1983

In January DM went into studio together with Alan for the first time. They worked with the sound engineers Eric Radcliffe and John Fryer at Blackwing Studios in London. The result was released on 31 January - the single Get the Balance Right / The Great Outdoors!
Get the Balance Right was not included on the following album Construction Time Again, but does appear on the American compilation People Are People and the compilation The Singles 81-85. The single's B-side The Great Outdoors!, an instrumental track written by Martin and Alan, featured on the Broken Frame-Tour as the introduction theme on selected shows. The single reached No. 13 in the UK charts.
Alan: "Interestingly, this was the first time we had concentrated on producing a dance 12". Although remixes had been made for previous releases, this one was very much geared towards the clubs."[1]
(By the way - I was asked lately if Get the Balance Right was ever played live. Yes, it was part of the setlist of the last leg of Broken Frame-Tour and of Construction Time Again-Tour 1983/84. Afterwards it has never been played live again.)

First the band, of course, tried to say something positive about their new single.
Martin: "I think Get the Balance Right is a lot harder, more powerful and more direct. It's quite moody, too. I think our new material's going to be more to the point, about more general topics that everyone can relate to rather than having more personal lyrics."[2]
Dave: "Get the Balance Right is about telling people to go their own way. It also takes a dig at people who like to be different just for the sake of it. You've just got to reach the right balance between normality and insanity."[3]

Later it became clear that they weren't happy about Get the Balance Right.
Alan: "I don't think I made a great deal of difference. I probably made it worse."
Martin: "Well that is actually our least favourite single. It was hell to record.[4] Things have been going pretty badly for us press-wise recently - it had to come. It's no surprise, just a bit annoying, especially when there's a lot of people who used to like you and for some reason they suddenly don't. Before, you couldn't do anything wrong, now you can't do one thing right."[5]
The video for Get the Balance Right was one of their strange ones. Not at least because Alan appeared singing at the beginning of the video.
Alan: "This was because the director didn't actually know who the singer of the band was and for some reason made the assumption that it was me. As an indication of our naivety, we were too embarrassed to point out his mistake."[6]



Construction Time Again

(Construction Time Again - with friendly permission of © Tupid)



After a trip to the musicfair in Frankfurt on 7 February, the band went on the last leg of the Broken Frame-Tour from 24 March to 10 April, comprising 11 concerts in North America and later in Asia - in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangkok.
Dave: "The Japan trip has really come out of the blue. We've never been before but we sell loads of records over there so we thought it would be best to go over there and do some gigs."[7]
Alan: "There have, over the years, been occasions when we were mobbed at International airports - I particularly remember first travelling to Japan and Hong Kong where chaos ensued when we tried to collect our baggage and leave the airport."[8](He was talking here, of course, about very excited fans. ;))
Asia had a big influence on the songs that Martin wrote at this time.
Dave: "When you see things that are poorer than you've ever seen, when we saw people begging and little kids coming up to us with disgusting, dirty clothes hanging off them, showing themselves or holding their hands out for food ... When you experience that, you begin to understand what a lucky position all of us here are in. We were in this really expensive hotel full of businessmen, but as soon as you went outside the gates, it was a totally different world."[9]

Later that year the media was busily assigning DM a "working class background" because of their lyrics, and writing about the band's "socialist ambitions" and their "world improvement thinking".
For years, the band tried to ditch that image - albeit rather unsuccessfully, and tried to explain that Construction Time Again wasn't a "political album", and that the lyrics were only written because of these new impressions.
Alan: "I think the politically conscious aspects of DM's early songs were more to do with age than any great desire to make a statement - we were hardly Billy Bragg. We never had a collective political view. We all had different ideas on most things (despite our backgrounds) and apart from the tracks on Construction Time Again, I think you'd be hard pressed to find anything else that was directly politically motivated."[10]


