Thursday, 24 March 2016

A QUESTION OF TIME

A Question Of Time was released on 11 August 1986, five days before the end of the Black Celebration Tour. Normally, any such release isn't that important. The album has sold all it will really sell, the band are winding down from a spell on the road and, unless the b-sides and remixes are worth it (as they were here), some fans might not even buy the single. The thing is though, A Question Of Time was a pivotal single for Depeche Mode, but not for the musical side of it. It was important because of its video.

7BONG12

The video for the single was directed by Anton Corbijn who agreed to work with Depeche Mode primarily because they were in American at that moment in time (see Black Celebration re-issue dvd interviews). Until that point, their videos had been pretty crap in the main, with the band and the video directors never quite grasping how to make videos to match the mood of the music. Their videos up to Anton's involvement suffer partly from too much literal interpretation of elements of the songs (see Master &Servant's drills and chains), partly from too many attempts to show that they hit real things rather than press buttons (see Stripped's metal bashing) but mainly from being useless (everything other than Shake The Disease and Stripped). Anton's approach seemed to be along the lines of "I'm making a film and your music just happens to be the soundtrack" and it worked, and still works. Think of Depeche Mode now and most people will think Violator and its iconic, Corbijn artwork. Ask someone to think of a Depeche video and they'll likely think of Enjoy The Silence. Anton's artwork was also crucial to Depeche Mode from the Music For The Masses period and beyond. Basically all of his single and album designs are wonderful, bar Home which really was lazy. 

Without his involvement in the A Question Of Time video, it's likely that we would have a very different Depeche Mode to the one we have today. Yes, Martin would still have come up with the majestic songs, but the band's image would have been different.  The single was, therefore, very important, even crucial, in seeing Depeche Mode taken more seriously and not just viewed as synthpoppers. I guess I'd better show you the video:

 

So - to the single itself. The Mute press release said this:

Courtesy of DM TV Archives

The N.M.E said:

Remixed and remodelled, 'A Question Of Time' is an anthem: Depeche Mode's answer to Big Country. It just stutters on in frantic waves of guitar and synth keyboard. Depeche Mode's fans seem to crave for a diet of rigid, thrashing beats. That being so, 'A Question Of Time' is neither here nor there. It's just yet another Depeche Mode single.

No.1 Magazine said:

Courtesy of DM TV Archives

The band promoted it with a number of television appearances . Here's one, with a brief Dave interview, from U.K. show Music Box:



The 7" version of the single featured a remixed version of A Question Of Time called A Question Of Time (Remix). It's quite a nice version and is slightly faster than the album mix. The b-side is a live version of Black Celebration recorded live at Birmingham N.E.C. on 10 April. The 12" contains one remix and three live tracks from that Birmingham show. The remix is Extended Remix of A Question Of Time by Phil Harding and it's pretty good. Like any good extended remix, it reshapes the song and let's you hear many of the individual components which is always cool. The live tracks are Black Celebration, Something To Do and Stripped.  As I've mentioned previously, the live versions of the Black Celebration tracks seem to lack something. Something To Do sounds great though, and seems to have a life that the other tracks lack.

My A Question Of Time Collection

For the first time in this campaign, there was a limited edition 12" single (middle above). Side A of the record is an odd one. There's the New Town remix of A Question Of Time by Rico Conning to kick it off. It's not bad but not as good as the Extended Remix, although it does turn Martin into a Dalek towards the end which is novel. It then runs straight into a live version of A Question Of Time, again from Birmingham, which has a really odd sound used for the main keyboard riff. The B-side firstly features the Black Tulip Mix of Black Celebration, again by Mr Conning, and it's a fairly weird but ultimately enjoyable remix. The last track is another live track from Birmingham, More Than A Party, which, like all shows on the tour, rounds it off nicely. All tracks were made available on cd in 1991 following the cd re-issue series.

Once again, the West German fans got some coloured vinyl. The 7" was released on red vinyl (note - all singles from See You to Never Let Me Down Again are available on this format), the standard 12" appeared on black and white marbled vinyl and the L12 appeared on grey vinyl. All three coloured vinyl versions can be viewed above. A West German cd single is also available. There's a lovely French cd single available too which features the 12" tracks plus A Question Of Time (Remix)  from the 7". It's available in a few guises, the most sought after being the numbered version in a cardboard sleeve - picture below. I've only just received this, hence why it doesn't feature in the collection post above,  There's also a French cassette version featuring the same five tracks.



The final release to note is the American "Specially Priced Maxi Single" which is a hybrid A Question Of Time/A Question Of Lust release. The front sleeve looks like this:


The A-side (above) features the Extended Remix of A Question of Time and the live version of Something To Do from the U.K. 12". The B-side features A Question Of Lust (Extended Version) and Black Celebration from the 7" and 12". Note that this isn't a new remix of A Question Of Lust. It's actually A Question Of Lust (Minimal) from the U.K. 12". The back sleeve of the record looks like this:


hence my hybrid release comment. 

A Question Of Time got as far as number 17 in the U.K. charts which wasn't too bad considering (1) it was the third single from the album and they were no longer on tour (2) A Question Of Lust only got to number 28 and (3) Stripped had only got to number 15. As I said at the outset though, A Question Of Time is an important release as it signified the start of the Corbijn era and we all know how well that went.

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