Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Desert Island Discs 69 Black Celebration by Depeche Mode

69 Black Celebration by Depeche Mode 1986

Now I'm pretty sure this isnt going to be on anyone else's list

It seems a bit ironic that one of the tinny synth bands that was meant to signal the death of rock by all the doom merchants (including strangely the musicians union) ended up as one of the biggest rock bands in the world.

Quite how they went from pretty boy synth sounds to stadium filling and out excessing the wildest rock groups is a bit of a mystery (Echo and the Bunnymen must still be scratching their heads) , or maybe not.

I love Depeche Mode in all their various guises except their most successful, when the guitars came in and the interest in grunge began they seemed to morph from something genuinely interesting into just another angst driven goth band (where their personal traumas became more interesting then the music they were making), albeit one that sold the kind of numbers that goth bands could only dream of.

Their best time is just before their tipping point. Violator is probably their best lp and their most successful, but the really interesting ones are when the combined their love of sampling with a slightly darker edge , when they were feeling their way to the giants they would become.

My favourite lp by them is Black Celebration. The lead off single stating with random piano chord and then a car exhaust is still one of the best things they have done (although not quite cracking the video thing yet)

The first 3 tracks merge one into another with the title track followed by Fly on the Windscreen (with the over somewhere sample buzzing in your head ). A track that still makes their live set today. This clip is from their self destruction days with Dave Gahan's voice a worryingly good advert for heroin addiction

We then get to Martin Gore's first vocal in Question of Lust. Never the strongest singer , it is the vulnerability that I like , you get the feeling the whole thing could come crashing down at any moment.

The other single released is a good old stomp along , a trick they would take further with the next lp although the sentiment is a tad dodgy to say the least

The real delights are hidden away in some of the lp tracks where the band really begin to flex their musical muscles with backing tracks full of surprises , whether the layered and complex or in the fragile beauty of Sometimes
Sex and death dominate as themes, although lyrics were never really what Depeche Mode were all about (they are guilty of some real clunkers)
I think the lp has such affection for me as the year it was released I went to poly and it stuck out against the jangly guitars and social realsim lyrics of the C86 bands I got into at Leeds. At the time still seen as a bit of a joke band, many a drunken night I'd defend them and play this lp in what I foolishly thought would be the ultimate argument winning gesture.  
In a way the band have come full circle with the lst couple of lps going back to a more synth driven sound
and now for something completely different - there are a couple more charts doing the rounds. First up the Vinyl Villain is celebrating turning 50 by celebrating his 50 favourite lps.
Secondly Dirk at Sexy Loser is celebrating reaching 45 by celebrating his 45 favourite singles. He seems in a bit of doubt as to whether he will see it through but as he has made such a cracking start then maybe this will add a bit of pressure to keep going!


  1. As an homage to both this fine chart and Villain's 50 at 50 I too, who will hit the 50yr zenith plateau at the end of April, have decided to put my 50 favorite at 50 together... I'll start with the singles in the next week or so and then work on the albums - which will be much, much harder. As for DMode, as us NYC uberfans used to call them, Construction Time Again is my favorite DM album, followed closely by Music For the Masses and Speak & Spell. Black Celebration saw DM really break out on "new music" format radio in the big cities in the States and they started to get that air of mass appeal which has always ruined bands for me.
    Love your line about the Bunnymen scratching their heads, but that is part of their great appeal to me over the decades...They never pitched their tent at the entrance to the stadium - except to watch the footie - with any success and when they tried to with "the gray album" they got spanked they paid the price of compromise.

  2. #69 - RANDY NEWMAN - Good Old Boys (1974)

    - Now I'm pretty sure this isn't going to be on anyone else's list. A concept album of narrative songs about the American South. Newman manages to juxtapose often caustic, provocative lyrics with sweetly structured orchestral arrangements. My weakness for lush chamber pop may have started here...

    Louisiana 1927:
    A Wedding In Cherokee County:

  3. I love the first two DM albums and 'Violator'. I saw them at The Warehouse in Leeds before 'Speak and Spell' and if someone told me then that those nervous young kids would one day rule the world charts I'd have asked them what they were on. Harder still to believe they 'made it' when chief songwriter Vince Clark jumped ship. In hindsight this was probably the best thing that could have happened to them, allowing the songwriting talents of Martin Gore to shine.
    #69 The fabulous debut from Badly Drawn Boy - Hour of the Bewilderbeast

  4. Hi echo looking forward to your choices
    Tim I always liked rn songs more than his singing but will check this out
    Hi phil I loved the first lp and then just kept buying them. Pretty much a faultless run through to violator

  5. I never really got DM; a bit gloomy for me. It seems that the whole world is singing Personal Jesus at the moment.
    Nice call on Randy TT; still unsure which album I love the most...
    And Phil, I bounced around the Warehouse in the early 80s; Mark Almond used to be the coat 'man' in those days...


Leave a comment and let me know what you are listening to.