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In May, recording of Construction Time Again began in John Foxx's Garden Studios in London, together with Daniel Miller and Gareth Jones. As a result of the new band constellation, Fletch was now more involved with the organisation, while Alan took over most of the musical tasks. It was the beginning of the team-work. Everyone was trying to find their place in the team and fulfil a particular role.
Contrary to some opinions that there were difficulties due to Alan's role in the studio from the very beginning, Alan maintained: "I had no problem getting involved - the others weren't particularly precious about the studio. The most protective person was actually Daniel Miller who very much controlled the studio direction at that time."[11]
Sampling technology was also new, at which they were supported by sound engineer Gareth Jones, who encouraged them to create an industrial-sound.
Alan: "Construction Time Again also marked the introduction of Emulator and Synclavier and I think it marked a turning point in DM's musical history. It was a very creative time.[12] There's a track called Pipeline on the album. It's got a lot of strange percussion in it. What we did was to just go out and start banging on anything we could find."[13]
Fletch: "We was like smashing corrugated iron and old cars. The vocals were recorded in a railway arch in Shoreditch - you've got the train three-quarters of the way through and the aeroplane up above. It's really interesting doing that."[14]

It has hinted that at this first collective recording session, it became clear that their characters were very different. While Alan was more a part of the serious side - Miller and Jones - and tried to learn as much as possible about the technology, it is said that Fletch and Martin joked around a lot and played the fool, while Fletch and Dave were arguing the whole time.
Admittedly I have to say that this description seems exaggerated to me. There is a quote from Alan about it, but it seems to me as if it was taken from a different or a greater context. It gives the impression of three serious hard-working grown-ups, who felt disturbed by three children playing very loudly around them. I don't think that this really reflects what actually happened. Videos from that time depict a relaxed atmosphere, but don't give the impression that Fletch, Martin and Dave NEVER did a thing in the studio.
Gareth Jones also gave a slightly different impression, with regard to the relationships and working methods: "Daniel [Miller] did a lot of hands-on crafting of those sounds, as did Martin and Alan, who was also a major production figure within the band. Alan was extremely involved in the crafting of the studio product; a full-on, very musical guy, very interested in beats programming, and very interested in every aspect of the studio. So, there was a trio of us all the time in the studio, with Alan representing the band, Daniel overseeing everything, and me taking care of the engineering side. After Martin had written a song, I think he considered it tedious to be endlessly playing around with synthesizers and making different versions. Maybe we were just too slow for him. Dave was very committed and hard-working and absolutely wanted to get it right. He wouldn't take part in the vocal comp'ing, because like many singers he found it a bit soul destroying. For him, as for most vocalists, it was like ripping his performance apart.[15] When I worked with the band in the 80's, everyone had a really good relationship. Alan was the new boy in the band obviously at Construction Time Again, but it was a wonderful creative time we all had. So, everyone was getting on really well. Of course, sometimes there would be an argument or something, but this is something normal in any relationship. There were some arguments between any of the group sometimes, me and Fletch had an argument at some stage, whatever, it wasn't a big deal. What I saw was a very creative and positive working relationship."[16]


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Construction Time Again was the first album that was mixed at Hansa Studios in Berlin. With this, a period began which was to bring about a lot of change, and would connect DM's history with Berlin pretty much up to now. There are still sometimes articles nowadays that mention the Berlin connection. It was also the kind of "birth" of the "real DM".

At this point it might be good to give you some background information about the world the band grew up in - for readers from other cultures, and for those who are simply too young to know much about the 1970s and 1980s.
The band members themselves grew up in the England of the 1970s. It was a harsh and very difficult decade in the UK. It was a decade of strikes - postal workers, coalminers and dustmen - many of the state industries were in trouble, and there was an ongoing struggle on the part of trade unions for better working and living conditions. Many factories, shipyards and coal mines were shut down, leaving lots of people without jobs. Northern England was especially hard-hit, but typical working class towns like Basildon were affected too.
Of course the bleak political backdrop was also a platform for strange fashion, strong musical attitudes and new sounds like Glam Rock, the punk movement and, finally, New Wave in the beginning of the 1980s. A lot of things changed around that time, but as well as a bringing a lot of problems, it also meant there were new experiences and even new opportunities for young people.
I think it's wrong to see the 1970s as gloomily as some people do, or to see them too positively, like some other people do. For the working class, it definitely was a difficult decade, and many towns - like Basildon - weren't able to offer much because of the economic depression. I've never been to Basildon myself, but I spent some time in British cities that had been hit hard by the crisis in the 1970s, and still hadn't recovered from it in the late 1980s. They really were desolate, broke and boring, with nothing to do for young people, and without any perspectives for them. That's also how the band members described Basildon.
Apart from Alan, who had grown up in a middle class environment in London, the band members hadn't seen and didn't know about much of the world, until they left Basildon to play concerts abroad.

