Speak & Spell (album)

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Speak & Spell
Studio album by Depeche Mode
Released 5 October 1981[1]
Genre Synthpop[2][3]
Length 44:58
Label Mute
Depeche Mode chronology
Speak & Spell
A Broken Frame
(1982)A Broken Frame1982
Singles from Speak & Spell
  1. "Dreaming of Me[4]"
    Released: 20 February 1981
  2. "New Life"
    Released: 29 May 1981
  3. "Just Can't Get Enough"
    Released: 7 September 1981

Speak & Spell is the debut studio album by the English electronic band Depeche Mode, released on 5 October 1981 by Mute Records. The album peaked at number 10 in the UK Albums Chart. This is the band's only album with Vince Clarke and as a result, was much lighter in tone than future Depeche Mode albums.


This was the only Depeche Mode album with Vince Clarke as a member of the band. 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.

The album title alludes to the then-popular "Speak & Spell" electronic toy.

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
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[3]
The Austin Chronicle 2.5/5 stars[5]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 3/5 stars[6]
Pitchfork 7.5/10[2]
Record Mirror 5/5 stars[7]
Rolling Stone 2.5/5 stars[8]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[9]
Sounds 4.5/5 stars[10]
Spin Alternative Record Guide 7/10[11]

Upon its release, Speak & Spell was extremely well received. In a five-star review, Record Mirror praised the band'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".[12]

The untiringly effusive Paul Morley in New Musical Express wrote: ""Speak And Spell" is a simple sample of generous, silly, susceptible electro-tickled pop... that despite its relentless friskiness and unprincipled cheerfulness is encouraging not exasperating". He noted the music's "diverting vitality", and tagged Depeche Mode’s pop "cohesive... supple... insinuating". Continuing, he says that Depeche Mode "have a taste for the stupid and treat the conventional codes and details of the pretty pop song with well stirred cheek and a friendly flippancy", performing "a cheering job on the classically light and slight teenybop form". With a degree of foresight, Morley candidly concludes: "Depeche Mode, apparently, could quickly move... far up and away from constructing slightly sarcastic jingles."[13]

Mike Stand, writing in Smash Hits, put things more simply: "Synthesisers and bubblegum pop go together like tinned peaches and Carnation, hence [Depeche Mode's] hit singles - melody, uncluttered electronics and nice voices in humanising harmony."[14]

Paul Colbert in Melody Maker said that the band speak with "a winning immediacy", and of the album he noted, "No line is just a collection of notes, it also carries its own rhythm... Put the parts together and the result is a wriggling giant of motivation, persuading each muscle to jump in time with the music." At the same time, he says the album could have done with a little more breathing space in the run up to its release, pointing to tracks ("Nodisco" in particular) that "repeat earlier thoughts and feels without adding fresh views."[15]

Rob White, writing in the Christchurch Press, calls the music on Speak & Spell "instant pop, instantly disposable, as precious as the gladwrapped swan on the... cover". After stating Depeche Mode remind him of "a cuter version of Duran Duran", he observes: "Mode manage to provide wind-up doll beats without meaty hand-belted drums and still get you dancing... [The songs] would actually blow away in the wind, the rhythms are so light, if it wasn't for their ability to chance upon melody hooks that drag you along without any real protest". But overall, he concludes, "a whole album is pretty tedious."[16]

In a retrospective review for Allmusic, Ned Raggett writes: "Depeche Mode's debut is at once both a conservative, functional pop record and a groundbreaking release". He calls the songs "light, hooky, and danceable". Summing up, he says: Speak & Spell remains "an undiluted joy."[17]

In January 2005 Speak & Spell was included as an 'Essential Album' in MOJO magazine's Depeche Mode + The Story of Electro-Pop Special Edition.

2006 re-release[edit]

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 5 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 British 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 put 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 "deluxe" vinyl in March 2007.

Track listing[edit]

For all versions, all songs were written by Vince Clarke, except for "Tora! Tora! Tora!" and "Big Muff" written by Martin Gore. Dave Gahan performs lead vocals on all songs except "Any Second Now [Voices]", which is sung by Martin Gore. "Big Muff" and the original version of "Any Second Now" are instrumentals.

UK LP: Mute / Stumm5
No. Title Length
1. "New Life" 3:43
2. "I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead" 2:16
3. "Puppets" 3:55
4. "Boys Say Go!" 3:03
5. "Nodisco" 4:11
6. "What's Your Name?" 2:41
7. "Photographic" 4:44
8. "Tora! Tora! Tora!" 4:34
9. "Big Muff" 4:20
10. "Any Second Now (Voices)" 2:35
11. "Just Can't Get Enough" 3:40
  • The song "Dreaming of Me" replaces "I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead" on the German LP and CD versions.
Bonus tracks on 1988 CD re-release: Mute / Cdstumm5
No. Title Length
12. "Dreaming of Me" 4:03
13. "Ice Machine" 4:05
14. "Shout" 3:46
15. "Any Second Now" 3:08
16. "Just Can't Get Enough (Schizo Mix)" 6:41
  • "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 like the original 7" single (as opposed to the fading-out versions on the original US album and CD single reissue).

