And I've made my decision
This is religion
There's no doubt
- “Sacred” from Music for the Masses, 1987
That tenuous, fragile line between fandom and insanity, the dramatic throes of obsessive youthful lust, is something that needn’t be taken lightly. Do not tell a brooding teen that her favorite band, the one she knows absolutely everything about—including birthdays, heights, and eye colors—is not the most important segment of her universe. Yes, Depeche Mode is the greatest band in the world. Of course Alan is the most talented musician, Martin the best songwriter and, just perhaps, Dave is the most perfect man you ever did see in high waisted white jeans. Their music is her lullaby, her therapy, her one true love that culminates both hope and desire. I know this because I’ve been there—and probably will never grow out of it.
“There’s no arguing with obsession,” Jenna Robbins writes in her memoir, Faithful and Devoted. The book is an account of her journey following Depeche Mode through Spain for a few shows during the 1993 Devotional Tour. As a “devotee”—a nickname for the most devout of Depeche Mode fans—Robbins recalls the unbelievable summer she spent with her pen pal, a Spanish girl named Marta, whom she had met via the Depeche Mode fan magazine, Bong. With incredible luck and the persistence of naivety, Robbins and her cohort managed to conquer the impossible: attain backstage passes and meet the band a few times, gathering other shocking adventures along the way that occur in dreams of the Depeche-obsessed.
The only way to describe Depeche Mode during that time of their career would be as deities, a religion. Having always embraced the theatrics of spirituality, especially in the latter part of the 1980s and early 1990s, Depeche Mode’s album Songs of Faith and Devotion from 1993 is a testament to just that. With exultant themes of higher beings and profound worship, Dave’s godlike conjuring of emotion within a stadium concert setting and the divine splendor of their live shows, Robbins’ experiences at these shows could only be compared to a rapturous sermon in a packed-out sanctuary. She does an excellent job of embracing religion as a theme throughout her memoir with Marta, the devout Catholic, in tow.
Faithful and Devoted is a breezy read, its flow simplistic—much like a young adult novel that mirrors Robbins’ age at the time of her story. Even though it’s marketed otherwise, it’s uncertain how well this book would translate for others who aren’t Depeche Mode fans or do not at least retain some familiarity of the band. But for a devotee, this is a must read—Robbins’ memoir contains the very crazed experiences we’ve all fantasized about.
My stomach knotted in jealousy at times, wishing that I could have been Robbins. But I couldn’t help but feel a sense of anxiety underlined in the text—it all seemed much too perfect to be true. And, of course, it was. We learn that her shiny, grandiose fairytale fades as the book progresses: what she thought was important becomes trivial. It’s not until the final pages of Faithful and Devoted when reality bares its true ugliness, a pivotal circumstance that tugs her out from under the hypnosis of Dave’s shimmying hips and the glamour of the bright stage lights.
The book is much like the music of Depeche Mode: a romance laced in dread, an underlying effigy to darkness and its unhinged reality. By living, we know penance for fun is inevitable and its grandeur is only a facade… but perhaps it’s only those of us jaded from the sorrow of life who can say such things. Then again, that’s probably why we love Depeche Mode so damn much.
- Andi Harriman is the author of Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace: The Worldwide Compendium of Postpunk and Goth in the 1980s. She resides in Brooklyn, New York where she writes, DJs and lectures on all things dark and gloomy.