- DEPECHE MODE Master & Servant (Mute)
- Week Ending 6th October 1984
- 1 Week at #1
Whips. Leather. Domination……and to think, they used to be such nice boys!
Master & Servant was, like Mothers Talk not long before it, almost certainly influenced by the new, post-Frankie climate of pushing boundaries (both sonic and sexual). It says much for the place Depeche Mode occupied in the changing landscape of British chart pop by 1984 that they could get away with such a pervtastic record, without Auntie Beeb being even mildly perturbed. There they’d be, primetime on Top Of The Pops, singing about sexual deviancy, dressed in leather and rubber, to a backing track of simulated whip cracks and orgasmic moans….and nobody minded!
Maybe it was because at this stage they just didn’t come across as remotely threatening, or subversive, to the general public…and because the songs were too perky, the melodies (just about) still there to latch onto. Master & Servant proved a watershed moment in the chart fortunes of the band. Oh yes, the Mode would get a lot, lot darker and more fascinating than this.
In the days before my personal charts, the likes of Get The Balance Right! and Everything Counts had made quite an impression, as had the late 1983 slight-flop Love In Itself (one of the great unheralded gems in their catalogue). People Are People saw them build upon the industrial-pop influences from mainland Europe which infused their Construction Time Again LP, while remaining Radio 1 favourites.
Considering the single was released in mid-August (on the same week as Madam Butterfly and a new Heaven 17 record Sunset Now), Master & Servant had to wait a while to reach the summit on my Top 40. Its final ascent coincided with the arrival of its parent album at the end of September.
Some Great Reward, an album about “the world we live in, and life in general”, debuted at a career-best of #5. It instantly became my soundtrack of early Autumn, at a time when I wasn’t able to afford many albums and largely bought 12″ singles if they were £1.99. Again, it was Heaven 17 and their own brand new LP that week – How Men Are – which gave me a tough decision to make, but on the strength of its singles and a gut feeling, I went for Basildon’s finest. Unlike some of the decisions I made early on in my record-collecting years, it was definitely the right call.
While Master & Servant may have got away with its innuendo and subject matter, the final single from Some Great Reward – Blasphemous Rumours – possibly chanced its arm rather too far. It didn’t make the UK Top 10, and wouldn’t top my own chart either (peaking at #2, just like Shake The Disease also would in early 1985).