Wednesday, 30 March 2016


We've arrived at the last stop before the end of A Month Long Period Of Rejoicing and I think a natural question to ask is what is Black Celebration's legacy? One thing I've noticed from all the research I've done and from all the people I've spoken to, is that Black Celebration is an album most, if not all fans love and one that they consider to be a proper Depeche classic. Gareth Jones spoke of his pride at being involved in the album and all the band members consider it to be a special album too. 

So everyone loves it then. But is that a legacy as such? I suppose so, but I think Black Celebration's legacy can be assessed in even more depth. My view is that, without Black Celebration, we wouldn't have had the Depeche Mode we have today. It redefined the band and directly led to the band becoming one of the biggest acts in the world. The tour saw the band play arenas in the U.K. and Europe and, crucially, saw them play larger and larger venues in America with no real radio support to speak of. It wasn't air play that saw them break through in the U.S. -  it was the music. The surprise radio hit from two years previously, People Are People, wasn't the reason they filled the likes of the San Diego Sports Arena in 1986 - it was Black Celebration. Depeche Mode's music connected with teen America, as Sean Salo told us so wonderfully in his blog ( and that connection meant Depeche became bigger than they ever planned to in that country. Without Black Celebration, it's hard to imagine Depeche Mode filling arenas and stadiums in America over the next three tours as that album was the catalyst for that. It showed them they could do it.

The confidence the success of Black Celebration gave the band is another important legacy. The album itself is fairly uncompromising to an extent as it doesn't feature a Just Can't Get Enough, See You or People Are People. Pop songs are notable by their absence, and even the album's poppiest moment, Here Is The House, wasn't released as single, nor was it played live on the tour, other than on two dates. Black Celebration is not the work of a band thinking of the pop market. Despite that though, it saw them reach new heights. Think of Depeche Mode albums since then. Every one of them has been on its own terms with no real concession to the music industry, no real compromise. Obviously Violator had moments like Enjoy The Silence which became ubiquitous, but that was more down to the sheer perfection of the song, as opposed to the band trying to manufacture a hit. Even if we consider Violator to be the band's poppiest album in years, the first single was still called Personal Jesus. This was pop on their own terms, not anyone else's.

So mass popularity and proof they could succeed on their own terms seem likely to me to be the two biggest legacies of Black Celebration. One thing that is beyond doubt is the most important legacy of the album and that is the way the fans hold it dear. I see it as setting the manifesto for being a Depeche Mode fan - essentially dress in black and it will all be alright. It sets the tone for Depeche Mode albums to come and provides a standard by which they should be judged. There are Depeche fans who have been lifelong devotees and there are others, like me, who came on board around Violator. For those of us that did that and have lasted the course, Black Celebration is important, if not vital. It's the album that Depeche Mode fans get. It's the one that clicks with us all. 

Violator ultimately sets the bar for Depeche albums, and despite a month of this, I must confess that Violator is my favourite Depeche album and indeed my favourite album of all time, but Black Celebration sets out what it is to be a Depeche Mode fan. It's the album that I most often go back to when I want to listen to a random piece of Depeche Mode magic as I know I will always find something there to inspire me or to comfort me. It's majestic.

I asked some of my guest bloggers what they thought the legacy of the album is, in case I was talking nonsense. It seems that we're all in broad agreement:

Amanda Stock: I think its legacy is that, 30 years later, it still sounds current , like all great albums do. For the band, it showed a growing confidence, a move towards a " darker sounding Mode" and was big hit in America. @AmandaStock1

Aidan Berry: In terms of what it means to me It's has left me with such a good memory of the time. The album came out and was brilliant. The tour came to Whitley Bay Ice Rink and I got to go with my then girlfriend - the one I'd not called in preference to listening to the album. It just cemented my obsession with Depeche Mode. It isn't my favourite album but is pretty much close to being it. The Martin songs were / are near perfection and built on the wonder of the previous albums Somebody. It was just a fantastic time and evokes wonderful memories of the time, some of them too personal to a 17 year old to share in public.  @aapierre

Panos Sialakas: 30 years later, the one album that describes Depeche best, it includes everything DM is all about - musically, lyrically, aestheatically @panos101

Sean Salo: BC was a line in the sand. There was the melange of styles that came before it, and the cohesiveness of the band's output from that point on. BC ushered in a confidence in the band's writing and touring abilities that defines them to this day. @ebbhead

Kevin May: For a band that's had a fair share of watershed moments over the years, Black Celebration has to rank as one of their most important. Depth and creativity of the songwriting and production; the emergence of a coolness around its image and appeal; and a realisation that the legions of fans both expect and respect their desire to push the recorded output and performance. @HALObook

Some really interesting views there and they are views I am sure you share. I'd be delighted to hear your views too on the blog's Facebook or Twitter pages.

Ultimately, trying to define the legacy of an album is hard as there's always another album along a year or two later that adds to a band's catalogue and takes them somewhere different. I think it can be said, however, that Black Celebration is an album that was crucial to Depeche Mode becoming what they are now and in moving them from becoming a domestic concern to being a band the whole world knows.

Not band for an album with no singles and songs that won't get played on the radio.

1 comment:

  1. To me, Black Celebration is as much an album for 2016 as it was for 1986. I'm amazed at how relevant aspects of the lyrics are to what's happening in the world (and indeed in my personal life) on any given day. It's still one of the most sonically inventive albums ever recorded, and I never grow tired of listening to it. It's an album of depth, and of real beauty, and we are so lucky to live in an age where this exists.