Happy 25th Anniversary Personal Jesus

It’s times like this that I wish I was better writer. Not that I consider myself a writer by any means, but I do find myself wishing I could honor the 25th anniversary of “Personal Jesus” like these talented writers I read in music publications. Some of these music journalist are able to craft an article that is so insightful and thought provoking that it just sucks you in and you actually forget your reading. At the same time, I also feel that a lot of them are writing in a way that is more about them than the music they are profiling in their piece, so maybe my naivety is more of a strength since I am more interested in the music than anything else. Who knows, but maybe it’s time to take a few writing classes so that I can better convey to you the thoughts and feelings bouncing around in my head. I’ll have to give that some thought and get back to you on that one. Not a bad idea though. As “One of the devout”, I am just a Depeche Mode fan trying to share some thoughts on the music that we all love. Since Jann Wenner over at Rolling Stone won’t be in a hurry to hire me as a writer anytime soon, I’ll do my best to share a simple memory…

Depeche Mode - Personal Jesus

So here’s my internal conflict going on. I’m going to attempt to share a memory here with you, but I also know that it might come over as a self indulgent piece that I was just talking about above. The kind that could be perceived as being more about me than the music, but it really isn’t. I’m just not programmed that way. I do think, however, that my memory will mirror a lot of memories that many Depeche Mode fans of the late 80’s were feeling. I hope I can take you back to that time or maybe make you feel like you were there if you weren’t a fan of the band yet. It’s that simple, so keep that in mind as you read on.

Like a lot of fans, I was riding on the high of “101” and the band taking over the world with keyboards… and the occasional guitar. I was listening to a lot of the synth bands of the time and electronic music was all consuming. For me, in that window of time, it was all about those synth pop bands that tried to sound like Depeche Mode. Bands like Cetu Javu, Camouflage, Red Flag, and fringe bands like Celebrate The Nun were all I was digging for at the record shops. Of course bands like The Cure and Smiths were in my world, but I couldn’t get enough of the wave of DM clone bands of the late 80’s. That would carry on into the early 90’s a little, but not too long after ’92 or ’93 as electronic music started to evolve quickly from that point.

I remember walking into by bedroom and MTV happened to be on and they were just heading to commercial break when the VJ was saying the new video from Depeche Mode would be coming up next. Perfect timing to walk into my room if you ask me. To say I was excited would be an understatement. I hadn’t heard anything new on the radio yet, so I was glued to the TV waiting to hear some new music from the band. Now keep in mind, this was something brand new after Music For The Masses, so you have to keep your thoughts in the context of 1989. I vividly remember sitting in the chair in my room at the time waiting patiently through the commercials in hopes to hear the next “Strangelove” or “Black Celebration” sounding song. Just that classic Depeche Mode sound that I have been in love with through the 80’s and that’s what I was expecting with the synth pop explosion etc. I mean, who could do it better then Depeche right? Well, that’s what I get for assuming…

Personal Jesus Poster

MTV comes back from a break and after some promo’s, the video is just about to start. Now this was in the days before DVR, so I had my VCR queued up ready to go. I made sure to start recording as soon as they came back from break so I wouldn’t miss a thing. The songs starts and the guitar and stomping beat kick in and I am completely taken back. I was just sitting there not exactly sure what I was looking at. There was the familiar faces of the band, but thy were in cowboy hats and I was struggling to absorb it all. I would love to have seen the look on my face. “Where’s  the synth pop?” I thought, “What’s going on here??” I was confused. The video ends and I didn’t know what to think. I remember pausing and thinking I just needed to rewind the tape and give it a few more listens. The more I listened the more I found myself not liking it at all. It was so different! Now up to this point, there wasn’t much I didn’t like, so this was a crushing feeling for my 1989 self. I was floored. Later I would hear the band talking about that is what they were going for. It was a change and they wanted to make a statement since they were away for a while.

I was still having pretty mixed feelings on the song, but I went to the record store and bought the single anyway… because that’s what I always do with DM. How I remember all this so vividly is beyond me, but I think it was so shocking that it just stayed with me. I get home from the store, take off the shrink wrap, and put it on my turntable with pretty low expectations. Since I had already heard “Personal Jesus”, I thought I would give the b-side a go. It was probably going to be as bad, it was just a b-side, but it was another new song to listen to. “Dangerous” starts… I’m floored again! This time in a completely different way. “There is DEPECHE MODE!” I thought to myself. I was blown away by it. It’s so crystal clear in my memory that it’s bizarre. I listened to “Dangerous” a few times and decided it was time to check out the remixes which I ended up loving. The “Pump Mix” in particular was the mix that actually got me into the song. After some time and adjusting to it, I got into it and would go on to love “Personal Jesus”.

Depeche Mode Personal Jesus

It’s kind of crazy to think that such a beloved and iconic song was so different or shocking by today’s standards, but it really was. At least to me and I have had other people mention that to me as well. Everything about it was different, but it was more Depeche Mode than ever really. It just took me some time to get it and I’m not afraid to admit it. If anything, it made me appreciate the band more and the chances they take. I’m sure there are fans out there who loved the song instantly, but I wanted to share my first impression memory of it here as we celebrate the song turning 25. Then of course “Enjoy The Silence” and “Violator” came next and I, like most fans, was in total DM heaven more then ever. The change was good, it took them to another level as we all know. It’s such a classic, it’s almost hard to imagine that there was a time in DM history it didn’t exist. Looking back I am so glad they shook things up the way they did. It was that progression and innovation that has kept them ahead of everything and that continues to this day with Delta Machine. Like I said when I started, I hope my memory of this will spark a memory of the first time you heard “Personal Jesus” for the first time.

I posted this photos this morning on Home’s Instagram, but I am sharing there here too. Enjoy!

Personal Jesus

Personal Jesus

Personal Jesus (Acustic) US Promo 12"

Personal Jesus

Johnny Cash Personal Jesus

What is your first memory and impression of “Personal Jesus”? Let us know.

1 Comment

  • Peter


    An excellent read. You may not be a trained writer, but the text sure sucked me in. I wasn't yet a DM fan back then, but I had some close friends who were and I clearly remember they were very concerned when PJ was unleashed.