This is the first time I've not been able to focus on one year alone given the band's release schedule for the Music For The Masses (hereafter MFTM as I'm not typing that all the time) singles and album. This album is a strange one. It's not as long as Black Celebration nor is it as polished as Violator - it's really quite unique amongst Depeche albums. It's definitely the band's last "British" album which perhaps sounds odd so I'll try and elaborate. MFTM sent the band into the big league ultimately leading to their playing the Pasadena Rose Bowl to conclude the tour. The album is a quirky thing however with on the one hand odd entirely non stadium singalong songs like Little 15, To Have And To Hold and I Want You Now, whilst on the other you have marauding beasts of songs such as Never Let Me Down Again (what is it with the long titles Martin?) and Behind The Wheel. It's an album that is still warmly thought of by UK and European fans and was the last release where Depeche could be seen as a cult band or one that was still a well kept secret. With Violator loads of new fans (like me) came on board and the band changed for good. I hope that makes some sort of sense.
Anyway, the first new material from Depeche Mode in this period arrived on April 13 1987 with Strangelove. The code for this release was BONG13 and the single's artwork let you know just that using the now iconic erm..horn (?) for the first time. It's a thing of beauty and really started the whole Depeche Mode single art as genius ball rolling. The 7" (7BONG13 - right) came backed with a new spooky instrumental called Pimpf a track which I really love. In fact, I love it more than the 7" mix of Strangelove as a result of that track's Level 42 style slap bass. Grim. The single only reached number 16 here which sums up how the band were viewed at home at the time. The video was notable too as the band retained the services of Anton Corbijn who produced a perv fest of Paris, rubber, leather and the band actually smiling. Strangelove heralded the brave new world of cd singles too (CDBONG13 - left) which featured 5 tracks - Strangelove (Maxi Mix), Pimpf, Strangelove (Midi Mix), Agent Orange and Strangelove (LP Mix). The Maxi Mix is a grand mix and really enjoyable, the Midi mix a curious did they mean this? type thing and the LP mix isnt in fact the LP mix at all. Agent Orange remains one of the band's best instumental tracks. Of note about the cd is the fact that the original issues featured red ink on the cd itself with the later ones featuring black ink. These details are important to some people so there you go. Two twelve inches were released too. 12BONG13 (right) featured the Maxi Mix and Midi Mix of the lead track together with a "remix" of Pimpf called Fpmip. It's basically the Oh-EE-Oh-EE bits at the start then Pimpf again. Hmmm. The cover art is again great though. The limited edition twelve inch (L12BOONG13 - left) gave us two new mixes of Strangelove (the Blind Mix and the Pain mix) as well as Pimpf and Agent Orange. Both mixes of Strangelove are excellent and as ever are well worth seeking out. Finally a DJ promo 12" was issued (DANCEBONG13) featuing The Fresh Ground Mix of Strangelove which samples Cameo oddly enough. The German coloured issues were a red vinyl 7", an orange vinyl 12" (fantastic item) and an orangey/red limited 12".
So that was Depeche Mode's return to the UK charts. A pretty poor radio mix of a great tune which only got to number 18. We didn't hear much at all from them until 24 August when landmark single Never Let Me Down Again (NLMDA) was unleashed on the world. NLMDA is, pardon the rude word, bloody (wasn't brave enough to use the F one) brilliant. It is such a good song that I could easily go on about its' genius for several pages of internet but I won't. The music is huge, oppressive and ace (the orchestral parts in the last minute are possibly the greatest thing ever committed to tape) , the lyrics are great (and yes trousers DOES rhyme with houses - sort of) and the video is so good its' cornfields waving part inspired the Depeche fans pretending to be a cornfield waving during the song when it's played live. It is SUCH a good thing overall that it was therefore no surprise at all when the UK record buying public sent the song to number 1 wi...hang on, I'll just check my notes...ah.
Absolutely bloody ridiculous. I won't even start - just let the figures speak for themselves. Anyway, the formats. The 7" (7BONG14 - right) featured Pleasure Little Treasure on the b-side which would you believe is my mum's favourite Depeche song. I think the reason for that is the relentless playing of 101 she sufferred during my teenage years. As b-sides go it's a great track. The twelve inch release (12BONG14 - left) gave us one of the great Depeche Mode remixes - NLMDA (Split Mix). 9 minutes of absolute musical majesty which sounds like the theme tune a planet would play when it was invading another planet. Perhaps. It takes the 7" version and adds an amzing musical section that just makes you thank God that Depeche Mode ever exsited. As well as the Split Mix the 12" gave us the Glitter Mix of Pleasure... and the Aggro Mix of NLMDA. Both are good, especially the Aggro Mix with its bass and shouty NEVER LET ME DOWN bits which Alan still puts to good use at the Recoil gigs. Had it not been for the Split mix (did I mention how good that is), the Aggro mix would be the best mix on show here. A limited edition 12" (L12BONG14 - right) gave us three more tracks - The Tsangarides Mix of NLMDA, the Join Mix of Pleasure... and To Have and To Hold (Spanish Taster) a mix of an as yet unreleased track which I think (and please correct me if wrong) is Martin's demo version albeit with some studio tinkering. It gives no indication of the finished version of the track however as we all know. The Join Mix of the b-side is fine however it's the Tsangarides mix of the title track that puzzles me here. A lot of people really like it and indeed rate it really highly but I just don't get it. I don't see what it adds or what it changes partiularly. The band also released a cassette single (CBONG14 - left) which featured the Split and Aggro mixes of NLMDA and the Glitter Mix of Pleasure Little Treasure and a cd single (CDBONG14 - right) which had four tracks - the Split Mix, the Aggro Mix, the Join Mix of Pleasure and the Spanish Taster of To Have and To Hold. All five formats have different artwork and they are all lovely for that alone. The music's not bad either of course. For example the Split Mix is...never mind. The German coloured vinyls didn't disappoint either with a red 7", an orange 12" and a fantastic black/grey marbled limited edition 12".
