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My Depeche Mode Magnum Opus

July 24, 2009

Laura’s Blog Entry

Hello Blog Reader.

Thanks for stopping by, despite the light posting this summer. I’ve been working on this entry for a while and I think the time is right for it to be posted.

I’ve been gathering these thoughts since the release of Depeche Mode’s most recent album, Sounds of the Universe. Yes, this is going to be one of those entries.

BUT BEFORE YOU CLICK AWAY, let me tell you that it’s also one of those – what I like to call – psychobabble entries as well.

My love for the band Depeche Mode goes back a long way. I am, as you no doubt noticed, NOT a casual fan. I am one of the devout.

There are many of us out there. What’s up with the crazy DM fans, you might ask. Well, here’s the explanation you’ve been waiting for. While I can’t speak for all fans, I know that many have had a similar experience to mine.

The best way for me to tell this story is to tell it as it relates to each DM album. Ready? Here we go…

Some Great Reward
It started in 1985. I grew up in a small town in Ohio. My family moved a few times, but never to any major metropolitan areas. This meant that other than the Beatles albums, the movie and Broadway musical soundtracks and the classical stuff we had around the house, I was stuck with top 40 radio.

Top 40 never really did the trick for me. I tried to love it, but it always seemed a bit hollow.

Fast forward and somehow Punk happened out there in the wide world, but I never knew about it. But what did reach me was the New Wave.

After my second year in college I went on a service project trip. There we teamed up with a group of people from a larger city. I met a guy who listened to all sorts of music I had never heard of. Luckily he was more than happy to educate me in the finer points of the new “progressive” music scene. He played me The Smiths. He played me the Psychedelic Furs. And he played me Depeche Mode.

This was the year the album Some Great Reward came out. I listened to it over and over and immediate became obsessed with everything the band had ever done. I had never heard anything quite like it before. The electronic music was such a fresh sound compared to pop of the day. But it was the lyrical content that really blew me away. I felt like it was my reward for hanging in there through the pop of the ‘70’s.

I would listen to their albums for hours and hours. I just couldn’t get my mind around the fact that someone wrote songs like this. That someone else had these feelings. You see, up to that point, I was pretty convinced that I was a complete and utter freak. I knew that I saw things differently than other people. But I kept my mouth shut and decided the best thing to do was to just put my head down and try to fit in. What other choice did I have, really?

When I listened to Depeche Mode, suddenly I realized the world was a bigger place. Maybe there was some hope. It’s very tiring and depressing to constantly deny who you are. It’s a one-way ticket to death if you ask me – either a denial-filled living death… or worse.

That’s where I was. Sitting in a front row seat on the slow train of death. But then there was Depeche Mode. CLICHÉ ALERT! Yes, this is one of those “This band saved my life” stories. Whatever. Deal with it.

Some Great Reward was a turning point for me. I slowly began to participate in my life. I became a bit more engaged in my studies. I learned jewelry making and photography and watercolor painting. I realized there was some art in me. I just had to stop being afraid all the time.

Black Celebration
To this day, when I listen to this record I am immediately transported back to 1986. My Sony walkman, my pink Converse hightops, my trip to Europe, and the start of the wearing of the black. It all comes flooding back. I think it was at this point that I started to believe that I might possibly be able to find the person out there that would understand me.

Music for the Masses
I graduated from college in 1987 and started out on my own. If I hadn’t had Depeche Mode with me I never would have made it. I was so shy and so naïve. The world was a tough place, but I embraced it with a new sense of bravery. And I met Neil.

Violator
Things just got better and better in the 1990’s. Neil loved Depeche Mode and we could talk about their music and Neil’s music and everybody’s music for hours and hours and drink coffee and eat grilled cheese at Perkins in the middle of the night. We would write poems together on napkins. I knew this was it. We got married. We had to live on Violator for a while, but in a few years the band would release a groundbreaking album.

Songs of Faith and Devotion
In 1993, Neil and I were working to create a life together. Part of that was reconciling our different religious backgrounds into something we could share. We did a lot of searching and dealt with spiritual issues on our own and together. Depeche Mode seemed to be doing the same. The songs expressed our frustration with the institution of religion, but also our longing to connect with something greater than ourselves.

