Depeche Mode’s Andy Fletcher: A Tribute to the Quiet One

Goodbye to Andy Fletcher, a beloved new wave uncle to countless Depeche Mode fans over the years. Fletch, who died of natural causes at the age of 60, was a founding member of the seminal synth-pop style and a crucial element in their chemistry. Every grumpy goth teenager who ever wore black in the 80’s has a soft spot in their heart for this man, which is why fans around the world are firing Black celebration now in his honor. Fletch represented their original punk rock spirit of inspired dabbling. As he said NME right at the beginning, 1981: “You don’t have to be a great musician to play and spread a message. We certainly knew nothing about music.”

In Depeche Mode, always fletch stood between two mega-flamboyant personalities. On the one hand: Martin Gore, the brooding songwriter, who pouted “Understaaand me” at the camera in a leather jacket. On the other hand, Dave Gahan, the flamboyant, extroverted, extremely topless lead singer, never shies away from dressing up in white jeans. Fletch was in the middle, the quiet one, always slightly amused to find himself caught up in such a long-running pop melodrama.

As Depeche Mode grew more kinky and gothic, Fletch consistently conveyed the vibe of an affable accountant who accidentally got into the industrial sex club. He always seemed to have the same haircut, the same glasses, the same wry grin. The closest he came to matching the theatrical decadence of the others was when he lip-synched the screams in the “Master and Servant” video.

Fletch always had a unique and enigmatic role in this unique and enigmatic group. In fact, fans weren’t quite sure what he actually was did. Musically he was notorious. Unlike the other two, he did not sing or write; no one seemed to know if their keyboard was even plugged in. That was part of his mystery. He performed on stage – but his real job was to take care of their business affairs. As Gahan once mused, “Maybe we should set up a fax machine for him on stage.”

But he was also an eloquent spokesman for the whole concept of Depeche Mode. “The beauty of using electronics is that music can now be made in your bedroom,” he said Rolling Stone in 1993. “You don’t have to get four people together in some warehouse to practice.” For him, this freed artists for new forms of creative liberation. “Of course it’s sad to see the demise of the traditional rock group. But there will always be a place for it in cabaret.”

The group began in the London suburb of Basildon, where synthesizer wizard Vince Clarke wrote the songs. They scored brilliant hits – “Dreaming of Me”, “New Life”, “Just Can’t Get Enough” – and the classic debut of 1981 speaking and spelling. When Clarke quit and moved to Yaz, everyone thought Depeche Mode was done – but they continued in an extremely odd four-man configuration. Martin Gore wrote the songs, Dave Gahan flexed his hips, Alan Wilder played most of the music – and Fletch ran the office. Wilder left in 1995, but the core trio carried on, as happily dysfunctional as ever.

The Mode became elder statesmen and traveled the world. “Travel gets harder as you get older,” Fletch told me in 2009. “But you know, we travel with a certain level of luxury.” They’ve been making great music in the studio time and time again – their last album coming out in 2017 Spirit, is a really underrated cracker. The beautiful 2005 play the angel is a Top 5 album by Depeche Mode, featuring one of their finest singles in “Precious”. And they remained tremendously awesome as a live act. “We’re not the cure,” Fletcher said. “We don’t play four hours. I think Dave would die of a heart attack if he danced around the stage that long.”

Fletch was famous for his dry, often snarky wit. When Depeche Mode was inducted into the Hall of Fame via long-distance video, Dave Gahan gave a speech thanking the group’s artistic heroes such as David Bowie, Iggy and the Stooges, the Clash. Fletcher chimed in: “The Eagles!” in the classic documentary by DA Pennebaker 101Their fans follow the group on tour of America. Fletch spends the entire film looking mildly surprised yet amused by all the fan hysteria surrounding him, not to mention the melodrama within the group itself. This is how fans will remember him. RIP, Fletch.

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/andy-fletcher-depeche-mode-tribute-1359330/ Depeche Mode’s Andy Fletcher: A Tribute to the Quiet One

Sarah Ridley

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