Keith Richards. Jimmy Page. Nikki Sixx. Rock monoliths, the lot of them, with the common theme being that they were all one-man narcotic factories. Overdoses didn't stop them, and in the case of Motley Crue's Sixx, went home to overdose again after being released from the ER. Impressive, but let's be fair, twattish. Should such a pub conversation ever take place about these drugged-out rock Gods, the same names will always pop up. But not Dave Gahan's, mainly thanks to Depeche's outsider profile.
There was nothing special about Dave's drug use. It's more a case that it took a decade to get to it and then perfect immediately. The first ten years of Depeche featured regular, but restrained, casual drug use. It was only after 1990's landmark Violator album hit paydirt that it all hit the fan in many ways.
A quick recap: Following the Black Celebration tour, Depeche served up Music For the Masses in 1987, offering up a less claustrophobic affair that also widened their symphonic and rock scope. Only a bit, mind. It also resulted in a bigger world tour that saw them sell out California's Rosebowl Stadium, an event documented in their "101" live/album/vid/DVD/whatever, and something that no-one from Basildon had ever done before or ever will again. It was probably as good as it was going to get.
Except it didn't, because 1990 saw the release of the critically acclaimed Violator and a little incident in West Hollywood:
Insert "LA couldn't organise a signing in a record shop" joke here. Whether it was a riot is open to speculation, but it probably gave the Fuzz good practice for two years later. It also proves that Anericans can find 10 defferent ways of saying "Depeche".
So, Violator, then. Big album, big tour, bigger success. The only way to cope with all of this is to become a bona fide Rock Star, do lots of drugs or go a little bit nuts. Or all of the above if you fancy, with gallstones. It was probably bad luck that the everyman Rock Grunge scene kicked in just after, giving Gahan access to new tattoo ideas and a case-load of heroin. I blame it on the Janes Addiction PR girl becoming Gahan's second wife. What follows is a generalised transformation:
Granted, the latter photo doesn't give the impression of a heroin addict, but it's not the cherub from 1981 either. Either way, there are a couple of pix hidden here and there that give a better idea of Gahan's lifestyle at the time.
This makes 1993's Songs of Faith and Devotion a painful listen looking back. A great record that leapt a huge distance from previous efforts, it was a quasi-goth-rock-gospel-techno beast with Gahan entering into full Rock God status.
In Your Room, (Songs of Faith and Devotion, 1993)
By spring 1996, Gahan had become a complete Junkie, had all contents of his house nicked during a second stint in rehab, slashed his wrists on at least two known occasions, and had one major overdose that was only avoided thorugh a Nikki Sixx-friendly "Kickstart My Heart". This may sound all very normal in the field of rock excess, but it just seems bizarre and surreal when you consider they happily managed without it for a decade previously. As for the rest of the band, Martin Gore drunk too much but found it easy to quit. Andy Fletcher feel into depression and missed four months of a tour for a pleasant stay in hospital, while Alan Wilder got the aforemetioned gallstones. He then quit the band shortly after. Well, wouldn't you?
I'll come back to this little history at the end. Album reviews tomorrow - Yay!