Tuesday 15 March 2016

Depeche Mode in the Beginning Private Tours - 1981

Why is the blog titled ' A Nobody's Diary? '

Obviously it's a play on words, in reverence to the 1983 YAZOO track 'Nobody's Diary'. I am not a 'somebody', I just happened to keep diaries that document certain events on certain dates regarding DEPECHE MODE and Yazoo amongst others and I was lucky to be included in that part of electronic musical history. A diary isn't written like an article, it documents comments written off the top of your head, but consigning to history your thoughts and actions on that day..... and what amazing days they were!

My diary - June 1981
The band were starting to get interest from music magazines.
 I particularly like this page as it mentions 'The Towngate', 'The Highway'
and 'Crocs' in Rayleigh where DM played live many times in their early days
Of course I had no idea at the time how privileged my peers and I were, having so much social freedom and by and large free access to so very much. We were far from being well off in a monetary sense, and remember, there wasn't internet, facebook or mobile phones to communicate through,  but there was word of mouth and a good networking sense amongst friends very keen to get together and enjoy music, fashion.... and beer! Those were the days also, when people didn't mind complete strangers coming to their homes for parties (Basildon was largely brand new council housing
so parents weren't so property mindful) and we'd often spend a night in various pubs nursing one or two beers but happy to just be with mates. The best pub at the time was "The Highway". It played an eclectic mix of music and all sorts of groups would go in there, mods, skinheads, new romantics and even some of the local 'hard nuts'.

Crocs/Pink Toothbrush is about ten miles away from Basildon in another town.

So what topic to have as a theme for the first blog?

It has to be the town where I grew up, still live and where one of the biggest bands in the world grew up. It's been two years since I started giving " Depeche Mode In the Beginning Private Tours (of Basildon) - 1981"  I thought a blog would be a good vehicle to elaborate on the tour and provide some background and answers to the questions I get asked most frequently.

How did it all start?

Author Jonathan Miller's book which prompted
 the first Depeche Mode Tour of Basildon
The timing was perfect. My life had been being a full time mum but my children were now in school so I had some time to myself. The author Jonathan Miller was writing the DM book ' STRIPPED '.  I wasn't on facebook at the time and my friend Ashley contacted me saying Jonathan was looking for me in particular. We chatted a lot on the phone and then he came to my home to talk in more detail about Basildon, DM's early days and to select photographs from my private collection for the publication. I then offered to give him a tour of the relevant places - so without realising it, this would be my first Private Tour!

The plus side of getting in touch with Jonathan was that it made me get up in the loft and rediscover all the memorabilia I'd had kept for years relating to DM, Yazoo and THE ASSEMBLY - for which future blogs are planned. I was amazed by what I had up there, all long forgotten but very appreciated! Lovingly taken back in time. Sadly not all the emotional floodgates were welcome. The downside was that it brought back memories of my mother's death, as losing my wonderful mum to a brain tumour happened at exactly the same time as the beginning of a relationship with VINCE CLARKE. The overwhelming grief was severe and shocking in it's resurgence. The next few months were probably the most exciting times of my life but ironically the very worst too.

Dennis and Sascha outside Basildon Railway station.
About to take a Private Tour while researching 'Monument'
I then gave tours to Dennis Burmeister and Sascha Lange who were compiling the brilliant and comprehensive 'MONUMENT' DM book at the time and others who were recommended to me, like the wonderful Harpist MICHAL MATEJCIK. He was in London performing with 'George Michael' on his world tour. Michal is such a lovely man, a huge DM fan and he performs DM covers. MARTIN GORE requested he play as support to DM at an event at the start of the Delta Machine tour in Vienna in March 2013.

What is the population of Basildon?

Postcard of Basildon sent to me while working at
Butlins - 1980
It's only non UK tour takers who ask this question and it's always one of the first to be asked - it's not something we Brits are particularly interested in. Basildon is growing daily, new housing being built all the time, but sadly taking all the lovely green areas that I remember so vividly from my childhood. I've lived in Basildon since I was born. The town centre didn't exist then and it was a brilliant place to grow up in, so clean and modern. My parents came from Dagenham (East end of London) like so many for employment and new housing. My generation didn't realise how lucky we were then to have brand new schools and so much freedom. The DM book ' JUST CAN'T GET ENOUGH'  by Simon Spence explains in more detail and is a great read. To answer the question however I can only get official figures from the census of 2001 quoting 166,000 but that's 15 years ago of course.

Do you know DM personally and why do you take the tours?

