Number Ones: # 111


  • DEPECHE MODE Never Let Me Down Again (Mute)
  • Week Ending 5th September 1987
  • 3 Weeks At #1


On Monday, August 24th 1987 a new Depeche Mode single was released. Come the moment to compile my next Top 40, to reflect the chart week beginning on that date, you can guess what happened…

Yes, here we are again. With their previous single, Strangelove, the band made it 7 #1s on my chart, and six in a row. Make that 8 and 7 respectively, as Never Let Me Down Again swept all before it (as usual) to debut in pole position.

Unlike the “difficulties” I’d experienced with the latest offerings from major favourites New Order and Pet Shop Boys, there was no settling-in period with this absolute monster of a record. The Mode had gone bigger, and better, than ever. You could actually hear them outgrowing the formula they’d perfected since Get The Balance Right! in early 1983.

Never Let Me Down Again is immense. With hindsight, it’s obviously the point at which Depeche Mode cast their net wider than purely electronic music, and aimed their sights at the (alternative) Rock heartlands. Yet it doesn’t sound forced, or cynically executed. This is exactly where the evolution from Everything Counts to Master & Servant and then to Stripped was likely to take them. The writing gets sharper, the vocals more strident, the arrangements finally have the sonic heft that they always aspired to. It is, quite simply, the perfect Depeche Mode track.

Or so it felt to me. The British public, however, had a different view. In at #22 (about par for the course by 1987 for the group), but then…shock! horror!…the single actually FELL the following week. To #26. The traditional second-week climb into the mid-teens or even late-teens (#13 to #18 had become Depeche Mode’s almost permanent home on the UK Top 40 since October 1984) simply didn’t materialise. Even the unloved A Question Of Lust improved by a solitary place during its run!

What on earth was happening? Had the stirrings of a new breed of lighter pop – led by a revitalised, commercially-honed Stock/Aitken/Waterman, but also including Pet Shop Boys and Erasure – hastened the marginalisation of Depeche Mode, into some sort of fanbase-only act, a fate which befell an earlier pioneer of electro-pop, Gary Numan, circa 1982? Was this the beginning of the end?

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