Depeche Mode’s Speak & Spell Turns 30 Today, Fans of Nevermind Throw Up Just a Little
Speak & Spell, the debut album from electronic music pioneers Depeche Mode was released thirty years ago today, marking the start of what has turned out to be a surprisingly long and fruitful musical legacy.
I say surprisingly because at the time of Speak & Spell‘s release, Depeche Mode were one of dozens of bands pouring out of the U.K. with synthesizers in hand attempting to conquer the world with catchy, radio and club friendly singles. The fact that the band not only made it out of the Regan years with a handful of hit songs but found even greater success in the era of grunge thanks to albums like 1990’s Violator and 1993’s Songs of Faith and Devotion is a testament to their rabidly loyal following, both in America and England.
For the casual music listener, Speak & Spell as an album is simply a side note in the history of one track in particular, the now synth-pop classic Just Can’t Get Enough. Written by the soon-to-be-departing Martin Gore, the song charted respectably when it was released as the third single from Speak & Spell, but to this day is an unofficial anthem of the 80s electronic music boon. For me, Just Can’t Get Enough was always ‘there’ in my own little musical world at the time, but my most vivd sonic memories come from the song Tora! Tora! Tora!, which my oldest brother had a fondness for including on mix tapes he would make for me. Much later on, that same brother and myself would have the opportunity to see Depeche Mode in concert following the release of Songs of Faith and Devotion. Let me tell you this-for a bunch of guys standing behind keyboards, Depeche Mode can whip a big crowd into a frenzy pretty darn quick.
Considering their start as a band that had a track entitled Big Muff on their debut album as well as a fondness for wearing bondage gear and painted on leather pants in promo shots and live appearances, Depeche Mode have done alright for themselves. They’ve cracked the 100 million albums sold plateau, still manage to make albums, and put on a great live show, to boot. They may not have always been the ‘cool’ band throughout their career, but Speak & Spell now ranks as one of those albums whose influence can be heard across generations of music makers.
From Speak & Spell here’s Tora! Tora! Tora! live from a 1982 television appearance with Vince Clarke replacement Alan Wilder on keyboards (what else?).