1981-04-28 Sweeneys, Basildon, England, UK

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Notes

Seymour Stein, co-founder of Sire Records, has attended this concert. He has written in his autobiography 'Siren Song'[1]:

"In the early hours of April 28, 1981, I was wide awake in bed, reading a copy of NME, when one review glowed in the dark. Its headline read 'Basildon à la Mode' and profiled a new English group named after French fashion magazine 'Depeche Mode'. This was the kind of reading that'd usually slip you into the Land of Nod, but what kept me up all night was the name of their producer, Daniel Miller, the guy I'd first met in Rough Trade three years before. Since then, I'd released his second record, under the name Silicon Teens, a pretend group that was all his work. It hadn't sold much either, but I thought the guy had brilliant ideas. It was about 2AM, but alarm bells were ringing. I knew enough about Daniel Miller to know that if he was taking the giant leap from artist to producer, this new group had to be exceptional. The other detail that gave me the heebie-jeebies was the date of the article. I'd just picked up whatever was next to my bed, but when I examined the cover, this copy of NME was three weeks old - an eternity in A&R time. So, at 10AM English time, I called my man in London, Paul McNally, to find out if Depeche Mode's American rights had been signed. He called me back saying that no, America was still up for grabs and that Depeche Mode were playing that night in some nightclubs in Essex, about an hour east of London. I called up British Airways and booked a seat on the next Concord - eight grand, an obscene amounth of cash in those days, but I smelled something cooking. With the five-hour time difference, it was already evening in England when my flight landed. Paul was waiting in arrivals and drove us straight to Basildon, a dead suburb where we had to ask directions to the concrete box of discotheque called Sweeney's. In the crowd of about two hundred kids, I saw Daniel Miller standing behind the mixing desk; he was the gig's soundman. There wasn't even a dressing room, and the boys were getting changed in a stairwell, where I dropped by to say hello. This was their local nightclub, they hadn't even put out a single yet, and here I was, in their teenage eyes a powerful record executive who'd just flown in from New York City by Concorde. God knows what they were thinking. They got up and launched into what I can only describe as an electronic cabaret show. At that time, there were a few synth acts out, notably Gary Numan, who'd hit it big time with his 1980 smash 'Cars'. There was Visage, OMD, and others, but any time I'd seen any of these so-called new romantics in concert, I couldn't keep my eyes open. Synthesizers created impressive soundscapes on record, but keeping a crowd bopping for over an hour is a very different business. To my delight, Depeche Mode weren't standing around looking enigmatic in heavy makeup; they had bubbling rhythms, singable tunes, and a dancing singer who put in the effort to entertain his crowd. I looked around and thought, 'If all these Essex kids are dancing like this all night, then surely Depeche Mode could be big all over England.' Of course, there's only so much you can take in when you see a band for the first time, especially when you've just stepped off a plane and haven't slept in two days. I'd love to be able to say that I had visions of Depeche Mode selling out football stadiums across the world. I didn't. I mean, you really couldn't. They were four teenagers poking synths in a dump in the English suburbs. Getting on Top Of The Pops was probably the sum total of their own wildest fantasies. Truth is, when I booked that plane ticket, I was banking on Daniel Miller. Deep down, I just knew he and his Mute label were headed for major success. Sometimes it's bands, sometimes it's the people behind them, and if you're very lucky, it's both."

He also said in Simon Spence's DM biography:

"[...] I said: Daniel, I want to sign this band. Rod Buckle was there. We did a deal right there. I was very excited. I knew I had signed a band that would become very important. I just felt it in my gut. I remember feeling so good about it."

Andy Fletcher said in the March 1993 issue of American 'Raygun' Magazine:

"Seymour Stein supported us from the very beginning. He was actually there before Stevo [Some Bizarre] and Daniel. He came to see us in some small club in Basildon. Here was this big U.S. record company president that signed the Talking Heads and the Pretenders coming to this small club that held about 150 people. We didn't even have a dressing room. We had to meet him on the stairway. He signed us from that first single.[2] He's quite an incredible character. Warner Bros has been really good for us [in America]."

Martin Gore said in the documentary for the Speak and Spell remaster DVD in 2006:

Martin: "We were really shocked that someone from New York would bother to come all the way to Basildon to see us."

Daryl Bamonte in Steve Malins' Depeche Mode biography:

"He came to Sweeney's disco in Basildon in late April '81. This New York guy who'd discovered Madonna - he came to Basildon! Sweeney's wasn't a very leftfield kind of place. It was a full-on Basildon disco but the manager of the place realised Depeche Mode were happening. The band love characters and Seymour Stein was a riot. I remember he took us out for a Chinese dinner and held court with all these fantastic stories about the music business. He became very fond of the group and felt very involved in them, although once they became big the Warner Brothers machine started to take over."

Vince Clarke remembers in Jonathan Miller's biography:

"When Daniel was sorting out different deals for us in Europe, Mute wanted to get an American deal, so Seymour flew over to a gig in Basildon. He said, 'By the way I like that song 'The Price Of Love' that you do - it's REALLY good!'"

DJ Ian Ritchie was the support act.

References

  1. Thanks to Simon Sanders for having supplied photos of this book excerpt in Facebook group Depeche Mode UK.
  2. In a large interview done by German Welt newspaper and Musikexpress magazine in 2011, Daniel Miller said that when the album came out, "[Stein] liked what he saw, thought "Speak & Spell" was great and so we were negotiating about the conditions under which he would release the album in America. Nevertheless I got into a complete panic about the possibility that Seymour might have heard about Vince's departure. Thankfully Vince agreed to not make his departure public until the album was out on the market and the tour was finished."