This blog will concern Violator era Depeche Mode and before we being I should point out three things. First of all, this blog will be in two parts. This is because (a) it'll be rather long and (b) I do actually have a job to do which is keeping me pretty busy at the moment! I am keen to make sure I kept moving this blog though on hence the Part 1/Part 2 approach. Secondly, Personal Jesus came out in 1989 not 1990 and doesn't therefore necessarily fit with the title. I wanted to bring this up as I know how pedantic we Depeche fans can be ("no...that's the Belgian second edition 7" of See you - look at the barcode you fool LOOK!") but as Personal Jesus kicked off the whole Violator business it's included here. Finally, I should decalre something of a bias here as Violator finally converted me to Depeche Mode on its release and I still love it. Every single perfect second of it. This blog may therefore contain over effusive praise, sycophancy and general tedious rehashings of phrases such as "the best album ever" etc. My apologies in advance. Anyway, less faffing about - here we go...
The best album ever ;) was preceded by two singles, both of which played a huge role in promoting Depeche to the Premier Division of bands and both of which are still are still arguably their best known tracks and these singles form Part 1 of this blog.
The first of these is the quite frankly legendary Personal Jesus which reached out and touched (hmmmm) record shops on 29 August 1989. Whether or not the band intended it is another question but hearing Personal Jesus so soon after 101, you can't help but wonder if the 101 album was a conscious effort to close the chapter on the "old" Depeche Mode with Personal Jesus opening a new one altogether. The sound of the track is so markedly different from anything they'd done before with a guitar prominent for the first time (Behind The Wheel was too quiet, Love In Itself too odd) and a glam rock feel to the whole thing. The video by Anton Corbijn is fantastic too and features the curious sight of Fletch on a rocking horse at one point (there will be more about the Violator era artwork and videos later). If I ever meet Martin, one of the many questions I'll have will be "What's the breathing bit in the middle of Personal Jesus all about?" - it's brilliant, the song would be poorer without it but it remains incomprehensible. Initial adverts for the song featured a telephone number that you could call if you needed "your own Personal Jesus" or somesuch. This caused some controversy as it was felt it could mislead poor souls who needed genuine salvation. Personal Jesus was originally scheduled to feature on an e.p. (VERY late 80's!) but instead came backed with only one song, the quite brilliant Dangerous, a track which remains my favourite Depeche b-side. As ever however, the British record buying public proved they were no bastions of taste and Personal Jesus only reached number thirteen. Bloody pathetic. In America it became their label's bigegst selling 12" of all time - it may well still be so.
The single came out on a number of formats. The cassette (CBONG17 - right) and the 7" (BONG 17 - left) featured the single versions of Personal Jesus and Dangerous. The back sleeve of the 7" featured Martin hugging a naked lady and the inner sleeve of the cassette featured Fletch embracing the very same lady. Presumably she was a close friend of both. The single mixes of each song are both great and you'll all know them by now. For the first time (at least in the UK - happy to be corrected for foreign releases) a gatefold 7" was made available (GBONG17 - right) featuring three tracks and a series of photographs inside. The tracks were the single mix of Personal Jesus, Dangerous (Hazchemix Edit) and Personal Jesus (Acoustic). The mix of Dangerous is ok. It features some beeps and bleeps that aren't present in the full version but overall the full version wins. The acoustic version of Personal Jesus is lovely and something of a surprise given that it was the band's first acoustic adventure, Love In Itself 4 aside. Although I suppose I have to count that. Personal Jesus obviously lends itself to that type of approach and it really works. It may well have inspired Martin's acoustic moments on the World Violation tour - who knows? The inner pictures feature all 4 band members hugging the aforementioned woman plus a picture each of the D and of the M. The rear sleeve features all four band members and said lady. I guess the cat was out of the bag by that point. The remixes on the standard 12 (12BONG17 - left ) and cd single (a three inch cd with adapter - CDBONG17 - right) were top work too both featuring Personal Jesus (Holier Than Thou Approach), Dangerous (Sensual Mix) and the acoustic version of Personal Jesus from the gatefold 7". The Holier Than Thou Approach mix is a good, I suppose "dnacefloor take" (to use the language of the era) of the track. The last part of the mix is added on to the album version of Personal Jesus. The Sensual Mix of Dangerous is by far my favourite version of that track and possibly my favourite mix on show here, the standard version of Personal Jesus aside. It improves on the original b-side hugely and really makes the song stand out. When you consider the quality of the that as a b-side it makes you look yearn for the days when the band did that type of thing. No crappy instrumentals, no multi remixes of the same track, just and honest decent b-side. Moan over.
(Before I carry on - I should point out one thing. Rather foolishly I have only just remembered that the artwork for the 12" and cd singles at this time was identical (12BONG17 and CDBONG17 being the same etc) and my blog is having a hard time coping with my putting up two identical pictures each time. From now on I'll just use the one but if there are any changes in cover art etc that'll be mentioned).
The limited editions for Personal Jesus (L12BONG17 and LCDBONG17 - again a 3 inch cd with adapter - artwork right) again featured three tracks - Personal Jesus (Pump Mix), Personal Jesus (Telephone Stomp Mix) and Dangerous (Hazchemix). The Pump Mix a bit like a classic 12" mix but much better, the Telephone Stomp Mix (who comes up with these titles?) is alright too albeit maybe the weakest mix on display here and the Hazchemix (do you see what they did there?) fine too as I mentioned above. All in all the whole Personal Jesus package was a great one - the artwork, the video, the remixes and most importantly the song itself. The band disappeared from view again whilst they polished off Violator. The next single didn't appear until 5 February 1990 when Enjoy The Silence was released. What can I say about Enjoy The Silence apart from....
