Dave Gahan, the lead singer of electro-pop kings Depeche Mode,
celebrates his 36th birthday today. Despite a much-publicized suicide
attempt three years ago and a battle with heroin, Gahan is still an
active member of this English band and is currently working with Depeche Mode on a new album.
In 1980, Gahan joined Andy Fletcher (keyboards), Martin Gore
(guitars/keyboards/vocals) and Vince Clarke (keyboards) -- who had been playing
together in various incarnations -- to form Depeche Mode (loosely
translated from French as "fast fashion"). The band was one of the
first to base its sound on synthesizers, initially specializing in
dance pop. Depeche Mode began gigging around London and released a few singles
before issuing their debut album, Speak and Spell, in 1981. It
sold well, but soon after, Clarke, the band's main songwriter, quit the
group citing the pressures of fame (he went on to form Yazoo and, later,
Erasure). Gore became DM's key songwriter and Alan Wilder joined
officially after the release of the band's second album, 1982's A
Broken Frame. By 1983's Construction Time Again, DM's
music grew increasingly darker and less pop-oriented. But the next
year's Some Great Reward nevertheless was a creative and popular
breakthrough, yielding "People Are People," which became a U.S. and U.K.
hit. The album's lyrics were obsessed with religion and sex and the music
became even more industrial.
After a few more commercially successful
studio albums, the band released a 1989 live double-album, 101,
and an accompanying concert documentary directed by noted filmmaker D.A.
Pennebaker. In 1990, Violator spawned three hit singles in
the U.S., including "Enjoy the Silence" and "Personal Jesus" (RealAudio excerpt). The album was a big seller and
the band enjoyed the newfound popularity of alternative rock. Depeche
Mode were a worldwide success and were at the zenith of their career when
Songs of Faith and Devotion debuted at #1 in 1993. But there was
trouble ahead for the quartet. Wilder quit in 1995, citing
dissatisfaction with the band. Later that year, Gahan was hospitalized
in Los Angeles after slitting his wrists. In 1997, the three remaining
members of Depeche Mode, including a recovered Gahan, had hits with
"Barrel of a Gun" and "It's No Good" off of Ultra. Also in '97,
they issued a CD maxi-single with different mixes of the songs "Home"
and "Useless." Recently, the band recorded a few new songs for a singles-compilation set for an October release. They also announced plans to tour
for the first time since 1994. In the meantime, Smashing Pumpkins, God Lives Underwater and the Cure are a few of the acts who participated in For The Masses, an all-star album tribute to Depeche Mode scheduled for June.
Other birthdays: Pete Birrell (Freddie & the Dreamers), 57; Tommy Roe, 56; Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield/Poco), 54; Steve Katz (Blood, Sweat and Tears), 53; Billy Joel, 49; Paul Heaton (Housemartins/Beautiful South/Beats International), 36 ... Dave
Prater (Sam & Dave), 1937-1988.