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Depeche Mode are an electronic music band formed in 1980, in Basildon, Essex, England. The group's original line-up was Dave Gahan (lead vocals), Martin Gore (keyboards, guitar, vocals, chief songwriter after 1981), Andrew Fletcher (keyboards) and Vince Clarke (keyboards, chief songwriter 1980–81). Vince Clarke left the band after the release of their 1981 debut album, and was replaced by Alan Wilder (lead keyboards) who was a band member from 1982 to 1995. Following Wilder's departure, Gahan, Gore, and Fletcher have continued as a trio.

Depeche Mode are one of the longest-lived, most successful and influential bands to have emerged from the New Romantic and New Wave era. They have had forty-five songs in the UK Singles Chart (giving them more charting singles without a #1 hit than any other artist), as well as one US and two UK #1 albums. According to their record company, Depeche Mode have sold over 72 million records worldwide.

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1977–1980: Formation

Depeche Mode's origins can be traced back to 1977, when Vince Clarke and Andrew Fletcher formed a band called No Romance in China, with Clarke on vocals/guitar and Fletcher on bass. In 1979, Clarke played guitar in an "Ultravox rip-off band", The Plan, with school friends Robert Marlow (vocals) and Paul Langwith (drums).[2] In 1978–79, Gore played in an acoustic duo, Norman and the Worms, with school friend Philip Burdett (who now sings on the folk circuit) on vocals and Gore on guitar. In 1979, Marlow, Gore, Clarke and friend Paul Redmond formed a band called The French Look, Marlow on vocals/keyboards, Gore on guitar, Clarke and Redmond on keyboards. In March 1980, Clarke, Gore and Fletcher formed a band called Composition of Sound, with Clarke on vocals/guitar, Gore on keyboards and Fletcher on bass. The French Look and Composition of Sound once played live together in June 1980 at St. Nicholas School Youth Club in Southend-on-sea, Essex.

Soon after the formation of Composition of Sound, Clarke and Fletcher switched to synthesizers, working odd jobs, including carpentry, to buy them, or borrowing them from friends. Dave Gahan joined the band in 1980 after Clarke heard him perform at a local scout-hut jam session, crooning to a rendition of David Bowie's "Heroes", and Depeche Mode were born. When explaining the choice for the new name (taken from a French fashion magazine, Dépêche mode) Martin Gore has said

“ It means hurried fashion or fashion dispatch. I like the sound of that "

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1981–1983: Early releases

While playing a live gig at the Bridge House in Canning Town, the band was approached by Daniel Miller (an electronic musician and founder of Mute Records), who was interested in them recording a single for his burgeoning label. The result of this verbal contract was "Dreaming of Me b/w Ice Machine", which was released in February 1981, and managed to reach #57 in the UK charts. Encouraged by this surprise success, the band recorded its second single "New Life", climbing to #11 in the UK charts. Three months later, the band released "Just Can't Get Enough" - their first single to enter the UK Top 10, peaking at #8. This record was in many ways a breakthrough for the band, and its success paved the way for their debut album - Speak & Spell, released in November 1981, and eventually reaching #10 on the UK album charts. Critical reviews were mixed - Melody Maker described it as a "great album... one they had to make to conquer fresh audiences and please the fans who just can’t get enough", while Rolling Stone was more critical, calling the album "PG-rated fluff".

During the touring and promotion for Speak & Spell, Clarke began to privately voice his discomfort at the direction the band was taking. He later expressed his agitation that "there was never enough time to do anything". In late 1981, Clarke publicly announced that he was leaving Depeche Mode. Soon afterwards, he joined with blues singer Alison Moyet to form Yazoo (Yaz in the US) and later, the duo Erasure with Andy Bell, in 1985. With their primary songwriter gone, Depeche Mode needed a new direction. Martin Gore, who had written "Tora! Tora! Tora!" and "Big Muff" for their debut album, took over as the band's new songwriter. In January 1982, the band released "See You", their first single without Clarke, which against all expectations, managed to beat all three Clarke-penned singles in the UK charts, reaching #6. In the ensuing months of that year, two more singles were released ("The Meaning of Love", and "Leave in Silence"), and the band embarked on their first world tour - known as the "See You" tour. Their second album A Broken Frame was eventually brought out in September.

In late 1981, the band placed an ad in Melody Maker stating "Keyboard player needed for established band - no timewasters." Alan Wilder, a 22-year old keyboardist from West London responded - and after two auditions with Daniel Miller, he was accepted as the fourth member of Depeche Mode. Despite this, Daniel Miller informed Wilder that he was not needed for the recording of the album, as the band wanted to prove that they could succeed without Vince Clarke. Wilder's first musical contribution to the band was in 1983, on the non-album single "Get the Balance Right!".

For their third LP Construction Time Again, Depeche Mode decided to work with producer Gareth Jones, at John Foxx's Garden Studios and at Hansa Studios in West Berlin, which had been used by David Bowie and Brian Eno before, and where the Berlin Wall with guarding soldiers could be seen right from the mixer, this creating an extraordinary atmosphere. The album saw a dramatic shift in the group's sound, due in part to the introduction of the Synclavier and Emulator samplers, in addition to their previously-used analogue synths. By sampling the noises of everyday objects, the band created an eclectic, industrial-influenced sound, with similarities to groups such as the Art of Noise and Einstürzende Neubauten, the latter having been published under the same label. Similarly, Gore's lyricism was rapidly evolving, focusing increasingly on political and social issues. A good example of the new sound was on the first single from the album "Everything Counts", a commentary on the perceived greed of multinational corporations, which got to #6 in the UK, also reaching the Top 30 in Ireland, South Africa, Switzerland, Sweden and West Germany. Alan Wilder also contributed two songs to the album ("The Landscape is Changing", "Two Minute Warning").

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