The group that eventually became Depeche Mode began when Vince Clarke first teamed with Andy Fletcher in 1976. After several name changes and pulling in guitarist/keyboardist Martin Gore and vocalist Dave Gahan, the name Depeche Mode was finally adopted in 1980 for the four person group. The band ignored conventional instruments in favor of an all-synthesizer approach similar to other British New Wave bands of the early 1980’s such as Human League and Soft Cell.
Depeche Mode’s first single “Dreaming Of Me” appeared in 1981. It was a minor U.K. hit, but the followup singles did progressively better and “Just Can’t Get Enough,” the third single, landed in the U.K. Top 10. The first album Speak and Spell scored in the U.K. and brushed the lower rungs of the U.S.
Toward the end of 1981, keyboardist and primary songwriter Vince Clarke abruptly left the group. He soon formed the duo Yazoo (Yaz in the U.S.) with vocalist Alison Moyet but abandoned that project and a group called Assembly before settling into Erasure with vocalist Andy Bell. Martin Gore soon took over primary songwriting duties for Depeche Mode and the band added Alan Wilder as a replacement keyboardist.
The band’s 1984 album Some Great Reward is a pivotal album in the band’s long history. It includes the group’s U.S. Pop breakthrough “People Are People”as well as the underground dance favorites “Master and Servant”and “Blasphemous Rumours.”The band had hit their stride and in response to the success of “People Are People,” two compilation albums were released to remind new fans of earlier music by the band.
Through the latter part of the 1980’s, Depeche Mode’s mainstream pop sales trailed off, but the band began to build a strong concert following. A world tour began in October 1987 and by the time it ended in Los Angeles in June 1988, 72,000 fans packed the Rose Bowl to hear Depeche Mode. The concert was immortalized by documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker and became the centerpiece of the band’s live film and album 101, released in 1989.