Synth Britannia (2009) - full transcript

Following a generation of post-punk musicians who went to form successful electronic bands in the 70s and 80s and had a profound impact on present day music.

This programme contains
some strong language.


Welcome to a time when there
were no guitars and no drums,
just synthesisers.

It was the 1970s.

The place was Britain, and
our heroes were a maverick bunch

of young pioneers, obsessed
by Kraftwerk and science fiction.

All across the country, these
synthetic dreamers would imagine

the very sound of the future -

And by the '80s, their dreams
would become a reality,
as Britain went synth-pop.

Welcome to a time
when machines ruled the world.

# I stand still stepping
on the shady streets

# And I watch that man to a stranger

# You think you only know me
when you turn on the light

# Now the room is lit with danger

# Complicating, circulating
new life

# New life

# Operating, generating

# New life, new life. #


By the 1970s,
we were living in the future.

Our cities were going space age.

MUSIC: "William Tell Overture"
by G Rossini

Victorian slums had been
torn down and replaced by
ultra-modern concrete high-rises.

also looked to the future.

Our cinema and television screens
were full of tantalising glimpses

of a future
that seemed just around the corner.

Released in 1971, Stanley Kubrick's
Clockwork Orange was a futuristic

and violent vision of concrete
Britain that captured the zeitgeist.

The film's soundtrack was composed
by American synth pioneer Walter,
now Wendy, Carlos.

It would have a profound effect on
a generation of would-be musicians.

That was probably a lot of people's
maybe first time they'd
heard electronic music,

on the score to that film.
It made me forever associate

classical music with people
getting their heads kicked in,

which is kind of a bit strange.

The soundtrack to Clockwork Orange -
fantastic synth sounds in that.

Big Moog synthesiser
that Wendy Carlos used.

And there were all orchestrated.

Well, Wendy, who then said she was
Walter, I never quite worked out

what was going on there, was an
absolute inspiration, you know.

The first time we had ever heard
that sort of absorbent synth

bass sound...just raved about it.

Some of the people who would
be future post-punk people,
would listen to the three or four

original compositions that Carlos did
on that soundtrack that were much
more sinister and foreboding.

There was a kind of linkage made
there between those sounds and

the idea of a cold future, a bleak
future, and that probably sunk quite
deeply into the psyche of a lot

of young musicians at that time.

For a generation of
electronic dreamers,

Carlos's sound track would offer
a glimpse of an
alienated synthetic future.

But the true divine spark

would arrive on our
television screens in 1975.

Tomorrow's World gave Britain
its first glimpse of Kraftwerk,

a German band who played
only electronic instruments.


They would invade our shores
later the same year.

We played
one of our first gigs in 1975
of our English tour in Liverpool.

The Wings Over Britain tour was
playing the same night in the town.

That was also the reason why
our hall was only half crowded.

# Wir fahr'n fahr'n fahr'n
auf der Autobahn

# Fahr'n fahr'n fahr'n
auf der Autobahn. #

All of our posters were stuck right
next to the posters of the Wings,

so it made us proud
of course, you know.

# Die Fahrbahn ist ein graues Band

# Weisse Streifen, gruener Rand. #

Amazingly they came to Liverpool
in October of '75,

and I sat in seat Q36

and witnessed the
first day of rest of my life.

'75 was all the era of long hair and
flared trousers and guitar solos.

And these guys all came
out in suits and ties.

Two of them looked like they were
playing electronic tea trays
with wired-up knitting needles.

And I was just...blown away.
It really, it was incredible.

We had no long hair,
we didn't wear blue jeans.

We had suits on, grey suits.
Short hair, you know.

And we looked like the...

children of Wernher von Braun
or Werner von Siemens.

We saw ourselves
as engineer musicians, like that,

instead of dancing, a voice on stage
to arouse the girls, you know.

The interesting thing afterwards,
there was a knock at our
backstage door.

It was a band. They were called
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark.

And the leader, Andy McCluskey,
was really astonished and happy

that he was meeting us in person.

And he said, "You know, guys,
you have shown us the future!

"This is it! We throw away
our guitars tomorrow
and buy all synthesisers."

In terms of inspiring people to
not just have a synthesiser
in their rock band,

but to be completely electronic,

I think you can never underestimate
the impact of Kraftwerk.

Trans-Europe Express had the
same impact on the synth-pop

as anarchy in the UK had on people
who wanted to be punk rockers.

'Next year, Kraftwerk hope to
eliminate the keyboards altogether

'and build jackets with electronic
lapels which can be played
by touch.'

In British music
in the mid '70s,
the synth was a remote beast.

Although they would
become much cheaper later

in the decade, a synthesiser then
could cost as much as a small house.

They were associated
with rich and technically gifted
progressive musicians.

Until punk came along,
you had to be Keith Emerson.

If you wanted to be in a band, you
had to have learned your instrument
for at least eight or nine years

before you would dare
come out and play it.

And it was simply the inspiration
of The Damned and The Clash...

..that said, get up and do it,
you know.

Do your best. If it's crap, maybe
the simplicity will get you through.

Whilst the music didn't concern
itself with synthesisers,
the attitude of the punk movement

would inspire those with
an interest in electronic music
to do it themselves.

# Oh

# White riot - I wanna riot

# White riot - a riot of my own

# White riot - I wanna riot

# White riot - a riot... #

All the infrastructure around
punk we absolutely loved.

It's just that the actual music we
saw as being quite old-fashioned.

And I think they had been
a bit of a one-trick pony.

So what we did was, we took the
attitudes of punk and give it

a different context, ie, let's make
music that nobody's heard before.

Across the country, small pockets of
experimentation surfaced, inspired
primarily by punk and Kraftwerk.

We were in my studio at home
in south-east London.

One day I opened my e-mail inbox,
there were 10 e-mails from a very

disparate bunch of people saying,

you've got to go to eBay now
and buy this.

What was Kraftwerk's
original vocoder,

which was being sold on eBay.
And it was the one
that was used on Autobahn.

I thought, well, this is the
equivalent for a guitarist of getting

Jimi Hendrix's guitar that was
used on Purple Haze or something.


# TVOD... #

I first got a synthesiser in...1977.

And I bought a second-hand Korg 700S
from Macari's Music Shop

in Charing Cross Road.

The thing that pissed me off about
punk was you had to learn three
chords to be in a punk band.

If you had a synthesiser,
all you had to do was
press one key with a finger.

# I don't need a TV screen

# I just stick the aerial

# Into my skin. #

Advances in technology in the late
'70s heralded the invention

of the affordable synth, costing
no more than an electric guitar.

Daniel Miller used his to form
The Normal, an experimental act
that supported punk groups.

Miller drew on the work
of English author JG Ballard

whose Crash was another
futuristic vision of Britain.

# Warm

# Leatherette

# Warm

# Leatherette... #

I'd just broken up with a girlfriend
who I was very much in love with.

And a friend of mine said,
read this book. And I read it,

and it really had a huge...

I'm using all these puns,
like impact.

But it did have a huge impact.

# See the breaking glass
in the underpass... #

It wasn't like science fiction
in the sense it was outer space
and stuff like that.

It felt like it was five minutes
into the future, and I loved
that aspect of it,

the fact it was so outrageous,
but so possible at the same time.

