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Artist of the Week: Depeche Mode (Qs Format)

April 8, 2000

Rising from cult status through to being chart regulars and then conquering the world, Depeche Mode are one of the biggest bands on the planet.

Moreover, their pioneering work in the then-nascent area of synth-pop in the early 80s was to prove highly influential on the emerging techno and hip-hop scenes, while their subsequent work has left its mark on industrial rock and beyond.

But how much do you really know about Depeche Mode?

Where and when did Depeche Mode form?

Emerging from the club scene that had been inspired by the New Romantics, Depeche Mode formed in 1980, in Basildon, Essex. Originally called Composition Of Sound and featuring members Vince Clarke, Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher, Depeche Mode were born after singer Dave Gahan joined the band later that year.

Where did Depeche Mode get their name from?

The band took their name from French fashion mag, Dépêche mode. Martin Gore later explained the moniker saying: “It means hurried fashion or fashion dispatch. I like the sound of that.”

Have other bands emerged from Depeche Mode?

They have. Having left Depeche Mode after the release of the band’s debut album, ‘Speak And Spell’, founder member Vince Clarke formed Yazoo with singer Alison Moyet. Fusing synth pop with blues and soul, they released two albums – ‘Upstairs At Eric’s’ and ‘You And Me Both’ – and a string of hits including ‘Only You’ before splitting.

Alison Moyet then enjoyed a successful solo career with the albums ‘Alf’, ‘Raindancing’ and others. Clarke then formed the enormously popular duo Erasure with singer Andy Bell who scored international hits ‘Oh L’amour’, ‘Sometimes’, ‘Chains of Love’ and many more. Vince Clarke and Martin Gore reunited in 2013 as VCMG to create the techno album, ‘Ssss’.

How many records have Depeche Mode released?

Since the release of their debut single, ‘Dreaming Of Me’ in 1981, Depeche Mode have released further 54 singles, and 35 of those have gone Top 20 in the UK. Their biggest hits include ‘People Are People’ (1984), ‘Barrel Of A Gun’ (1997), ‘It’s No Good’ (1997) and ‘Precious’ (2005).

All 14 of their studio albums hit the Top 10 in the UK album charts with ‘Songs Of Faith And Devotion’ (1993) and ‘Ultra’ (1997) hitting the top spot. Elsewhere, ‘Some Great Reward’ (1984), ‘Black Celebration’ (1986), ‘Violator’ (1990), ‘Sounds Of The Universe’ (2009), ‘Delta Machine’ (2013) and ‘Spirit’ (2017) all went Top 5.

Have Depeche Mode won any awards?

Over the years, Depeche Mode have bagged a number of prestigious awards. These include the Brit Award for Best British Single in 1991 (‘Enjoy The Silence’), MTV’s Best Group Award (2006), Q Magazine’s Innovation Award in 2002 and the Best Alternative Video for ‘Personal Jesus 2011’ at the UK Video Awards.

Martin Gore picked up the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for International Achievement in 1999.

Depeche Mode were elected to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2020.

When did Depeche Mode go global?

Preceded by the singles ‘Personal Jesus’ and ‘Enjoy the Silence’, Depeche Mode’s seventh album, ‘Violator’, reached No.2 on the UK Albums Chart, and was the band’s first album to chart inside the top 10 of the Billboard 200, peaking at No 7.

What roles do the individual band members have?

Speaking in the 1989 documentary ‘101’, Andy Fletcher revealed the band’s inner workings: “Martin Gore’s the songwriter, Alan Wilder’s the good musician, Dave Gahan’s the vocalist, and I bum around.”

Since the departure of Alan Wilder, Depeche Mode have remained a trio but are augmented on tour by drummer Christian Eigner and keyboardist/bassist Peter Gordeno.

Did Elvis Presley inspire ‘Personal Jesus’?

He did. According to Martin Gore, the lyrics were inspired by Priscilla Presley’s 1985 memoir, ‘Elvis And Me’.

“It’s about how Elvis was her man and her mentor and how often that happens in love relationships; how everybody’s heart is like a god in some way,” explained Gore. “We play these god-like parts for people but no one is perfect, and that’s not a very balanced view of someone, is it?”

Have Depeche Mode’s songs been covered by other artists?

For a band rooted in electronic music, their songs have proved incredibly flexible with cover versions including ‘Personal Jesus’ by Johnny Cash, ‘People Are People’ by A Perfect Circle, and ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ by Erasure among others. Oh, and let’s not forget Susan Boyle’s idiosyncratic reading of ‘Enjoy The Silence’.

What is the secret of Depeche Mode’s longevity?

Speaking at a live Q&A at the 2013 South By Southwest, Martin Gore revealed: “We don’t keep in constant contact after a tour, we only speak to each other every four to six months.”