Music for the Masses

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Music for the Masses
Studio album by
Released28 September 1987 (1987-09-28)
RecordedFebruary–July 1987
  • Guillaume Tell (Paris)
  • Konk (London)
  • Puk (Gjerlev, Denmark)[1]
  • Depeche Mode
  • David Bascombe
Depeche Mode chronology
Greatest Hits
Music for the Masses
Singles from Music for the Masses
  1. "Strangelove"
    Released: 13 April 1987
  2. "Never Let Me Down Again"
    Released: 24 August 1987
  3. "Behind the Wheel"
    Released: 28 December 1987
  4. "Little 15"
    Released: 16 May 1988

Music for the Masses is the sixth studio album by English electronic music band Depeche Mode, released on 28 September 1987 by Mute Records.[4] The album was supported by the Music for the Masses Tour, which launched their fame in the US when they performed at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The tour led to the creation and filming of the documentary/live album titled 101.[citation needed] This saw the band using heavy amounts of sampling,[5] much like they did in their previous album Black Celebration.

Considered one of the band's best albums, Music for the Masses was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[6] The album reached No.10 in the UK Charts.

It was preceded by the singles "Strangelove", released on 13 April, "Never Let Me Down Again", released on 24 August. Two other singles followed the release of the album, one being "Behind the Wheel", released 28 December, and the other being "Little 15", which was released on 16 May the following year.


Daniel Miller, who had co-produced Depeche Mode's previous album, voluntarily stepped away from production duties for this album, citing the growing tension in the studio that they had experienced during the recording of Black Celebration.[7] With Miller's approval, the band co-produced the album with David Bascombe, who had previously worked as a recording engineer with Tears for Fears and Peter Gabriel.[8]

Band members Andy Fletcher and Martin Gore both explained the album's title was conceived as a joke, after Gore found an old album called "Music for the Millions."[9] Fletcher said, "The title's ... a bit tongue-in-cheek, really. Everyone is telling us we should make more commercial music, so that's the reason we chose that title."[8] According to Gore, the title "was a joke on the uncommerciality of [the album]. It was anything but music for the masses!"[10]

Cover art[edit]

The megaphone (or its iconic representation) on the album's cover was used during the breadth of the album's release: at press events, on the covers of the album's singles, and during the tour. Alan Wilder gave credit to Martyn Atkins, who had been a longtime Depeche Mode collaborator, for the use of the megaphone. "[Martyn came] up with this idea of a speaker, but, to give the kind of ironic element which the title has, to put this speaker in a setting which wasn't really to do with the masses at all. It was, in fact, the opposite. So you end up with this kind of eerie thing where you get these speakers or megaphones in the middle of a setting that doesn't suit it at all, like a desert or whatever."[8] The deserted natural setting in question was the Peak District.[11]

An early alternative cover was rejected for the album. The rejected cover was also designed by Atkins and a test pressing copy was auctioned off by Wilder in 2011. It features a white-and-orange stylised design of the megaphone emitting sound waves.[12] This alternate artwork was planned to be used for a budget series of albums, but the project was scrapped.[13]


The tour began in October 1987 with a European leg, starting in Madrid and finishing mid-November in Paris. In early December, a North American run commenced in San Francisco and culminated three weeks later in New York City.

In January 1988, the group played an eleven-date U.K. tour, which was followed by further dates in Europe beginning in Hamburg, West Germany in early February. The leg wrapped up in Vienna in late March.

In April 1988, the group played four dates in Japan. This was followed later in the month by the start of a second North American leg, which began in Mountain View, California. The entire tour concluded mid-June with a concert at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, where the band performed in front of a sold out crowd of 60,453 people.


In 2006, Music for the Masses became one of the first Depeche Mode albums (along with Speak & Spell and Violator) to be released on a special two-disc SACD/CD Hybrid + DVD format, in the vein of their 2005 album Playing the Angel, which had a limited edition SACD + DVD release. The format was the same as Playing the Angel's, the first disc had a special digitally remastered version of the album, while the DVD had the album on three formats (PCM Stereo, 5.1 surround sound and DTS 5.1) plus bonus tracks, and a documentary on the album. The re-release preserves the album as it was originally intended. Thus, the four bonus tracks do not appear on the SACD, but appear on the DVD. The DVD also features all B-sides from the Music for the Masses era, but unlike the album and the bonus tracks, the B-sides are only available in PCM Stereo.

The documentary, a 37-minute short film titled Depeche Mode: 1987–88 (Sometimes You Do Need Some New Jokes), is an extensive look at the album, featuring commentary from a wide variety of people, including the current Depeche Mode, former member Wilder, producer David Bascombe, Daniel Miller, Daryl Bamonte, Atkins, Anton Corbijn, and others. The documentary features new facts on the album, and also an extensive look at the film 101.