# Leatherette... #

Warm Leatherette by The Normal.
The Normal was the alias of
Daniel Miller.

# Hear the crashing steel... #

The lyrics are just a precis
of some of the concepts in Crash,

Ballard's novel, which was
about people who have
car accidents and find that

thereafter their sexuality has been
diverted and they are obsessed with
being turned on by car crashes.

So you had the lyric like, "The hand
brake penetrates your thigh - quick,
let's make love before you die."

# Warm

# Leatherette... #

The music was supposed to be visual.

You know, like driving along
a highway with big buildings either
side and going into a tunnel.

There's quite a lot
of humour in it really.

It wasn't meant be apocalyptic
or dystopian.

Miller was one of Britain's first
synth poets. And he wasn't alone.

In the north of England,
a bunch of computer programmers
dreamt of a similar feature.

We loved JG Ballard.

In fact, Roxy had a song, To HB,
about Humphrey Bogart.

And we had a song, 4JG,
which was about JG Ballard.

The Future were a bunch
of sci-fi nerds from Sheffield.

They formed in '77
and played only synthesisers.

When I bought my Korg 700S

it was the first time there
was a monophonic synthesiser

which you could do stuff with,
which was kind of domestic level,
entry level, in terms of price.

It was £350, I think.

And I remember distinctly
thinking at the time -

I with a computer operator -
there was a decision day

where it was either buy a
second-hand car and learn to drive,

or go and buy
this monophonic synthesiser.

And that proved to be quite
a fateful day, because
I still can't drive.

But I've still got that synthesiser.

This is a Mini-Korg 700S, and was
the first affordable synth.

Fantastic machine.
Completely eccentric.

# Listen to voice of Buddha... #

They give you a book
of patches with it.

Because it was Japanese,
there would be things like
Synthy Cat or Funny Frog.

And you can't follow why it's doing
what it does, but it sounds great.

Usually with a synthesiser, you
can get it to do something for you.

You don't have to be manually
good at all.

That was why we turned to them
in the first place,

cos no-one could learn
how do the guitars either.

We'd all tried. My brother's a great
guitarist and he tried to teach me.

It just hurts your hand.
So we use these things.

You can press a switch on, and
they'll do things for about ten
minutes. It's quite interesting.

If you've got a tape recorder, you
can put it down, put something next
to it and it will sound all right.

# ..Doesn't mean
that she's your better... #

The day that I joined the band,
Martyn came round my house and he
had two records under his arm.

One was Trans-Europe Express,
and one was I Feel Love.
And he said, "Look, WE can do this."

I think that was his actual phrase.

MUSIC: "I Feel Love"
by Donna Summer

We loved all that stuff. The concept
albums that Giorgio Moroder did
with Donna Summer.

# One, two, three, four, five. #

We used to play those continuously.

This wasn't some kind
of post-gay ironic thing.

It's because they sounded
great and interesting.

You were never really sure
what the next set of sounds
coming up was going to be.

I Feel Love just didn't sound like
any record that had been before.

It came on the radio,
and you couldn't quite believe
what you were hearing.

It was hypnotic, but it was driving.

# It's so good... #

Moroder's mood music
was the disco single of '77.

Its success would set the template
for the future of the future.

# I'm in love
I'm in love, I'm in love... #

We were in fact much more influenced
by Moroder than we were by Kraftwerk.

Everyone...ever since anyone that
knows we used synths, "Oh,
you sound like Kraftwerk, don't you?"

We use the same instruments, so some
of the sounds are a bit the same.

But we never really wanted to be
Kraftwerk, we wanted to be
a pop band.

We wanted to...

embody a sense of futurism

without being so literal.

It just so happened a friend of
ours, he had bought for him this

science-fiction board game
called Star Force.

And it was prodigiously tedious.

It was real geek stuff.

It was impenetrable.
You couldn't play it.

There was The Rise Of The
Human League, or something.

And I thought, The Human League,
that is such a cool name.

# No future, they say... #

The Human League set out to make
electronic pop for the modern city.

# The city is human

# Blind youth take hope
You're no Joe Soap

# Your time is due
Big fun come soon

# We've had it easy
We should be glad

# High-rise living's not so bad... #

The Human League have a totally
different spin on synthesisers

where it was much more like this
bright technocratic

optimism thing.
In fact, in one of their early songs,

Blind Youth, they make fun of people
who go on about dehumanisation.

# Dehumanisation

# Is such a big word

# It's been around

# Since

# Richard the Third

# Dehumanisation

# Is easy to say

# But if you're not a hermit

# You know the city's OK. #

I'd say most of the brightness
came from Martyn.

Martyn's very optimistic,
and if anyone's moaning about

anything, Martyn will go and write
a song in the opposite direction.

I think I felt a bit gloomy about
the concrete jungle and everything,

which is ridiculous,
cos I'm a townie.

I gravitate towards concrete...

If you put me in the country, I
would find the nearest town and I'll
be sitting in a bar quite quickly.

# Blind youth take hope
You're no Joe Soap

# Your time is due
Big fun come soon... #

Unfortunately, British pop music
wasn't quite ready

for a synth-led group
of futurists...just yet.

But in 1978, The Human League
weren't the only group experimenting
with electronics in Sheffield.

This is the old
Psalter Lane art college,

which used to be part of
Sheffield Polytechnic in the 1970s.

I believe The Human League also
played this very place

for their first-ever
live show in Sheffield.

Cabaret Voltaire
did perform in this very room.

Yeah, we just thought
there was nothing for us.

It was all kind of bloated
super groups

and progressive bands

who weren't even from the
same kind of social backgrounds.

They were probably
public school educated,

whereas most of the scene
in Sheffield was pretty solid
working class.

You'd find little bits of interest
interesting music within perhaps

some of the prog rock stuff
where there'd be a weird little
synth break.

But then once you kind of started
to discover all the German bands,

you realised that there were entire
albums that were made of electronics.

Whilst The Human League
dreamt of pop, Cabaret Voltaire

were anything but, using electronics
to explore Sheffield, a city torn
between the past and the future.

I remember watching loads
of science fiction things

in the '60s, like Doctor Who
and things like Quatermass.

And all these kinds of strange
things seemed to happen

in old gasworks
or industrial environments.

There was an
other-worldliness about it.

You might see an alien
or a giant blob creeping
across the floor,

glowing bright green
from radioactivity.

# Nag nag nag

# Nag nag nag. #

A very arty group.
Obviously their name echoes Dada.

They were really into
William Burroughs and ideas
like control and surveillance.

They actually used quite a lot
of guitar,

but it was so heavily processed,
it didn't sound like
rock 'n' roll guitar.

It sounded more like a synthesiser.

They also put
synthesising-type effects

on the voice, which is probably one
of the most disturbing things
they did.

You have a guy singing, but it sounds
more like a dalek than a human being.

At night-time, you'd hear distant
booming noises with which would

probably be something like
a drop forge or steam hammer
or something.

You certainly knew that you were
on the edge of heavy industry.

Everything in their music
is alienated.

The music that comes from people
who are divorced from natural life,
any natural rhythms.

The music for a hostile environment.

If I've ever been asked to explain
that movement, I always call it
the "alienated synthesists".

Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire,
Joy Division who were up a little
bit less obviously synthy...

was sort of like that.

We were all going around in
long coats from second-hand shops

and saying how terrible things
were, with a synth.

