried on, releasing the album Ultra in 1997. The album almost became a Martin Gore solo album, due to continuing difficulties with Gahan’s heroin addiction. The album was finally completed once Gahan finished a court-ordered rehab program.

Depeche Mode decided against touring for the Ultra album, due to their lingering health issues, instead waiting until the following year after the release of their second greatest hits album, The Singles 86>98. Joining the trio on stage were Austrian drummer Christian Eigner and English keyboard & bass guitar player Peter Gordeno, both of whom continue to tour and occasional record with the band to this day.

Subsequent albums that have followed are:

  • Exciter (2001)
  • Playing the Angel (2005)
  • Sounds of the Universe (2009)
  • Delta Machine (2013)
  • Spirit (2017)
  • Memento Mori (2023)

Memento Mori was the first album to be recorded without Andrew Fletcher, who died on 26 May 2022, aged 60, following an aortic dissection at his home, while the album was still in the songwriting and demo stage. He wasn’t replaced in either the studio or touring the line-up.

Sources: Depeche Mode – Wikipedia.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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