In the late ’80s (and maybe still now, I don’t know), Black Celebration was the album of choice for fans who wanted to let people know they didn’t jump on the Depeche Mode bandwagon with Music for the Masses or 101 or Violator. Citing Black Celebration gave the person a certain credibility as a true DM fan.
For me, Black Celebration is tied up in my girlfriend at the time (Pam, the same one I attended the Cowboy Junkies concert with). I remember Pam had Black Celebration on cassette and us listening to it in her room. Also wrapped up in those memories are my working at a local warehouse wholesaler (a precursor to Costco and Sam’s Club), and ultimately Bowling Green.
The album, and “Stripped” in particular, evokes a brooding melancholy in me. There are flashes of light, but darkness is the pervading theme. On its surface, “Stripped” comes off as a bit of a seduction song, but dig deeper and you find a theme that reoccurs over the entire course of Black Celebration: sadness, disappointment.
I love singer Dave Gahan’s powerful delivery of the title word throughout “Stripped”. It’s forceful, provocative, and works perfectly with the strength of the music and samples. From 1983’s Construction Time Again on, Depeche Mode was never afraid to incorporate key Industrial traits into their synthpop, and “Stripped” fits that description. Opening with a distorted car ignition starting and propelled by hard beats, “Stripped” provides a clear path from Construction Time Again’s “Pipeline” through to the alternative feedback fuzz of Songs of Faith and Devotion.
Interestingly, “Stripped” was released as the first single off of Black Celebration in the UK, but not in the US. Stateside, the record company stepped in against the band’s wishes and the “But Not Tonight” b-side was included on the soundtrack to the little seen and rarely heard of Modern Girls movie, released as a single that flopped, and included on the US edition of Black Celebration.
Still probably my favorite Depeche Mode album, even ahead of Violator, I guess I’m still trying to assert my alternative music credibility by spreading the Black Celebration love. And “Stripped” remains one of my all-time favorite Depeche Mode songs.