(Don’t) Get your air guitar out – Halo, rawk style

Please make it stop, some might argue.

British metallers Weak13 have turned one of Depeche Mode’s finest moments into a root and branch attack on our senses (and sensibilities).

The West Midlands three-piece are perhaps better known for their songs Go Away and Sex Pest, as well as their solitary studio album They Live.

Halo, somewhat fortunatelyhas been largely spared of a deluge of cover versions over the years.

US singer Ronitt had her rather more sedate take on Halo a few years back.

Yet most fans will have the wonderful Goldfrapp remix of the song on their minds when they think of different versions.

Depeche Mode were presumably so impressed with it (beyond including it on the album Remixes 81-04 album) that a version was played for an encore during the Delta Machine tour in 2013-2014.

Note: Look out, in HALO, for some inside knowledge about rockier versions of the  Violator classic.

MIA will make you a believer if you lift up the receiver

“Lift up the receiver… I’ll make you a believer” – one of the most instantly recognisable lines in a Depeche Mode song.

But the famous lyric from Personal Jesus has recently reappeared, in a context and genre about as far removed from Depeche as you can imagine.

UK-based MIA is a bundle of creativity, covering music, production, fashion and photography (she’s overseeing this year’s arty Meltdown Festival in London), with her roots originally in a curious fusion of hip hop and “world music”.

She came to mainstream attention when working with A H Rahman on the soundtrack for Danny Boyle’s film Slumdog Millionaire, fronting the hit song Paper Planes.

Not only is her music inventive but the live act is terrific (Glastonbury, a few years back, was a rather feisty affair).

Ahead of her curation duties for the Meltdown Festival, MIA has released a song straight to YouTube, called Goals.

MIA’s dark and extremely lo-fi rap features a slight variation on the Personal Jesus line (swapping a “lift” for a “pick”) as part of a hypnotic series of verses and choruses.

It’s essentially a love song, tinged with anger and venom. It’s a terrific and unusual type of track.

MIA has a habit of creating music that is strangely addictive, especially because her use of melodies and harmonies often do not conform to conventional standards.

Even the “video” for Goals is oddly compelling, in a very simple way, using a series of stop-motion shots from a gig.

Many Depeche Mode devotees, given the general reaction to countless reintepretations of material from their idols, are going to hate it.


Where’s The (French) Revolution – Carla Bruni covers Enjoy The Silence

Not content with a glittering career as a model-turned-singer and being married to a former president of France, Carla Bruni has turned her attention to singing Depeche Mode songs.

The 49-year-old, who has five albums to her name and was one of the most sought after faces in the fashion world in the 1990s, has a new long player of cover versions being released later this year.

And, yep, Enjoy The Silence gets the wispy Bruni vocal treatment and is the first song to be released.

Explaining her reasons for picking the Depeche classic in an interview with Billboard, Bruni says:

“What I like very much about the song is the lyrics. It’s such a perfect song that it really didn’t need a cover.

“The lyrics are quite dark, but they’re made stronger because, nowadays, noise is everywhere.

“We need silence. Silence is healing.”

Indeed it is, not least for the former-First Lady of France who has moved out of the limelight as such and returned to her singing career after spending four years in the Elysee Palace.

She married French president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008 and became a French citizen (she was born in Italy) after an apparent whirlwind romance shortly after he took office.

Bruni’s version is by no means the best take of Enjoy The Silence but it’s probably not the worst either.

In fact, there are many, many versions kicking about these days, recreated with varying degrees of quality.

But it is certainly the first cover of a Depeche song recorded by a figure who has seemingly sped through a hugely successful, high-profile professional career and private life with few blemishes (she has even caught the eye of musical icons Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, before settling down with a politician and having a family).

I’m sure someone once said “Fast Fashion” is a great name for a band. No, they didn’t 😉

Kanye West and Depeche Mode unite – well, almost…

Kanye West and Depeche Mode – chalk and cheese, polar ends of the musical spectrum, right?

It’s a match made in hell, at least for hordes of devotees who would probably burn a red rose or two in protest if it were true.

Still, some may recall a “mashup” of Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus with rapper and R&B megastar Kanye West’s Black Skinhead from 2013.

The Dan Chamberlain creation got a fair amount of buzz on the web at the time but the track was never given any kind of official release or widespread airtime.

Fast forward four years and it’s about to get A Lot Of Exposure, with the track included on the soundtrack and new trailer for Charlize Theron-fronted action movie Atomic Blonde.

The first third of the three-minute showcase features New Order’s Blue Monday, but then it’s time for the fusion of Depeche stomping and Kanye verbal pouting to kick in.

