There’s probably no band more famous in the synth pop genre than Depeche Mode. Can you name another that has maintained Depeche’s longevity, cultural impact and timelessness?
They’ve been playing a lot (more than usual) of Depeche Mode lately on the First Wave channel on SiriusXM as yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of their 1989 live 101 album, recorded at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. And the 31st anniversary of the date of the concert. 60,000 screaming fans can’t be wrong.
I have to say that I’ve never, until today, listened to this album before. I may have heard a song or two on the radio from it, but for the most part, all I’ve heard are the studio versions of these songs. And there’s a concert video of the famous performance available too! All of it can be found on YouTube.
Some people might prefer Depeche’s earlier albums or their later work, but in my opinion, the time this live album was recorded, was peak Mode. Coming between 1987s Music For The Masses and 1990s Violator, 101 captures a band in top form and on top of the world.
I’m looking at the song list on this double album (20 songs) and almost every single track was a hit. “Blasphemous Rumours,” “Strangelove,” “Black Celebration,” “Shake the Disease,” “People Are People,” “Just Can’t Get Enough,” “Everything Counts”….and the list goes on.
Yet, I can’t say that I’ll ever play this album again.
Don’t get me wrong — I think Depeche Mode belong in the rock and roll hall of fame. That they didn’t get in the last two years is blasphemous….(ha ha). But as anthemic as so many of their songs may be, my tendency is to want to listen to DM alone. In my room, with the lights down low or off, and with top of the line headphones. And only the studio versions. I don’t want to share the experience with 60,000 fans. I want to believe I’m their only fan. That they’ve written their songs just for me.
Much like The Cure, Depeche Mode (mostly early DM, but later albums also) speak to the outcast, the sad, the lonely, the misunderstood. They were never quite goth, they liked dancing way too much, but Depeche Mode snuck into the hearts of so many young people of the 80s and early 90s. I have to assume new fans were won with their later albums, but likely most of their post 2000 catalog was purchased by existing Moders and Modettes (I just made that up, you can’t use it).
Essentially, what listening to this live album has accomplished, is now I want to go back and listen to all the Depeche Mode albums again. From their debut, Speak and Spell, to Construction Time Again to Some Great Reward, to later albums like Songs of Faith and Devotion and Exciter.
I haven’t even mentioned that Depeche Mode is still around, 38 years after their first album. Releasing new music that only adds worthy pieces to their amazingly prolific catalog.
I could have attended that Rose Bowl show back in 1988. I was not far from Pasadena, back home for the summer, living in the San Fernando Valley, between my Sophomore and Junior years at UC Santa Cruz. But I didn’t go. In fact, I don’t remember that show happening. Maybe I was not into Depeche Mode at the time. I can’t remember. I do remember being a big fan of their earlier 80s albums, and I don’t recall ever having stopped liking Depeche Mode, but it’s possible. I’m old and forgetful now.
At least now I can pretend like I was there, from the comfort of my dark bedroom and play this album at full volume, in full recline, wearing my fancy Sennheiser DT 770s. Nothing better than that.