Depeche Mode Nominated for Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

As we’ve seen previously, I don’t generally take a lot of interest in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, mainly because I’m not completely clear what it is or indeed why it exists (and actually I’m not completely convinced that “inducted” is a word). The last time I covered the ceremony was in 2012, when Kraftwerk sadly failed to get, uh, “inducted”.

This year, Depeche Mode have been nominated. I care so little that I’ll probably forget to check back and see whether they made it or not. If you care, you can see all the nominees and take part in the fan vote here.

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Dave Gahan – Hourglass

His 2003 solo debut Paper Monsters had been an uncertain affair, as Dave Gahan for the first time wrote his own tracks. Two decades of huge stadium rock showmanship at the helm of Depeche Mode meant he had a good understanding of how to write the music he wanted to make, but he maybe hadn’t quite got the hang of how to pull it off yet.

The follow-up Hourglass is very different indeed. Right from the first notes of Saw Something, you seem to hear a confidence that didn’t seem to have been there last time around. It’s fantastic – there’s a cello! There’s guitar work from John Frusciante!

Lead single Kingdom is next, every bit as good as any of the Depeche Mode singles of the last couple of decades – but not quite as successful. Whereas all three singles from the first album had reached respectable positions, this one stalled at number 44, and during a period when his contemporaries were still doing reasonably well. There’s nothing at all wrong with the song – it just didn’t quite do its job at promoting the album.

The third track is the dark and grimy Deeper and Deeper, released as a non-chart-qualifying double a-side with Saw Something early in 2004, which narrowly failed to reach the UK Top 100. It might be somewhat lacking the charm of some of Depeche Mode‘s noisier moments, but it’s still a catchy piece of electro-grime.

The rock track 21 Days that follows is great – it’s another grimy piece, but with a rhythmic and vocal quality that works extremely well. Gahan still isn’t really trying to do anything new here, but it’s a great example of what he does best.

There’s plenty of that in show here, anyway – for Miracles, we get a bit of “faith” and some “devotion” for a sweet, slow rock track with a particularly good vocal performance. But that’s the key really – if you’ve listened to Songs of Faith and Devotion, you’ll have already heard most of the ideas on here – add on Playing the Angel, and it should all sound very familiar indeed.

In spite of being pretty much exactly the right length to fit on one LP, it was inexplicably released as a double album, so I don’t even get to refer to Use You as the start of Side B (it opens Side C instead). It’s another grimy rock piece, with some nice effects work and a catchy chorus.

Insoluble is one of the weaker tracks on here, but that isn’t really saying a lot. Endless is better, with its dirty swing beat, but it’s A Little Lie that’s the last real moment of genius on here. It’s another slower piece, with lots of huge drums and another huge vocal performance, and it somehow comes together brilliantly. And then finally, the album ends with the pleasant but largely forgettable Down, the one where Gahan tries to channel Creep but doesn’t entirely pull it off.

So Hourglass may, in retrospect, be just a touch unambitious – but it is a good showcase of Dave Gahan‘s vocal talents and relatively new-found songwriting skills. It may not be essential for everyone, but if you like Depeche Mode, it’s definitely well worth owning.

You can still find Hourglass at all major retailers.

Chart for stowaways – 9 September 2017

Here are the week’s top singles:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Reunion
  2. Erasure – Love You To The Sky
  3. Saint Etienne – Magpie Eyes
  4. Saint Etienne – Sweet Arcadia
  5. Kraftwerk – Trans Europa Express
  6. Pet Shop Boys – Winner
  7. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène (Part 17)
  8. Pet Shop Boys – I’m with Stupid
  9. Kraftwerk – Computerliebe
  10. Pet Shop Boys – It’s a Sin

NME Poll Winners – The 1950s

The jazz newspaper New Musical Express launched in 1952, a jazz newspaper which grew from the ashes of the Accordion Times and Musical Express. In mid-November, it famously launched the UK’s first singles chart, a top twelve.

I think they launched the NME Poll in 1952, with the poll winners’ party a couple of months later, but honestly NME’s own timeline on their website is a bit sketchy. I’ve done my best to make sense of it, but I’m not sure I fully understand it!

1952

The party for the 1952 awards, held at the Royal Albert Hall, 19 April 1953, presented by Scott Brady and Mary Castle.

  • Dance Band: Ted Heath and His Music
  • Female Vocalist: Lita Roza
  • Outstanding Musician: Ronnie Scott
  • Small Band: Johnny Dankworth Seven
  • Male Vocalist: Dickie Valentine

1953

Held at the Royal Albert Hall, 25 April 1954, presented by Nat ‘King’ Cole. I believe the NME article actually unintentionally omits the 1954 results.

1954

Held at the Royal Albert Hall, 14 February 1955, presented by Nigel Patrick.