Across the Pennines, another pocket
of alienated synthesists dreamt

of an electronic future in the
spiritual home of British pop music.


We are in Mathew Street in
Liverpool, and I am actually standing
outside of the door to what used

to be Eric's Club, which is where
we played our first gig, where we
invented OMD to play at this place.

And it was the club
where we all used to come.

The Bunnymen and the Teardrops played
within a month of us
playing here as well.

This was the place I saw Devo
play their first English concert.

And all of the influential bands
that we could get to come to town

played here, apart from Kraftwerk who
played the big theatre down the road.

And then literally
ten yards away is the Cavern Club.

We've got Eric's and the Cavern right
across the road from each other.

When Paul and I started
being interested in electronic music,

we were very young.

We had no money.

And it was totally unrealistic
to think about getting the
big kind of keyboards you saw

on TV or on stage with some of
the keyboard players in the '70s.

My mother had
a Kays mail order catalogue,
and they had some synthesisers.

Our first Korg Micro-Preset
was bought from my mother's catalogue

for 36 weeks at £7.76 a week,
I seem to recall.

This was the first synth, and we'd
made the first two albums with this.

It's like, it's quite a basic synth.


Can you believe that's the record?!

# Enola Gay

# You should have stayed
at home yesterday

# Oh-oh, words can't describe

# The feeling and the way... #

The major record labels
largely ignored synth music,

forcing bands like OMD to look
to newly reformed indies instead.

In 1978, OMD would sign to Factory.
A movement of sorts
was beginning to coalesce.

I think the first wave of bands

that sort of came out of the closet
in a late '70s...

..we were all working
independently of each other.

There was no unified movement.

It didn't all start
in one club or one town.

There was no gang of people
who all had a manifesto

that we were going to do
the new British electronic music.

It was small pockets of people
in different parts of the country

who were independently obviously
listening to the same things.

I did make an electronic
drum machine, because I'd seen
Kraftwerk with their sticks.

So I thought, I can make one
of those. And so I did.

Some of the early synth drums was
this very Heath Robinson-looking box

with all these plates on there
with these sticks with wires

that we did the drums to

# Our one source of energy

# The ultimate discovery

# Electric blue for me

# Never more to be free... #

We were horrified
when Tony Wilson said, "What you do
is the future of pop."

Pop? We were experimental German
influenced. We are not pop at all!

How do you call us pop?
We were absolutely mortified.

We couldn't see it at all.

Totally by accident, Paul and I

and I guess others at the
time had distilled the electronic

experimentation and the glam pop of
Britain from just a few years and
earlier, into what was going to

become, which didn't seem at the
time, but what was going to become
the future of pop music.

By the start of 1979, the future of
pop music seemed a long way off,

as the combined efforts of The
Normal, OMD and The Human League
had failed to trouble the charts.

But dabbling in synthesisers was
becoming increasingly de rigueur.

Even for dyed in the wool punks.

At the other end of the East
Lancs Road, another Factory band,

who would become one of the greatest
electronic acts, were taking their
first synthetic steps.

The first synthesiser we had in
Joy Division was a little thing
called a Transcendent 2000.

I actually
built it from a load of components.

At the time I had insomnia,
I couldn't sleep very well.

So I used to get this magazine called
Electronics Today,

something like that,
and in it was this synthesiser.

And if you were to buy one in those
days it was incredibly expensive.

And we didn't have any money.
So I thought, this is really
cheap, it's only 200 quid,

how difficult can it be to build it?

And it was like...
Soldering components by hand.

It took
about two months of doing that.

And then it didn't
work incredibly well.


I remember we went to write a track
in the studio called Cargo,
in Rochdale.

And when we went it,
we found a little Woolworths organ

that you switched the battery power,
switched it on and it blew a fan.

You could play chord buttons on it.
So I was messing about with
these chord buttons.

And then Martin Hannah I think had
brought in a Solina string synth.

What? You can play more than
one note at a time on it!

So I got the organ and the

and hit these chord buttons,
and wrote Atmosphere,
a Joy Division track.

I seemed to write
it there in the studio.

# Walk in silence... #

I think we wrote the music

and then
Ian wrote the words that night.

Then we recorded the vocals the
next day. Which is amazing
when I think about it.

# See the danger

# Always danger

# Endless talking

# Life rebuilding

# Don't walk away... #

Whilst it
seemed the north had the lead in

post-punk synth pioneers, things
were also stirring down south.

John Foxx was the former
lead singer of Ultravox.

He worked in Shoreditch in London's
then unfashionable East End.



These modular synths were the
first generation really

of working synthesisers.

And then the companies decided
to make a cheap version of it
because no-one could afford these,

or very few people could afford them.

And they condensed all
that down into this.

London seemed
almost empty in the '70s.

I used to walk around the streets,
newspapers blowing around
and great concrete walls.

And everything seemed grittier

and lost somehow,
like we'd lost direction.

I'd wonder what that was about.

I wasn't angry about it any more,

as we were supposed to be as punks.

I just wanted to make music for it,
the kind of music that I could hear.

# Standing in the dark

# Watching you glow

# Lifting a receiver

# Nobody I know

# Underpass... #

Underpass, with the sodium lights and
you might be mugged.

Very '70s dystopian.

The spectral city.

# Now it's all gone

# World War something... #

This was the industrial bit of
London that had served the docks
and done some manufacturing

and both of which have gone.

It was like living in a Quatermass
movie because I realised and
discovered that underneath all of

this area are the plague pits where
the bodies

were thrown.

That inevitably leaks into your
music. That is why a lot of my music
is so dark, I think.

I come from Lancashire and
where did I end up? In a place even
more sinister.

# Underpass... #

Fox's music wasn't the only
synthetic portrait of
the '70s metropolis.

An experimental group of
artists, known as Throbbing Gristle,

had been forging their own
electronic industrial sounds

in their Death
Factory down the road in Hackney.

Grim. It was grim.

It was very run-down. The factory
was an old trouser factory and it
was near London Fields.

In the basement we
were level with the plague pits.

That is why it could
called the Death Factory.

There was still a lot of
antagonism leftover from,

I know it
sounds unbelievable, but post war.

There were still people there like
the park keeper who used to be
one of Moseley's brown shirts.

It sounds a cliche now
but at the time

we were trying to reflect the
sounds around us in some weird way.

Our studio was in like
an industrial area.

There were different
noises going on all the time.

We were trying to
reflect all these sounds

and the way they all come
together in this weird mishmash
of electronic experimental textures.

# Hot... #

We felt a kinship with a lot of
bands, especially Sheffield bands.

Yes, Cabaret Voltaire, those
people. But the kinship was the
fact that we were all independent.

Chris Carter in Throbbing
Gristle was a nut for

Tangerine Dream and
that kind of music

so there were hypnotic dreaming
electronic Throbbing Gristle tracks

that were pretty in a
funny sort of misshapen way.

I had the synths and because they
were homemade synths, they weren't
bought off the shelf,

they went Rolands and Korgs, they
sounded quite unique anyway. They
didn't sound like regular synths.

And then I built
this effects unit.

I saw this design in Practical
Electronics. You could combine
all the effects together

and put a guitar through
it or a voice or anything.

I started building these units
for Throbbing Gristle and called them

We were never punk. We are not punk.

