“It’s just a question of Tiiiime! And it’s running out for you…” Whoa! Hello there, dearest Filthy Dreams readers! You startled me out of my reverie. I was just spinning and spinning and spinning like a whirling dervish, mimicking Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan. *whew* I need to catch my breath…
Anyway, what’s that? What am I doing this Memorial Day? Is it really that time of year again? I forgot between the daily national tragedies and crises! I mean, what are we even supposed to do this year? Take a ride to the beach on the subway and get stabbed by roving bands of LulaRoe-wearing loonies? Go grab some burger fixings at the grocery store only to get mowed down by a white supremacist teenager radicalized on deep web forums that also include shared pictures of Nikocado Avocado’s gaping asshole? At least if you’re a teacher, you’ve got a day off when you and your students won’t be slaughtered! USA USA USA!
You might say that I’m not exactly in the mood for national holidays this Memorial Day. Sure, Memorial Day is reserved for honoring those who have served our country. But, what about those who perished in the service of GOTHS? I feel more connected to the international Goth community than America at the moment anyway. And don’t even ask–there is one. Last Sunday was International Goth Day. What do you mean you didn’t celebrate?! Admittedly, May 22 is a strange choice for International Goth Day when Siouxsie Sioux’s birthday is the week after on May 27. Shouldn’t that blessed day be reserved for a holiday?
This week, we here at Filthy Dreams were stunned by the news of the death of Depeche Mode’s Andy Fletcher, otherwise known as Fletch, at 60-years-old. While Fletch often got lost in the hypnosis of Dave Gahan’s dancing, Alan Wilder’s resting bitch face, and Martin Gore’s tower of hair, his lanky robotic grooving behind the synths and his surprisingly wholesome face were an integral part of the visual splendor of the band. Fletch was the stand-out relatively stable normie, or as Rolling Stone put it “the quiet one,” among the leather gear-wearing tortured freaks. It’s always been a bit curious about what exactly Fletch did in the band with no songwriting credits of his own, though he contributed a range of synth, keyboard, and bass parts. He even once said, “Martin’s the songwriter, Alan’s the good musician, Dave’s the vocalist, and I bum around.”
So this Memorial Day, we’re shuffling off patriotic tradition in order to provide you with some of our favorite Depeche Mode moments in honor of Fletch. Admittedly, we have a particular obsession with the band’s early European variety show performances. It’s the cheesy kitsch aesthetics. So light some candles, put on your leather jacket, struggle into a pair of vinyl pants, and let’s take a spin:
1. “See You” on Bananas (1982)
“Horrific” is how Dave Gahan has described this memorable poultry performance in what looks to be a chicken coop on an early 1980s German television show Bananas. However, I think he’s missing the charm. From the first appearance of a chicken with the title card, this performance will have you screeching “Baawwwk!” as it plainly and hilariously illustrates what happens when a young bright and bushy-tailed band doesn’t know how to say no. Now they’re enduring the consequences. Is there anything that clashes more than Depeche Mode’s unearthly synth-driven music and a hay-strewn farm? Wearing suits amongst the farm animals, the band looks lost, a bit scared, and thoroughly resigned to their agricultural fate as they stare into the middle distance, haplessly mouth the words, and clutch their respective chickens to their laps and chests. Perhaps Alan Wilder looks the most unsettled with his aggressive hen stroking! Lay off the chicken, Alan! Let’s give credit where credit is due, though, the chickens do as much work as the band. These cluckers are stars! If that weren’t enough, the band is also overshadowed by a couple in the background who takes a roll in the hay. Literally. Who produced this show? In Gahan’s retelling, this performance marked a tipping point where the band had enough of whacky and zany televised performances. “The joke was on somebody, but at that point, it was definitely us,” he reflects. That’s for sure.
2. “Just Can’t Get Enough” on TeleMonteCarlo (1981)
Though with fewer chickens, this performance on an Italian-language Moroccan channel is somehow even more awkward. Most of the discomfort comes courtesy of our droning disco filth elder Amanda Lear who makes a surprise appearance as the host who, true to her name, leers at our baby-faced boys while jabbering in a romance language they very clearly cannot understand. What she does say to them in English, however, comes through loud and clear, including telling Dave Gahan he has something on (or in?) his nose. But that can be overlooked by her compliments on the band’s suits: “You look VERY British…very elegant…very chic…ah?” Who wouldn’t want to get that approval from Amanda?! Granted, she’s just being nice. Dave’s oversized suit, in particular, looks like he stole it from his dad. Nevertheless, he works it as he starts Prancersizing to “Just Can’t Get Enough” and that extra fabric mesmerizingly billows around him.
3. “A Question of Time” on La Vie De Famille (1987)
Speaking of Dave’s dancing, this video is a Filthy Dreams classic, which your faithful co-founders have shared between each other for over a decade. Why? The leather jacket. The red lining. The hip swivel. The SPINNING. Whew…he’s like a 1980s version of Salome. And you better believe, Mary, we’d give him anyone’s head he wanted! John the Baptist!?! We’re on it!
4. “Everything Counts” on Superflash (1983)
As we said before, people have long been curious about what exactly Andy did in the band. Well, look no further! His key role, in both this performance and the music video for “Everything Counts,” is to mime the repeated lilting oboe sample on a shawm, which Wikipedia tells me is a double-reed instrument popular during medieval and Renaissance periods. How historical! Granted, Andy may not have known about this history given his hysterically literal answer to the host’s question as to where the instrument came from. “A shop,” he replies matter-of-factly, further specifying with, “in London. Well, thanks Fletch!
5. “Master and Servant” on BBC (1984)
Chains. Pipes. Tires. The set of this performance of “Master and Servant” looks like something that would be more fitting for an early Einstürzende Neubauten performance than Depeche Mode. Or maybe the set of Rent. Nevertheless, the boys make it work by smashing pipes and dodging flying sparks, trying to look tough amongst the industrial ruins. Shouldn’t all performances feature what appears to be welding?
6. Devotional, directed by Anton Corbijn (1993)
While our suggested viewing mainly covers the fresh-faced 1980s era of the band, it only seems right to end with a whole concert film from the band’s decadent 1993 Devotional tour. This concert documentary was filmed by photographer Anton Corbijn who also, just to mention, is responsible for the cover of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ album The Boatman’s Call. Speaking of Nick, Dave is always at the same Nick Cave shows I am, including the recent Nick Cave and Warren Ellis tour, but I miss him every time. WHY OH WHY?!! Ahem…anyway, the Devotional tour and much of the 1990s mark the height (or really, the bottom) of the band’s drug-and-booze-fueled shit show debauchery. And whoo boy, you can tell. Dave looks like a flop-sweat-drenched junkyard Jesus, a style that he fully leans into with the show’s staging. Devotional is right. The stage features Gahan on his own in front of numerous screens with the band rising above him. This is trash religiosity if we’ve ever seen it. Personal Jesus, indeed. Whatever cult this is, we’re in!