|HISTORICAL EVIDENCE - PART 1|
Charles Wilder was born in Hammersmith, West London on 1st June 1959,
the youngest of three brothers. Surrounded by a passion for all things musical
(something commonplace in the Wilder family), it was inevitable that he
be encouraged to follow in their footsteps and take up the piano.
By the time he graduated to St. Clement Danes Grammar School at the age of 11, he was already way ahead of his music class (having added the flute as a second instrument) and soon became a leading member of his School orchestra and 4-school Brass Band.
|He continued to study the piano independently until his interest in Bach and Beethoven was being replaced by Bowie and Bolan, and his desire to play in the orchestra was tempered in favour of a yearning for less innocent past times. By 1975, at the age of 16 (following moderate O level success), a return to St. Clement Dane's to study for his A Levels didn't appeal and after just one more term, he opted out, applied to every recording studio in London and eventually secured the position of Tape Op. (studio assistant) at DJM Studios in the West End.|
|Alan reflects "I was great at the more musical aspects of studio work, such as tape editing, drop-ins etc, but useless when it came to the patch bay or routing the mic lines through to the tape sends."|
|As DJM housed it's own record label, Alan found himself engineering on in-house productions as well as working with outside artists, and it wasn't long before his keyboard skills were being sought after for session work. Inevitably, this demand for his services and his desire for a more creative role, would lead him away from his current position and he remained with DJM Studios for just one year before moving to Bristol to join one of their bands, The Dragons.|
The Dragons released the single 'Misbehavin' through DJM Records but after a frustrating lack of success and, more importantly, money, the group folded when the record deal eventually ran it's course.
|Together with fellow Dragons bassist Jo Burt, Alan returned to London some 6 months later under his pseudonym 'Alan Normal' - a necessity in the anarchic days of punk - to join newly-formed group Dafne and the Tenderspots. Though originally playing the restaurant circuit, the band unscrupulously manipulated it's style from dinner lounge schlock to 'new wave', thus securing a deal with MAM Records.|
|"Sometimes this city depresses me intensely. It certainly did last week, when Tuesday night saw Dafne and the Tenderspots playing Circles to a crowd which would have fitted comfortably into the group's van...|
are all sorts of influences at work in the music, and lyrically they have
the same cynical / satirical outlook on modern times as Joe Jackson or mid-period
Kinks...'To Be A Star featured an insistent keyboard riff from Zebra-crossing-jacketed
Alan Normal - one of the nucleus of the band...Duffy is backed by an invisible
drummer, a synthesizer twiddler, a smug guitarist and the bass player from
Quoted from various sources
|After releasing 'Disco Hell' in 1979 to a tepid response, the Tenderspots fell foul of a disinterested public and a lack of funds, leaving Alan to move on to his next group Real to Real. Signed to Red Shadow Records, they released several singles and an album entitled 'Tightrope Walker'.|
REAL TO REAL: 'White Man Reggae' (Red Shadow)
"It's precisely what the title suggests and very effectively executed too. A band and record label to watch out for."
Sounds -March 80
REAL TO REAL: 'Mr and Mrs' (Red Shadow Records)
"This is tight, urgent, modern rock n roll with lyrics that slam suburban sell-out. It comes from the LP Tightrope Walker and while as a single it may not find a lot of success, it bodes well for the album and for the future of a very pro band."
Huddersfield Daily Examiner - March 14th '81
|Despite moderate success, Real to Real eventually suffered a similar fate to Alan's previous bands and he moved on to pastures new, playing keyboards with established but somewhat staid CBS group The Hitmen (whose lead singer, Ben Watkins, later went on to form Juno Reactor, a one-time Mute act).|
|"In the search for a new disguise for dull and repetitive music, The Hitmen have hit on a look which brings together shabby, top hats, raggedy scarves, and the demeanour of a jaunty starveling recently discharged from the debtor's prison.|
|Lead singer Ben Watkins devised what's known as his 'street urchin' look... Unfortunately there appears to have been a slight confusion over the new image, with the band's publicity proclaiming them 'nabobs of throb' and 'fakirs of funk', with a long tradition of 'dance macabre', jealousy and grave robbing which seems a strange mix of images."|
HITMEN: 'Ouija' (CBS)
"Rubbish. I'm running out of patience with this sort of well-crafted, terribly professional pop. Pop? It's not worthy of the name. Only this job could ever induce me to listen to it. The winning thing about the Depeche Mode single (and their last, and Soft Cell's) is its simple enthusiasm, its complete lack of cynicism. The Hitmen are so calculating - even down to the clever, clever name - it's unbearable; the only remotely comforting thing about all this is that they haven't a dog's chance of ever getting a hit."