We were an industrial
experimental music band.

Come 1979,
British electronic music was still
being ignored by mainstream labels.

So, Dan Miller, founded Britain's
first electronic indie, Mute,

to release recordings by kindred
spirit, Fad Gadget as well as
his own work.

I wasn't interested in rock music.
I really was only
interested in electronic music.

I thought that was
the future of where exciting music

was going to come from and I
wanted to part of promoting that.

One of Mute's first releases
would be strangely prescient.

I came across an old Chuck Berry
songbook I had at home and I thought,

"I wonder what that sounds like
done on synthesisers?"

# Long-distance information

# Give me Memphis, Tennessee

# Help me find the party

# Tryin' to get in touch with me... #

Everybody said, "You've got
to release it, it's amazing."
I thought, "OK, what shall I do?"

It doesn't fit in under
the normal kind of name.

And then I thought,
what about if there was a group that
were all teenagers

and their first choice of
instrument was a synthesiser rather
than a guitar

because that hadn't happened yet.

John Peel... I had
given it to him. I was listening to
the radio with a couple of friends.

He said, "We've got three versions
of Memphis Tennessee. One is the
original, the other two covers."

"One is really terrible and the other
is really great. I thought, "Oh,
God." Fortunately, he liked mine.

Take it away.

That was one of the biggest moments
of my entire career in music.

That's the end of tonight's
programme in which you heard

the Desperate Bicycles, The Slits,
The Mekons, Alternative TV,
The UK Subs and Sham 69.

More of the same unpleasant racket
on tomorrow night's programme.
Until then,

from me, John Peel, good night and
good riddance.

Getting your record
on the Peel show was one thing.

But nobody
was ready for what happened next.

What sort of make-up do you put on?
You appear very white.

It's all natural. It's Max Factor
pan stick and it's 28 which is
natural, not white make-up.

And then I just powder that with skin
tone powder and then just eyeliner.

# It's cold outside

# And the paint's peeling off of
my walls

# There's a man outside... #

On 24th May 1979,
the future finally arrived.

# In a long coat, grey hat
smoking a cigarette... #

He was a punk. He loved sci-fi.

He even read JG Ballard
but most impressively,

Gary Numan was on Top Of The Pops.

I wish magic was real, you know.

I wish fairies were real and all
of that kind of stuff.

I love all that sort of thing.

Probably never grow up, I suppose,
from that point of view.

# Now the light fades out... #

The first time he was
on Top Of The Pops,

Either she phoned me, or I
phoned her, "Are you watching?

"Have you seen this man,
he's fantastic."

# There's a knock on the door... #

The look and the sound was so

# And just for a second I thought
I remembered you... #

Just sort of alien, wasn't it?

I was in a lot of trouble at school.
I was sent to a child psychiatrist
and things like that

which turned out to be Asperger's.

I felt more comfortable on my own.
The classic loner, I suppose.

Didn't go out drinking,
didn't go out clubbing too much.

# So now I'm alone

# I can think for myself... #

I went to a studio to
make a punk album, which would
have been my first album

and when I got there,

in a corner of the studio,
there was a mini Moog.

Luckily, it had been left and the
sound, which was a huge big
bassy thing and the room shook.

I just realised you can press one key
and all of this other stuff happens.

There was a massive
amount of power in them
and depth that I had never heard.

I'd never heard of anything
like it before. One note.

People like ourselves and Cabaret
Voltaire and The Human League,

had all got used to the fact that we
existed and there was somebody else
sharing our space

and then along comes,
who, I guess at the time we
thought was Johnny come lately.

"Who the hell is
this guy from London

"who is on telly and having
a massive hit record?
Never heard of him."

Numan was
Britain's first synth pin-up.

Hello, Sarah.
Hello, Gary. Hello, Sarah.

My friend Cheryl read in a newspaper

that your mum
does your hair. Is this true?

Yes, that's right. She's been doing
it since I was about four.

All right, thank you. Bye-bye. Did
she put the streak in the side
as well? Yeah.

I really liked Gary's music.

I think he made the best
records at that time.

I think, he, if anyone,
he really condensed it into a form
that was perfect at that point.

Numan would immediately show that
his number-one success was no fluke.

Cars was part eulogy to JG Ballard
and part testimony to
living in '70s London.

I was in my car and a couple
of men in a van swerved round me,
pulled up in front,

got out and were clearly going to
give me a bit of a hammering.

Trying to get me out, kicking
the car, screaming and shouting.

# Here in my car

# I feel safest of all

# I can lock all my doors

# It's the only way to live

# In cars... #

I was pretty scared.

I locked all my doors and
ended up driving up onto the
pavement and shot along the pavement

because I couldn't go anywhere.

People obviously leaping out of
the way. I was in a bit of a panic.

Cars is just about feeling safe in
amongst people in a car because
no-one can get to you.

You're in your own little bubble.

# Here in my car

# Where the image breaks down

# Will you visit me, please?

# If I open my door, in cars... #

I was gutted when Cars came out.
I thought it was really good.

# ..I was starting to think about
leaving tonight... #

All this time we were convinced,
it was just a matter of time
before we had a number one record.

Part arrogance and part stupidity and
then somebody comes out of the blue
and does it.

With sales totalling in excess
of ten million, Gary Numan was

a new kind of pop star
but being at the front of the synth
way had inevitable drawbacks.

The Musicians Union tried to ban me
for, I think, the first year when I
was around

because they said I was
putting proper musicians out of work,

although I had to be a member
to get on Top Of The Pops.
Caused me loads of grief, actually.

The music press were pretty harsh.

It wasn't rock 'n' roll. It wasn't
honest, it wasn't working class,
it wasn't worthy, it wasn't earthy,

it wasn't real, it wasn't sweaty,
it wasn't manly. It was pretentious,
pseudo intellectual.

I am absolutely convinced that
Numan's career was shortened by

a nasty, nasty, vitriolic

But, again,
what had there been before me?

It had been punk.

The whole anti-hero thing. Not only
was I doing electronic music which
they wasn't pleased with anyway,

but I'm standing up saying,
I want to be a pop star, I love it.

All this anti-hero stuff before that,
I wasn't anything to do with that. I
want to be famous.

I want to be

standing on stages and I
don't speak for the people
because I don't even know them.

The decade would end with Numan
as the unlikely synth-pop hero
come good.

What lay around the corner would
see the synth transformed from
post-punk experimental tool

into THE pop instrument of choice.

As the '80s dawned, the
future finally arrived and it
wasn't going to be alienated.

A shift to the right heralded
a new era in Britain, an era in
which prosperity and material wealth

would be vaunted above all else.

There would
be no room for experimental
dreamers in the me decade.

You were a success or you didn't

# One man on a lonely platform

# One case sitting by his side... #

The big hit of 1980 was Visage
whose Fade To Grey followed fast
on the heels of Numan's success.

It seemed the future had passed
The Human League by.

# Ah, ah-h-h-h

# We fade to grey.

# Fade to grey... #

I think there were three number-one

Certainly Dave Stewart
and Barbara Gaskin

Gary Numan and
the Flying Lizards
might have been number one

with Money and I stood there,
I think we'd done a couple of LPs
and I thought, "We've blown it."

We now look like the also-rans
and everyone has taken the idea
and done a lot better than us.

