Depeche Mode V’s Johnny Cash

Not a Harry Hill style ‘FIGHT!’, but a reflection on the track ‘Personal Jesus’.

Back in 1989, one Thursday evening, I was eagerly awaiting that old favourite Top Of The Pops, as tonight it was to show the première of Depeche Mode’s new single ‘Personal Jesus’.

The stompy track about telephones, faith and Jesus was the introduction to what would be, in my mind, DM’s high-water mark, the excellent ‘Violator’ album. The singles off the album would all feature a variety of outstanding remixes and beautiful instrumental pieces, including the release of a 15min remix in four parts- the Quad mix- of ‘Enjoy The Silence’.

Forward to 2002, Johnny Cash releases ‘American IV: The Man Comes Around’, a mixture of covers and self-penned songs, recorded with Ex- Def Jam Records owner Rick Rubin, this album was to be his last release before his death in 2003. His voice was quite frail at this stage of his life, and the choice of tracks delivers an aural bookend to his life, and is often very moving. More of which at a later date.

One of the tracks covered is a re-working of Depeche Mode’s ‘Personal Jesus’ a strippped down, acoustic affair. This approach gives the track a more ‘personal’ and less bombastic sound (I think the original has fairly ‘Glam’ beats). Where as the feel of DM’s track is of someone needing an ‘Ear’ to off-load some sordid tale and gain redemption, Cash’s version is of a frail man needing faith at the end of his life, looking to ‘tie up the ends’ before his final crossing to what lies next.

Very different in feel.

A discussion a few years later with a friend of mine about the Cash album, and the beauty of it, the way he had been moved by this country legend who he hadn’t previously given much time to, and in particular the cover versions on the album, and the way that Cash had made a Depeche Mode track so different and sound so good, that DM should take note- this rubbish ‘Pop’ band…

We went back to mine, and I dug out my Depeche Mode 12″, flipped to the b-side, and played this:

My mate was floored, he hadn’t realised that DM could do acoustic too. Martin Gore is one of the greatest song writers of his generation- this quiet lad from Basildon doesn’t shout about it though.


About Guarin

A lover of diverse music
This entry was posted in Ear Worms, Music, People, Songs and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Depeche Mode V’s Johnny Cash

  1. jem says:

    Love the acoustic PJ – if I’ve heard it before it’s not been for a long time! Not that I needed convincing that DM can do sensitive. Perhaps too many people pigeon hole them based on the early hits and big single releases. I like the way you point out that a decent cover can allow an artist to bring their own interpretation and perhaps their own need to a song. A thoughtful post as ever!

  2. Guarin says:

    …talking of which, I’ll talk more about Cash and his covers at a later date, his ‘American’ series, especially the first four are outstanding.

  3. Moosh (Pa Tees) says:

    Moosh says:
    Nicely penned Gaz. Hadn’t read your blog for a while and this one ‘hit me’ ‘cos the Man in Black somehow did it with deep feeling probably thinking of June CC. Ma loves this version.

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