Number Ones: #81


  • DEPECHE MODE A Question Of Time [Remix] (Mute)
  • Week Ending 23rd August 1986
  • 2 Weeks At #1

Ladies and gentlemen, please stand back and make way for the new Depeche Mode single. The #1 spot has been reserved for the boys from Basildon, as per usual.

Yes, in a thoroughly predictable development, the third single from Black Celebration (and by far its most commercially-viable track) brushed all competition aside upon its release on August 11th 1986.

A Question Of Time kicked off the second side of Black Celebration in rip-roaring style, one of those relentless, propulsive electro stompers they had already turned their hand to on previous album Some Great Reward with its opener Something To Do. It felt like a sequel of sorts, sharing not only a sonic similarity but also the lyrical theme of innocence being corrupted by the big bad world. Except the tone had become darker still, from:

“My little girl, won’t you come with me….you’ve got your leather boots on…your pretty dress is oil-stained for working too hard for too little….you’re feeling the boredom too, I’d gladly go with you…I’d put your leather boots on…I’d put your pretty dress on”.


“I’ve got to get to you first, before they do…before they make you just like the rest….it won’t be long until you do exactly what they want you to…I can see them now, hanging around….to mess you up and strip you down….you look good, and they need something to do”.

And so on. It’s pretty unsettling, really, if you analyse it too much. In 1986, I wouldn’t have really picked up on anything beyond the generally sinister vibe, the sense of foreboding in Dave Gahan’s vocals, the urgency of the situation mirrored in the doom-laden adrenaline rush of the music and the chiming synths marking out the passage of time.

Depeche Mode just did this sort of thing, it was par for the course and being part of the pop mainstream still (just about!), it seemed to pass without undue comment. The singles would debut inside the Top 40, get on Top Of The Pops, feature in the Smash Hits lyric pages, no horses were ever frightened. Different times, indeed.

A Question Of Time, beyond the dubious lyrics, was a beast of a record. Clearly not satisfied with the punch of the original album version, it was remixed for added bombast and radio friendliness. Perhaps somebody thought people might not pay such close attention to the words if they were being assaulted by a bloody great pounding rhythm!

If anything, I preferred – and still prefer – the Black Celebration original; it has more light and shade and a bit more individuality. The 12″ Extended Mix is typically amazing Depeche Mode fare, deconstructing the track and chucking in the kitchen sink for 8 minutes or so.

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