So West-Berlin must have been a kind of culture shock for them. In the early 1980s, West-Berlin was a kind of strange island, surrounded by the "No-Go Zone" of East Germany. The world still was in the middle of the so-called "Cold War", and was divided into the "Western world" and the "Eastern Bloc". The border between these two worlds was right in the middle of Germany - right in the middle of Berlin.
West-Berlin was a magnet for artists of all kinds as well as for hippies, eco-fanatics, punks, activists and freaks. On the one hand, it was a kind of island and a big village (with about 2 million inhabitants), on the other hand, it was a wild city with lots of places to go out.
It also had a lot to offer for the band, so it is probably not surprising that the Berlin connection was forged, although its beginnings were unspectacular.

Dave: "We've been working in The Garden Studios in Shoreditch, and we just wanted to go to Berlin to get a different atmosphere. If you work a lot in one place it gets quite boring."
Fletch: "The engineer [Gareth Jones] knew Hansa Studios so we went over and had a look at it: we had a preview when we mixed the single, decided we liked it, and went over and mixed the whole album."
Martin: "The computer desk was one of the main reasons for going there: it had 56 channels. It was the only place that had the equipment we needed."
In connection with this the question of the year was put forward: Did you visit the Berlin Wall?
Alan: "Well, we were recording right next to it. You look out of the studio window and there it is. If you went out on the balcony you could actually see right over it."[17]

When you know the background, it comes as no surprise that Berlin also represented a change in the personal lives of the band members. Martin especially, who speaks and understands German, felt very comfortable there. He left girlfriend Anne - "she was a devout Christian who really had me on reins. She was ridiculous - anything was perverted. If I watched something on TV and there was somebody naked, I was a pervert" - met his German girlfriend, Christina, and "discovered all this freedom."[18]
This "freedom" was to cause quite a sensation in the coming years. Some journalists at that time wondered about Martin's "sudden change". In 1982 he still looked like a well-behaved schoolboy, but by 1983 he had become "wild", and seemed to have changed completely. But I don't think it was a real surprise. He felt really bored in Basildon, and now a different world had opened up to him, that allowed him to act out all the feelings and tendencies he had had before, but hadn't been able to show in a place like Basildon.


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With Everything Counts / Work Hard the first hit single of the new quartet was released on 11 July. It reached No. 6 of the UK charts.
There was only one remix of Everything Counts available, the 12" version called Everything Counts (In Larger Amounts). The single's B-side Work Hard was the first and only "real" song (except of some instrumental tracks and remixes) that was written by Martin and Alan. There was a remix of it available called East End Remix.
Everything Counts did not only mark a new musical era, the band also tried to create a new visual image (although it would take another three years before they wouldn't look "some kind of strange" anymore).
Alan: "It was felt that after the Julian Temple years, we needed to harden up not only our sound but also our image. Clive [Richardson who filmed the video for Everything Counts in and around Berlin] had lots of new ideas which didn't involve stupid storyboards where we were required to act."[19]
Martin explained that Everything Counts is about that companies are getting that big and important so single persons have no meaning anymore and everyone can push them around. But usually he didn't like talking about his songs. "It's up to people to make of them what they want. A lot of people try and make me explain what every line means, but it takes away any sort of mystique."[20]

The album Construction Time Again was released on 22 August.
The band was very proud of it and tried to explain that they had combined serious and alarming lyrics like the possibility of a nuclear war (Two Minute Warning), with a nice tune and simple melodies. They liked the idea of most people humming along to the melody without thinking about the meaning of the lyrics.
They claimed to have a unique sound now - which they truly had, which is nevertheless rather funny when you know that they had talked about an "established change" before, if you listen to A Broken Frame. However, they felt much more self-confident about this new album than ever before, and had a lot of fun. It seems as if making this record also made them feel jettisoned.
Dave: "When I hear tracks from the first album, I get embarrassed. Though at the time we thought it was great. Then on the second album, it was very hard in the studio, people were letting us drift, there was a lack of enthusiasm ... but then with Construction Time it was very UP in the studio, everyone was really working to make it happen.[21] I think we're becoming tighter as a unit. I think it's a bond really, we just get on very well together and we enjoy what we're doing at the moment. As long as we keep enjoying it we'll keep doing it. As soon as we stop enjoying it, we won't stay together. I mean, sometimes I argue with Fletch, but it's not anything to do with the music we're making or the songs."[22]