# The best things in life are free

# But you can give them
to the birds and bees

# I want money

# Ooh, ooh-ooh

# That's what I want

# Ooh, ooh-ooh

# That's what I want

# Ooh, ooh-ooh

# That's what I want... #

I turned up one day to be told I was
being thrown out of the group.

And it was a bit like School Of
Rock with Jack Black going,

"You can't throw me out
of my own group."

We'd released Reproduction and
Travelogue and done all this

There was a nagging undercurrent
of dissatisfaction from
the record company

that they weren't selling as
many records as they hoped.

I think I'd made a big effort
on a photo session and
Martin hadn't even turned up.

Suddenly, I was hearing these
stories that Martin was never ever

going to appear on a stage with me
again which I think he only said
because that was what Bryan Ferry

had said about Eno in legend.

Whilst The Human League
were crumbling, something was

brewing in the most
unlikely of places.

Basildon was a new town. Built
for the post-war East End overspill,

it wasn't one of pop
music's more romantic places.

But a bunch of kids were going to
ditch their guitars and reinvent
synth music as pop.

When we were growing up,
Basildon was a violent town.

We had the highest crime rate
for five years on the trot.

I can remember going back to Basildon

and going down to
the pub with some friends and I had,
you know, black nail varnish.

Going to the bar and ordering a
drink. I had forgotten about it

wasn't even thinking about it and
some guy said to me, "What the fuck
have you got on your fingernails?"

Depeche Mode formed in 1980.

They had a spot at their
local disco.

Croc's was a really ordinary disco.
There was a crocodile, yeah.

It was quite a sorry
looking animal but it was alive.

They had this night once a week
where they'd play things like
The Human League and Soft Cell

and also bands would appear there.

# I stand still stepping on
the shady streets

# And I watch that man to a stranger

# You think you only know me when you
turn on the light

# Now the room is lit with danger

# Complicating, circulating

# New life, new life

# Operating, generating

# New life, new life... #

When I first started playing

it would have been The Human League,

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark,
their very first album.

I was a big fan of Daniel Miller's
work as the Silicon Teens and

as The Normal and also Fad Gadget
who was on Mute records.

Vince was sort of the boss of the
band. He was unbelievably driven.

# Complicating, circulating
New life... #

He earned £30 a week in the yoghurt
factory and save £29.70, a week,

to save up to buy a synth.

He forced the pace. This actually
was the original Depeche Mode drum
machine that we used for Life.

Dave's job before his song
was to set the tempo.

Number seven would be fast,
number two would be slow etc etc.

I owned Autobahn, that was really
what got us to go out and buy our
first synthesisers,

the whole...things that were
happening around the time with

Kraftwerk and even early
Human League stuff.

# ..New life, new life... #

I was really happy that
the first time I heard them

was when they played live.

They started and I thought,
this sounds interesting.

There were four little mono
synths teetering on beer crates.

# I'm still stepping on shady streets

# And I watch that man to a
stranger... #

They had a fan base with them
and their fans weren't watching
the band. They wear just dancing.

# ..The moon is lit with danger

# Complicated... #

Miller first saw Depeche Mode
supporting Fad Gadget in east London
and signed them to Mute.

None of us knew what we were doing.
By the time I met Depeche we had just
released our first album.

Compared to them, I was an
experienced industry person but
I knew nothing.

You know, they needed a
bit of help in the studio

so I introduced
them to some ways of working.

using sequencers, they'd
never used a sequencer before.

Everything was played by hand.
This is the legendary Arp 2600.

I bought it second-hand in 1979.

It was being sold, one
of three being sold by Elton John's
road crew after a world tour.

These were used on all the Depeche
Mode albums I was involved with

especially on the first
album where it was really
one of only two synths that we used.

You can hear it going out of tune
on that note there.

It's not really in tune at all.

MUSIC: "Just Can't Get Enough"
by Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode would prove to be
the real silicon teens.

The combination of sex appeal
and synthesisers

would make them one of
the biggest pop acts of 1981.

# When I'm with you baby
I go out of my head

# And I just can't get enough
And I just can't get enough

# All the things you do to me
and everything you said

# I just can't get enough
I just can't get enough

# We slip and slide
as we fall in love

# And I just can't seem to
get enough of... #

When Depeche Mode,
when we were gigging

we'd all carry our synthesisers

and I, for some reason,

had to buy the heaviest synthesiser
out of all of them, you know.

We didn't have cars or anything,
we'd be on the train,

and this really is quite heavy.

So I'd have this thing under my arm,
Fletcher would have a Moog,

Martin had a Yamaha, I think,
on the train.

# I just can't get enough
I just can't get enough... #

When we did our first
Top Of The Pops we were on the train
with these, our synthesisers.

You got the train
to Top Of The Pops? Yeah.

From Basildon to Fenchurch Street
and then on the underground.

But like Human before, it wouldn't
all be plain sailing for Depeche.

I think, you know,
you've got to remember that

during our pop period we had lots of
fans and a lot of people liked us

but there were a lot of people
hated us.

Certainly the '80s
was a real old battle royal

between us and journalism
in general, music journalism.

It was just really, you know, pop.

You know, I think...

I can understand why
people hated what we did,
you know, looking back on it now.

It wasn't just the sound. It was...

You know, we were young kids and we
just did anything that came along.

You know, every TV that we were
asked to do, we did, and it
didn't matter how stupid it was.

She said "Do you think he might give
me a kiss before the end
of the day,"

and I said, "Ask him yourself."
But if I ask you, you might...

If I turn my back you might just...

Well, you know,
there's something very un-British
about electronic music

to start with. They want bands
to be like they were in the '60s -

four guys, guitar, bass and drums,

pretty lead singer, skinny jeans,

you know, conventional kind of thing.

That's really what sells newspapers,
I guess.

# Playing on my radio
and saying that you had to go... #

They'd written Depeche Mode off
anyway as a teeny-bop band,

a one-hit wonder,
especially once Vince left,
they thought "Well, that's over."

# New day, turn away
Wipe away the tear... #

In November '81,
Clarke unexpectedly quit.

I was, and still am,
a bit of a control freak.

So, with the advent of computers
and sequencers

I realised that I could
make all of the music myself.

You know, I didn't need necessarily
other people to play the parts.

I got a real satisfaction out of
programming all of the parts myself.

Without their chief songwriter, it
seemed the game was up for Depeche
Mode before they really got going.

MUSIC: "Don't You Want Me?"
by The Human League

In the same year,
a reversal of fortune

had seen a new-look Human League
finally get in on the pop action,

partly thanks to a line-up change

that took them out of the pages
of the NME and put them
on the front page of Smash Hits.

# You were working as a waitress
in a cocktail bar

# When I met you

# I picked you out, I shook you up
and turned you around

# Turned you into someone new... #

We got Joanne and Susan
simply because we were
booked to do a European tour

and Martyn and myself became
unable to be in the same group
and we just thought,

"Well, get some nice high vocals,
yeah, let's try a girl.

"Let's be a bit different
and try a girl."

From that the step was that if we
were gonna take a girl on the road

with a load of terrible randy idiots
like us

there ought to be two of them
to look after each other.

Joanne and Susan turned up...

I was being sarcastic there,
by the way, we were sitting there
reading books, really.