The re-release was released on 3 April 2006 in Europe. The US version was delayed to 2 June 2006 and is only available on a CD + DVD format, with no SACD. The DVD on all the versions are region independent, but differ in television formats: PAL or NTSC. The remastered album was released on vinyl on 2 March 2007 in Germany and 5 March 2007 internationally.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
The Austin Chronicle[15]
Record Mirror[18]
Rolling Stone[19]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[20]
Spin Alternative Record Guide7/10[22]
The Village VoiceB+[23]

The album mostly received favourable reviews upon release. Robert Christgau complimented the abnormal road symbolism of the lyrics, particularly on "Little 15", and believed that apart from the sadomasochistic metaphors, Depeche Mode succeeded in turning "adolescent Weltschmerz into something catchy, sexy and seemingly significant".[24] NME's Jane Solanas felt Gore was "at his obsessive best" on Music for the Masses, particularly on "Never Let Me Down Again", which she called "an intriguing masterpiece, combining homo-eroticism with drug euphoria."[25] In a less enthusiastic review, Paul Mathur from Melody Maker was ambivalent towards the group's more mature, minimalist aesthetic and said although they had departed from their simpler pop sound, the record was "seamless, fluid, and, once the lights are out, particularly dull."[26]

In a retrospective review, Q magazine found the narratives on Music for the Masses to be among Depeche Mode's most uncertain and contemplative, and that most of its songs were "real diamonds in the darkness ... this was the point at which Depeche Mode were first taken seriously."[17] Slant Magazine's Sal Cinquemani said that Music for the Masses showed the gloomier side of the "post-punk synthpop" scene during the 1980s and was a success with both critics and consumers.[27] Alternative Press called the record "articulate, intricate electronic music that lacked the tinny feel of DM's early synth pop".[28] Music for the Masses was listed by Slant Magazine at number 75 on their list of "Best Albums of the 1980s".[29] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[30]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Martin L. Gore, except where noted. All lead vocals by Dave Gahan, except where noted

Side one
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."Never Let Me Down Again" 4:47
2."The Things You Said"Gore4:02
3."Strangelove" 4:56
4."Sacred" 4:47
5."Little 15" 4:18
Side two
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
6."Behind the Wheel"
  • Gahan
  • Gore
7."I Want You Now"Gore3:44
8."To Have and to Hold" 2:51
9."Nothing" 4:18
10."Pimpf" (includes the hidden track "Interlude #1 (Mission Impossible)", starting at 4:18)instrumental; vocalization by Gore4:55
Total length:44:06
Bonus tracks on 1987 CD and cassette releases
11."Agent Orange"5:05
12."Never Let Me Down Again" (Aggro Mix)4:55
13."To Have and to Hold" (Spanish Taster)2:34
14."Pleasure, Little Treasure" (Glitter Mix)5:36
Total length:57:24
  • There is a 23-second pause in between "Pimpf" and "Interlude #1".
  • On the CD, there is also a 30-second pause in between "Interlude #1" and "Agent Orange", programmed as a pregap.
  • On some copies of the cassette the album is presented on side 1 with the four bonus tracks at the start of side 2.

2006 re-release[edit]

  • Disc one is a hybrid SACD/CD with a multi-channel SACD layer.
  • Disc two is a DVD containing Music for the Masses in DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 and PCM Stereo plus bonus material
Music for the Masses (DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 and PCM Stereo)
1."Never Let Me Down Again"4:47
2."The Things You Said"3:55
5."Little 15"4:14
6."Behind the Wheel"5:17
7."I Want You Now"3:28
8."To Have and to Hold"3:08
10."Pimpf" (includes the hidden track "Interlude #1 (Mission Impossible)", starting at 4:18)4:55
Short film
1."Depeche Mode 87–88 (Sometimes You Do Need Some New Jokes)"37:02
Bonus 5.1 audio mixes (DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 and PCM Stereo)
11."Agent Orange"5:31
12."Never Let Me Down Again" (Aggro Mix)4:58
13."To Have and to Hold" (Spanish Taster)2:36
14."Pleasure, Little Treasure" (Glitter Mix)5:38
Bonus tracks (in PCM Stereo)
11."Agent Orange" 5:05
12."Pleasure, Little Treasure" 2:53
13."Route 66"Bobby Troup4:11
14."Stjarna" 4:25
15."Sonata No.14 in C#m (Moonlight Sonata)"Ludwig van Beethoven5:36


Credits adapted from the liner notes of Music for the Masses.[31]

Depeche Mode[edit]



  • Martyn Atkins – design, photography
  • David Jones – design, photography
  • Mark Higenbottam – design, photography



Certifications for Music for the Masses
Region Certification Certified units/sales
France (SNEP)[53] Platinum 300,000*
Germany (BVMI)[54] Gold 250,000^
Sweden (GLF)[55] Gold 50,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[56] Gold 25,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[57] Silver 60,000^
United States (RIAA)[58] Platinum 1,000,000^

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


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External links[edit]