11. Depeche Mode – Enjoy the Silence

Pleasures remain, so does the pain. Words are meaningless and forgettable.

When I was just out of high school my Mum told me to get out of the house and find a job. A day later I was working at Raider Ski, a factory that made surf skis. Writing about Depeche Mode reminded me of that because of a tenuous link between the band and the singing of the people that worked there.

Work was a kilometer away and the route to work was down a steep hill. If I kept up my corner speed I could make it all the way to the factory without pedaling. Then the way home made me a much better hill climber. I didn’t figure that out until the day when I was riding with a friend and climbed the hill to Manly Dam then looked back to find my buddy halfway up the hill and out of breath.

It was my first paying job. I had lied about my age so I could get paid more, although they wondered why I hadn’t got my drivers license when I was supposed to be eighteen. A factory that makes surf skis is really just putting expanding foam into plastic or fiberglass ski shells, but my job was ‘dispatch clerk’. I wrapped the finished skis in padded bags, addressed them and sent them off to various surf shops around the country. I also ordered the sandwiches for lunch. John Christiansen, the guy who organized the pay packets and also the reigning surf ski champion, liked peanut butter and onion sandwiches. He told me to try one; it was good.


I worked in the office, which was easier on the hands – no fiberglass to mess with – although I did help out around the factory. I spent one afternoon putting pins into fins. That is wired into my brain so well that I can remember the feeling of operating the old hand-driven machine.

The foam that filled the skis was fun stuff. The boys (and they were all boys) would fill plastic bags with foam and shape them into footballs and throw them around the factory. They’d meet up before work to get stoned, then head out at lunch to get more stoned then take a break in the afternoon to top up their THC level.

A radio in the factory played some popular station. Every song with falsetto like Soul Kind of Feeling was a hit with the boys. The whole factory of employees would sing along in falsetto. They would sing with their favorite songs but change the words. After the intervening twenty-five years I can remember only a couple of examples. When Sade sang Smooth Operator they’d be singing “smooth masturbator”, and when Depeche Mode sang Just Can’t Get Enough they’d sing “just can’t get it up”. Now I think of it most of Australia sings “just can’t get it up”.

Just Can’t Get Enough was played in high rotation on Australian TV and Radio. I liked Depeche Mode, I owned the record of Speak and Spell, but somehow Enjoy the Silence flew beneath my radar. I didn’t pay much attention to the song until a few years after it came out when my roommate Kevin had a copy of the Violator album. Even then I didn’t recognize its greatness.

One day I was driving home from work in Seattle when I heard the Failure version and yelled, “That’s a Depeche Mode song!” Failure’s cover version was brilliant and it inspired me to go home and listen to the original. I understood the truth of Enjoy the Silence many years late.

[Watch this in regular quality – high quality is out of sync.]


The video is boring and when I listen to the lyrics I hear a sad and romantic song, so I ignore those and concentrate on the music. The fact that a guitar-driven rock cover version sounds so great shows how well-written the original song is – it doesn’t need layered synthesizers to sound good. Dave Gahan’s voice is beautiful.



Next: 10. Lush – Ladykillers

Previous: 12. Blondie – Atomic


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