Behind the Band Name: Depeche Mode

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Videos by American Songwriter

Depeche Mode roughly translates to “fashion news” in French, and the band name was pulled from the now-defunct fashion magazine Depeche Mode.

No Romance in China to Composition of Sound 

The earliest formation of Depeche Mode formed in Basildon, England in 1977 with classmates Andy Fletcher, who was finding his way around an instrument at the time and eventually landed on bass (later transitioning to keyboards), and Vince Clarke on guitar and vocals.

By 1979, the two transitioned the band name to Composition Of Sound with the addition of guitarist Martin Gore, who was coincidentally in a band called French Look at the time, and Clarke serving as the main songwriter.

Dave Gahan’s Window Displays

When the trio recruited classmate Dave Gahan in 1980, and the band began playing to small audiences in school and at bars, the singer suggested changing the band name to Depeche Mode, the title of a French fashion magazine he had been using as a guide working as a window display artist at a clothing store.

Not “Hurried”

Meaning “fashion news” or “fashion dispatch,” Depeche Mode was often mistaken for “hurried fashion,” since the French verb dépêcher means “to hurry.”

Lawsuits

Once the magazine, which was published from 1970 through 2001, learned that the band was using their name, they sued Depeche Mode. “There were lawsuits flying around because we’d copied the name,” said Gahan. “Once we became more successful, they let it go because we probably helped them to sell more copies.” Gahan said the magazine even wanted to do a photoshoot with the band.

Four to Three

When Clarke left the band shortly after their 1981 debut Speak & Spell to form Yazoo (Yaz) with Alison Moyet (and later Erasure), Depeche Mode rounded out as a foursome with keyboardist Alan Wilder in 1982. Gore became the band’s key songwriter. Wilder then left the band in 1995, and Depeche Mode remained a trio with Gore, Gahan, and Fletcher, who died on May 26, 2022, at the age of 60.

The band has released 14 albums together, including their most recent, Spirit, in 2017, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020.

Photo: Columbia Records

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