On October 23, 1981, Depeche Mode taped a brief set for a youth-oriented BBC show called Something Else, which we’ve written about before. The show was broadcast on November 6. Depeche Mode played seven songs; what stands out about the performance is how remarkably fully formed the band is, even at this early stage; it’s even more impressive when you realize that their first album, Speak & Spell, had come out just two weeks earlier.
This appearance is also notable for being among the last ones Vince Clarke would play with Depeche Mode—having written one of the band’s most enduring hits in “Just Can’t Get Enough,” Clarke would play his final show with DM a few weeks later, on December 3 in Chichester. Clarke would quite quickly find success by teaming up with Alison Moyet for Yazoo (Yaz in the U.S.) and, of course, in Erasure.
Here’s a video of one-man-band street performer located in Buenos Aires, Argentina flawlessly playing his homemade didgeridoo meets plastic pipe drums kit for an unusual rendition of Depeche Mode’s classic “Just Can’t Get Enough.” And then he plays something that sounds like Hot Butter’s “Popcorn” meets Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” meets “Swamp Thing” by The Grid???
Yesterday DM contributor Martin Schneider wrote about the incredible H.R. Giger bars. And someone in the comments—who’s perhaps a world traveler—mentioned they’ve visited a Giger bar in Switzerland and a Depeche Mode-themed bar located in Tallinn, Estonia. When I first read that I immediately had to Google this magical place—that I didn’t know existed—and find out what’s all about.
The name is actually Depeche Mode Baar and it opened its doors back in 1999 by a devoted fan of the band. Apparently, it really grew in popularity in 2001 after Depeche Mode band members partied the night away at the bar after their concert in Tallinn. Since then, the bar has been highlighted on a few news features including a segment for BBC TV.
I don’t know what else to say except to quote Liz Lemon, “I want to go to there!” I mean, a Depeche Mode bar?!
Of the late ‘70s class of synth-pop artists, Gary Numan, Soft Cell and DEVO are among the best remembered thanks to having all scored massive international hits. But there were, of course, influences and contemporaries who were every bit as innovative and exciting, but not as lucky. High on the list of lesser-known greats is Frank Tovey’s incredible Fad Gadget.
An art student like so many rock-era musical innovators, Tovey took an interest in music, but found he lacked the coordination to play an instrument. He turned his attention to performance art (he was a mime student at Leeds Polytechnic) and recording technology, and re-engaged with music making when he discovered that synths and sequencers allowed him to realize his ideas without traditional instrumental proficiency. Around the same time, Daniel Miller founded Mute Records to release the single of his minimalist synth-pop project The Normal, and Tovey sent him a demo of the song “Back To Nature.” Tovey thus became the first artist to sign to Mute and a re-recorded “Back to Nature” would become one side of his first single in September 1979. Pay attention to the lyrics—he’s singing about a post-climate change apocalypse.
”Back to Nature” demo
”Back to Nature” single
Tovey selected the name Fad Gadget for his project, likely, it seems, not just for its cool cadences, but because he embraced the idea of pointedly making a gimmick of himself. His performances were directly confrontational affairs in which he’d put his body on the line. He appeared dressed in nothing but shaving cream, as a Punch puppet, he even had himself tarred and feathered. He’d leap into the crowd Iggy Pop style, and was even known to shower “lucky” front row audience members with his own pubic hair, ripped out on the spot. Per his NYT obit:
Mr. Tovey’s performances were often highly intense and theatrical. He tore the ligaments in both of his legs diving into the audience at one show; at another concert, he swung his microphone around his neck, and it hit him in the face, cutting open his nose and blackening his eyes. After a show in 1980, he was taken to an emergency room after cutting his head open while using it to play an electronic drum.
