Psychedelic Furs & Depeche Mode at Hammersmith Palais in 1981

This Melody Maker concert ad suddenly got interesting again.

Here is BBC Radio 6 Music’s host Tom Robinson’s memory of this night:

Back then I used to read the NME religiously from cover to cover, and early in 1981 their single of the week was an indie release by a new young all-synth band called Depeche Mode. The gig guide showed they were opening for The Psychedelic Furs at Hammersmith Palais that week and I bought myself a ticket. The Furs were a big noise back then, with a debut album on CBS Records, posters everywhere and gigging on a grand scale thanks to lavish tour support from their label.

The Palais was rammed with their fans, and the support band had been crammed into a small apron of stage, hemmed in my giant amplifiers, guitar stands, PA stacks, monitors, keyboards, drum risers and – at the back of the stage – a SuperTrooper followspot mounted on a stand like a machinegun.

Depeche Mode turned out to be four small shy skinny youths with three cheap bottom-of-the-range synths on makeshift stands and no backline at all. There was no sign of Vince’s drum machine – instead at the front of the stage Dave Gahan had a radio cassette recorder that was wired into the PA system. As he announced each song, he would pull a cassette out of his shirt pocket, put it in the machine and out would come a plinky DR-55 drum pattern at exactly the right speed. A foolproof lo-tech solution to the tempo problem.

Their sound was young, fresh, sexy and quite unlike anything I’d seen or heard before. The Furs were as heavy dull and predictable as a Sherman tank and after two numbers I slipped away. As to what happened next… New Life went to number 11 that month on the unknown indie label Mute – while later in the year, for all the Furs’ touring and promotional push, Pretty in Pink failed to even dent the UK Top 40.

Also, notice these clever words from Andrew Fletcher in December 1983 regarding an early US tour:

“To become known in America we would have to go there and tour for six months. We don’t want to do that. We are going over for a month [Editor’s note: they didn’t], and hopefully get a good support. We were there in March. We supported the Psychedelic Furs in one gig to 7,000 people. If we had headlined Chicago, we would have pulled 500 people. Instead we took a support, and got two encores. Hopefully when we go back people will have remembered us.”

*Four songs in the new Depeche Mode album is co-written by Martin Gore and Richard Butler.

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