  • Large Band: Ted Heath and His Music
  • Male Vocalist: Dickie Valentine
  • Small Band: Ronnie Scott and His Orchestra
  • Female Vocalist: Lita Roza
  • Musician of the Year: Eric Delaney
  • Vibraphone Player: Victor Feldman
  • Piano Player: Bill McGuffie
  • Trumpet Player: Kenny Baker
  • Vocal Group: Stargazers
  • Alto Sax Player: Johnny Dankworth
  • Bass Player: Johnny Hawksworth
  • Clarinet Player: [illegible] – NME website says Carl Barriteau, but this is an error
  • Baritone Sax Player: Harry Klein
  • Trombone Player: Don Lusher
  • Arranger: Reg Owen
  • Tenor Sax Player: Tommy Whittle
  • Guitar Player: Bert Weedon
  • Outstanding Drummer: [illegible] – NME website says Jack Parnell, but this is an error
  • Band You Would Most Like To See At The NME Pollwinners’ Concert: Johnny Dankworth’s Orchestra

These results are listed in the 1954 article on the NME website but a scan on the 1955 page, so this is the 1954 poll, for which the party would have been in early 1955.

1955

Held at the Royal Albert Hall, 29 January 1956.

  • Outstanding American Feminine Singer: Doris Day
  • The World’s Outstanding Musical Personality: Bill Haley
  • Top Male Singer: Dickie Valentine
  • Outstanding American Male Singer: Frank Sinatra
  • Outstanding British Musical Personality: Dickie Valentine
  • World’s Outstanding Singer: Frank Sinatra
  • Outstanding British Feminine Singer: Alma Cogan
  • Outstanding British Male Singer: Dickie Valentine
  • World’s Outstanding Vocal Group: Four Aces
  • Large Band Section: Ted Heath and His Music
  • Favourite Disc Jockey: Jack Jackson
  • Small Bands: The Kirchins
  • British Vocal Group: Stargazers

Dickie Valentine and Alma Cogan both had their commercial peak was in 1955, so this is the 1955 poll, for which the party would have been in early 1956.

1956

Held at the Royal Albert Hall, early February 1957, presented by John Gregson.

  • Large Band: Ted Heath
  • Small Band: The Kirchins
  • Musician Of The Year: Eddie Calvert
  • Favourite American Singer- Female: Doris Day
  • Favourite American Singer- Male: Frank Sinatra
  • Female Dance Band Vocalist: Rose Brennan
  • Male Solo Singing Star: Dickie Valentine
  • Female Solo Singing Star: Ruby Murray
  • Favourite Musical Personality: Dickie Valentine
  • Most Promising New Band: Ronnie Scott
  • Vocal Group: Stargazers
  • Male Dance Band Vocalist: Robbie Britton
  • Outstanding Popular Singer In The World: Frank Sinatra

The correct date for this one is harder to judge, but Eddie Calvert had three hits in 1956 and only one the following year, so I believe this is the 1956 poll, for which the party would have been in early 1957.

1957

Held at the Royal Albert Hall, presented by Tony Wright and Roger Moore.

  • Favourite American Female Singer: Doris Day
  • World’s Outstanding Popular Singer: Pat Boone
  • Favourite American Male Singer: Pat Boone
  • Favourite British Female Singer: Alma Cogan
  • World’s Outstanding Vocal Group: The Platters
  • British Large Bands: Ted Heath
  • Favourite British Male Singer: Dickie Valentine
  • British Musical Personality: Tommy Steele
  • World’s Outstanding Musical Personality: Elvis Presley
  • British Vocal Groups: King Brothers
  • British Disc Jockey: Jack Jackson
  • Small Groups (Skiffle): Lonnie Donegan
  • Small Groups (Traditional) : Chris Barber
  • Small Groups (Modern Jazz): Tony Kinsey

Connie Francis‘s commercial peak was in 1957, and that was Cliff Richard‘s first year of hits, so this is the 1957 poll, for which the party would have been in early 1958.

1958

Held at the Royal Albert Hall, presented by Pete Murray.

  • Favourite US Female Singer: Connie Francis
  • World’s Outstanding Popular Singer: Elvis Presley
  • Favourite US Male Singer: Elvis Presley
  • World’s Outstanding Vocal Group: Everly Brothers
  • World’s Outstanding Musical Personality: Elvis Presley
  • Outstanding Vocal Personality: Frankie Vaughan
  • Favourite Male Singer: Frankie Vaughan
  • Small Group: Lonnie Donegan
  • Favourite Female Singer: Alma Cogan
  • Vocal Group: Mudlarks
  • Outstanding Instrumental Personality: Eddie Calvert
  • Large Band: Ted Heath
  • Favourite New Singer (Under 21): Cliff Richard
  • Favourite Disc Jockey: Pete Murray

Connie Francis‘s commercial peak was in 1958, and that was Cliff Richard‘s first year of hits, so this is the 1958 poll, for which the party would have been in early 1959.

1959

Held at Wembley’s Empire Bowl.

