As the first part of the series showed, Depeche Mode had some pretty awful videos during the start of their career, but they steadily got better. The mid-to late 80s found them working with Anton Corbijn, who they continued working with throughout their career. During this time they created some of their most iconic videos along with a few duds. Let’s take a look at their videos from this period ranked from best to worst.
This has quickly become one of my favorite videos. It has really cool shots, memorable scenes and poses from the band, and some innovative lighting. The story involves the guys pining after these girls in Paris. But notable scenes are when they’re all together holding up their palms that spell out “Love.” Also, there are several times where they’re standing around holding the megaphones seen on the cover for Music for the Masses. My favorite instance is when Wilder is standing there holding one and this elderly lady walks by looking at him trying to decide whether or not he’s real. During the part where they sing “pain” the light is glaring so much off of Gahan that his sunglasses give him a devil horns. It fits in perfectly with this moment in the song. There also seems to be some bloopers thrown in. There are parts where they’re all start laughing or smiling randomly and I’m not going to lie, it’s just plain cute. This is one clip I have no problem watching over and over again.
Even though I can’t really follow that story line here, the video just looks amazing from the way it’s shot to how certain scenes match up with the beat of the music. For the entire video Gore sits in a shack that appears to read “Depeche Mode Museum” in French. This is where he plays the piano riff to the track. Then we get a cool forced perspective shot of each member coming down a steep mountain. They stop to sing a part of the song before they reach they shack where they attempt to knock it down in tune with the music. At one point Andy really gets into it because he headbutts the wall. The shack eventually crumbles and Gore rises from the ashes holding the megaphone from Music for the Masses. Again, not sure what that’s all about, but it’s a well thought out video for an instrumental track. It knows how to keep you watching to see how it’s going to end.
“A Question of Time” (1986)
This is the beginning of Depeche Mode’s weird, artsy videos. It’s also the first video they did with long time collaborator Anton Corbijn. This clip is mixed with live footage along with black and white shots of a guy riding around in a motor cycle when he suddenly finds a baby. For some reason Alan Wilder is in the distance keeping his eye out for this guy. The guy delivers the baby to Wilder, he takes it, and then suddenly the rest of the band pops up with babies of their own. There are a bunch of cool and weird looking shots of the band, such as when their holding the baby with a shadow of a clock running over their faces. The best part is at the end when one precious scamp begins tugging on Gore’s hair. It’s a bit mysterious, but that’s part of what keeps your attention. You want to see if you can piece together all the symbolism. Just for the record, I haven’t been able to.
“Enjoy the Silence” (1990)
This simple video is nothing but Dave Gahan wandering around beautiful landscapes dressed as a king trying to find a moments peace. These shots are intercut with stills of the band looking bad ass in leather. There are no fancy effects, no big plot line, but it’s still a great clip. The video is also visually appealing. Long time video collaborator Anton Corbijn presents all the scenes with Gahan walking around in blinding bright colors. It’s an understated video, but it’s a classic and one that has several homages to it, including one from Coldplay for their 2008 single “Viva La Vida.”
This is an interesting video that doesn’t seem that well known. The guys are part of a little circus with Gahan being the strongest man in the universe (I know, right?), Gore the clown, and Wilder the caretaker of the donkey. Fletcher walks around with Wilder for most of the video holding up random signs. Here, Gahan is seeing the female clown who works with Gore when surprise, surprise she doesn’t actually want to be with him. She makes her decision at the end to happily be with Gore even though he sleeps under Gahan’s caravan. Did he really think a clown wouldn’t want to be with another clown? Use common sense, man.
“Never Let Me Down Again” (1987)
This is one of those artsy videos I was talking about earlier. I really have no idea what’s going on here, but I do know one thing, Martin Gore is creepy as hell here. It begins with Dave sitting down next to an older man sipping tea and only singing parts of the song. Then there are shots of grass blowing in the wind, while Gahan drives past one of his band members hitching for a ride (talk about rejected). But Gore is always in the distance just staring oddly in the camera in what looks like an Amish getup. Towards the end he walks up to an empty car and shines a lantern in there as if to say “Why did you leave me on the road, motherfucker?” Who knew he could be so intimidating. There’s tons of symbolism and imagery that may go over your head, but it nails the unsettling feeling head on. There’s another version of the clip for the 12” single, which has more footage after the original fades out. It shows the guys dragging away Gahan followed by his shoes shuffling along on their own. It only adds to the mystery of this video, but at least it looks really cool.
“Personal Jesus” (1990)
Depeche Mode visits a Western brothel! Hooray! The entire video has this Western theme. Even the guys are wearing cowboy hats and boots. There are also lots of shots and close ups featuring the ladies of the house. There are two versions of the video: a censored and an uncut one. What was so bad about the clip that MTV decided to edit it? Apparently, they didn’t like the mouth movements that they were doing during the bridge. Go figure. There’s also a live version that was released in 1993. Still it’s a classic clip to go with this timeless Depeche Mode song. I can’t help but think of Dave Gahan in cowboy boots whenever it comes on.
