If you haven’t seen the Depeche Mode 101 concert film Saidah Blount mentions on this episode of The Soundtrack Series, you can find the whole thing on YouTube.
D.A. Pennebaker had previously made documentaries on respectable, baby boomer things like Bob Dylan and the Monterey Pop Festival. Here, though, he’s training his cameras on Depeche Mode, who didn’t have guitars or any songs about dragons or life on the road, and were beloved by the baby boomers’ weird, artsy kids who probably didn’t even like Frampton Comes Alive.
As Saidah notes, when she saw the movie with “a sea of wall-to-wall goths, plaid-shirted alternative kids, New Wave mohawks, and Morrissey-style pompadours” in a Kansas City theater, it changed her life. There were other people just like her. And they all adored Depeche Mode, an English synth-pop band with dumb haircuts and sometimes even dumber hats that had some of the best singles of their era. These are those. Your mileage may vary.
“Behind the Wheel/Route 66”
Spin Magazine said this was the 30th best single of all time back in 1989. Obviously, with the release of “Mambo No. 5,” it’s now at best 31, but that’s still really good.
“Never Let Me Down Again (Aggro Mix)”
This remix of the perfectly fine single sounds exceptional on dorm speakers. I realize how dated this reference is.
Johnny Cash covered this. He didn’t improve it, which is a thing Johnny Cash usually did. This matters, I think. Marilyn Manson covered it, too, and it’s an atrocity. And yet: Sammy Hagar’s version is worse.
“Just Can’t Get Enough”
This was written by founding member Vince Clarke, who would soon leave the band to form Erasure. It is one of the catchiest songs in the history of humankind. The video is ridiculous.
“Master and Servant”
The whip sound effect was added in case you somehow missed what this song was about.
“Fly on the Windscreen”
There was a Depeche Mode tribute album released in 1998, with covers from Smashing Pumpkins and, um, Rammstein. But there was also a cover of the above song by God Lives Underwater, a band I hadn’t heard of before or since. It’s really good! So is the original.
Outraged by the omission of “Black Celebration” or “People Are People?” The Twitter handle is @InfiniteGuest. Make your voice heard.
(Header image courtesy Alberto Cabello)