Ultra
Around 1997 Neil and I made some hard choices. He supported me in leaving a career in which I had invested four years of study and seven years of work. But I could no longer do something that was wrong for me. It was time to move on and start over. Depeche Mode started over, too. Alan Wilder left the band, Dave Gahan spiraled out of control. But the band came back together and worked through the difficulty. Ultra was dark and mystical and brave. I was brave, too. We made changes and the changes paid off.

Exciter
In 2001, I was working in a completely different industry and was able to clear out the cobwebs. Things came into focus. Where we were headed was becoming clearer. Everything was finally ready: it was time to have a child. We said goodbye to some of the things we loved for awhile. There was a new little person who became the center of the universe. It was hard and it was wonderful. To me, Exciter is about reconciling the spiritual with the physical. It’s seeing the spiritual realm reflected in the world around us. We got a crash course.

This was a tough time. Parenting was not what we had expected. We didn’t get the child who slept through the night. We didn’t get the child that would ever sleep at all, it seemed. We were dog-tired for literally years. But we hung in there. We did whatever needed to be done. Not much time was spent listening to music and pouring over lyrics. Or pondering the complexities of romantic love. We were in survival mode. I lost myself for a bit – not that I regret any of it for a second.



Playing the Angel

Then in 2005 everything changed. It was a gradual process, almost imperceptible. Slowly I was getting a part of myself back. Mari made great strides. Health and emotional issues started to become less all encompassing. Our little one was becoming her own person. It was like the feeling you get when one day a dark and oppressive storm finally clears. I made another really big leap and quit working all together. And Depeche Mode reinvented itself. They had a new album, a new sound and a new lease on life. They played live to larger crowds than they had ever played to before. Dave Gahan found his creative voice and began writing songs. I started to find the lost parts of myself again.

Sounds of the Universe
And here we are in 2009. We are all quite a bit older and definitely wiser. The band that no one has heard of is playing the same venues that U2 plays. I am finding my musical voice. There are so many things I no longer worry about. And a few that still plague me. This album is really getting at those issues. It’s poking and poking at a sore spot that I’m going to have to address. It digs even deeper into the spiritual. If I want to continue to grow, that’s where I have to go as well. It makes me kind of scared to think about it. But that is usually a sign that it’s the right thing to do.

Is it sad and pathetic that I think of the eras of my life in terms of Depeche Mode albums? Depends on how you look at it. I think it’s all about where you end up. I can say with complete conviction that I would never have ended up in the here and now without them.

And the great thing is that I know I’m not alone in this. There are millions of us grateful fans, gathering in various venues around the globe this year and singing our hearts out to express our gratitude. Yes, that’s what all that singing is about.

Thank you Depeche Mode.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. July 24, 2009 10:17 pm

    Very nice post. This totally transported me back to times when each of these albums came out and caused me to relive some of those memories as well.

    Thanks for sharing with us all.

  2. July 25, 2009 1:42 pm

    I LOVE this post Laura! It’s great that this music not only resonates with you but also feeds your soul. The band’s evolution side by side with your own is great to read.

  3. Mel permalink
    July 26, 2009 10:00 am

    Fantastic Laura. While I’m not as big a fan, my wife and I are both fans of DM. It’s amazing to me because she is 10 years younger than I am, and she GETS their music. Really gets it. Thanks for pointing out their new albums, I’ll have to check them out.

    • July 26, 2009 10:10 am

      Thanks, Mel. Their live shows are so interesting. People of all ages. People bringing their children. The songs speak to universal issues we all deal with. There are so few things that unite people these days. This is one of them.

  4. July 28, 2009 1:01 am

    I can definitely relate to this. It not just the “band saving your life”. They are literally the soundtrack to your life.

    I can not imagine this world without them. I am glad we are all growing old together.

  5. Cat permalink
    August 11, 2009 10:45 pm

    Thank you for posting this. I found your blog just by searching for some Marty pics. I, too, can relate DM throughout my life. Such a spiritual growth….for us all 🙂

    • August 12, 2009 7:40 am

      You are most welcome. Glad you found the blog! I knew many fans would relate to what I experienced. Ah, the perpetual search for Marty pics. Not that I ever do that, of course…

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