# You better change it back
or we will both be sorry

# Don't you want me, baby?

# Don't you want me, oh?

# Don't you want me, baby...? #

Oakley spotted the girls dancing in
a futurist night club in Sheffield.

Our parents thought,
"There's some ulterior motive,

"something's going on."

But then Philip came round
and met both sets of parents

and they thought
he was a decent enough guy

and then we went to school
with our parents and they
talked to the head teacher,

who thought that it would be
good for our education

to have six weeks
going round Europe

because we could go to art galleries
and things like that.

# Put your hand in a party wave

# Pass around

# Make a shroud pulling combs
through a backwash frame... #

We never went to
said art galleries!

We did go to a lot of clubs.

Yeah. We went to Cologne Cathedral,

that was about the most cultural
thing we ever did.

# Get around town, get around town

# Where the people look good
Where the music is loud

# Get around town
No need to stand proud

# Add your voice
to the sound of the crowd... #

It also meant that we could
appeal to women as well as men.

The early Human League
was a very male-based group

and really only lads in long coats
liked us.

And some transvestites.

OK, pop music, let's go.

Anyone here like The Human League?

# The shades from a pencil peer... #

Released in 1981, Dare crystallised
the new synth-pop sound.

# A fold in an eyelid... #

We did something that
could only be done at that stage.

While we were doing it they
were bringing the machines in
that enabled us to do it.

For instance, the very first Lynn
drum I think that arrived in England

came into our studio and we took
the drums off Sound Of The Crowd
and put the Lynn drum on.

Without that, probably,
it wouldn't have worked.

I remember when Martyn
got the Lynn drum

and it was like
a child at Christmas getting
the first fire engine or something.

He was jumping up and down and all
the boys were, "Oh, it's a drum!"

Before that, apparently,
the drums had been one of
the hardest things to do

and now there was this box that was
this big and you could program it.

They were all very excited
and we were a bit like, "OK, boys."

Now the flood gates were open.

The rush to market
swept every aspect of
British life in the early '80s.

Everything was now up for grabs,
including pop music.

In an attempt to eclipse his
ex-bandmates, former Human League
member Martyn Ware

would cash in on the times
with a concept album.

We were doing the day shifts,
they were doing the night shifts
in the same studio.

They were making Dare, we were
making Penthouse And Pavement.

I've never been so motivated
in my life, believe me.

I said, "We're gonna make it stylish,

"Finally, the shackles are off, we
can start using other instruments

"cos the original manifesto
is broken,

"but we're still gonna make it
predominantly electronic."

And so the idea was that suddenly
we're not a group,

we are ripping open the facade
and going,

"No, this is great music,
but it's a business."

It really is a business.
It doesn't matter.

Bob Dylan can sing all he wants.

He's busy brown-nosing
the A&R men behind the scenes.

# Now here comes my job

# Credit bleeding with the mob

# Dreams become ideals... #

But, ironically,
and we were totally anti-Thatcher

and always had been, you know,
Fascist Groove Thang etc.

It got taken on board
by the aspirational yuppie culture

in the early '80s as their kind of
theme tunes a lot of the time.

Like Let's All Make A Bomb.

They completely missed the point of
the song, totally, and it was like,

"Yeah, mate, remember listening
to that, yeah. it's fantastic, mate.

"Love the ponytails."

MUSIC: "Penthouse And Pavement"
by Heaven 17

Not everyone wanted in
on booming Britain.

Cabaret Voltaire were neither
into ponytails nor popularity.

Their vision of Britain was
concerned with the inner city riots

that erupted across the country
in summer '81.

People say that
The Specials' Ghost Town

was the soundtrack to the unrest
of that year, but a lot of people

alternatively think that
Red Mecca was the sound of that.

I think I've said in the past,

somehow that insurrection
on the streets kind of
found its way into the music.

You kind of took some
heart in the fact

that some people were kicking back
against the system,

albeit in quite a crude manner, and
were prepared to take on the police.

You know, we weren't paranoid, this
stuff was slowly happening, you know,

the rise of surveillance culture,

the rise of the right wing in America
and the fundamentalist Christians.

Eh, oh la, in the name of Jesus.

Then you've got like
the revolution in Iran

with the Shah being deposed

and the general feeling
that things are moving to the right.

Meanwhile, something strangely
synthetic was happening in the
sleazy underbelly of London's Soho.

MUSIC: "Tainted Love"
by Soft Cell

I was going to lots of Northern
Soul clubs so I was listening to

kind of Kraftwerk
and Northern Soul,

which is where things developed from,
really, in my head.

HE PLAYS "Tainted Love"

There... I missed it.

If we had the money we'd come
to Soho and just hang around Soho,

just getting ideas,
which is where the name came from.

# Sometimes I feel I've got to

# Run away... #

And Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret was
a bar back in 1980 or whatever.

That's where that photograph's from.
We were just kind of fascinated,

being these two northern hicks
from the sticks

and suddenly, "Wow, this is amazing."

It was kind of glamorous
and dangerous.

Lots of neon lights and stuff,
which we were fascinated by.

# Now I run from you

# This tainted love you've given

# I give you all
a boy could give you

# Take my tears
and that's not nearly all

# Tainted love
Oh, oh, oh, tainted love... #

The first people
doing the electro thing

really caned the alienation,
"I am hollow inside" thing,

like Gary Numan,
and you get this second wave

where you've got the cold,
glistening synth sound but
the singer's actually very emotional.

Marc Almond's a good example of that,
torridly emotional.

# ..Someone to hold you tight
And you'll think love is to pray... #

It's like
there's a super-passionate singer

and then the one other person,
usually a guy with a synthesiser,

and I think they're using the synth
more as like

a miniature or condensed orchestra,

like they can get all the sounds
they need out of this one box.

So really it's more like
electronic soul music.

# Take my tears
and that's not nearly all #

Where Soft Cell led,
others would follow.

Having left Depeche Mode,
Vince Clarke would form his own duo

with a rhythm-and-blues singer,
also from Basildon.

Vince I met for the first time

when I was 11. We both went to the
same Saturday morning music school.

It was a council-run thing where

I believe he was playing violin
and I was playing oboe.

Even though we'd never spoken in
that time I recognised him for the
fact that there was three of them,

three brothers with this white-blond
hair looking like a family of ducks
going across the road, you know.

Once I left Depeche I had some songs

which I wanted to demo
for the record company.

One of them being Only You.

# Looking from the window above

# It's like a story of love... #

Anyway, I got in touch with Alison
cos I vaguely knew her.

We didn't have plans to
form a band or anything,
we had no history together.

We just went from the demo
to the recording studio

to making the first record.

# All I needed was the love you gave

# All I needed for another day

# And all I ever knew

# Only you... #

I wasn't overly interested
in technology,

I couldn't even afford a record
player or cassette player
so the idea of buying hardware...

There's no point in lusting after
the things you can't have.

Like me thinking about a mini-skirt.

# Listen to the words that you say

# It's getting harder to stay

# When I see you... #

Vince Clarke then forms
another one of these classic

sort of fire and ice groups.

The ice is the synth
and the fire is Alison Moyet,

so that's almost like a template
for 80s pop -

the synthesiser guy,
the synthesiser boffin,

and then
the super-passionate singer,

usually female or maybe gay male.
It's kind of...

The duo replaces the rock band.