IT IS THE SINGLE GREATEST PIECE OF MUSIC RECORDED BY ANYONE EVER AT ANYTIME IN HISTORY AND WILL REMAIN SO UNTIL THE EARTH EXPLODES.
That about covers it. The release of this song was a genuine turning point in my life steering me away from the evils of INXS and towards electronic music and full time gloom. I've already written a wee blog about the moment this all happenned which is here should you wish to read it. Suffice to say, laziness has never been better rewarded.
What isn't there to love about Enjoy The Silence? The artwork is minimal perfection, the video is unfathomable genius, the music is perfectly balanced and the lyrics are lovely, even forgiving the matching of very and unnnesscary. When Martin's sampled voice comes in at 3 mins 25 (ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah....) you know that you will never need to hear anything elses again as it will simply not be able to compete. I can't fault it I'm afraid. In a rare moment of taste the British record buying public agreed with me as thesong evetually reached number 6. Not the number one it should have been (they were Nothing Compares 2 U and Dub Be Good To Me ffs) but we'll take number 6 for now. It even reached number 8 in America which was hugely impressive.
The single was released on 8 formats in total, all containing different versions of Enjoy The Silence and some were rarer than others. It probably speaks to my mental state more than anything else but I can still listen to all the Enjoy The Silence remixes in a row like some very odd album. The standard issue here was the 7" and Cassette Single (BONG18 and CBONG18 respectively - artwork right) which contained the single version of Enjoy The Silence and a new b-side called Memphisto which is a rather nice piano ballad featuring some ahh-ahh's from Martin. The 12" and cd versions (12BONG18 and CDBONG18 again a 3 inch cd single) fetaured the same artwork as the 7" and cassette. Each featured 4 tracks - Enjoy The Silence (single mix), Enjoy The Silence (Hands and Feet Mix), Enjoy The Silence (Ecstatic Dub) and a new b-side called Sibeling. I became quite obsessed with Sibeling for a while. It's another piano led instrumental but what caught my attention was the fact that the pew-pew (??) noise running through the track is the same noise as a tunnel alarm I heard going through Italy on a train in the summer of 1990. Fact. A very boring fact but a fact nonetheless. The Hands and Feet Mix is a cracking mix, again akin to a classic 12" mix in the same way Personal Jesus (Pump Mix) is. The Ecstatic Dub is grand too, a bit more in tune with the dance music of the period I guess in both name and sound. There's a cracking bit at around 2 mins 8 secs when a lovely noise comes in.
The limited editions came in 12" and cd form with L12BONG18 and LCDBONG18 (a 3 inch cd - artowrk for both left). Both again featured four tracks - three mixes of Enjoy The Silence (Bass line, Harmonium and Ricki-Tik-Mix) and Memphisto. I bought this twelve inch in London in the summer of 1990 on the way to the Italian holiday at which I discovered the Sibeling noise. My parents were thrilled that I wanted to carry a 12" around for a fortnight from London, to Italy and then back to Scotland as you can imagine. It was well worth it of course. The Harmonium mix is essentialy Martin playing, one presumes, a Harmonium and singing what he thought was a demo of a top notch new ballad which was fine until Alan and Flood brought the disco ball out in the studio and changed things about somewhat. I love this version and I believe (though am not sure) that it is very close to the original demo for the track. Bass Line is a good enough mix filled with strange wee samples and fetaures quite a lot of what we've heard live since 1990 when the track kicks into extended mode live (Move it! etc). The Ricki Tik Tik mix is a cool too (I cant actually say a bad word or be objective at all about this era) and is probably the most inventive mix of the lot here. Look out especially for 2 minutes 11 when the electro ish bass line comes in - genius. The mix on the reissue spoils that somewhat with some crappy 70's synth nonsense over the top of it so seek out the original issues.
Finally the band felt we had to have an extra limited version which I remember reading was lmited to only 5000 cd's and 12"'s worldwide. I've never had confirmation of that so if anyone knows please let me know. XL12BONG18 and XLCDBONG18 (right) featured only one track - The Quad: Final Mix, a 15 minute 27 second remix in four parts. The 12" comes as a one sided record with the DM logo from the sleeve laser etched into the back. The cd is a 3 inch one again. I bought the 12" in the long lost DMC records on the Whitesands in Dumfries for 99 pence! I remember seeing the XLCD too but FOR THE SAME PRICE but didnt feel the need to buy it. Idiot - the two I've bought since (dont ask why) cost much much much much more than that. Anyway, to the mix - it starts well with a good remix of the song itself slowly mutating into some alarm clock type noises that lead into a beat that then goes a bit mad and ultimately presents itself as some sort of clock based remix of the main track. It then seemingly out of nowhere becomes a marvellous orchestral take on Enjoy The Silence (an AMAZING thing) before the final of the four pieces comes in at 10 mins 40 turning into a final remix of the song itself. All rather odd but rather good nonetheless.
All in all the Enjoy The Silence package was and is fanastic and not just because DM are my intitals and I therefore had a personalised XL12BONG. Iconic artwork, an iconic tune and a band at their iconic best. Next we'd get the album Violator and that'll be dealt with in Part 2.