US LP/CD[edit]

  1. "New Life" [Remix] – 3:56
  2. "Puppets" – 3:57
  3. "Dreaming of Me" – 3:42
  4. "Boys Say Go!" – 3:04
  5. "Nodisco" – 4:13
  6. "What's Your Name?" – 2:41
  7. "Photographic" – 4:58
  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

2006 re-release[edit]


  • Disc 1 is a hybrid SACD/CD with a multi-channel SACD layer.
  • Disc 2 is a DVD which includes Speak & Spell in DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 and PCM Stereo plus bonus material.
  1. "New Life" – 3:46
  2. "I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead" – 2:18
  3. "Puppets" – 3:58
  4. "Boys Say Go!" – 3:07
  5. "Nodisco" – 4:15
  6. "What's Your Name?" – 2:45
  7. "Photographic" – 4:44
  8. "Tora! Tora! Tora!" – 4:37
  9. "Big Muff" – 4:24
  10. "Any Second Now (Voices)" – 2:35
  11. "Just Can't Get Enough" – 3:44
  12. "Dreaming of Me" – 4:03

Bonus tracks[edit]

In DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, PCM Stereo:

  1. "Ice Machine"
  2. "Shout!"
  3. "Any Second Now"
  4. "Just Can't Get Enough (Schizo Mix)"

Additional material[edit]

  1. "Depeche Mode 80–81 (Do We Really Have to Give Up Our Day Jobs?)" (28-minute documentary video)

Charts and certifications[edit]


The album was released back in 1981 in then Yugoslavia, but the first cassette release was missing "I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead". This mistake was later noticed and there was an approx. 500 copy reissue made with the missing one as well. The early tapes with one less track are now well sought after.


Depeche Mode
  • Dave Gahan - lead vocals
  • Martin Gore - keyboards, backing vocals, lead vocals on "Photographic" and "Any Second Now (Voices)"
  • Andy Fletcher - keyboards, backing vocals
  • Vince Clarke - keyboards, programming, backing vocals, drum machine

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Depeche Mode: The Archives". Retrieved 2015-03-22. 
  2. ^ a b Abebe, Nitsuh (20 July 2006). "Depeche Mode: Speak & Spell / Music for the Masses / Violator". Pitchfork. Retrieved 25 June 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Raggett, Ned. "Speak & Spell – Depeche Mode". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 June 2011. 
  4. ^ 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".
  5. ^ Gray, Christopher (25 August 2006). "Depeche Mode, the Cure, and the Jesus & Mary Chain". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 5 January 2014. 
  6. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8. 
  7. ^ Sunie (7 November 1981). "Depeche Get in the Mode". Record Mirror. London. 
  8. ^ Fricke, David (13 May 1982). "Speak & Spell". Rolling Stone. New York. Retrieved 25 June 2011. 
  9. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2004). "Depeche Mode". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 229–30. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  10. ^ Page, Betty (19 December 1981). "Pretty Boys on the Corner". Sounds. London. 
  11. ^ Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig, eds. (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8. 
  12. ^ Sunie (7 November, 1981). "Depeche Get In The Mode". Record Mirror.
  13. ^ Morley, Paul (7 November, 1981). New Musical Express.
  14. ^ Stand, Mike. (12 September, 1981). Smash Hits.
  15. ^ Colbert, Paul (31 October, 1981). "Talking Hook Lines." Melody Maker.
  16. ^ White, Rob (26 December 1981). "Pick Up The Beat, Shuffle Your Feet." Christchurch Press.
  17. ^ Raggett, Ned. [1] "Speak & Spell - Depeche Mode". Allmusic. Retrieved 7 September, 2017.
  18. ^ "Suchergebnis". Charts-Surfer.de. Retrieved 24 February 2009. Note: User must define 'neuer suchbegriff' search parameter as "Depeche Mode".
  19. ^ "Discography Depeche Mode". SwedishCharts.com. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
  20. ^ "Depeche Mode | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart Retrieved 7 Sep 2013.
  21. ^ "Depeche Mode > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums". Allmusic. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
  22. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Depeche Mode; 'Speak and Spell')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. 
  23. ^ "British album certifications – Depeche Mode – Speak and Spell". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Speak and Spell in the search field and then press Enter.