Here is the trailer:

The movie is the first big-ticket outing for director David Leitch, a former stuntman who has stood in for the likes of Brad Pitt and Jean-Claude Van Damme.

And if you think Atomic Blonde, a spy thriller set at the end of the Cold War, has a certain Jason Bourne-type vibe about it, then you’d be correct – Leitch starred in both The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Legacy.

Atomic Blonde is due for release in the summer of 2017 and also stars James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones and Bill Skarsgard.

Personal Jesus has previously featured on the soundtrack for Saddam Hussein son Udday biopic, The Devil’s Double, in 2011.

French Canadian movie Le Confessionnal, directed by Robert Lepage, used Waiting For The Night for its theatre trailer.

The award-winning 1995 film starred Kristen Scott Thomas (The English Patient) and Lothaire Bluteau (The Tudors).

Lepage must’ve been a fan of Depeche and Violator as he also had Policy Of Truth included in the main soundtrack for the film.

Depeche Mode new single – Where’s The Revolution

After a few days of near-hysteria on social media and the Depeche Mode forums, Where’s The Revolution has finally “dropped”.

The single is the first track to be released from the band’s forthcoming album, Spirit – their 14th studio long-player and the first new material in almost four years.

Official news of Where’s The Revolution‘s impending release hit the web earlier this week, including an image of its front cover (and also that of the album, due for release on March 17), inevitably igniting large swathes of, err, feedback about its design.

Long-time collaborator Anton Corbijn is (thankfully, I believe) still steering Depeche’s artistic direction. Whether his designs please or anger fans, Corbijn always gives the band a theme and a visual narrative to follow through the life-cycle of a project (these days, the singles + album + merchandise + tour are considered “a project”).

Corbijn has also directed the as-yet unreleased video for Where’s The Revolution.

Back to the single…

Where’s The Revolution (and the album) is produced by James Ford, of Simian Mobile Disco fame – the first time in 12 years that the band have had a new producer and studio team (DJ/producer Matrixxman is on engineering duties).

Many fans have argued that Ben Hillier’s time was up, following his trilogy of albums, Playing The Angel (2005), Sounds Of The Universe (2009) and Delta Machine (2013).

Correct or not, rumours that a new studio guru/peacemaker/ideas man was on the way inevitably led to the usual dizzying array of possibilities being suggested (Brian Eno, Flood and Trent Rezor, to name a few – with the usual pleas for Alan Wilder thrown in for good measure).

How much of Ford’s dirty electronic sensibilities from SMD will feed into the rest of Spirit remains to be seen, although the partnership with Depeche is already being touted as one of where his musicianship, as well as production skills, was an important factor in the decision to hire him.

Depeche Mode have had a habit since Violator of hitting the airwaves with a big statement for the first single, often unlike anything else that is on the rest of the subsequent album,  (Personal Jesus, I Feel You, Dream On and Wrong, in particular).

Here we are, back again, ladies and gents.

WTR (as it will eventually be called by fans) is certainly continuing that trend.

The band will probably explain more about the track’s rabble-rousing lyrics during interviews in the coming weeks, but there is little doubt that the timing of its release is impeccable given political and social upheaval in the band’s birthplace (Brexit-bound UK) and where Dave Gahan and Martin Gore now reside (Trump’s USA).

Gore has spent decades as a lyricist agonising over deeply personal issues such as love, loss, religion and sex that a return to the stories of old (sorry!) in the political sphere circa Construction Time Again and Some Great Reward could be seen as a surprise.

Most 55-year-old songwriters have often confined the firebrand days to their youth, so this new, outward-looking perspective is an interesting and perhaps surprising one to experience again.

Gahan, during the Spirit press conference in Milan in October last year, commented on how Ford had taught himself to play Gore’s pedal steel guitar during a studio session, and that it appears on a number of tracks, WTR included, where it signals the end of each segment of the song.

The track is not uptempo by any means but has a pounding groove in parts to match the march-type vibe (a call to arms, even) that Gore is trying to achieve with the lyrics.

One suspects a lot of attention from both hardcore devotees and critics will focus on the “get on board” middle-8, both lyrically and sonically.

Middle-8s are designed as juxtapositions between the flow of verses and chorus, yet WTR‘s effort hangs awkwardly in the air.

It’s not Depeche’s finest hour.

Thankfully the chorus returns for a final outing, with some soaring soundscapes and a full ensemble of voices almost crying out for Gore’s revolution (Andy Fletcher is credited with backing vocals).