  • World’s Outstanding Male Singer: Elvis Presley
  • World’s Outstanding Female Singer: Connie Francis
  • World’s Outstanding Musical Personality: Elvis Presley
  • World’s Outstanding Vocal Group: Everly Brothers
  • Favourite British Male Singer: Cliff Richard
  • Favourite British Female Singer: Shirley Bassey
  • Favourite British Vocal Group: The Mudlarks
  • Favourite British Vocal Personality: Frankie Vaughan
  • Favourite British Instrumentalist: Russ Conway
  • Favourite British Large Band or Orchestra: Ted Heath
  • Favourite British Small Group: Lonnie Donegan
  • Favourite British Disc Jockey: Pete Murray
  • Favourite British New Disc or TV singer: Craig Douglas
  • Favourite British Disc of Year: Cliff Richard, for Living Doll
  • Favourite British Artist for Poll Concert: Marty Wilde

Living Doll was first released in July 1959, so this is the 1959 poll, for which the party would have been in early 1960.

See also

BBC Radio 1 Vintage

Hopefully, like me, you have been enjoying BBC Radio 1’s entirely wonderful pop-up radio station BBC Radio 1 Vintage, which I think we can all agree is a timely reminder that things aren’t as good as they used to be – we’ll probably just differ a little on when exactly they were better.

It existed, briefly, to celebrate BBC Radio 1’s fiftieth birthday at the end of September, and featured highlights from over 50 of the station’s shows. There’s also a lengthy series of podcasts, if you want to hear more.

Personally, I’ve been harking (excuse the pun) back to the 1990s, and working through Simon MayoMark and LardThe Radio 1 RoadshowAdrian JusteRadio 1 Comedy Shows, the late lamented John Peel and Kevin Greening, and many others. Whatever era you belong to, I wouldn’t doubt that you’ll find something to your tastes. You could well find yourself asking yourself important existential questions, such as where exactly Wyclef Jean is going to be between now and November.

If you don’t listen to anything else, definitely check out The Best of the Official Chart, here.

You can browse the schedule here, and enjoy the shows for another couple of weeks here.

Pet Shop Boys – Disco Four

The interesting thing about Pet Shop Boys‘ “disco” series is the fact that there’s really no rhyme or reason to it – despite using the same branding, they seem to reinvent it every time. Disco (1986) was a collection of six 12″ mixes and b-sides from the debut album Please, then Disco 2 (1994) was a megamix of tracks, mainly from VeryDisco 3 (2003) was the dance accompaniment to the previous year’s guitar-driven Release, and finally (to date) Disco Four (2007) is a compilation of Pet Shop Boys‘ own remixes of songs by other artists. Well, some continuity might be nice here.

Anyway, having got that out of the way, let’s give Disco Four a listen. It opens with the Stars Are Blazing mix of The Killers‘ Read My MindNeil Tennant has a habit of adding his own backing vocals whenever they remix other people’s tracks, which doesn’t always work, but here it does. This isn’t so much a remix as an electronic re-thinking, as for the most part it’s probably more radio than club-friendly, but it’s pretty good nonetheless.

David Bowie turns up next, with a version of Hallo Spaceboy that had only appeared commercially for the first time in 2004 on the double-disc reissue of Outside – for some reason when the single appeared originally it was demoted to a promo-only version. It’s great to finally hear this version of one of Pet Shop Boys‘ finest collaborations in its full seven-minute glory.

Next they turn up with one of their own, the download-only single (and minor hit) Integral, heavily reworked for this release. Depending on your perspective, this is either a nice inclusion or a bit of an oddity, as they suddenly turn up remixing themselves.

Yoko Ono might be spectacularly crazy, but Walking On Thin Ice is a pretty good track, and the Pet Shop Boys remixes that accompanied the 2003 reissue are truly exceptional. Here we get their Electro remix, with an enormous LFO bass line and huge synth swells. It’s completely and undeniably fantastic.

Next Madonna turns up, with Sorry, from 2006. Pet Shop Boys were clearly in their element around this period, taking other people’s tracks and throwing huge 1980s bass parts and robotic voices all over them. It’s difficult to fault, unless you want to pick at Madonna‘s awful pronunciation of “sorry” in various languages, and that was hardly the remixers’ fault.

Next are Atomizer, whose 2002 single Hooked on Radiation appeared on Pet Shop Boys‘ own record label, including this, the Orange Alert mix. It’s a catchy track with a great synth line, but nothing particularly special. Perhaps unsurprisingly, pretty much nothing has been heard of Atomizer in the decade that has followed.

Rammstein, on the other hand, had long since achieved legendary status when Pet Shop Boys turned up to remix Mein Teil in 2004. It’s an interesting piece, as PSB have never really delved too deeply into the world of industrial metal, and here they take the opportunity to cross genres with a bit of electroclash. In general, it works well, and doesn’t sound too awkward.

Finally, they bring us back to one of their own recent hits, I’m with Stupid, from the same year’s studio album Fundamental. The Maxi-mix is longer, full of electronic breakdowns, although somehow it loses a lot of the “fun” essence of the original.

So all in all, Disco Four is an entertaining diversion. It’s nice to see some of the various remixes by Pet Shop Boys gathered in a single place, particularly for those like me who hadn’t been particularly diligent in collecting them as they appeared. But there’s also something a little pointless about the whole thing – were these tracks collected together for any particular reason? Ultimately, I suppose it doesn’t matter much.

Surprisingly, Disco Four seems to have fallen out of print in the last decade. Most of the tracks are available on other releases.