The innocent early days - my family home in
Basildon and where I replied to DM fan letters
I am amazed when I find out that some people book a tour not realising I have the history to back it up. I was Vince's girlfriend from 1981 for four years and so I ran the first 'DM Information Service' with Jo Fox and Anne Swindell, who were Dave's and Martin's girlfriends at the time. I then ran the Yazoo Fan Club and answered letters about The Assembly, for the short time Vince and ERIC RADCLIFFE (Owner of Blackwing Studios and Producer on many of MUTE's early recordings) worked on the project.

I really enjoy taking fans on the tours and the payback for me, apart from witnessing the obvious joy they bring to the fans is that every tour brings back more and more memories that can be shared - so win win for all. I almost feel a duty to share my memories and I also it occurred to me that someone is going to organise tours one day so it might as well be me for the right reasons.

It was incredulous to me that so many of the original buildings in the history are still standing over 35 years later, the only casualties are ANDREW FLETCHER's primary school and Vince's senior school, both have succumbed to new housing. All the other primary and senior schools are still there, albeit with new names for the most part.

How many points of interest are there and how long does a Tour take?

Section of an interview with DM in Smash Hits magazine - 1981
Vince talking about 'Composition of Sound'
There are over 20 places to see. A personal favourite is the hall where my friend Nikki and I held a party - any excuse for a bash in those days and this was a little farewell as I was going to work at a Butlins holiday camp for the summer.

The pre DM three piece 'COMPOSITION OF SOUND'  played. Dave hadn't joined the band at this point. I still have a ticket for the party, designed by Nik and the only one still in existence. It is precious to me as it features a photo of my mum and sister. I also kept a review of the performance that was written in a local fanzine in 1980 by my brother. Sadly I don't have any photos of the live COS performance, and as far as I'm aware none were ever taken by the party goers, there was a leak at the hall and I was sorting it out! These and other precious pieces like handwritten lyrics to 'Dreaming of Me ' by DAVE GAHAN can be viewed in full on a tour.

Rare ticket of The Paddocks party
where pre DM 'Composition of Sound' played live.
There is the flat where ALISON MOYET came to demo Yazoo's debut hit 'Only You' with Vince after he announced his departure from DM and the pub where Martin Gore played guitar on a tiny stage in a local pub with a previous band. Even the petrol station where Dave earned some cash while he was in College and the newsagent where Andy and Steve collected their newspapers on their bikes to get some pin money are pointed out on a tour.

My Diary - May 3rd 1981
A nice dedication from Vince.
The largest club in Basildon from the 1960's till the 1990's was 'Raquels'. I'd been going there since I was a youngster, Saturday mornings were spent sliding across the dance floor in my socks. Then young teen years pretending to be 18 to frequent the disco nights in the mid 1970's with my girlfriends. Luckily i.d. wasn't needed in those days, just a qick bit of maths to work out the appropiate birth date if asked. Many successful bands played there through the decades and DM were booked to play for the
 first time on May 3rd 1981. They'd released
 their debut single 'Dreaming of Me' and the band were getting music press interest.

Yazoo also played live there for two nights on the duo's only tour in 1982. The building is still there but is sadly a dilapidated snooker hall now.

Poster for DM's gig at Sweeneys
28th April - 1981
'Sweeneys' was the other main club situated in Basildon Town Centre and the first to host a gig for DM. A lot smaller than Raquels, but it was much more intimate. It was a downstairs disco and a favourite of the soul and disco crowd. It was situated right next door to The Highway pub. It's long gone and is now home to a Solicitors.

The 'Towngate' bar as mentioned previously was a much more subdued drinking hole preferred by Martin, Andy and Vince in the early days. The building was later knocked down to make way for development and the new Towngate Theatre was built to replace it. I remember being in there for Vince's 21st birthday drink up and then holding a surprise party for him at my parents house. Can still visualise the band and friends all jumping up from behind the furniture when we came in the room!                     

Outside Dave Gahan's former family
 home.  Monika from Estonia,
 Ina and  Mario from Germany



I am very conscious that the people who now live in homes previously occupied by the band growing up are not pestered in any way. One household told me that fans had actually knocked on the door one Christmas Day!
 There was one instance where a very lucky fan and I were outside Andy's family home and the home owner came along just at that moment. She kindly invited us into the house as her husband was decorating and having stripped the wallpaper had found Andy's dads initials and a date in the late 1970's on the wall! This was a common custom back then. What timing indeed and we were so very lucky to see that before the new wallpaper went up.
It also brings a smile to my face when I remember that my husband and I actually went to look at Martin Gore's house when his parents were selling up and moving on. My father-in-law worked with Martin's dad and so gave us an early viewing. We eventually chose another property as the parking was better.