It’s worth pointing out that Gahan’s vocal appears to be getting stronger with each “project” (Halo on the last Depeche tour and his work with Soulsavers in 2015, especially live, illustrated what he can really do with his voice).

There are always nods to the past – it’s inevitable with such a vast catalogue of work to refer back to – so early contenders musically are The Sweetest Condition (as Almost Predictable, Almost… points out), Corrupt from Sounds Of The Universe and almost a hint of Violator‘s Sweetest Perfection in parts.

wheres the revolution

Make no mistake, Gahan will be polishing his boots, ready to rouse the masses when Spirit goes on the road from May, with WTR a likely contender for one of his audience singalongs.

As new Depeche era-intros go, WTR will instantly divide opinion amongst stalwarts (first singles always do) but it’s a bold opener from what feels like a band trying to be bolder (and, indeed, older).

Where’s The Revolution will no doubt come in a cascade of different formats, as is Depeche’s way. Details on those shortly.

Words (M L Gore):

You’ve been kept down
You’ve been pushed ’round
You’ve been lied to
You’ve been fed truths
Who’s making your decisions
You or your religion
Your government, your countries
You patriotic junkies

Where’s the revolution
Come on people
You’re letting me down
Where’s the revolution
Come on people
You’re letting me down

You’ve been pissed on
For too long
Your rights abused
Your views refused
They manipulate and threaten
With terror as a weapon
Scare you till you’re stupefied
Wear you down until you’re on their side

Where’s the revolution
Come on people
You’re letting me down
Where’s the revolution
Come on people
You’re letting me down

The train is coming
The train is coming
The train is coming
The train is coming
So get on board
Get on board
Get on board
Get on board
The engine’s humming
The engine’s humming
The engine’s humming
The engine’s humming
So get on board
Get on board
Get on board
Get on board

Where’s the revolution
Come on people
You’re letting me down
Where’s the revolution
Come on people
You’re letting me down

Ukrainian orchestra plays Personal Jesus, Enjoy The Silence and other Depeche classics

One of the most popular posts on this website was during the summer, featuring Eric Whitacre’s haunting, choral version of Enjoy The Silence.

And who can forget Michal Matejcik’s versions of Halo, Enjoy The Silence and Clean, performed on the harp?

That attracted a large amount of traffic to the site, too.

Fans seem to like orchestral versions of Depeche Mode songs (also remember the orchestral part of the Quad: Final Mix)…!

One clip that has been doing the rounds in recent weeks features a series of Depeche tracks performed by the Prime Orchestra, filmed during a concert in the Ukraine.

The string arrangements are terrific,  but I’d be curious to know if others feel the same about some of the pieces when the “traditional” rock instruments, saxophone and vocals kick in.

Still, enjoy it…

The track listing:

  • Just Can’t Get Enough
  • Stripped
  • Behind The Wheel
  • Personal Jesus
  • Enjoy The silence
  • Never Let Me Down Again

Here is the clip:

Enjoy The Silence fronts trailer for Scarlett Johansson sci-fi flick Ghost In The Shell

Enjoy The Silence is fast becoming (if not already) the most covered Depeche Mode song in the band’s history.

American rock-electronica fusion artist KI Theory covered it back in 2014, but his version is about to get a lot of attention.

It is being used in the trailer for Ghost In The Shell, an upcoming sci-fiction movie directed by Rupert Sanders (the Brit behind 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman).

The lead role is played by Scarlett Johansson, with support from Juliette Binoche, Pilou Asbæk, Michael Putt and Takeshi Kitano.

When you see the trailer you will immediately realise that Depeche Mode’s original version was clearly nowhere near RAWK enough to be used for what appears to be a full-on action-fest of a movie 🙂

The film is due to be released in March 2017.

Here is the clip:

And KI Theory’s version in full:

Irony factoid: Sanders once directed an award-winning television ad for the computer game series, Halo.

Dangerous – B-side brilliance by Depeche Mode… to jazz funksters Level 42

One of the really heartwarming parts of writing this biography has been how frequently fans of the band have got in touch to offer a nugget or two (or ten!) of detail.

Luckily for me, there is a wonderful and extremely genuine passion amongst the Devotistas for sharing memories and useful bits of information.

(thank you, very much!) x

Many of these will end up in the book, but some are worth sharing here as they do not have a particular place in the story or, as in the case of this post, require some listening.

Step forward diehard Depeche Mode fan Andy McMinn, who many of you will know from his terrific efforts as one of the admins on the consistently brilliant (and, frankly, extremely useful!) Depeche Mode Classic Photos and Fans fan page on Facebook.

