One morning recently, heading home from work, I heard Depeche Mode again on the radio after a long time. It was “Everything counts”, on one of our favourite radio stations, Jack FM. On this station I’ve heard the best joke since I came to the UK: “How many bankers does it take to screw a light bulb? None, they’re too busy screwing us all”. But I’m diverting.
Depeche Mode has been the first band I fell in love with. Ok, when I say fell in love I don’t mean like I fancied one of the guys, none of them really ever seemed my type, physically at least, although I liked the rebel look of Dave Gahan when he came to be more of a leather jacket guy. But I fell for their music, it was the most familiar tune to sound in my head all throughout my teenage years. I remember this afternoon when I took a nap in my old bedroom, in my parents’ house, and I played the “World in my eyes” album throughout my sleep, which I didn’t use to do, as I could only fall asleep back then if the surroundings were very quiet.
We could say no wonder they stuck to my ears, as there was such a lot of bad music, to put it nicely, in the ‘90s, all that Euro dance, starting with Haddaway and DJ Bobo and carrying on with the bands, Fun Factory, Ace of Bace and 2 Unlimited. I do have something to say in defending it all, it was fun, really unpretentious fun, just for the joy of it and just to keep the rhythm going. Remember “Rhythm of the Night”?
But Depeche Mode was different, and they stayed different. They made “music for the masses”, and they became the biggest electro band ever. I kind of always knew they were, even before checking this on the internet.
According to EMI, the New Wave boys sold over 100 million albums around the world. Also, Q magazine called them “the most popular electronic band the world has ever known”. Despite this, they never got any award for their achievement at this level, until 2013, when they refused to be part of the BRIT Awards. To tell you the truth, I kind of understand them. It’s been more than 20 years since they started having this mad success and became an icon for the electro stage, still it took so long for the people giving out the awards to acknowledge it. On top of that, the award offered to them would have been called something like Most Influential Band In The Last 20 Years. No, not Lifetime Achievement Award, like it wasn’t their lifetime work and success. They refused and Dave was quite pissed off with BRITs, they wouldn’t be featured in the award broadcast when handed out the award. As such, there was no award for lifetime achievement this year. It seems a bit weird, doesn’t it?
What’s with “Everything counts” and why did it bring me to writing this post? It’s not the best of their songs, the lyrics are ok-ish, but they don’t strike as their finest, they kind of loose me with being insincere in Korea, poor rhyme. But “Everything counts” was one of the DM first songs about society, with good criticism towards consumerism.
I can say without blinking that “People are people” really set the standard for Depeche Mode socially involved lyrics, on a topic still so hot in the UK and just all around the world today. And that’s exactly what I meant to talk about today (or rather tonight, as it seems). What still keeps me love Depeche Mode is the way they packed everything together: electro music for the masses, good dance rhythm, some romantic intensity and some social message. They managed to do this in the 80’s and early 90’s, to criticize racism and ferocious materialism in a decade when the UK has known prosperity and there wasn’t so much to complain of as nowadays, as it seems.