One of the points fans mention is that they are surprised how close Martin, Andy and Vince lived to each other. Short walking distance and in Vince and Martin's case - literally a stone's throw away from each other!

A week after The Paddocks party - the first gig under the
 name of Depeche Mode and Dave's debut.
I get nice surprises too. Recently giving a tour on a weekend it was possible to go into the school hall where DM played on the stage in 1980. There is a plaque on the wall, sadly the only one in Basildon that commemorates  anything DM. A dance class was booked in so I asked the lady in charge if we could pop into the hall. After explaining the reason to her she said that she had known a girl that had been a girlfriend of Vince Clarke in the early 80's as she had been a neighbour to her family briefly at that time. Of course it was me she was referring to!

Daryl Bamonte pictured at The Paddocks party
 with friend Brian Denny who took part in the
unofficial DM video 'Random Access Memory'

                                                                               This school was attended by Martin, Andy, Alison and the Bamonte brothers. PERRY BAMONTE was a member of THE CURE at one  point and DARYL BAMONTE was DM's roadie, then a manager and of course played live when Andy was taken ill. Daryl was not however a member of SILICONE TEENS as some people tend to assume!

Before the band and success....
Dave, Nik and I and a couple of photo bombers

Dave was from a different area of Basildon to the others and he and I went to the same school, although my attendance record was a lot better than his! We went to a lot of the same pubs, clubs and parties - party people who went to gigs, very much into music and fashion. Dave was a proper lad with the lads but my memory of him at that time was of a shy, sensitive boy. I really loved Dave but those were the days when girls didn't ask boys out so I was more than happy just to be mates.
I remember we were having coffee in my kitchen and he said Vince had asked him to be the front man in his band.... I said to go for it.

Coming clean now Dave and admitting.... I was the one that sent that secret valentines card in 1980!

Andreas Noreen - Avid Swedish DM collector
outside one of the Churches where the band
practised in the early '80's

Vince, Martin and Andy were all from the same area of
Basildon. The church and especially the 'Fellowship' were a very important part of their lives at that time. Vince had come away from religion when we started dating so I was never a part of that particular circle and it's not one that I would have entertained either. It's here I have to thank Andy's lifelong friend Steve Burton for filling in the blanks for me.

There are two churches that are significant, one for being where they used to meet for prayer and singing together with friends. Anne was an integral part of the group and she introduced them to the other church which her parents were involved in. It was booked for band practise - making the most of the excellent acoustics the building afforded.

There is a road named 'The Gore' in Basildon - nothing
to do with Martin' family though.....

A tour is usually three hours and I usually pick people up from Basildon railway station (approx. 35 minutes from London Fenchurch Station ) or they can park outside my house and we go from there. It's mainly driving around stopping for photographs and there is a bit of walking too as some parts of the tour are pedestrian only. The family homes of Anne and myself where the fledgling 'DM Information Service' was organised, Jo was based in Billericay, an adjoining town to Basildon.

I also include an opportunity to see some of my various memorabilia collections consisting of  personal and rare professional photographs, backstage passes, music magazines, the original DM and Yazoo fan club letters from the early 1980's. This is at least another half hour but usually a lot longer with a coffee included.

I'm proud that my tours are an individual experience. No tour is the same as people ask me all sorts of different questions and some of the buildings are accessible only on certain days.
I do urge people who are contemplating booking a tour to not dither - I generally book tours to fit in with people visiting London. Life is unpredictable, I'm getting older by the day and you never know when the chance could be gone!

Please contact me through the Private Tour facebook page or via
email DMpersonaltour@gmail.com for prices and booking arrangements.

I am also looking forward to participate in a Q & A session at the DM fan event in Berlin on May 13th - 16th.       http://www.dmtreffen.de/ for tickets and details of the activities taking place.

Here are the links to my various facebook pages.

Depeche Mode in the Beginning - Private Tour

Depeche Mode Information Service 1981

Yazoo Fan Club 1982

The Assembly


  1. Brilliant blog Deb. Even though I knew quite a lot of what you'd written already it was still a very interesting read. I'm looking forward to seeing more in the future. Keep it up !

  2. Welcome to the world of blogging Deb. Great to see this and I look forward to future articles.

  3. Great! Thanks for sharing it.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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