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Depeche Mode: A band, its music, and the cult

A short essay with song analyses

Hausarbeit 2005 20 Seiten

Medien / Kommunikation - Sonstiges


1. Index

2. Preface

3. Biography of Depeche Mode
3.1 The 80s
3.2 The 90s
3.3 since 2000

4. Their music
4.1 Musical roots of Depeche Mode
4.2 What’s New Wave?

5. The Cult
5.1 What is Cult?
5.2 And what about the Depeche Mode cult?

6. Analysis of
6.1 … “Blasphemous Rumours”
6.2 … “Personal Jesus”
6.3 … “Walking in my Shoes”
6.4 … “John the Revelator”


7. Lyrics of
7.1 … “Blasphemous Rumours”
7.2 … “Personal Jesus”
7.3 … “Walking in my Shoes”
7.4 … “John the Revelator”

8. Bibliographical References & URL References

2. Preface

“Depeche Mode are a modern religion including comfort and salvation, adoration and belief, cloister and resurrection.“

(Quotation of an unknown fan)

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Martin Lee Gore, Dave Gahan und Andrew Fletcher

For more than twenty years Depeche Mode have been filling their fans with enthusiasm.

A band that seems to stay always the same: Never getting enough, always being left out a bit of the music scene, but although steadily playing at first front.

The electronic Pop music of the 1980’s and 1990’s was mainly influenced by Depeche Mode.

How could three teenage boys in the early 80´s, bringing a quite new sound and style into the Pop music scene, become one of the most successful bands of all times?

This paper is going to follow Depeche Mode from their early beginnings to their later stardom, taking a close look at their special kind of music and style.

So, reach out and touch faith!

(Quotation from the song “Personal Jesus“, released in 1989)

3. Biography

“To go from nothing to that in seven years was amazing!”[1]

3.1 The 80s

Vince Clark, Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher found the band “Composition of Sound” in Basildon, England in May 1980. Their first album under that label was named “Some bizarre” with the famous song “Photographic”.

Even before publishing this compilation, the band accidentally met Daniel Miller, the establisher and producer of “Mute Records”, when being at a concert in London. Miller then offered them what they had desired most during their first steps in music business: the possibility of recording a single disc. That was the first contact with success.

The only one who did not join the later success of the band was Clarke, who was not satisfied with his part as a singer. So the two left members started searching a new singer and eventually found him in the student Dave Gahan, who then suggested a new name for the band: “Depeche Mode”, the title of a French fashion magazine. Clarke became the songwriter of the band, but would not keep it for a long time though.

The first Depeche Mode single recorded at the Mute Studios in March 1981 was “Dreaming of Me”. It did not achieve a higher ranking than number 57 in the UK music charts. Their next single “New Life”, three months later, then reached rank 11 and the third one, “Just Can’t Get Enough” in autumn 1981 finally brought them into the Top Ten of the British charts.

The first crisis of the band took not long to appear after touring around without stopping during the first months of their career. Vince Clarke, the former singer and now songwriter, preferred working in the studio, rather than “on the road”. So he decided to leave the band after the publication of “Speak and Spell”. Later, together with Alison Moyet, he founded a new band called “Yazoo”.

In the remaining group of Depeche Mode, the job of song writing was given to Martin Gore, who then, surprisingly, showed a great talent in writing which he kept during the following seventeen years by creating both a big repertoire of “typical” Depeche Mode songs and also a large number of Top Ten hits. His style was to build up a fragile and hypnotic atmosphere already appearing on their first post-Clarke single “See You” and from then on joined all songs of the trio during the years. It was “See You” which reached highest position in the UK charts; rank 6 in the UK charts. With the announce “Name band, Synthesizer, must be under 21” in the “Melody Maker”, Gore, Fletcher, and Gahan started looking for a new member to fill the gap which Clarke had left; and whom they did find at least was Alan Wilder, who then stayed with the band for the next thirteen years.

After getting two more Number One hits, “The Meaning of Love” and “Leave in Silence”, Depeche Mode published their second album in October 1982, “A Broken Frame”, which also reached the UK Top Ten and was the factor that completely turned them into stars.

Despite of their success, Depeche Mode kept their original sound. Their third album in autumn 1983, “Construction Time Again”, confirmed that. While producing that album, the band relied totally just on their own capabilities for the first time. That gained the biggest success and popularity till then not only in the UK but also for the first time throughout on the continent.

