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Speak & Spell (album)

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Speak & Spell
Studio album by
Released5 October 1981 (1981-10-05)
StudioBlackwing (London)
Depeche Mode chronology
Speak & Spell
A Broken Frame
Singles from Speak & Spell
  1. "Dreaming of Me[a]"
    Released: 20 February 1981
  2. "New Life"
    Released: 5 June 1981
  3. "Just Can't Get Enough"
    Released: 7 September 1981

Speak & Spell is the debut studio album by English electronic music band Depeche Mode. It was released on 5 October 1981,[3] or possibly 29 October 1981,[4] by Mute Records. It was the band's only album to feature Vince Clarke, and is much lighter in tone than their subsequent releases.

The album peaked at number 10 on the UK Albums Chart, and was ranked number 991 in the 2000 book All Time Top 1000 Albums.[5]


Depeche Mode in 1981; Speak & Spell was the band's only album with original songwriter Vince Clarke, pictured in the bottom-left.

This was the only Depeche Mode album with Vince Clarke as a member. Clarke wrote most of the songs for the band, before departing to form Yazoo and later Erasure.

The album is significantly lighter in tone and melody than their later work, a direction which can largely be attributed to Clarke's writing. After he left, Martin Gore took over songwriting duties, writing almost all of the band's material. Later albums written by him would explore darker subjects and melodies.

When interviewed by Simon Amstell for Channel 4's Popworld programme in 2005, Gore and Fletcher both stated that the track "What's Your Name?" was their least favourite Depeche Mode song of all time.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Record Mirror[6]
Rolling Stone[7]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[8]
Smash Hits7/10[9]
Spin Alternative Record Guide7/10[11]
The Village VoiceC+[13]

Upon its release, Speak & Spell received generally positive reception from critics. Record Mirror praised Depeche Mode's smart simplicity and noted the album offers "much to admire and little to disappoint." Reviewer Sunie commented that the band's chief skill "lies in making their art sound artless; simple synthesiser melodies, Gahan's tuneful but undramatic singing and a matter-of-fact, gimmick-free production all help achieve this unforced effect." As a whole she describes it as "a charming, cheeky collection of compulsive dance tunes".[6] Mike Stand of Smash Hits wrote: "Synthesisers and bubblegum go together like tinned peaches and Carnation, hence [Depeche Mode's] hit singles: melody, uncluttered electronics and nice voices in humanising harmony."[9] Paul Morley of the New Musical Express described the album as "generous, silly, susceptible electro-tickled pop... that despite its relentless friskiness and unprincipled cheerfulness is encouraging not exasperating", noting the music's "diverting vitality", and concluding that "Depeche Mode, apparently, could quickly move... far up and away from constructing slightly sarcastic jingles."[14]

Paul Colbert of Melody Maker felt that Depeche Mode speak with "a winning immediacy" and called the album "a wriggling giant of motivation, persuading each muscle to jump in time with the music", while at the same time criticising the presence of certain tracks such as "Nodisco" that "repeat earlier thoughts and feels without adding fresh views."[15] Rob White, writing for the Christchurch Press, was less positive, calling the music on Speak & Spell "instant pop, instantly disposable, as precious as the gladwrapped swan on the... cover", remarking that the songs "would actually blow away in the wind... if it wasn't for their ability to chance upon melody hooks that drag you along without any real protest" and ultimately calling the album "tedious".[16] The Village Voice's Robert Christgau dismissed the bulk of the album as "tuneful pap" that "crosses Meco (without the humble functionalism), Gary Numan (without the devotion to surface), and Kraftwerk (without the humor—oh, definitely without the humor)."[13]

In a retrospective review for AllMusic, Ned Raggett described Speak & Spell as "at once both a conservative, functional pop record and a groundbreaking release", as well as "an undiluted joy."[2] Nitsuh Abebe of Pitchfork said that the album endures "not as stylish futurism (not anymore) but as the happy noises of teenagers who believed it to be stylish futurism—and with a charming earnestness."[1] In January 2005, Speak & Spell was included as an "essential" album in Mojo magazine's "Depeche Mode + the Story of Electro-Pop" special edition.[17]

2006 re-release[edit]

Promotional poster for the album's release, including tour dates

The album was re-released on 3 April 2006 (along with Music for the Masses and Violator) as part of Mute's extensive Depeche Mode reissue schedule. This special edition release was a double disc set that included a Hybrid SACD/CD and a DVD. This format included the album in five formats—multi-channel SACD, stereo SACD, PCM stereo CD, DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1.

