How Depeche Mode conquered the world - Part I: To start a new life, then to leave in silence.
When Depeche Mode released their sixth album Music for the Masses in 1987, the band did not imagine that the title, intended as a joke, would become a premonition for their future. Despite the steady growth of its fan base, no one believed that an electronic band, from a small independent label could achieve such a commercial success and critical acclaim that would come a few years later.
According to Fletcher "The title's ... a bit tongue-in-cheek, really. Everyone is telling us we should make more commercial music, so that's the reason we chose that title." For Gore, the title "was a joke on the uncommerciality of [the album]. It was anything but music for the masses!"
After forty years on the road, the band has shown constant evolution, expanding its musical palette from synthpop to include: gothic tones, pop rock, alternative rock, blues and even arena rock. Conquering an increasingly broad audience, they sold more than 100 million records, were nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as appearing on the lists of the best bands in the world in various specialized publications.
The origins of Depeche Mode go back to 1977, when schoolmates Vince Clarke and Andy Fletcher formed No Romance In China, influenced by The Cure, with Clarke on vocals and guitar and Fletcher on bass. Fletcher jokes that he was almost forced to join the band, since he played guitar and had a bass. Martin Gore started playing guitar in an acoustic duo, Norman and the Worms (1978-79), with schoolmate Phil Burdett on vocals. But the real embryo of Depeche Mode would appear in March 1980, with Clarke (vocals / guitar), Gore (keyboards) and Fletcher (bass) forming the Composition of Sound.
A fundamental change came after Clarke listened to Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark (OMD), which, combined with other influences like Human League, Daniel Miller and Fad Gadget, inspired the band to dive into electronic music. Depeche Mode would be born in May of the same year, after Clarke was impressed by Dave Gahan after listening to him perform in a jam session singing Heroes of David Bowie and and invited him to join the band.
Depeche Mode's live debut was at the James Hornsby School, in the band's hometown, Basildon, in May 1980. The school, where Gore and Fletcher were students, proudly displays a commemorative plaque for the show. The first recording would also occur in 1980, in the Some Bizzare Album compilation, with the song Photographic, later re-recorded for the band's first album, Speak & Spell.
Without a recording contract, the band made demo tapes and, instead of sending by mail, a standard procedure at the time, they went personally to introduce themselves to the record companies. Despite having, according to the vocalist, received offers from the main record companies, with Phonogram offering them "money you could never imagine and all kinds of crazy things, such as clothing allowances", the band ended up signing with a small and new independent label, Daniel Miller’s Mute Records, who, like them, was an electronic music composer.
Daniel Miller is responsible, through the project The Normal, for the track Warm Leatherette. The Song is highly appreciated among musicians, with cover versions from Nine Inch Nails, Laibach and Grace Jones, among others.
The first single, Dreaming of Me was recorded in December 1980 and released in February 1981, reaching number 57 on the British charts. Encouraged by this, the band recorded their second single, New Life, which reached number 11 on UK charts and secured an appearance on the acclaimed Top of the Pops program. The band, still with few resources, made the train trip to London, carrying their synthesizers in their arms to the BBC studios.
The third single, Just Can't Get Enough, reached 8th place on the charts. The debut album, Speak & Spell, was released in October 1981 and reached tenth place on the UK album charts.
Despite the mixed reception of the specialized critic, with Melody Maker praising the “great album… one they had to make to conquer fresh audiences and please the fans who just can't get enough", while Rolling Stones detonated calling the album" PG-rated fluff ", everything seemed to be going well for the band, but ...
Lineup change - Leaving (not) in silence:
Clarke, the main creative force of the band, having written all the songs, except for Tora! Tora! Tora! and instrumental Big Muff, began to express his discomfort in the direction the band was headed, complaining "there was never enough time to do anything. Not with all the interviews and photo sessions". In November 1981, Clarke publicly announced that he was leaving Depeche Mode, leaving the band without a composer.
At the end of that year, the band placed an anonymous advertisement on Melody Maker looking for another musician: " Name band, synthesise, must be under twenty-one." Alan Wilder, a classical pianist, despite being 22 years old, applied, and apparently made a great impression because two auditions later he was hired, initially only as a touring member.
In January 1982, the band released See You, their first single without Clarke, reaching number six on the British chart, a position higher in the charts than the three singles written by Clarke, emboldening the trio that wanted to prove they could succeed without Vince Clarke.
After leaving Depeche Mode, Clarke was joined by the powerful voice of Alison Moyet and together they formed Yazoo. The duo released two albums and achieved three top 5 hits in the UK, including Only You, a song Clarke offered to Depeche Mode. After the Yazoo disbanded, Clarke would form another successful band, Erasure.
The next tour led the band to their first shows in the United States. Two more singles, The Meaning of Love and Leave in Silence, were released before the band's second studio album. Broken Frame was released in September. A non-album single, Get the Balance Right!, was released in January 1983, the first Depeche Mode track to be recorded with Wilder, which was beginning to influence the band's sound.
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