IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (59)

I mentioned yesterday how little reggae I had in the collection. Today, I’m turning my attention to a band of whom I have no physical product, either on vinyl or CD.

It’s not that I dislike Depeche Mode, it’s more that I’ve never really taken to them.  Actually, that’s not true as I did buy their first three hit singles, initially from the period when Vince Clarke was involved and then the first after he took his leave of the band.  All of them were lost back in the disastrous midnight evacuation of an Edinburgh flat in the mid 80s, and I’ve never had an inclination to replace them.

I lost interest early on, thinking they weren’t as innovative or enjoyable as the other synth-acts dominating the pop charts and certainly felt that Yazoo, whom Vince Clarke had formed with Alison Moyet, was a much more interesting proposition.  I certainly had no time at all for the later changes in sound and look, but I was clearly in a minority as the group became international superstars.

The debut single was recorded in December 1980 and released by Mute Records in February 1981 to little acclaim, stalling at #57.  I didn’t buy it at the time, but I became more familiar with it in a later period as a flatmate in my student era had a copy:-

mp3: Depeche Mode – Dreaming Of Me
mp3: Depeche Mode – Ice Machine

Dreaming Of Me, in some places, is reminiscent of New Life which, just five months later, provided Depeche Mode with their breakthrough UK hit. It’s a song which many bands, and indeed labels, would have looked to re-release once the initial success has been achieved, so fair play to all concerned for not doing so. As such, it is a single with a degree of rarity, and second-hand copies in decent condition, and in a picture sleeve which has somehow managed not to badly age, can cost you in the region of £20 if you’re on the lookout.

This is the first I’ve listened to Ice Machine for well over 30 years. It is certainly less immediate or poppy than many of the songs with which early Depeche Mode are associated, which is no bad thing.

As debut singles so, it was a decent effort. It was worthy of being a bigger hit than #57, but it really was quite hard for synth-pop to get daytime radio play back in early 1981. The emergence of the New Romantic scene would change all that…..

JC

8 thoughts on “IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (59)

  1. I loved Dreaming of Me. I played the first album a lot (the US version had the song on it–not sure if the UK one did) when it was new. At the time, bands like OMD, Human League, Heaven 17, and other Brit synthpop merchants were getting a lot of play in the NYC clubs. I had high hopes for Depeche Mode, but as it turns out I never bought any of their records after that first one.

  2. Depeche Mode were the first band I heavily got into and the first gig that I went to, back in 1986. The first single I bought was the See You 12″ and although I subsequently got the other singles, I didn’t bother with Dreaming Of Me as it wasn’t on 12″ and it featured on the Singles 81-85 compilation. For years, I was only familiar with a live version of Ice Machine that appeared on the Blasphemous Rumours 12″, but the original B-side is pretty good. Oddly enough, much as I loved Depeche Mode at the time, they were absolutely a singles band for me. My brother had the first three albums and I didn’t care for them much, though I’ve bought and appreciated them more since.

  3. Respect is due to Depeche Mode for looking around at their local Thames Estuary scene dominated by raw R n B pub rock bands belting out (some half-decent) retro retreads and instead opting for plinky synth-pop with daft haircuts. Never much of a fan myself, although it was quite amusing when they went all leather and whips, innuendo and industrial noise: Village People meets Nine Inch Nails.

  4. Depeche Mode annoyed me in the early days. I liked the music but there was something insipid about the band itself. I did not enjoy TV appearances. It has a like/dislike thing going on but continued to buy the releases, albeit sporadically.

    In Clarke and Gore they had two people who understood the art of pop and both have exploited it, perfectly.

    @ JTFL: Dreaming of Me was not on the original UK release of Speak and Spell.

  5. It was ‘Everything Counts’ that was my starting point of liking Depeche Mode, and somehow it feels like the debut single of the band we know today- the first 2 albums don’t sound like the same band

  6. I’m in the minority thinking the best thing ever happened to Depeche was Vince Clarke leaving the band… and for Yazoo, I do love the singles but my theory is these were the songs mostly influenced by Alison, less by him… never cared for Erasure…
    You guessed it, I have all the DM albums except the first, which I had and gave to my youngest sister who liked it. In my world their suite from Black Celebration to Exciter is absolutely amazing, their later albums take a while to appreciate but all of them have grew on me – even if they don’t live up to the earlier releases. But then, thankfully, we are all (at least slightly) different.

  7. Similar to JTFL, living in NYC Dreaming Of Me was played just as much as New Life. I prefer Dreaming of Me. I admit I wasn’t really sure what to do with Speak And Spell though, it didn’t hit me the way I expected it to. So when Vince Clarke left and formed Yazoo, and the rest of them got on with things, moving in a moodier direction, I think I was actually pleased with the outcome. Upstairs At Eric’s is one of the great Synth-Pop albums of the 80s, if not ever and it’s my skewed opinion that Depeche Mode have spent 40 years chasing after the heights they reached with A Broken Frame.

  8. I was underwhelmed at the time with Depeche Mode. They seemed to be the band that Daniel Miller simulated with Silicon Teens a year prior. Their music was too cute and pat for me to have much enthusiasm. For electronic thrills, I was getting a lot more back from the likes of John Foxx, Ultravox and OMD. Even Gary Numan. They underdelivered for me.

    I gave the singles after Clarke left a chance and I liked “See You” a little more. I bought “A Broken Frame” and felt that it was miles better. For that matter, I bought “Upstairs At Eric’s” and thought that it was still a limited pleasure. I’ve never heard “You And Me Both.”

    Around the time of “Some Great Reward” I latched onto Depeche Mode and bought everything I could get my hands on until the finish of the “Violator” campaign. But there was a perfunctory sense to my actions. Thee truth of the matter was that I never thought that Depeche Mode was in the same league as Ultravox, Japan, OMD, John Foxx, Simple Minds. I stopped buying them cold in 1993 and my two glimpses into what they have done since then with “The Best of Depeche Mode” and the DVD of videos with lots of material I never heard were it for me.

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