Like most of America, it was the hit-you-over-the-head obvious, egalitarian “People Are People” where Depeche Mode first came onto my radar. Released in March of 1984, almost a half-year in advance of Some Great Reward, the single’s popularity would prompt the release of a US-only compilation of the same name nearly two months before Some Great Reward was available. The album of new material boasts two of Depeche Mode’s most provocative songs: the psycho-sexual “Master and Servant”, and the religious-questioning “Blasphemous Rumours”. But it’s the double A-side of that latter song that has always caught my ear. After Vince Clarke left Depeche Mode in 1981, Martin Gore stepped up and took over primary songwriting duties for the band. “Somebody” was Gore’s first ballad and only the fourth time he sang lead on a Depeche Mode song.
Coming from a place of damaged love, there is a need for comfort. The hopeless romantic as the addict, and “Somebody” is the junkie’s lie – to himself, to her. There are pledges of support and requests for understanding. Challenging and disagreeing are a part of the healthy give-and-take façade that crumbles under harsher light. Things unravel when the singer admits, “I don’t want to be tied to anyone’s strings / I’m carefully trying to steer clear of those things.” Ultimately, the bait has been switched, and “Though things like this / Make me sick / In a case like this / I’ll get away with it.”
Playing off the duplicitous lyrical twist, there is a sinister undertone, courtesy of the heartbeat time being kept throughout, and the almost-intelligible voices that provide background… is it children on a playground, idle cocktail party-goers’ chatter, something else entirely?
Thematically, I love the bridge between The Cure’s “Untitled” and Depeche Mode’s “Somebody” on the playlist. Where the previous track wallows in its self-pity, this one looks for new hope (or at least a new bed to share). Also, of note, the original single version of “Somebody” found on the Catching Up With Depeche Mode/The Singles 81>85 compilations shaves a few seconds off the album version, but somehow feels more rich and textured.