Lyrically, Tovey’s themes of dystopian alienation put him in more or less the same camp as Gary Numan, only with a dark, wry bitterness taking the place of Numan’s sci-fi trappings. His thematic darkness combined with his haunting deployment of the squared-off coldness of that era’s synth technology made for a potent sound that crossed over to the early industrial scene (he even did a collaborative noise album with Boyd “NON” Rice), and Fad Gadget would become a major part of the blueprint for electronic music from Depeche Mode to Nine Inch Nails and beyond. Fad Gadget released four LPs: Fireside Favourites, Incontinent, Under the Flag and Gag. All are superb. If you’re the kind to get your feet wet with best-ofs, there are two in print, the 2XCD The Best Of Fad Gadget, and the more recent (and more bargainous) 2XCD/2XDVD Fad Gadget by Frank Tovey. Here’s a handful of my faves:
Insane performance of “Collapsing New People” on TV Playback, 1984
After Fad Gadget, Tovey continued making music, moving beyond electronics and recording more straightforwardly rock and acoustic music under his own name and with his band The Pyros. He reactivated Fad Gadget in 2001 to serve as the opener for a Depeche Mode tour, and sadly, died prematurely of heart failure in 2002. He was 45.
This documentary does a fine job of introducing Fad Gadget to newbies, and has plenty of great footage to satisfy longtime fans. Enjoy.
Depeche Mode interviewed in 1993, with Martin Gore, Dave Gahan, Alan Wilder and Andy Fletcher discussing their individual roles within the band, and their thoughts on their careers and music.
As wag Andy Fletcher tells it: Martin is the Writer, Dave is the Rock Star, Alan the Musician, and Andy, well, he handles business and keeps them all together. That was (of course) until Wilder left the band in 1995. Since then, Gore, Gahan and Fletcher have made Depeche Mode the most popular electronic band in music history. This has been in large part, to the quality of their songs, which as writer Gore explains:
“I usually write about things that move me. If I can capture the emotion that moves me, and it’s there in the song, then it naturally moves other people—that’s how it works.”
‘A good photograph,’ says Steve Gullick, ‘is one that looks great, one that captures an interesting moment in time, one that tells a story, or in the case of a portrait, offers an insight into the subject.’
This is could be a description of Gullick’s own photographs—his beautiful, inky black portraits that are amongst the most recognizable and iconic images of the past twenty years.
Gullick was influenced ‘Mainly by the dark imagery of Don McCullin and Bill Brandt. I tried to infuse my photos with a similar drama—I spent all of my spare time in the darkroom working on getting good.
‘It was more difficult with color but when I started printing my own color stuff in the late 1990’s I was able to match the intensity of my black & white work.
These photographs have captured succeeding generations of artists and musicians from Kurt Cobain, Nirvana, Nick Cave, Patti Smith, Depeche Mode, Foo Fighters, Bjork, The Prodigy, through to Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Richard Hawley
‘Photography is magic. The ability to capture something forever that looks interesting to you is magnificent.’
Now an exhibition of his work Punk as Fuck: Steve Gullick 90-93 is currently running at Indo, 133 Whitechapel Road, London, until 31st March, and is essential viewing for anyone with a serious interest in photography, music and art
To coincide with the exhibition, film-maker Joe Watson documented some of Steve’s preparation for the show, and interviewed him about the stories behind his photographs.
For more information about Punk as Fuck and a selection of Gullick’s brilliant work check his website.
In 1988, Dave Gahan and Andy Fletcher from Depeche Mode appeared on the BBC pop interview series That Was Then…This Is Now.
Aired as part of Janet Street-Porter’s “Yoof TV” on BBC 2, the series attempted to break away from the stranglehold of sixties pop, to focus on bands that had come to the fore during the 1970s and early 1980s. Guests included Mick Jones, John Lydon, Robert Smith (The Cure), Joe Jackson, Pet Shop Boys, Spandau Ballet, Martin Fry (ABC) and even (surprisingly) Gary Glitter and Eddy Grant, who were exceedingly popular that year. Shot on 16mm, the series consisted of twenty-two 30-minute episodes, broadcast between 1988 and 1989.