Although Personal Jesus could well be the song that Depeche Mode fans will class as one of the band’s finest moments (well, it’s not every synth pop tune that inspired the legendary Johnny Cash to revive in great style), it’s more likely that Just Can’t Get Enough will be the one that the long established outfit is long remembered for.
Alright, they probably won’t be too pleased about it – they have, after all, progressed from froth to feeling as the years have passed. And what’s more, it’s unlikely they ever saw the song as anything more than simply their third hit (it peaked at number 8 in 1981) – and the last contribution that founder member Vince Clarke would make to their catalogue.
But like or loathe it, somehow they’d created a footballing anthem almost up there with Three Lions – and one which, in part at least, could be chanted every week in every stadium just as long as your team was scoring goals and as long as you didn’t ask too many of the football fans just where the magic words “I just can’t get enough, I just can’t get enough” actually came from (despite the fact that they are repeated going on for 50 times during the course of the song).
There’s not much else in the song pointing to a kop classic. Not too many fans will feel inclined to sing the opening refrain of “When I’m with you baby I go out of my head” even to their favourite centre forward” and as for the first chorus “We slip and slide as we fall in love and I just can’t seem to get enough” it’s probably time for a cold shower. But somewhere along the line Just Can’t Get Enough was adopted wholesale by football fans across the land.
It was released in September 1981 as the third single from the band’s debut album, Speak and Spell. It was recorded during the summer of that year and was the band’s first single to be released in the United States, on 18 February 1982. It was the final single to be written by founding member Vince Clarke, who left the band in November 1981.
It was inspired he said by To Cut a Long Story Short by Spandau Ballet, which was released earlier in 1980.
Clarke had just turned 20 when he wrote it. He left the band after the Speak and Spell album was released, later joining chart success stories Yaz (with Alison Moyet) and Erasure.
According to Depeche Mode vocalist Dave Gahan, the song was written as the punk scene was winding down and London club kids were looking for music they could dance to that wasn’t so aggressive.
In an interview with Q magazine February 2008, he recalled recording Depeche Mode’s debut album and their early days as a band: “Vince (Clarke) was the leader at that point. By the time we got into the studio, Vince had got bored with it. He didn’t like the idea of having to deal with other personalities. He wanted to be in control. That’s the only album where the songs had already been performed for a year and a half beforehand, and we went into the studio and recorded them as we would live. I think Daniel (Miller, their Mute record label boss) saw us as a cross between the Ramones and the Beach Boys, in an electronic way – fast and short with really simple riffs. We were courted by major labels and were very suspicious of signing a deal that meant five albums. We’d come from that punk ethic: we just wanted to make a single. Daniel came along and that’s all he really had the money to do, so it kind of worked. We wanted to keep in control. We never thought much beyond the next single and playing some gigs. That time was brilliant.”
The single reached number 8 on the UK singles chart and number 26 on the US Hot Dance Club chart, making it their highest-charting single at the time on both counts. It also became the band’s first (and biggest) hit in Australia, reaching number 4.
Not everyone appreciated the Speak and Spell album. Rolling Stone magazine called it “PG-rated fluff.”
Apart from its footballing adoption the song was used in ads for The Gap, which featured young people miming in front of a white background. They were selling a line of leather. Vince Clarke was also known to sing it with an acoustic guitar at Erasure concert dates. (Clarke formed Erasure with Andy Bell a few years after leaving Depeche Mode).
It became the first Depeche Mode song used in a film when it was featured in 1982’s Summer Lovers. It was also used in The Wedding Singer in 1998.
But it’s unlikely Vince Clarke ever kicked a football in his life.
|Depeche Mode, Daniel Miller
|Synth-pop, New Wave
|18 September 1981