The 80s Come Alive: Never Let Me Down Again (Depeche Mode)
Depeche Mode. Four guys, one so skinny he made a bean stalk look fat and the other three buried behind banks of keyboards. A wardrobe best described as bondage chic crossed with Sprockets plus a heaping dash of white denim. The band took its fair share of mocking in the 80s, but the fact remains that while many of their contemporaries fell to the wayside, Depeche Mode steamed on, selling close to 100 million albums worldwide and touring the globe a dozen times over.
Of course, along the way there were the usual fame and fortune traumas to deal with, starting with the departure of founding member and principle songwriter Vince Clarke after the band’s debut album Speak & Spell in 1981. Clarke was the man responsible for almost all of Depeche Mode’s creative output, including the group’s biggest song at that point, Just Can’t Get Enough. Clarke went on to find success with Yazoo and later Erasure, while Depeche Mode carried on with Martin Gore assuming the role of primary songwriter and Clarke’s keyboard slot being filled by Alan Wilder. Drug issues have also nearly derailed the band on several different occasions, with singer Dave Gahan having fought a nasty heroin addiction, including a couple of close calls in the late nineties. However, keyboardist Andy Fletcher has been quite blandly grounded throughout the years. I won’t call him boring, but….ok-he’s boring.
Many felt the band would sink without Clarke to guide them, but the Gore-lead Mode proved detractors wrong, many times over. The band started a cycle of world wide top ten hits that continued throughout the 80s and 90s. They also became a live act that was guaranteed to fill any venue, size be damned. Vocalist Dave Gahan didn’t mind having the entire spotlight to himself during their live shows, since with the exception of the odd bit of guitar noodling by Gore everyone else in the band was stuck behind keyboards. Over the years the group has added a live drummer onstage, and since the departure of Alan Wilder in 1995 additional keyboardists as well. Gore has taken to playing more guitar live, and during recent tours spent more time wielding his axe than he did behind the keys.
Here’s Depeche Mode during their 1988 show from the Pasadena Rose Bowl, as featured in the docu-concert DVD Depeche Mode 101. The track is Never Let Me Down Again from 1987’s Music for the Masses. And that’s 70 000 screaming fans in the background.