“Policy of Truth” (1990)
Directed again by Anton Corbijn, this video starts off like a black and white foreign film. It shows each of the guys getting manipulated by two chicks who are going out with all four of them. The guys eventually grow wise to the situation and are left distraught. Nothing much goes again, but again the video is nice to look at. There are a lot of interesting colors that play off of each other and again you can’t go wrong with the Mode boys playing around in leather.
“Little 15” (1988)
This is one of those clips you have to watch several times to understand the symbolism that’s happening. There’s so much going on that I can’t even mention it all here, but maybe that is what makes this video so intriguing. I usually don’t care for artsy videos with lots of symbolism, but this one is visually pleasing and entertaining. Just know that the number 15 is involved a lot along with watches and clocks. Though it isn’t bad after awhile it starts to feel like the stereotypical music video that’s supposed to have “deep meaning.” Still, check out the video for yourself and see if you can make out what’s going on.
This clip from the wildly successful Violator, is a little awkward. Shot in Super 8 style, the video shows Martin Gore getting comfy on the couch with his lady friend. The two begin watching footage of themselves rolling around in bed and spelling out the title of the song. The movie gets them riled up as they start making out more intense as the clip goes on. The footage they’re watching switches to Gahan and a random woman in bed. Meanwhile, Gore and his mystery lady are still necking. They’re going at it so hard you expect their clothes to fly off next. As the camera zooms in on the pair it grows increasingly uncomfortable to watch the two get it on. Not to mention that each of the members faces glide by each taking in a glimpse of the couple. It’s a bit unsettling, which makes it a perfect fit for the song.
“A Question of Lust” (1986)
Remember how I said the clip for “Somebody” was for anyone with a Martin Gore crush? This is pretty much the same thing, but with the inclusion of Dave Gahan’s shadow gyrating around with a tambourine. His tambourine playing is so intense it’s like he didn’t want to be showed up by Gore, so he tried to out do him. If you’re not into Martin then this is definitely the highlight of the video. There are also live clips of Gore singing the song in concert looking adorable as ever. These parts also show the others doing what they do best in a live setting. Not a terrible clip, but one that you wouldn’t necessarily want to watch over and over again.
“Everything Counts” Live (1989)
The band released this live clip to promote their movie 101. It’s a compilation of live performance and candid footage from the film. Though it’s pretty simple, it still manages to be entertaining. Since the live performance is mixed in with clips of them playing video games, rehearsing, and playing around with one another, it doesn’t get boring like other live video clips. They also added a clever nod to the song’s subject by introducing the clip with footage of their managers counting money they made from the tour.
“Behind the Wheel” (1987)
This clip as a sequel of sorts to “Never Let Me Down Again.” The car Gahan was driving in that clip gets towed away and an attractive woman, maybe the same chick from “Strangelove,” picks him up on her scooter. They make several pit stops until they meet up with the other guys who are sitting in front of a cafe. While the video is not bad, it’s not much here to keep you watching. The coolest shot is when Gahan stands in front of a spinning roulette wheel. While there is some interesting shadow play that makes things creepier than they appear, I wanted to go to another clip while watching it. It just gets dull after a while. There’s also a video that features the remix of the single, but it’s almost identical to the previous version.
“World in My Eyes” (1990)
It doesn’t matter which version you’re watching, the video is pretty much the same. Other than the drive thru intro, this is the standard live clip compilation. Just like with most live footage videos, this one is boring. It shows several moments from the band’s Violation tour presented in the awful fast motion technique of the 80s and 90s. Between this footage we sometimes see Gahan and his lady friend in the car watching while he looks like he can’t wait to jump her. Otherwise, not much else happens. I’ve always had a disdain for these type of videos and it’s no different here. They feel lazy and overdone, even if they star an amazing band like Depeche Mode.
“Strangelove ’88” (1988)
Whereas everywhere else in the world got the amazing video for this single, the US got the cheesy version. The other video looks and feels timeless. This clip is definitely a product of the 80’s. They pantomime in front of a garish faux city landscape while the word “Strangelove” awkwardly moves across their faces. No one looks like they’re having a good time except Gahan because they told him he could dance. There are also close ups of Gahan’s crotch as random images and words scroll across it. It gets a little uncomfortable to watch after the first time it happens. Because the clip mostly features a projector flashing various images across the set, it has this cheesy Powerpoint feel to it. All the members look bored as they sing as if they know how bad the video looks. Maybe this is why they stuck with Corbijn for so long.
Make sure to check in for part three of the Depeche Mode video countdown!