It's an affront to rockism,
isn't it?

Just the look of those bands.

# All I needed
was the love you gave... #

When we first started
working in Yazoo,

it was like he was
effectively suffering
from a very recent divorce.

# Only you. #

It's like these were
his childhood mates, Depeche Mode.

This was a huge thing for him,
to go from being a local boy,

like the rest of us,
without a great deal of hope,

without many prospects
or any qualifications.

The last thing I'd heard was
he was driving vans for R White's,
crashing them and leaving them.

MUSIC: "Don't Go" by Yazoo

Yazoo signed to Mute Records in 1982
and to his surprise,

Daniel Miller found himself with
another wildly successful pop act.

# Came in from the city
Walked into the door

# I turned around when I heard
the sound of footsteps on the floor

# Love just like addiction
Now I'm hooked on you

# I need some time to get it right
Your love's gonna see me through

# Can't stop now, don't you know
I ain't ever gonna let you go

# Don't go... #

There was nothing right about it.

It was quite soulful music
with a very cold, electronic beat.

She didn't fit the typecast
female pop-star image at all.

# Hey, go get the doctor... #

You know, and it's become
a cliche now, but at that time,

the quiet second bloke
on synth wasn't a cliche.

# Can't stop now, don't you know

# I ain't ever gonna let you go

# Don't go... #

In the 18 months that we existed,
myself and Alison never
got to know each other.

We never went out to a pub
to have a drink

or did any of that stuff,
any socialising.

It was just in the studio, working.

To actually come across somebody
who was unfathomable,

who you could not penetrate,
and at the same time had,

regardless of what he says, a burning
ambition, he was an ambitious boy.

What was amazing about it
is he actually achieved
his ambitions, which again,

coming from where I came from,
you didn't see that very often.

And I wanted to penetrate him!

Not biblically, obviously.

# I ain't never gonna let you go
Don't go... #

I just wanted to be
in the studio so much.

I would have been in there
24 hours a day.

It was like being in a sweet shop.

Synth-pop was becoming increasingly
popular and increasingly grand.

OMD would enjoy
three top 10 hits in 1982,

two of which were about
Joan of Arc.

We were quite intellectual, you know.

Pompous, stuck up our own arses,
I guess you could say.

We were going on Top Of The Pops

with Bonnie Langford and Elton John
and Cliff Richard amongst others,

and we were playing a song
that was in waltz time,

that started with 45 seconds of
distortion and had no chorus,

and had a Mellotron playing
what sounded like bagpipes.

Explain how it works.
Well, actually,
it's fairly straightforward.

It's a musical computer.

The right hand is lead instruments
with a choice of 18 different ones,

and the left hand is rhythms in this
half and backgrounds in this half.

It's all been fed
on to hundreds of tape tracks.

The Mellotron is a very early sampler
before samplers went digital.

It was a very analogue thing.

Here's a French accordion
with a Viennese waltz.

It was nightmare to use on stage.

We were playing in this tiny town
in the middle of France and the
Mellotron was completely out of tune

because all the town were drawing
the power down so much cooking,

the motor wouldn't spin fast enough.

Thank you. Well, David
isn't a musician, as you know,

but I have a professional pianist
here who can really show you
what the Mellotron can do.

The number of people
who thought that the equipment

wrote the song for you...

"Well, anybody could do it with
the same equipment you've got."

Fuck off.

# If Joan of Arc had a heart

# Would she give it as a gift? #

It's all played by hand.

Believe me, if there was a button
on a synth or a drum machine

that said, "hit single",
I would have pressed it

as often as anybody else would have,
but there isn't.

It was all written by real human
beings and it was all played by hand,

to the point where Paul and I thought
we were gonna get arthritis

in our fingers from playing bass
lines like that for hours on end.

MUSIC: "Sweet Dreams (Are Made
Of This)" by Eurythmics

Between 1981 and 1983,
synth-pop reigned supreme.

Our charts were chock full
of duos and groups

who set aside changing the world

in favour of making it
with a synth on Top Of The Pops.

# Some of them want to use you

# Some of them want to
get used by you

# Some of them want to
abuse you... #

You've got to remember
that it was the first time ever

that someone could sit
and make a record on their own.

Eurythmics came along

and they did Sweet Dreams
in their basement.

They recorded it
on an eight-track tape machine.

Annie sang Sweet Dreams
into a little Shure microphone,

holding it in her hand,
and won a Grammy for it.

MUSIC: "Vienna" by Ultravox

And in 1982, along came a song

that turned the alienation
of the original synth pioneers

into a full-blown epic.

Ultravox would score one of
the biggest synth-pop hits ever,

called Vienna, which has that total
fetishism of Mitteleuropa, Vienna.

It's the Habsburg Empire,
the romance of central Europe.

# Freezing breath
on the window pane

# Lying and waiting... #

The movies we were watching and
the music we were listening to
at the time all came out of Europe

and the history that Europe had,
you know, Vienna being

this beautifully romantic city,
this beautiful place.

You put all that together
and you've got this fantastic image,
this wonderful...

I'd never been to Vienna
when we wrote the song,
I didn't know anything about Vienna.

# Reaching out in a piercing cry
It stays with you until... #

You try putting that down,
that you're gonna write a song

that is a four-and-a-half-minute long
electronic ballad

that speeds up in the middle
with a viola solo thrown in -

it doesn't equate, it doesn't work.

But at the time when you're young and
naive, naivety is a wonderful thing.

# This means nothing to me

# Oh, Vienna. #

Not to be outdone by their English
synth-pop derivatives,

Kraftwerk would return in 1982

to score their only number one
single success,

cashing in with a song that
they'd originally recorded in 1978.

MUSIC: "The Model" by Kraftwerk

With The Model that was, in England,

to be a hit, that was
a complete different story.

We didn't expect it ourselves.

# She's a model
and she's looking good... #

The reasons was the following -
we had already a single to be played

on the radio in England
and it was Computer World.

The man of the EMI London house,

he didn't know what to
put on the B-side.

And he thought and he thought and
he thought, maybe two days longer,

and suddenly, he had the great idea
to put The Model from the last album,

Man Machine, on the B-side.

And then they sent the single
to radios, and 80% of the radios
played the B-side.

# She's going out tonight
Loves drinking just champagne... #

By 1983, Britain had entered an era
of conspicuous consumption and greed

that made the late '70s
seem like a foreign country.


It would provide inspiration for
Depeche Mode's new chief songwriter.

# The handshake seals a contract

# From the contract
There's no turning back

# The turning point of a career... #

The early '80s were just
a terrible time in Britain.

And I was young and impressionable,

and that was really when I first felt

like I was writing
from the heart really.

# The grabbing hands
grab all they can

# All for themselves, after all

# The grabbing hands
grab all they can

# All for themselves, after all

# It's a competitive world... #

Around the time of
Construction Time Again,

samplers had just really come out.

We would just...
It was a whole revelation to us.

We were just going out and smashing
pieces of metal

with sledgehammers,
raiding the kitchen drawer

for all the utensils
to make percussion sounds.

Just anything
we could get our hands on.

We've got this vague idea at the
moment which was used on the demo.

We've got this pebble,
which we got from the mud.

Yeah, look, white spots.

They're the stinging nettles.

