Thousands of Depeche Mode fans say their final farewells to Andy Fletcher, their beloved New Wave uncle. Fletch, who died at age 60 of natural causes, was a founding member of the pioneering synth-pop group, and an essential ingredient in their chemistry.
To pay tribute to this man, admirers around the world are playing Black Celebration in his honor. This man is beloved by every melancholy goth youngster from the 1980s who ever donned black. Fletch symbolized their initial punk-rock vibe of enthusiastic amateurism.
As he told the NME right at the beginning, in 1981, “You don’t have to be a brilliant musician to play and get a message out. We had no idea what we were doing when it came to music.”
— Depeche Mode (@depechemode) May 26, 2022
In Depeche Mode, Fletch always stood between two mega-flamboyant egos. On one hand: Martin Gore, the moody songwriter, pouting “Understand me” to the camera in a leather jacket.
On the other hand: Dave Gahan, the flamboyant, exuberant, extremely topless lead singer, was never bashful about preening in white trousers. Fletch was in the middle, the quiet one, always slightly bemused at finding himself caught up in such a long-running pop melodrama.
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Even though Depeche Mode was becoming increasingly raunchy, Fletch maintained his role as the friendly accountant who accidentally strolled into an industrial sex club. He had the same haircut, spectacles, and dry sneer every time I saw him. Lip-syncing the “Master and Servant” video’s shouts was the closest he came to the other band members’ theatrical decadence.
They’ve all known Fletch was special, but he’s always been a mystery to the rest of them. Fans were unsure of just what he accomplished. He had a reputation for being a little too hands-off when it came to music. In contrast to the other two, he didn’t sing or write anything, and no one seemed to know if his keyboard was even turned on. That was part of what made him so enthralling to so many people. Even though he was on stage, he was in charge of their commercial affairs. “Maybe we should set a fax machine up for him onstage,” Gahan once pondered.
But he was also a powerful voice for the Depeche Mode movement as a whole. In 1993, he told Rolling Stone, “The beauty of employing electronics is that music can now be made in your bedroom.” To practice, “you don’t need to gather four individuals in a warehouse.” That freed artists to explore new avenues of creativity, according to him. Indeed, the loss of a conventional rock band is a sad thing to witness.” However, cabaret will always have a place for it.”
The band was formed in Basildon, a suburb of London, by synthesizer wizard Vince Clarke. “Dreaming of Me,” “New Life,” and “Just Can’t Get Enough” were all huge hits for them, and their debut album, 1981’s Speak and Spell, is a classic. Everyone thought Depeche Mode was done when Clarke left to join Yaz, yet they went on in a bizarre four-man lineup. Gore composed the tunes, Gahan swayed his hips, Wilder performed most of the music, and Fletch took care of the business end. Despite Wilder’s departure from the band in 1995, the core trio continued to perform as if nothing had ever happened.
The Mods established themselves as world leaders and embarked on a world tour. Fletch informed me in 2009, “Traveling becomes more difficult as we age.” We do travel in a certain level of luxury, though, as you well know. They’ve always been putting out fantastic music in the studio, and their most recent album, Spirit, is one of the most underappreciated albums of all time.
“Precious,” from Depeche Mode’s 2005 album Playing the Angel, is one of the band’s most beautiful singles. As live performers, they were still awe-inspiring. Fletcher stated, “We’re not the cure.” “We don’t play for four hours every time.” As far as I can tell, “I don’t think Dave could keep up the pace for that long.”
Fletch was well-known for his biting wit and sarcasm. Dave Gahan thanked Depeche Mode’s musical inspirations, including David Bowie, Iggy and the Stooges, and The Clash, in a video message during the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When Fletcher said, “The Eagles!” everyone laughed. An American tour is chronicled in D.A. Pennebaker’s classic documentary 101. Fans’ hysteria and the melodrama inside the band keep Fletch delighted throughout the film, but he doesn’t seem shocked. That’s how he’ll be remembered by his admirers. Fletch, we miss you.