Niggels Uhlenbruch is a DJ and music journalist based in Munster, Germany. He's been a Depeche fan since 1984 and has seen them live so many times that it makes me beyond jealous to even discuss the band with him. Niggels is my fourth guest blogger for A Month Long Period Of Rejoicing, and here he shares his Depeche Mode history with us, including his first ever gig on the Black Celebration tour. Have a read and, while you're doing that, have a listen to Niggels' Black Celebration mix, "Black Celebration Niggelized" which I know you'll love. Here it is:
Check out Niggels' site http://www.monasteria.net/ and his Facebook page too https://www.facebook.com/dj.niggels/?fref=ts to keep an eye on what he's up to.
1986: Being A Teenage DM Fan In Western Germany
or: I'm crazy – here's why!
When I was a young teenager, it took me years to bump into someone at my age who actually disliked Depeche Mode. There were of course the older ones who dismissed Depeche Mode as a teenie band and claimed DM were "no real music" as it was all synth and computers and they wouldn't stop blathering on about "handmade music" being the real deal. Admittedly, there were actually guys at my age who were into Rock and Metal and weren't too fond of DM, to say the least. But they do not count – they already had old minds!
I remember that we had a round of table tennis in spring 1986 when a guy I didn't know before made a pretty snarky, derogatory comment about Depeche Mode and their fans. I was shocked! I was flabbergasted and my jaw dropped to the floor! Someone at MY age, someone who seemed to be a perfectly normal person (read: no metalhead) NOT liking Depeche Mode? Whoa...
What this boring little anecdote should tell you is the status of Depeche Mode in the mid- to late-80s in Germany. Almost everybody liked them, they were the number one band and they absolutely had a cult status. You either loved them or hated them, and most of the young people loved them. The older ones looked down on DM and kept on brabbling about "handmade music". Blahblahblah! Those dudes also loved to make the accusation that DM were "just a teenie band", and the knee-jerk reaction of die-hard fans like me was "no, they are not"! We couldn't see the irony of 14- or 15-year olds claiming their favourite band wasn't a teen band. Of course they were! And in hindsight, I have to say there's nothing wrong about it, teenagers also discovered The Beatles, The Who and The Rolling Stones while their older contemporaries complained "that's no real music"! Oh well... However, that DM were and always have been more than a band for teenies should be crystal clear these days. It used to be one aspect, yes, and there was nothing wrong about it.
I had been a Depeche Mode fan since May 1st, 1984, around noon since I heard 'People Are People' for the first time ever. And yes, I really do remember this THIS accurately, I'm not making it up! Once it clicked I spent all my pocket money on DM records. I remember the excitement of hearing 'Master & Servant' on the radio prior its release. I recall me and my friends waiting for record stores to open on release days. I remember that I was giddy with excitement when I learnt that Depeche Mode would play a town near me on their 'Some Great Reward tour! That city was Munster, the city I live in today.Then my authoritarian, old-fogyish Dad didn't allow me to go because he thought I was too young, had to go to school the next day, blahblah. Bummer! Well, that wasn't a bummer, that was fucking traumatizing!
I spent most of 1985 hunting down 12" singles, listening to the 'Shake The Disease' and 'Its called A Heart' singles and to Depeche's older stuff too, of course. And I began to discover other electronic acts: Soft Cell, Kraftwerk, Jean-Michel Jarre, Front 242, OMD, New Order, and so on. I looked down on old farts prattling about "handmade music", Rock music was reactionary, obsolete crap and synth music the future! And Daddy knows shit, anyway!
Then 1986 came and with it the divine 'Stripped' single and the promise of a brand new Depeche Mode album – and tour! Hooray! And Depeche Mode were scheduled to play Munster again!This time I opted for a more clever strategy. That is, I bought my ticket, arranged a ride to the show with a few friends and then, only then, I informed my parents that I'd go. Hah, eat this!'Black Celebration' hit the stores and everyone but the guy next to the table tennis table seemed to love it. I loved the album, still do, and absorbed every millisecond of it numerous times. And then the great day came – show day! The parents of a friend, who were apparently much more liberal than my fuddy-duddy Dad, drove us the Münsterlandhalle in Münster which was just a 40-minute drive. (side-note: today it's 5-minute walk for me, I live next to it and my next concert there is Jean-Michel Jarre.)