Quoted from unidentified source
|Well, perhaps a minor hit with 'Bates Motel', but not enough for a band who were on the rocks, and so it wasn't long before Alan was again hunting for work. However, this all too familiar cycle was about to change......|
In 1981 Alan responded to an advert in Melody Maker requesting: "Keyboard player needed for established band - no timewasters." After an initial meeting with Daniel Miller, head of Mute Records, he was invited to an audition at Blackwing studios. It was here that he was introduced to Depeche Mode; 3 school friends from Basildon, Essex who had tasted early success with their first album 'Speak and Spell' together with recently departed member Vince Clarke, their chief songwriter.
|Alan was required to demonstrate his skills playing along to one of their recent hits 'New Life' amongst others, and although he impressed the band, Daniel remained unconvinced. After some debate and a second audition, the band eventually got their way and he was invited to join Depeche Mode, initially on a part-time basis.|
Says Wilder "The group clearly needed a replacement for Vince with a tour and other commitments on the horizon and his departure had come at an unexpected time after their early success. There was a lot of caution about me. They resented Vince for leaving and felt they needed to prove to him that they could carry on regardless. It was a question of pride I think, and they also didn't want to be seen as jumping into the transfer market to buy in a ready-made replacement."
in at the deep end, Alan's first duties included a live tour in the US,
along with a heavy schedule of TV, press and promotion in conjunction with
the latest releases 'See You' and 'Meaning of love'.
During the summer of 1982, Martin Gore, David Gahan and Andrew Fletcher locked themselves away in Blackwing studios without Alan, to prove their point to Vince and made their second album 'A Broken Frame'.
|Depeche Mode played a massive part in establishing Mute Records as one of the most successful and respected independent record companies in England, and the relationship between the group and Daniel Miller was crucial to this. Over the next year, Daniel began to form a much closer link with Alan. He had released the very first record on Mute, 'T.V.O.D.', under the guise 'The Normal' which embodied his interest in early German, largely experimental synthesizer music (Kraftwerk, DAF, Tangerine Dream etc.). Alan came from a very different, more musical angle and yet the two found a compatibility and, more importantly, a common interest in their approach to the Depeche sound.|
|Together with Gareth Jones, Daniel and Alan's involvement in the production of the next album 'Construction Time Again' in 1983 saw the sound of the group take a giant leap forward. Alan also contributed some of his own songs for the album as well as extra B-sides, although he would later admit that he felt obliged to participate in the songwriting process despite the fact that it didn't come naturally to him. His strength lay in the placement of sounds and the structuring of the music and his upbringing and exposure to classical orchestration was most certainly a factor in this.|
|As well as the introduction of samplers, one of the most noticeable changes to the Depeche sound at this time was a move away from it's pure pop beginnings towards a darker realisation. Having taken over the job of songwriting after Vince Clarke's departure, Martin was developing his own lyrical style and gaining in confidence. Coupled with psuedo-religious themes of guilt and redemption, he began to flirt with sexual androgyny whilst Alan capitalised on these ambiguities, seizing his opportunity to initiate what had long been his desire for a more mature, multi-dimentional sound.|
|This was clearly demonstrated in the next album 'Some Great Reward', released in 1984, that spawned a number of hits including the subversive 'Master and Servant' and 'Blasphemous Rumours'. Spurred on by condemnation from religious groups, the band were also gaining a reputation for being a rock n roll band in the truest sense of the term.|
|In the climate of the more politically and morally accepting 80s, the darker side of life that had once been confined to the seedy underground world of porn theatres and gay clubs, was rising to the surface and becoming new territory to exploit. Nowhere was this more obvious than in the US, where a once daring music scene seemed to have come to a complete standstill and was being strangled by soft rock and 'disco hell'.|
|Depeche Mode bore all the trademarks of this new musical exploitation, uncannily displaying just what the all-american, white middle classes seemed to be searching for. Here was a band that was clean cut enough to cross over but who weren't afraid to emit a provocatively sexual aura.|
|1986's 'Black Celebration' with its dark and cynical invitation "Let's have a black celebration....to celebrate the fact that we've seen the back of another black day" saw the group's popularity grow in Europe and in America.|
|By comparison, the English press seemed steadfast in it's refusal to forgive Depeche Mode for 'Just Can't Get Enough' and their 'New Romantic' associations. In spite of numerous past hits, current success with 'Stripped' and the promise of many to come, they continued to play the band and their music down.|
|For example, despite being at least as successful as their contemporaries such as Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet, the Mode were excluded from events like Bob Geldofs Live Aid concert and the Band Aid single .Do They Know It's Christmas. which featured all the major musicians of the time.|
|Ironically however, this was to be to Depeche Mode's advantage. By staying out of the limelight and refusing to court the vultures of the press, they were building a fan-base as belligerent as themselves, who would remain faithful to the death.|