Next we got a new album. The at the time ironically but ultimately presciently titled Music For The Masses (STUMM47 - below) smashed into the shops on 28 September 1987 reaching a whopping number 10 in Britain. I give up. The old team of Daniel Miller, Gareth Jones and the band was split up and the album was produced by Dave Bascombe and recorded mainly in Paris. It features: Never Let Me Down Again, The Things You Said, Strangelove, Sacred, Little 15, Behind The Wheel, I Want You Now, To Have and To Hold, Nothing, Pimpf and then unnamed and basically unloved Interlude #1 - Mission Impossible. There are some great moments on here but also some annoying ones which stop me veiwing the album as a classic Depeche one. In the good corner we have NLMDA, The Things You Said (sung by Martin, absolutely beautiful and one of his best lyrics), Strangelove (an infinitely better mix than was released as a single), Little 15, Behind The Wheel, I Want You Now (another Martin sung track and another great lyric. As an aside seek out the live version from 1994 - amazing) and To Have and To Hold. To Have...is a threatening angry bastard of a song so different from the Spanish Taster version it's incredible. The words at the start are apparently a Russian nuclear warning thing - translations are available on Depeche sites. Honestly. In the bad corner are Sacred (I just dont get it) and, I'm sorry to say, Nothing. It's just too DX7, too 80's and just a bit naff. Whenever I hear it I have the image of Dave on 101 playing air guitar in my mind and that displeases me. Pimpf is in the meh whatever corner as I really dont see the point in it being here, as good a track as it is. The cassette (CSTUMM47) and cd versions (CDSTUMM47) added three tracks - NLMDA (Aggro Mix), Pleasure Little Treasure (Glitter Mix) and To Have and To Hold (Spanish Taster). Also available are a very rare clear vinyl LP (lovely), a limited LP which featured a 12" single with Strangelove (Maxi Mix) and NLMDA (Split Mix), available only at UK HMV stores and a double album cassette featuring the Lp version of the album and Black Celebration. Finally, our German friends gave us a smashing blue vinyl LP.
A third single followed on December 28 1987 when a remixed version of Behind The Wheel was released. Now the album version of that song is fantastic but I guess you can see why they felt the need to remix it given that it was already in the public domain. The remix of BTW by then producer of almost every record on earth Shep Pettibone is however dreadful. Yet again I find myself saying I just don't get it. It removes all the majesty of the original track and turns it into some soprt of crappy disco beat nonsense. No wonder then that it only crawled to number 21 here. the 7" (7BONG15 - right) featured the remix plus the first ever released Depeche cover version, an unlikely but great version of Route 66, sung by Martin. The 12" (12BONG15 - left) contains two tracks - the Shep Pettibone remix of Behind The Wheel (goodish) and the Beatmasters remix of Route 66 which is fantastic. As it was the late 80's the mix is littered with samples but they all work here and I strongly recommend that you find this mix if you don't have it. A limited edition 12" (L12BONG15 - right) gave us the Beatmasters mix of Behind the Wheel (good) and the Casualty Mix of Route 66 which is pretty cool. The packaging of the single is again great and keeps up the general MFTM theme which is nice. I still don't understand all the umlauts however. A cassette single (CBONG15- left) featuring the 7" remix, Route 66 (Beatmasters) and the album version of Behind The Wheel (yay!) and a cd single (CDBONG15 - right) featuring the 7"remix, Route 66, the Shep Pettibone remix of Behind The Wheel (from the 12") and the LP version of Behind The Wheel were also released. The video is another gem from Anton and follows on from NLMDA with Dave throwing away his crutches and clambering onto a moped with a Euro fox before turning into a half mad roulette wheel spinner. The Germans went format mad this time turning out an Orange 12", a fantastic yellow L12", a 3" cd and a cd. Top notch releases everyone.
And that was that, at least in terms of official UK releases anyway. Little 15 appeared as a single on May 16 1988 possibly in Europe only, possibly in the UK. No-one seems to know. For the record, Little 15 had a video (not Anton, not great and a bit too literal) and two new bsides. The 7" was backed with the new spooky instrumental Stjarna (Swedish for star? I can't recall) (7LITTLE15 - left) and the 12" (12LITTLE15 - right) added a version of Moonlight Sonata or Sonata #14 in C#m to give it it's full name. The latter track was performed by Alan alone and I guess counts as yet another cover version. There was no coloured vinyl release form Germany this time (the L12 of Behind The Wheel was the last of those) but a 3" cd and a 5" did appear. Due to import purchases the single reached the UK charts albeit only climbimg to number 60 which isn't too bad in the circumstances.
There were other releases from the album which were US only ones for example Strangelove 88. As they are outwith the jurisdiction of this blog (in other words I'm lazy and REALLY should do some work today...) can I direct to you to any of the discographies on the official Depeche Mode site, the excellent and exhaustive depmod.com or to the depechemode.tv fan site all of which will give you the information you crave. Thanks to depechemode.tv for the pictures used in this blog by the way. As a matter of website completeness, please also look at the forums on depechemode.tv and on the fantastic fan site Home where you'll find like minded Depeche Mode bores to chat to!
So that was that. Depeche were off around the world filling arenas, stadia and the Whitley Bay Ice Rink and in doing so were becoming one of the biggest bands on earth. They would document that in their first ever live album and that's what I'll look at next time.....