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Digital Subscriptions > Classic Pop > Feb 2019 > SONGS OF FAITH AND DEVOTION




Depeche Mode, 1993. Within two years, Alan Wilder (second left) would be gone
Anton Corbijn

“I struggled and struggled and struggled and struggled with it… it was like pulling teeth.” So said producer Flood of the arduous sessions that eventually churned out Songs Of Faith And Devotion, Depeche Mode’s eighth studio album. While most groups have their off days, this particular venture was clearly a trial of biblical proportions – and one that would see tempers fray, time wasted and one core member up sticks for good.

At the close of the World Violation Tour in support of their last album, Violator, Depeche Mode were a band at the height of their powers. A triumphant cavalcade of 11 articulated lorries and 100 stage crew had helped them reach the ears of well over a million fans in various stadiums around the globe. The album won triple platinum status and cemented the group as major-league stars. Understandably, the four human beings at the centre of the maelstrom had been run ragged by the whole affair.

Almost two years later, when Martin Gore, Dave Gahan, Alan Wilder and Andy Fletcher reconvened in a London bar shortly before they were due to kick-start the whole process all over again, circumstances had changed considerably. For one, they faced a wall of intimidating proportions with the need to follow up – or even equal – the success of Violator. Not only had the musical climate shifted considerably with the scuzzy guitars of grunge cranked up in their absence but, far more importantly, here stood four altered souls who’d barely crossed paths since emerging from the tour bus.

Frontman Dave Gahan, in particular, was unrecognisable: super-skinny, goatee-bearded with hair down to his shoulders, heavily tattooed and recast as the ready-made rock god. Having split from his wife, he’d relocated to LA and immersed himself in everything La La Land had to offer.

Violator was huge around the world and I should have been on top of the world”, he explained to Melody Maker. “I had everything I could possibly want, but I was really lost. I didn’t even feel like I knew myself anymore. And I felt like shit, ‘cause I constantly cheated on my wife, and went back home and lied. My soul needed cleansing.” He’d started a new relationship with the band’s American PR Teresa Conroy, who brought with her a hip new cast of intimates that included the likes of art-rockers Jane’s Addiction. From his mansion in the Hollywood Hills, and with his newly-acquired Harley-Davidson propped up outside, Gahan cooked up an entirely new vision for the band. Not only that, but with idle hands came a drug habit that quickly got out of hand. “I’d changed”, he admitted, “but I didn’t really understand it until I came face to face with Al and Mart and Fletch. The looks on their faces battered me.”

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About Classic Pop

Issue 49 is on sale now! For our first issue of 2019 we put our head in the lion’s mouth to count down the Top 40 most important pop artists of the 80s. Will your favourite come away with the spoils? As ever, this issue is packed with great interviews including a very rare chat with Prefab Sprout’s Paddy McAloon and we catch up with Joe Jackson as he celebrates 40 years in music with a new album and tour. We meet Dido who is returning to the pop fray and we also feature must-read interviews with Tracey Thorn, Tanita Tikaram and Ladytron. Depeche Mode’s troubled masterpiece Songs Of Faith And Devotion is our classic album and we also serve up a buyer’s guide to punk-pop pioneers Squeeze. As well as our essential round-up of what to look forward to in the pop world in 2019, we take one last look back at 2018 with our second Classic Pop Reader Awards. Our packed reviews section features the remarkable comeback by The Specials alongside new albums by Ian Brown, The Beat featuring Ranking Roger, White Lies and UB40 plus a reissues section that includes Prince and David Sylvian on vinyl, a comprehensive Paul Young singles boxset, Buzzcocks, Bananarama and much more. On the live front, we review gigs by Adam Ant, All Saints, Lily Allen and more.