McMinn got in touch recently to point out that he’d remembered – years after letting some of his vinyl go – that, rather randomly, another of his favourite bands had used a sample from the well-liked Personal Jesus b-side, Dangerous.

The somewhat unlikely scenario of a sampled part from the extremely electronic Dangerous ending up on a track by Level 42 is, indeed, surprising.

level 42

Level 42 are best known for their successful career as a technically superb jazz funk outfit that produced a string of chart hits (such as Lessons In Love and Something About You) throughout the 1980s and early-1990s.

The 1991 release of the band’s ninth album, Guaranteed, coincided with a single of the same name.

Tucked away on the 12-inch version of Guaranteed was the “New Avengers Mix”.

The remix was pulled together by Peter Lorimer (aka 29 Palms), who at the time was also working with the Happy Mondays, Yello, INXS and Electronic, and in later years collaborated with dance artists such as Dido, Tall Paul and Paul Oakenfold.

Here is the original Depeche Mode version of Dangerous:

Despite their peak years (in terms of mainstream chart success) now being a few decades behind them, Level 42 still regularly tour and record new music.

Guaranteed has been played on the band’s most recent flurry of gigs around the UK, sadly minus the Dangerous sample at the beginning of the track.

NB: Thanks, Andy, for (re)discovering this rather improbable mixture of classic Depeche and hard-slap bass 🙂

NB2: Level 42 photo by Linda McCartney.

Violator – acoustic and alternative live versions from over the years

There have been plenty of official remixes of the singles from Violator (and countless unofficial ones).

World In My Eyes, Personal Jesus, Enjoy The Silence and Policy Of Truth have also been reworked slightly for their respective live outings over the years, since first being aired on the World Violation Tour in 1990.

Most of the remaining tracks from Violator have all featured on-the-road, too, with Halo and Waiting For The Night in particular both being played during tours in the 2000 and 2010s.

But it is worth remembering that, despite being an “electronic band”, Depeche have also stripped down many songs from Violator over the years into acoustic or bare versions.

Some have made their way onto tours, others re-recorded for live special studio clips.

So, here is a collection of different versions of almost every song from Violator.

World In My Eyes

*** if someone can point us in the direction of an acoustic or fundamentally different live version of World In My Eyes, we’d be very grateful 🙂 ***

Sweetest Perfection

World Violation Tour, 1990

Personal Jesus

Violator recording sessions, 1989

KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas, 2005


Delta Machine Tour, Bilbao, 2013

Waiting For The Night

Playing The Angel recording sessions, 2005

Tour Of The Universe, 2009 (watch out for Martin’s slip-up and his trademark giggle as a result)

Enjoy The Silence

KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas, 1998

Policy Of Truth

Dave Gahan’s Paper Monsters Tour, 2003

Blue Dress

World Violation Tour, 1990


Playing The Angel recording sessions, 2005

And, for their sheer brilliance on the World Violation Tour in 1990, Martin’s acoustic guitar versions of I Want You Now and Little 15 (from Music For The Masses), and World Full Of Nothing and Here Is The House (from Black Celebration).

Personal Jesus – World Violation Tour screen projections

The lack of a bona fide, official video from the World Violation Tour means many fans have forgotten about (or never even seen) the visual elements.

Although the stage design didn’t reach the creative heights of the Devotional Tour period a few years later, Violator‘s accompanying tour did hint at what was to come.

In particular, was the introduction of screens and video projections for the first time.

Illustrating how Depeche Mode’s artwork and visual design had finally been coordinated into an overall theme (roses, typefaces, style and overall aesthetic across sleeves, merchandise and the tour materials), collaborator Anton Corbijn created a series of projections to run behind the chaps as they performed some of the songs during the set.

Some of the films were basic but effective – Waiting For The Night‘s sparklers or Clean‘s hand brush painting of words, for example.

But Personal Jesus once again employed the cowboy theme from the video for the single release in the summer of 1989 (August 29, to be precise).

Rather than directly re-use the seedy bordello scenario from the Spanish desert, Corbijn re-shot the band in the US, essentially messing about with a few (cow)girls.

Whilst the full effect of the backdrops (each of the screens were at least 20-feet tall) can never be obtained by watching a clip online, languishing in a corner of the web is this apparent “rough cut” of the tour projections from Personal Jesus (including a pretty decent recording of the song).

Here it is:

And here is the official Depeche website’s tribute video, including Fletch about talking the “horse prank” from the original video for the single (poor fella) 🙂