Dave

(with friendly permission of © Anja - compositionofsound)



On 7 September the Construction Time Again-Tour began. It consisted of three legs. The first leg, comprising 23 gigs in Great Britain, ended on 8 October in London.
In between - on 19 September - the single Love, in Itself / Fools was released. The single contained three mixes of the song. Love, in Itself.2 is the single edit of Love, in Itself.1 (the album version). Love, in Itself.3 is the extended 12" mix. Love, in Itself.4 is a Lounge-inspired version of the song that features piano prominently. The single's B-side Fools offered Fools (Bigger) as an extended mix. The song was written by Alan. Mute/L12Bong4 also included live versions of Just Can't Get Enough, A Photograph of You, Shout and Photographic, which had been recorded on 25 October 1982 at Hammersmith Odeon in London. The video for Love, in Itself was directed by Clive Richardson. The cover artwork was a slightly different version of the artwork of Construction Time Again. The cover photography was done by Brian Griffin again featuring the Matterhorn and - in case of the album cover - a friend of someone of the crew who was acting as the model. The overall design was done by Martyn Atkins.

Dave about Love in Itself: "This is the s-s-s-s's track. It had a very soft vocal with lots of s's, it sounded awful. I was a bit disappointed with this, it could have been brilliant."[23]
Alan: "Actually, it was a weird track all round, not least because from the moment we first heard it, a standing joke was born that the verses sounded just like a particular nursery rhyme - I can't quite put my finger on which one but I'm pretty sure it's Ugly Duckling. When pushed, Martin admitted that he had in fact based the tune around the rhyme and I'm afraid I could never quite listen to the song seriously again."
And about Fools he said, "It sounds like me when trying to write a pop song. This is something what doesn't come out of me normally. This is the reason why I then stopped writing songs for DM. I forced myself to try but it isn't easy for me to write lyrics for a pop song. I don't like this. Once I tried to make Martin to write songs together but he said he couldn't work that way. I think he suddenly has an idea for a song and then it's almost ready."[24]
By the way - I was asked several times if there are any songs Alan is singing. He sang some backing vocals (you can hear him well on Everything Counts e.g.), but he never took care of the leading vocals. He was asked once why he never considered it, whether he was too shy.
Alan: "Partly, and partly I just don't think I've got the kind of voice required to carry off a lead vocal. I can sort of handle backing vocals, but no, I never really considered that."[25]


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The second leg of the tour started on 1 December in Stockholm. Eighteen gigs were played in Europe, most of them in Germany where DM had great success. The leg ended on 23 December in the "Musikhalle" in Hamburg. The third leg took place in 1984.
Dave: "I get a big kick from the gig if the audience are really into what I'm doing, then I can really feel it. But if I don't get anything from the audience I just feel really down. I'm sure it's the same for everybody.[26] In Sweden we were spoilt really, the audiences were so very, very warm. And Berlin yesterday was very very good: usually Berlin's very cold and people just stand, but everyone was joining in and it was good fun."[27]

No wonder that they decided not to be so focussed on America. It didn't work for them there. It was probably and simply the zeitgeist. A little later, there came a time when British bands became quite hip in the U.S., but generally the interest in English music was low. Most Americans were into rock music. So DM decided to focus on Germany instead, where things went very well for them.
Fletch: "To be honest though, America isn't the end, isn't our aim at all. Germany for us is definitely more important at the moment. Germany is the market to break."
Dave: "It's an exciting market as well. You can see something's happening, that we're building. We can see ourselves getting bigger every time we come over here and play.[28] It's very odd. When we play German cities the word gets around that we're in town as if we're some big hip band. I'm pleased. It shows that our music does have a wider appeal."[29]
To say that they weren't interested in breaking the American market is, of course, not quite honest. They couldn't make it there at that time, and they knew it. But instead of getting all desperate, they enjoyed becoming "big in Germany". This is a kind of inside-joke, because despite all their success they would never become a real mainstream band. This is part of the DM "mystery" of being big without being really mainstream. I know some people will say that they are mainstream meanwhile, but I don't think you can put DM in the same category as Madonna, or typical chart-music. Most people know them, and at least one song springs to their mind, (mostly Enjoy the Silence), and the band is able to sell out stadium-tours. Nevertheless they never appealed to the general public. Public opinion about them is very strange, and it's obvious that not much is known about them outside their fanbase.