Anyway, the idea is to roll
the pebble on this piece of metal
along here,

this window frame,

thus causing...

thus making this sort of sound.


Construction Time Again really
started to see us form as the basis

of what we are today.


That was a lot better. Anyway,
the idea is to take that sequence

and to make an interesting
rhythm out of it,

and to sequence it
all through the song,

so people dance.

Depeche Mode pioneered their
new sampler-based sound
in London's Shoreditch.

In those days, Shoreditch,
there was not a soul around.

Now, of course, with Hoxton
etc etc,

it is the trendy place to be,

but it wasn't when we
were at the Garden Studios.

There was not a soul to be seen.

# Get out the crane
Construction time again

# What is it this time... #

I remember, there was one sound
in particular

that was us actually hitting a piece
of corrugated iron

that was the side of a building site,

and the sample sort of went like...

"Krr! Oi!", and that
was the site foreman.

# It's a lot
It's a lot

# It's a lot
It's a lot

# It's a lot
It's a lot... #

We seemed, in the '80s,
to be doing a one-band crusade
for electronic music

against the music press, that was
overwhelmingly rock-based.

We would often do interviews
with journalists and we'd have

a big argument,
because they just didn't consider

electronic music to be real music.

# There's a new game
we like to play, you see

# The game with added reality

# You treat me like a dog
Get me down on my knees

# We call it master
and servant... #

You know, we got accused at certain
times of being like a very subversive
pop band, and I do think that we did

get away with some stuff that was
probably risque for the radio, just
because we used it in a pop context.

# With you on top and me
underneath... #

In our early career, there was things
like Master And Servant and stuff.

# Let's play master and servant

# Let's play master and servant... #

Some of the reviews were
unbelievably vicious.

You just couldn't...
Real hatred for the band.

Real hatred. I don't know why.
It wasn't British, really.

A journalist once said,

"The music will
appeal to alienated youth
everywhere, and Germans."

Depeche Mode would eventually find
a sympathetic home for their music
in America.

For a lot of Americans,
England just means gay.

They think it's like a conflation of
Oscar Wilde and various ideas about
British boarding school.

For people who feel different,
or misfits in America,

England does actually seem
like this utopia.

They imagine everyone in England
walks around wearing eyeliner and
plays synthesisers, you know?

To be a Depeche Mode fan
was actually a quite was actually
quite a dissident thing.

Depeche Mode were the only act who
were truly successful in exporting
the British electronic sound.

The band would enjoy massive
popularity in America
throughout the '80s and beyond.

Consistently filling
stadiums across the land.

Back in Britain, in '83,

the sampler was moving synth-pop
in a different direction.

Suppose I want to send my loved one
a rather special musical greeting,
well I can.

First, let me give the computer
an idea of the sound that
I actually want to send.

So, I'll prime it again.

And now I'll speak into the mic.

And we have to wait
a couple of seconds now for the
sound wave to come up. There it is.

SAMPLER: # Hello, hello, hello
Hello, hello, hello. #

Hello, dear.

When we arrived in it,
the Emulator had just been invented.

It was completely riveting, because
it had James Brown going, "Please!"

You played up
and down the keyboard.

Had a string quartet
or an orchestra.

It had a famous Beethoven
"Rumph, rumph."

# West End girl... #

The first record we made,
West End Girl,

every sound was actually a sample
played on the same keyboard

which looked just like
a Bontempi chord organ.

The idea was to take real life
and put it against beautiful or
dance or both music.

Because we were the last of the
thing that started with
The Human League,

and we were probably the
first of the thing where
pop music was raised to dance music.

# In a West End town
a dead end world

# The East End boys
and West End girls

# Oh, in a West End town
a dead end world

# East End boys
West End girls... #

The Pet Shop Boys
gave us a glimpse of what the future
held for British electronic music.

But the band that would truly
spearhead the shift from synth-pop

to dance music had evolved out
of the ashes of Joy Division.

Whilst in America, New Order
would have a synthetic epiphany.

Kind of at the period
where Ian had died

and we were going
recording in New York.

We were spending a lot of time
in New York and I was going

to night clubs after the studio.

Every night.

I remember sitting there on these
kind of steps in a club and thinking,

"Wouldn't it be great
if one day,

"our music was played
in a place like this."

That sort of planted
a seed in my head, really,

that got me interested
in more in synthesisers.

You know, if you play an encore
or something, you know,

it's like, you're just falling
into the trap, you know,

it's a phoney thing
doing an encore, everyone expects it.

"Ooh, let's get these machines
to do a track and we'll just go on

"as if we're doing an encore,
press a button and then bugger off."

That was the idea.

When Blue Monday came out,
a lot of people didn't like it.

They went, "What, what...

"it doesn't sound like New Order,
what are you doing?

"It doesn't sound like
you're supposed to sound."

A lot of people were like, "I don't
like that." Then, it just took off.

# How does it feel?

# To treat me like you do?

# When you laid your hands upon me

# And told me who you are... #

I guess, people went on holidays

and they hear it in night clubs
in Spain and Greece and stuff,

and when they came back,

they would buy it'd be
a big hit over and over again.

Blue Monday's inscrutable
club cool would make it become the
biggest-selling 12-inch of all time,

originally released in 1983,
it heralded the future
for British electronica.

A new age of dance music,
unconcerned with pop charts
and commercial appeal,

would gain a massive following
that thrives to this day.

For those electronic pioneers who
had brought the synth into British
pop music, it was the end of an era.

It sort of starts,
I guess, round about '83.

It was just overdone.
It was saturated.

There was too much
synth-pop around.

# This is the sound
of all of our friends... #

It's on a synth, but the
melodies and the way the songs

were structured were really
pretty traditional and quite trite.

It wasn't that inventive
as electronic music.

# Somebody's got their eye on me

# Perhaps I should
invite him up for tea... #

Towards the middle of the '80s,
there wasn't so much encouragement

from the record companies to
do more experimental stuff.

I meant that initial supernova
of post-punk, it was dying away.

And slowly but surely,

the cancerous growth
of market-led A&R-ing

started invidiously creeping up

and blandifying and homogenising
the musical market, in my view.

We were a bit lost by then.

It was all a bit...
We felt we'd achieved it.

We thought we'd proved our point,
and it just looked like

we didn't have
anything left to prove.

The commodification of synth-pop
marked the end of a golden era
in which a generation of post-punk

musicians had taken the synth
from the fringes of experimentation
to the centre of the pop stage.

Out of the '70s and into the '80s.

At the time, it was just really,
really exciting, and it was exciting
to be a part of a musical movement

that had never been done before,
that was different.

It wasn't a rehash of anything.

Those early electronic records,
they'd ever been done before, so,
it was a fine time.

# I only knew you for a while... #

We were trying to do something new.
That's specifically why we chose

and embraced every new piece
of equipment we could
get our hands on or afford.

We wanted to sweep away all of the
old rock cliches and stereotypes

and the lead guitar solos
and long hair and everything.

And then what happens towards
the end of the '80s and
even worse in the mid '90s,

everybody decides that guitars
are back in, synthesisers
are somehow old-fashioned,

and you get Oasis! Horror!

# We'll always be together

# However far it seems

# Love never ends

# We'll always be together

# Together in electric dreams

# Because the friendship
that you gave

# Has taught me to be brave

# No matter where I go

# I'll never find
a better prize... #