Well, it's certainly a pretty difficult task to write a concert review about a performance that was 30 years ago. All the more when it was you were only 15 back then, it was your very first concert and even one by your very favourite band. I was truly impressed by the black-clad masses and the huge number of fancy Goth hairstyles. I was even more impressed by the number of Dave Gahans in the crowd, and there were even a few Martin Gores. I didn't know that a Depeche Mode show was also some sort of lookalike contest! I also didn't know that there was also a support band but I truly didn't mind the wonderful Book of Love and their chirpy Synth Pop. I immediately had a crush on the three female band members, and having a crush on three girls at one time was something I was used to when I was 15. Unfortunately they usually were just as far away and unreachable as the three Book of Love ladies on that stage but that's another story...
I remember the instrumental intro 'Christmas Island' and how it crossfaded into the car motor sounds which made me think they'd start with 'Stripped' just to blend over to the first bars of the song 'Black Celebration'. I remember the curtain dropping down and that's the point where my story begins to sound like an episode from 'Hangover'. It's not just the time distance of 30 years, it's the ecstatic rush, the voluptuous frenzy of the 90 minutes that followed. As soon as the headlights were turned on again after the encore it was like waking up from a dream! I couldn't remember half of the setlist but, boy, what a dream! Do you know the feeling after a great night out full of booze and fun, when you have little memories but the blurry idea that you had the time of your life and you probably even got laid on top of it? No? Me neither, but this scenario might give you an idea how I felt after seeing DM live for the first time. And there wasn't a single drop of alcohol involved! I recall bits and pieces, like Martin walking down the staircase for his solo slot, the handclapping during 'More Than A Party', the weird metal sculptures they hit with sticks during some songs, a Goth couple soaked with sweat and fighting their way back from the mosh pit [sic!] in front of the stage, me and my friends shouting "Boys say go!" during this very song, me taking my shirt off during 'Stripped' – and that's it. That was all I could recall 5 minutes after the gig and today, I can say that I remember just as much from the show as it were only a few moments ago. It was a total freak-out and I definitely wanted more of it.
After the Black Celebration gig, my friends and I decided to shoot for the moon saying "We're going to see Depeche every year now!" and so we did! Because back then it was possible, there weren't those four year breaks we have to cope with these days. DM returned in 1987 and 1988 before it took two years for them to return with their 'World Violation' show in 1990. At the end of that tour I had seen them twelve times. 1993 had 15 'Devotional' shows in store for me and until today I've kept up the habit of seeing Depeche Mode multiple times per tour. See, Dad? That's what you get from saying "no" one fucking time!
The experience of following DM on tour (and online) is something a few readers of this blog might be familiar with. You make friends from other countries and all over the world, you meet them again next tour, you see a lot of different places you probably wouldn't have visited if it wasn't for DM, you generally get a broader picture of the world and then there's also the partying and certain other fun aspects. We Devotees grew up with Depeche Mode and the band has become an integral part of who we are today. In my case it's all the more true as my passion for Depeche led to a general passion for electronic and alternative music, which led me to becoming a DJ, freelance music journalist and event promoter. In the end I skipped my hesitant plans to become a teacher for Biology, Geography and Anglistics and dropped from university to work full time in the event and music industry. Now I'm in my ninth year of being self-employed and running my own business. As it happens, Deejaying at Depeche Mode nights is now part of my job. Instead of becoming a boring teacher I opted for a lifelong black celebration. Thanks for this one "no", Dad, it helped put me on the track.
Thanks very much to Niggels for that wonderful piece and for allowing me to share the Black Celebration mix.