trennlinie


Despite the success, they still had a lot of problems with the media. Typical topics like their image were brought up over and over again.
Martin: "We're rarely taken very seriously, especially by the press and that's all you hear from apart from fans. We know we don't believe what the press say"[30] but nevertheless it was difficult for them to handle it.
Some reporters couldn't remember the names of the band members. Some sneered at Dave's "gimpy dancing" -
Alan: "It's not gimpy. I like it. I certainly couldn't do it."[31]
- and still asked for Vince in all seriousness.
Fletch on the question whether he still liked Vince and what he thought about his music: "Oh yeah, I really like him as a person. I mean he was my best friend for years and years, so I can't dislike someone, he's never done any harm to me, I still get on well with him now. I'm not so sure about the music."
Could Vince try to return to DM?
Fletch: "No, no. We wouldn't have him, never. There's no chance, you know, because we wouldn't have him back. Because Alan's too ... we're so friendly with Alan, you know. Alan's rooted now, and we don't need Vince."[32]

All this led to a sense of frustration concerning the media.
Alan: "Also it's only the journalist's view of us, so whatever we say always gets distorted, so what people are reading about us is often incorrect. In a way, being misinterpreted is worse than being misquoted because misinterpretation can destroy your whole point of view!"
I'm afraid it's still like this, even today, which perhaps is the reason for the strange general opinion about them.

And here is a little tit-bit at the end of this chapter.
Fletch: "We still haven't got a record contract at all, we're really proud that our deal with Mute is based on trust, we're proud of the fact that we could go out tomorrow and sign to EMI!"[33]
This sentence is amusing because one day DM would be a part of EMI when Mute Records was sold to it.






References:
[1] Recoil.co.uk
[2] Modes to Freedom, Record Mirror, 22 January 1983. Words: Betty Page
[3] Depeche Mode - Nearly There, Smash Hits, 3-16 March 1983. Words: Peter Martin
[4] Everything Counts (in Large Amounts), Number One, 19 October 1985. Words: Paul Bursche
[5] Modes to Freedom, Record Mirror, 22 January 1983. Words: Betty Page
[6] Recoil.co.uk / Depechemodebiographie.de
[7] Poppix, 1982, author unkown [8] Recoil.co.uk
[9] Coming up Smiling, The Face, February 1985. Words: Sheryl Garratt
[10] Recoil.co.uk
[11] Recoil.co.uk
[12] Recoil.co.uk
[13] New Life, No.1, 13 August 1983. Words: Paul Bursche
[14] Crushing The Wheels Of Industry, Meldody Maker, 7 January 1984, Words. Lynden Barber
[15] Article in Sound on Sound, February 2007, words: Richard Buskin
[16] depechemodebiographie.de
[17] Enter the Countdown Mode, Record Mirror, 17 September 1983. Words: Sharon Machola
[18] Just Can't Get Enough, Uncut, May 2001. Words: Stephen Dalton
[19] Recoil.co.uk
[20] Modes to Freedom, Record Mirror, 22 January 1983. Words: Betty Page
[21] Red Rockers over the Emerald Isle, NME, 17 September 1983. Words: X. Moore
[22] Enter the Countdown Mode, Record Mirror, 17 September 1983. Words: Sharon Machola
[23] Everything Counts (in Large Amounts), Number One, 19 October 1985. Words: Paul Bursche
[24] Recoil.co.uk
[25] Interview on KROQ, 17 April 1992. Interviewer: Richard Blade.
[26] Enter the Countdown Mode, Record Mirror, 17 September 1983. Words: Sharon Machola
[27] Interview 83, Mode7CD, label unknown
[28] Hanging in the Balance, NME, 26 March 1983. Words: Matt Snow
[29] New Life, No.1, 13 August 1983. Words: Paul Bursche
[30] Modes to Freedom, Record Mirror, 22 January 1983. Words: Betty Page
[31] Depeche Mode - Nearly There, Smash Hits, 3-16 March 1983. Words: Peter Martin
[32] Interview 83, Mode7CD, label unknown
[33] Up For Grabs, Sounds, 20 August 1983. Words: Johnny Waller



Biography: 1984

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