Panos Sialakas is a Depeche Mode fan who lives in Athens, Greece. If there is ever a Depeche Mode fact you need checked ask him, as I've not yet discovered something he doesn't know about the band. I use him to check things I'm not sure about when I write and his help with my blog has saved me from offending the Black Swarm on a number of occasions. He also feels entirely free to correct me even when I don't ask, but that's fine by me. He was an obvious choice for a guest spot and so, here's Panos' piece called "Black Celebration - The Game Changer."
“For me one of the most drastic changes came with Black Celebration. From then on, all of our albums sort of have a thread to them for me. And I pretty much like everything that we've put out since then” – Martin Gore, The Singles 86>98 EPK
Black Celebration, the game changer. At a time where Daniel Miller was expecting more hits from them, Depeche said no to their mentor and turned their backs completely to what was popular on the market at the time by producing an atmospheric, dark electronic record that would prove to be a fan favourite for the years to come.
Whenever there’s a poll about the favourite Depeche records, Black Celebration is almost in everyone’s top 3. It may not be the one with the most number ones, that’s obviously Violator, but almost all fans would pick Black Celebration as a top choice. And that started from its release day, because Black Celebration managed to capture and express the feelings of thousands of kids around Europe and America. No bullshit about love or politics, just wondering about relationships (where love starts and ends, same with lust), daily issues (family, friends, unemployment, future, death), world problems (Princess Di…).
The result? A fine record that pushed Depeche to the big league in the UK and Europe plus playing more and more important venues in the US, without any serious support by their record label there, just mouth to mouth support from fans and certain radio people. With Black Celebration Depeche became world’s best music secret. From this point though, it was just a question of time until the band reached world domination status. Over the next 3-4 years it happened, with their music and their fanbase loyalty, developed in part because of Black Celebration, as their strongest weapons.
On a personal note, I always think of Black Celebration as a concept record. Something like the story of a young couple trying to deal with their relationship and the environment surrounding it with a strong hint of pessimism coming from the certain colour, black, of the opening song up to the naivety (remember, they were still very young at this point) of the closer New Dress.
I'm sure Martin and the band didn't have that particular concept in mind when writing and recording the record respectively. But that’s one important element of great records (and art in general) - to give the freedom to the audience to interpret the final result in any way it suits them.
And yes, there is no doubt that Black Celebration falls in that category of great records. 30 whole years after its release and it still sounds so fulfilling and inspiring, an important record not just for Depeche, but for the electronic and the alternative scene in general.