In the United States, the album was not re-released until 2 June 2006. The US version was only a CD rather than a SACD/CD Hybrid, though it still included the DVD which was identical to the European one (barring some different copyrights and logos).

The re-release somewhat preserves the album as it was originally intended. As such, while it is mostly the same as the UK version, North America got a completely new version with some songs that have never been released there. For example, "New Life" was the original version, not a remix, and "I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead" finally debuted (on a Depeche Mode release) in North America. However, "Dreaming of Me", the band's very first single which was not on the original album, was included at the end. The four bonus tracks on the original CD release in the UK, were omitted from the re-issued CD, but were on the DVD.

Also included was a 28-minute documentary about the making of the album entitled Depeche Mode: 1980–1981 (Do We Really Have to Give Up Our Day Jobs?) featuring interviews with the group (including Vince Clarke) and other relevant personnel such as Daniel Miller. There is various footage of the group's appearances on Top of the Pops including their very first appearance from 1981 performing "New Life". There is also vintage BBC footage of the Speak & Spell Tour from the same year.

The remastered album was released on limited-edition vinyl in March 2007.

Track listing[edit]

Original UK and European LP and CD releases (1984)[edit]

All tracks are written by Vince Clarke, except where noted. All lead vocals by Dave Gahan, except where noted

Side one
1."New Life"3:43
2."I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead"2:16
4."Boys Say Go!"3:03
6."What's Your Name?"2:41
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
7."Photographic"  4:44
8."Tora! Tora! Tora!"Martin Gore 4:34
9."Big Muff"Goreinstrumental4:20
10."Any Second Now (Voices)" Gore2:35
11."Just Can't Get Enough"  3:40
Total length:39:42


  • The song "Dreaming of Me" (fade out version) replaces "I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead" on the original German LP and CD releases. The same list had other european releases (France, Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia, etc.).
  • German CD originally released on May 1984.
Bonus tracks on 1988 CD re-release
12."Dreaming of Me" (cold end version)4:03
13."Ice Machine" (cold end version)4:05
15."Any Second Now"3:08
16."Just Can't Get Enough" (Schizo mix)6:41
Total length:61:25


  • CD re-releases with bonus tracks have different front sleeve design.
  • "Shout!" (from the B-side of the "New Life" single) is listed on the CD and all subsequent releases as "Shout", without the exclamation mark.
  • The versions of "Dreaming of Me" and "Ice Machine" included on this CD have cold ends, similarly to the original 7-inch single (as opposed to the fading-out versions on the original US album and CD single reissue).

Original US LP and CD releases[edit]

1."New Life" (remix)3:56
3."Dreaming of Me" (fade out version)3:42
4."Boys Say Go!"3:04
6."What's Your Name?"2:41
8."Tora! Tora! Tora!"4:24
9."Big Muff"4:21
10."Any Second Now (Voices)"2:33
11."Just Can't Get Enough" (Schizo mix)6:41
Total length:44:30

2006 Collectors Edition (CD + DVD)[edit]

  • Disc one is a hybrid SACD/CD with a multi-channel SACD layer.
  • Disc two is a DVD which includes Speak & Spell in DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 and PCM Stereo plus bonus material.
Disc one (CD)
1."New Life"3:46
2."I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead"2:18
4."Boys Say Go!"3:08
6."What's Your Name?"2:45
8."Tora! Tora! Tora!"4:38
9."Big Muff"4:24
10."Any Second Now (Voices)"2:35
11."Just Can't Get Enough"3:44
12."Dreaming of Me" (cold end version)4:03
Disc two (DVD)
1."Depeche Mode: 1980–81 (Do We Really Have to Give Up Our Day Jobs?)" (a short film)28:24
2."New Life"3:46
3."I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead"2:18
5."Boys Say Go!"3:08
7."What's Your Name?"2:45
9."Tora! Tora! Tora!"4:38
10."Big Muff"4:24
11."Any Second Now (Voices)"2:35
12."Just Can't Get Enough"3:44
13."Dreaming of Me" (cold end version)4:03
Additional tracks
14."Ice Machine" (cold end version)4:05
16."Any Second Now"3:08
17."Just Can't Get Enough" (Schizo mix)6:44


Credits adapted from the liner notes of Speak & Spell.[18]



Certifications for Speak & Spell
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Germany (BVMI)[29] Gold 250,000^
Sweden (GLF)[30] Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[31] Gold 100,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ "Dreaming of Me" is the first of six Depeche Mode singles not to be included on an album release, although it did appear on the original US release of Speak & Spell, in place of "I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead". It was included on later editions of the album (as a bonus track) and on The Singles 81→85, along with the "Some Bizzare" version of "Photographic".


