Andy Fletcher was the final particular person to inform you why he was important to Depeche Mode. In 101, the basic 1989 tour documentary directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, he mentioned: “Martin’s the songwriter, Alan’s the nice musician, Dave’s the vocalist, and I bum round.” He knew there was way more to it than that, however the man all of them referred to as Fletch felt no have to shout about it.
Depeche Mode are some of the well-liked and influential British bands of all time however nothing about them is smart in typical phrases. It shouldn’t be doable to lose your chief songwriter (Vince Clarke) after only one album after which get larger and higher. There was no precedent for a synth-pop group evolving right into a stadium rock band with out really taking part in rock music. It’s uncommon, if not distinctive, for one particular person to put in writing the songs (Martin Gore) and one other to sing them (Dave Gahan) with such conviction that it’s onerous to consider they don’t seem to be autobiographical. They’ve bought greater than 100m albums and had dozens of hit singles whereas retaining the outsider attract of a cult band – arguably the world’s largest, with no fewer than three documentaries made about their fandom. And all this from Basildon.
Fletch’s position in Depeche Mode was yet one more factor that didn’t observe the foundations. He was there from the very starting, taking part in bass with Clarke in a punk band referred to as No Romance in China, then co-founding the digital trio Composition of Sound earlier than Gahan joined and renamed them Depeche Mode. However over time, followers usually questioned what precisely he did. Because the truest believer in digital pop, he was an necessary sounding board within the studio however he didn’t sing or write songs. He performed synthesizers, however not with the virtuosity of his former bandmate Alan Wilder, who give up in 1995. Solely as soon as did he admit that doubts about his contribution bothered him. “As a result of I don’t push myself to the fore, many mistake me for the fifth wheel,” he said in 2013. “Typically it’s irritating to not be taken significantly. In any case, you possibly can additionally say my job is crucial – with out me there could be no band any extra.”
Fletch’s significance might be onerous to understand as a result of he took on roles which can be normally occupied by individuals exterior a band. For some time he was their quasi-manager, dealing with the enterprise facet of what successfully grew to become a small company. At numerous factors he owned a restaurant, invested in property and ran his personal label, Toast Hawaii. On the identical time, he appeared just like the childhood buddy that pop stars take with them to verify their ft keep as near the bottom as doable. A pure extrovert, he grew to become the band’s spokesperson and ambassador, with a pleasant sideline in DJing. (I noticed him at a membership as soon as: he performed numerous Depeche Mode.) Throughout the band, he was the diplomat – the glue that held them collectively.
Anybody who research pop music is aware of that bands are mysterious and delicate entities. Some (effectively, one: the Rolling Stones) have endured for 60 years and others have flamed out after two. It’s onerous sufficient to carry collectively underneath strain whenever you’re a mid-level indie band, not to mention international superstars. What’s required is the appropriate stability of personalities. Fletch was Gore’s finest buddy (born 15 days aside, they’d a joint Fiftieth-birthday get together) however he was so amiable and egoless that he may function a sturdy bridge to Gahan when issues received dicey. A pop star on paper, he got here throughout within the flesh as a profoundly abnormal bloke who preferred beer, chess, Chelsea and really dry humour. I’ve by no means met anybody in a giant band who was so totally unaffected by fame – however then, he would say with reduction, he wasn’t really well-known.
That’s to not say Fletch was strong as a rock – he used to drink an excessive amount of on stage and suffered a breakdown in the course of the making of 1993’s Songs of Religion and Devotion – however in a band that when took a psychiatrist and a drug seller on the street he was nonetheless the level-headed one. There was by no means any hazard of him making an attempt to steal the highlight or throwing his weight round. He was a facilitator, and happy with it. As soon as requested if he had a motto for all times, he replied: “Certain and steadfast.”
Fletch was additionally an awesome cheerleader for his personal band. Followers cherished him as a result of he felt like one in all us: a person who expressed his joyful enthusiasm for Depeche Mode from the stage slightly than the group, jigging round behind his keyboard as if he couldn’t consider his luck. It felt as if, if you happen to, too, had skilled the nice fortune to develop up with top-of-the-line songwriters of your era, then that might be you up there. “We had an absolute dream profession,” he mentioned in 2017, including with attribute understatement: “At the very least if you happen to take out these years that have been a bit messy.”
In 1996, throughout these “messy” years, Gahan clinically died for 2 minutes after a drug overdose. Fletch by no means appeared as if he could be the primary member to go. It’s onerous to inform what Depeche Mode will do now. Gore and Gahan may proceed to report and tour and your ears wouldn’t discover the distinction. However Gore has misplaced his finest buddy and so they have each misplaced somebody who was a continuing, steadying presence within the band for 40 years. Solely they actually know the way important Fletch was and the way a lot he shall be missed.