There is a moment in 101, the DA Pennebaker film, in which Depeche Mode is set to conquer America in the spring of 1988, in which Andrew Fletcher perfectly explains his role in the team. “Martin is a songwriter, Alan is a good musician, Dave is a singer, and I go around.” There is a lot of self-mockery in these words of those who are aware that their task is as important as that of others, and therefore can afford to joke about it. Because the man who passed away at the age of sixty yesterday was not at all a beautiful figure stuck behind keyboards in ever-larger stadiums.
He was there too, along with Vince Clarke and Martin Gore, in the first Depeche Mode core. Their name was Composition of Sound and they put down their guitars in the early 1980s to get their first electronic instruments. And there he was alone, less than two years later, in the office of a worried Daniel Miller, founder of Mute, the band’s historic label. Vince Clarke, the author of almost all songs, quit after the first album and doubts about the group’s future were more than justified. “Don’t worry,” said Fletcher, “Martin is a really good writer: we can do it.” A prophecy that turned out to be very accurate but certainly not easy to make in 1982.
For an abundant fifteen years, Fletch was sort of a manager inside the band who was entrusted with the less rock’n’roll aspects of the music business. A role recognized by Miller himself: “They knew what they wanted, especially him,” says one interviewee in: Statue (Arcana). “They didn’t have an agent, lawyer, or accountant. In a way, Andy was the manager and he was most interested in those aspects. “
This thing did not seem to be displeasing to him, quite the contrary. “My life is made of numbers,” he declared in 1993 in an interview with Musician“As a musician I am useless, but my teamwork is stimulating and rewarding. When I was playing bass, I never wanted to be a great bass player, so when I got my hands on the keyboards. I’m interested in creating something, publishing, promoting and selling. “
There is something punk in the history of this non-musician who finds a way to get on stage and become part of an extremely successful band. In the review by Playing Angel (2005) published in US edition Rolling StoneGavin Edwards took up the words spoken by Fletch in 101 mercilessly altering the ending: “Martin Gore writes songs, Dave Gahan sings them, and Andrew Fletcher shows up at photo shoots and cashes checks.” Wasn’t it a new installment of the great rock’n’roll scam?
“I’m the tall one in the back,” he loved to repeat, “the one without which a multinational company called Depeche Mode would never work.” With the rapid development of the Fletch company, it increasingly had to delegate employees to professional agents, lawyers and accountants. It was then that his own popped up more and more soft skillsas the good say, his ability to mediate between the not-so-easy personalities of the other two founding members.
It was his diplomatic abilities that made the Gore-Gahan Agreement possible, which, starting with … Playing Angeleven songs written by the singer could be found on the new Depeche Mode albums. In a few interviews, he also joked about his pacifying function, sometimes including a few jokes like: hopefully it won’t be useful anymore. He never wrote a song for Depeche Mode, perhaps knowing that a band where everyone wants to be the center of attention cannot exist, or in any case, cannot last more than forty years like them.
Fletch’s frontman, if any, is the subject of one of Depeche Mode’s funniest legends: the z Hawaii toast. The name comes from the toast that the band members ate in Berlin before moving to Hansa Studios to make Black celebration (1986) and is the title of an elusive album of rock’n’roll covers played by Depeche Mode with classic guitar-bass-drums. Under the heading is Fletch, who claimed that Martin Gore owned the only copy of the CD, emphasizing that he hoped he would never make its contents public.
In short, he was a rock star just for fun and in secret, and has often shown in interviews that he is aware of his great fortune. Life on the road, he said, is not so bad: they take us around, we live in nice hotels, and surely most of our fans are doing the harder work. Similarly, when asked if he would mind being away from his family on long journeys, he replied that many people work away from their family and certainly do less interesting jobs. Perhaps he still remembered when, the day after Depeche Mode’s debut in Top of the Popscommented on his performance with colleagues at the headquarters of an insurance company where he continued to work.
To paraphrase a song by a musician that has little to do with Depeche Mode, Andy Fletcher was a true helper, born without good feet but with precise tasks. One that nature gave no tips (Dave Gahan) or ten (Martin Gore), but who won the world championship and how he comes out with his hands raised from dozens of stadiums. It was the top of the scales for a band that had risked breaking up on several occasions, but was still there over forty years, fresh from entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Thanks to the pandemic, everyone was speaking from a different place. Fletch was the only one who still lived in Great Britain, in London, Martin Gore moved to California long ago, and Dave Gahan to New York. A recent photo posted on Instagram by his wife Gráinne Mullan, with whom he has been married all his life, shows him in the emergency room after a hard fall from his bicycle. The penultimate one is even less rock’n’roll: on vacation in Ireland, in a pub over a beer.
All very far from the Depeche Mode lifestyle until the 90’s. Without going into too much chemical detail and a little force, we can say for sure that where Dave Gahan was Mick Jagger, frontman, sex symbol, poster, Martin Gore was instead of Keith Richards, the songwriter, the band’s musical mind. And Fletch was Charlie Watts, with the band from day one, but never in the front row, loved by fans and little known to everyone else. In less than a month, the Rolling Stones will play at San Siro. Will we see another Depeche Mode concert?