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Exploring Depeche Mode’s Music Videos

Exploring Depeche Mode’s Music Videos

Much like GeoCities was to the internet, these early videos are similarly chaotic, incoherent and nonsensical.

Stripped (1986) Directed by Peter Care

Gahan has now adopted a black haircut, reminiscent of a bad-boy biker. This time they’re smashing cars with hammers instead of metal, drums, or fruit. There seems to be no stripping, but lots of projected imagery of other band members as backup vocalists. Huh?

But Not Tonight (1986) Directed by Tamra Davis

Modern Girls is the overarching part of this video, as the song was on the soundtrack for the 1986 film. Gahan looks like a child again, with short-cropped hair. There’s not much to the video–the song is what shines here.

(Note about the director: Davis is an accomplished music video director, having worked with Hüsker Dü, NWA, Tone Loc (yes, she did “Wild Thing”), Young MC (yes, she did “Bust a Move”), Sonic Youth and Black Flag. She directed full-length movies as well as TV shows. She is also married to Mike D of the Beastie Boys, an accomplishment for Mr. D.)

A Question of Lust (1986) Directed by Clive Richardson

This is mostly a live video, with a sad-face close-up of a sun-speckled Gore singing over scenes of live shows. What are they banging in this video? Chime-bells, a bass drum and a xylophone that is supposed to be the keyboard line.

A Question of Time (1986) Directed by Anton Corbijn

The first of several black and white videos shows a guy driving through southern California on a motorcycle with a sidecar. A baby ends up in the sidecar after a minute. Why he delivers the baby to the band – you know, four single guys – in a faraway house leaves us with a lot of questions, none about time.

(Note about the director: Corbijn did mostly black-and-white videos, and worked with U2, Echo & the Bunnymen, Front 242 and David Sylvian, to name a few. He directed the Ian Curtis biopic Control (2007). His music photography is nearly legendary, having worked with everyone from Nick Cave to Bon Jovi, and his works grace the covers of several albums, most notably U2’s Joshua Tree.)

Strangelove (1987) Directed by Anton Corbijn

This black-and-white video is set in Paris, where we take a tour of Duran Duran-like hotties in various states of dress. The graininess of the video is pleasing, and the various ladies in the film fit the theme of the song. Sunglasses are featured prominently on the band members as well as the hotties.

Never Let Me Down Again (1987) Directed by Anton Corbijn

Gahan now looks like David Duchovny. Driving a strange European concept car through wheat fields, Duchov–uh Gahan sings to himself. There’s a definite bump in quality at this point, as this song is almost as striking as the video.

Behind the Wheel (1987) Directed by Anton Corbijn

The same black-and-white grainy video and wheat field as in the last video sets the scene for that weird concept car breaking down. Gahan is picked up by a beautiful woman on a scooter; there’s irony in “Behind the Wheel” being mostly done on a scooter. They go to a café in a French village and dance in the street.

Little 15 (1988) Directed by Martyn Atkins

Gahan is now a good-looking man instead of an awkward boy. Much of the video involves following a calendar note throughout the city. Street, sewer and beyond, we follow the paper’s wild antics through a pink-hued monochromatic filmscape.

(Note about the director: Martyn Atkins (not to be confused with Martin Atkins, the drummer in Pigface) directed 21 videos to date, including works by Seal, Clapton, Alice In Chains, Paul Simon and Slash.)

Strangelove ’88 (1988) Directed by Martyn Atkins

It’s 1988! And the ‘80s Bulge is in effect, now in white jeans! Projected words and symbols are featured on buildings and floors, while the band sings four-part harmonies and Gahan returns to using his red megaphone for a splash of color and effect. This video may not be any better, it just looks more like an Information Society video than anything else they’ve previously done.

Everything Counts (live) (1989) Directed by D. A. Pennebaker

This self-referential video is practically bragging about their own success. From a packed Rose Bowl stadium to fistfuls of dollars for merchandise sold to their gold records, they’re celebrating. Where’s the cocaine?

(Note about the director: Pennebaker filmed Bowie, Joplin and Lennon in the ‘60s. He’s a prolific filmmaker, which includes political documentaries (including Bill Clinton’s run for the presidency).)

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