Deb Danahay is a well known member of the DEPECHE MODE family having hosted their first live performance of the then reconfigured quartet from Basildon in 1980 when they were still known as COMPOSITION OF SOUND.
She subsequently founded the band’s fan club with Jo Gahan. As Vince Clarke’s girlfriend, Deb experienced at first hand the trials and tribulations of young manhood fusing the sound of the synthesizer to a new ultrapop template. Signing to Mute Records, DEPECHE MODE released their debut album ‘Speak & Spell’ in Autumn 1981. And when Vince Clarke left to form YAZOO with Alison Moyet, she joined him to run their fan club.
Premier DEPECHE MODE tribute band SPEAK & SPELL are to celebrate that legacy with a live presentation of the whole ‘Speak & Spell’ album at Hertford Corn Exchange on SATURDAY 13TH SEPTEMBER 2014. It forms part of the TEC003 event also featuring VILE ELECTRODES and special guest DJ SARAH BLACKWOOD.
Prior to the event, there will be a special exhibition of DEPECHE MODE photos and memorabilia from her own personal collection. Deb Danahay kindly spoke to The Electricity Club about her memories of the ‘Speak & Spell’ period and what may be in-store for the TEC003 exhibition…
Obviously when you started collecting DEPECHE MODE memorabilia, no-one knew who they were… so what inspired you at the time to start archiving the band?
I would try to buy as many music magazines as I could afford to keep abreast of the music scene and find out where my favourite bands were playing live, as that was pretty much the only way to keep informed at that time. Either that or stand in WH Smiths reading them for as long as I could get away with it *lol*
I started collecting all magazine articles about DEPECHE MODE because: a) the band were from my hometown, b) I knew them personally and c) because Vince Clarke was my boyfriend at the time *laughs*
But even without those amazing reasons I still would have been a huge fan!
It’s actually pre DEPECHE MODE… on the 30th May 1980, I organised a party with my best mate Nikki. Before Dave joined the band they called themselves COMPOSITION OF SOUND and they played live at the party. I still have a local fanzine review of the gig and a ticket for that party.
What sort of other things do you have in your possession?
I have quite a few backstage passes and guest tickets from 1981, my favourite probably being the guest ticket for the band’s debut live show overseas in Holland on the 25th July of that year. There’s a few albums of personal photographs taken in dressing rooms etc of members of the band, Daniel Miller and various other people who were so important to the bands development at that crucial time. There are also a number of autographed promotional photos and record sleeves.
As I ran the first fan club with Jo Gahan and Anne Swindell, I still have the first hand-typed DEPECHE MODE info sheets and merchandise order forms plus a hand written biog for the band by Vince. And there’s the telegram sent to the band and Daniel Miller announcing their first selection for an appearance on Top of the Pops.
I also am very privileged to have quite a few of Vince’s demo tapes from that era. He was never a sentimental person, but luckily I was, so I kept them. There are quite a few tracks of Vince playing guitar that I don’t recognise as ever being recorded and amongst other things, a studio demo of the YAZOO / BLANCMANGE collaboration that didn’t ever get pressed. I’ve had to promise Neil Arthur that it’ll never be aired!
Not a piece of memorabilia in itself, but I’m so glad I kept diaries at that time. Age has diminished the memory somewhat and I’m thankful I wrote a fair bit of what seemed at the time to be pretty meaningless information.
That probably is the case as the lyrics don’t exactly trip off the tongue do they?! I picked up the sheet after a rehearsal one day and completely forgot I had it… Dave confirmed it was his writing last year, spelling mistakes and all *laughs*
The press ads from back in the day are quite interesting as the artwork would often be different from the actual releases. Would you literally buy every piece of coverage in the press on DEPECHE MODE?
Yes, I did buy everything that I knew about from Mute or Vince. Hindsight is a wonderful thing as they say and I wish I’d collected more from overseas at that time… and that the ‘selfie’ with friends was thought of!
Is there something that you’ve inadvertently thrown away that you maybe wished you’d hung on to?
I did have a great big sack full of the original YAZOO T-shirts that were unsold through the fan club in 1982-83. I had them in the loft for years and years and then gave them away to my children’s school for a charity fete, little realising how collectable they would be again in 2008!
I do really regret not keeping the names and addresses of all the lovely people that wrote to the DEPECHE MODE and YAZOO fan clubs… I kept them all in little file boxes but it got to the stage where it seemed a bit ‘un pc’ to keep that private information. I’m so thrilled to be in contact with some of those people, like Richard Silverthorn from MESH but now I’d love to see who else got in contact back then…
Vince gave it to his lovely dad, who being as sentimental as his son, gave it to me *lol*
I also have a couple of YAZOO discs that mean a lot personally as there are messages in the ‘run outs’ oh and a few YAZOO test pressings too.
You appear to have had a collecting mentality which some would say is unusual for a girl. How does it feel to have been able to possess such a historical archive?
Of course in 1981, I had no idea that all the memorabilia would become iconic. I’m just so glad that I kept everything in plastic boxes, wallets etc. I always was a bit a bit anal and kept my records in plastic covers too. I started buying vinyl as soon as I could afford it and luckily, I was working from 1979 onwards and have a good collection including debut releases from THE CURE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and U2 etc. I also have a collection of 1970s disco 12”s that I’m pretty sure a DJ would be proud of *lol*
I first gave a tour to author Jonathan Miller when he was researching his DEPECHE MODE book ‘Stripped’. I really enjoyed that and it stirred a lot of memories for me. When I came onto Facebook, I had a few people contact me who were visiting Basildon and I gladly gave them a tour. So this year, I thought, I’d better at least get some petrol money and something for my time so created the ‘DEPECHE MODE in the beginning – Private Tour’ page on Facebook.
It’s a specialised tour with over 25 stops, many photo opportunities and is very flexible booking wise. I love to see the happiness it evokes and I’m happy to answer questions and chat about that era in Basildon. I do intend to have a web site up and running soon.
You have a lot of stuff and can’t bring it all… so what do you think you might bring to display at TEC003’s DEPECHE MODE Memorabilia Exhibition?
As the aftershow party has a ‘101’ theme, I shall definitely be bringing along the double gold disc so that people can have a photo taken with it if they wish. I will have photo albums of personal photographs and backstage passes… as much of the items I have talked about as I can really. It’s an opportunity DEPECHE MODE fans shouldn’t miss!
Deb Danahay’s exhibition of DEPECHE MODE memorabilia takes place in the afternoon between 3.00pm to 5.00pm on SATURDAY 13TH SEPTEMBER 2014 before the TEC003 event at Hertford Corn Exchange, 39 Fore Street, Hertford, Hertfordshire SG14 1AL – entry to the exhibition will be free
Deb Danahay’s ‘DEPECHE MODE in the beginning – Private Tour’ of Basildon visiting landmarks in the beginning of the band’s story can be sampled online at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Depeche-Mode-in-the-Beginning-Private-Tour/561019507327732
Deb Danahay’s Facebook Pages featuring memories of the early DEPECHE MODE Information Service and YAZOO Fan Club can be found respectively at http://www.anobodysdiary.com/2016/03/depeche-mode-in-beginning-private-tours.html
Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
7th August 2014, updated 30th December 2016