In the summer of 1990 I was still a full-on metalhead, but I had begun seeking fulfillment from some of the new wave bands from my childhood just because the metal labels were too busy signing POISON-esque carbon copies to actually give a shit about putting out quality product, hence why the scene would die out less than two years later. So, one night I was at Sunrise Mall with my girlfriend at the time Holly, my friend Tara, and a few others killing some time before whatever movie we were gonna go see when I decided to hit Sam Goody. I was in a tape-buying mood, and lo and behold, there it was…DEPECHE MODE’S classic Some Great Reward album, waiting for me, calling to me. At this point all I had was Catching Up With Depeche Mode, Black Celebration, Violator, and Music For the Masses, so I just had to have it!
The synthesized breathing that opens “Something to Do” was a sound I ran around for the rest of that summer doing ad nauseum, and I was mesmerized by the metallic slams permeating this and pretty much the whole album. A song about some kinky doings, sung with conviction by Dave Gahan, this was only the tip of the iceberg. Martin Gore had really begun to hit his stride as a songwriter, unafraid to tackle anything, no matter the taboo, as we’d come to find out later. “Lie To me” is one of those rare gems that would have had massive success as a single and is still a fan favorite. Then of course, we have “People Are People” which is still one of their best sing-alongs especially live. I love singing this one top of my lungs as much now as I did when I was a kid as anyone who’s suffered through car rides in either my ’79 Horizon or my ’88 Sundance can attest to (right, Tara??).
By this time I was starting to realize that I had a pretty damn good singing voice, and I credit U2, THE ALARM, and DM for helping me get the most out of it. When Martin Gore sings on “It Doesn’t Matter” I would play it until I could match his vibrato, cadence, and tone perfectly. My poor mother (R.I.P.) would yell from downstairs in her Belfast brogue, “GODDAMMIT!! WOULD YE PLAY ANOTHER SONG?!?” then, under her breath, “Shithead!”. All I could do was crack up every time. That’s yet another reason why this album is so special to me, driving Rita crazy, not only at home, but on our trips to the DMV to set up my road test and the like. Side one ends on a bit of a cynical note about love with “Stories of Old”.
If you were constructing a list of Greatest DEPECHE MODE songs then “Somebody” would have to be on it. No crazy loops or sounds, just Martin and a piano in one of the most beautiful love songs ever written. Holly used to ask me to sing it to her all the time, and I, being the lovesick puppy I was, happily obliged every time. Of course, she’d get mad at me whenever I switched to the live version from 101, but what can I say, even then I enjoyed pushing buttons. “IT’S A LOT/It’s A Lot/IT’S A LOT/Like Life”, sounds the alarm that “Master and Servant” is here! A song about power games in both the bedroom and the business world, it is hot, it is hard, and it is heavy, producer Daniel Miller pushing Alan Wilder to go further with his arrangements.
There’s a certain dark and stormy vibe to “If You Want” that I of course always loved. There’s something cold and almost robotic about it, a feeling that on my dark days I could relate to very well. Which brings me to the album’s closer and brilliant masterpiece “Blasphemous Rumours”. A cynical look at the world of religion, it starts off with a 16-year old girl who attempts suicide and fails. She emerges from her depression and finds new life in faith at age 18, only to be hit by a car and end up on life support, eventually dying. THIS was a great moment for me, as I had just endured two years of Catholic School hell and I enjoyed tormenting my mother with the lyrics: “I Don’t Want To Start Any Blasphemous Rumours/But I Think That God’s Got A Sick Sense Of Humour/And When I Die/I Expect To Find Him Laughing”. I was fiercely anti-ANY organized religion, and this song summed up how I felt perfectly, which led to many arguments between Mom and me as I would bash the church every chance I got.
The summer of 1990 was one of the best ones I ever had musically, and what made it that much better than the rest was albums like Some Great Reward. Not many people expected the guy with long hair and a cut-up RANDY RHOADS t-shirt to have DEPECHE MODE blaring into his ears from the trusty Walkman, but I’ve always prided myself on being anything but predictable musically. Besides, I LIVED at Sundance that summer, so my metalhood was never in doubt. ~dc