It was in 1984 that Depeche Mode became known in the USA, too. The single “People are People” directly reached rank 13 in the US charts and the next album, “Some Great Reward”, turned out to be a milestone of their success in the United States. In the same year, in November, Martin Gore moved to Berlin to his girlfriend.

In 1985 only two singles, “Shake the Disease”, and “It’s called a Heart”, and one compilation („The Singles 1981–85“) appeared. In that year, Martin Gore moved back to England and Dave Gahan married the founder of the Depeche Mode fan club.

In 1986, they fully returned onto stage and promoted their album “Black celebration”, which had reached rank 3 in the UK charts, all over the world. It was recorded in the Hansa Studios, Berlin.

Alan Wilder started a solo project by publishing “Recoil 1+2”.

The next album, „Music for the Masses“, was released in October 1987 and the videos belonging to that album were published as home videos. Though in the USA “Music for the Masses” only reached rank 35 functioned as a catalysator, making Depeche Mode more famous in the United States and giving them the first position in a new, alternative scene of music culture.

The successful US tour of Depeche Mode was finished with a concert in Rose Bowl, Pasadena, in front of 75000 spectators on June 8th, 1988. On that day, when the label boss, Miller, remember the day he met the former unknown band in London, he said a sentence which is often recited by fans till today: “To go from nothing to that in seven years was amazing.” The legendary US-American documentary filmmaker D.A Pennebaker produced a film named “101”, showing the whole development of Depeche Mode. The influence of the band throughout the USA was not to be stopped in the following years; in 1989 “Personal Jesus” became the best-sold 12 inch single in the history of the US-label Warner Brothers and with that even topped the success of most famous singers just as Prince or Madonna. It was in the same year that the band started their „World Violation” tour, beginning in the USA, and finishing with three concerts in the Wembley Stadium, London. The “Pasadena Rose Bowl concert” had become a kind of a legend and now was sold as a double live-album, also titled “101”.

3.2 The 90s

In March 1990, album number 9, recorded in Milan, London and Denmark, called “Violator”, was published and two months later Depeche Mode started a US tour with 43 concerts. “Violator” reached rank 2 in Great Britain and Germany and rank 7 in the United States. In the following year it was sold about 6 million times worldwide.

Going on, in 1992 the album “Songs of faith and Devotion” was recorded in Madrid and became a Number One hit in Great Britain and the USA in 1993. In the same year the video “Devotional” and the Live version of “Songs of Faith and Devotion” were released.

The rapid success did suddenly come to an end in 1994, when all four members of the band suffered from a mental breakdown depending on their “Devotional“ tour, which had taken 14 months and included 156 shows. Depeche Mode was close to separation. The consequences became obvious in June 1995, when Alan Wilder left the band after 13 years. On August 7th, Dave Gahan was found in a hotel in L.A., having cut his arteries, and was brought into hospital, where he survived the attempt of suicide. It should not be the last one: Less than one year later, May 28th, 1996, Gahan took an overdose of heroin and was dead for two minutes before he was successfully reanimated in hospital.

After that incident, he was sentenced to some days in jail for of owning drugs. Then he started a detox programme.

In 1997 Depeche Mode surprisingly returned after four years of absence. The single “Barrel of a Gun” reached rank 4 in Great Britain. It had been Martin Gore, the songwriter, who had encouraged the band to try a comeback. By writing new songs he inspired the others to start over again.

The first sessions after the time-out took place in London, supported by Tim Simeon who had released some Depeche Mode remixes before. The album “Ultra” surprisingly reached top positions all over the world and proved that Depeche Mode had not dwindled in creativity and their way of appealing to the public.

The return onto stage followed in autumn 1998 and even another world tour was started.

In 1999 Dave Gahan married for the third time and became father again. Two years later the band recorded the album “Exciter” and once again went to travel the world for promoting it. Many concerts were booked out within a few hours.

3.3 since 2000

In 2002 Depeche Mode is honoured with platin for their DVD of a live concert in Paris.

One year later, both Martin Gore and Dave Gahan went for solo projects; Gore with “Counterfeit2” and Gahan with “Paper Monsters”, both being successful.

In January, 2005 Depeche Mode decided to record new songs together with their producer Ben Hillier. And on October, 14th they released the 11th album called “Playing the Angel”, which climbed on top of the charts. Since then Depeche Mode has been touring the world.


[1] Quotation of label boss Daniel Miller concerning the concert in Pasadena, 1988. è WWW-Link:


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Titel: Depeche Mode: A band, its music, and the cult