  1. ^ a b c Abebe, Nitsuh (20 July 2006). "Depeche Mode: Speak & Spell / Music for the Masses / Violator". Pitchfork. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Raggett, Ned. "Speak & Spell – Depeche Mode". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  3. ^ "Depeche Mode: The Archives (Speak And Spell)". DepecheMode.com. Retrieved 22 March 2015.
  4. ^ Miller, Jonathan (2009). "The Summer of Discontent". Stripped: Depeche Mode (updated ed.). London: Omnibus Press. p. 149. ISBN 978-0-85712-026-7. As predicted, when Speak & Spell ... was finally released on October 29, 1981...
  5. ^ "Rocklist". Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  6. ^ a b Sunie (7 November 1981). "Depeche Get in the Mode". Record Mirror. London. p. 18. ISSN 0144-5804.
  7. ^ Fricke, David (13 May 1982). "Speak & Spell". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  8. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2004). "Depeche Mode". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 229–30. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  9. ^ a b Stand, Mike (12–25 November 1981). "Depeche Mode: Speak and Spell". Smash Hits. Vol. 3, no. 23. London. p. 25. ISSN 0260-3004.
  10. ^ Page, Betty (19 December 1981). "Pretty Boys on the Corner". Sounds. London.
  11. ^ Sheffield, Rob (1995). "Depeche Mode". In Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (eds.). Spin Alternative Record Guide. New York: Vintage Books. pp. 108–09. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  12. ^ Dalton, Stephen (May 2001). "Enjoy the Silence: 20 Years of Depeche Mode Albums". Uncut. No. 48. London. p. 66. ISSN 1368-0722.
  13. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (9 March 1982). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. ISSN 0042-6180. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  14. ^ Morley, Paul (7 November 1981). "Depeche Mode: Speak & Spell". New Musical Express. London. ISSN 0028-6362.
  15. ^ Colbert, Paul (31 October 1981). "Talking Hook Lines". Melody Maker. London. ISSN 0025-9012.
  16. ^ White, Rob (26 December 1981). "Pick Up the Beat, Shuffle Your Feet". The Press. Christchurch. ISSN 0113-9762.
  17. ^ Black, Johnny (2005). "Depeche Mode: Speak & Spell". Mojo (Depeche Mode + the Story of Electro-Pop ed.). London. pp. 52–53. ISSN 1351-0193.
  18. ^ Speak & Spell (liner notes). Depeche Mode. Mute Records. 1981. STUMM 5.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  19. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 88. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  20. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Depeche Mode – Speak & Spell" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  21. ^ "Charts.nz – Depeche Mode – Speak & Spell". Hung Medien. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  22. ^ Salaverrie, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (in Spanish) (1st ed.). Madrid: Fundación Autor/SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  23. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Depeche Mode – Speak & Spell". Hung Medien. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  24. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  25. ^ Lazell, Barry (1997). "Depeche Mode". Indie Hits 1980–1989: The Complete U.K. Independent Charts (Singles & Albums). Cherry Red Books. ISBN 0-95172-069-4. Archived from the original on 5 February 2009. Retrieved 10 May 2022.
  26. ^ "Depeche Mode Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  27. ^ "Italiancharts.com – Depeche Mode – Speak & Spell". Hung Medien. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  28. ^ Rees, Dafydd; Lazell, Barry; Jones, Alan (1983). "The Top 100 UK Albums". Chart File Volume 2. London: Virgin Books. pp. 82–83. ISBN 0-907080-73-1.
  29. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Depeche Mode; 'Speak and Spell')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie.
  30. ^ "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 1987−1998" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden. 21 January 1991. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 May 2011.
  31. ^ "British album certifications – Depeche Mode – Speak and Spell". British Phonographic Industry. 1 December 1981. Retrieved 16 February 2022.


  • Miller, Jonathan (2004). Stripped: The True Story of Depeche Mode. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 1-84449-415-2.

External links[edit]