Germany has long been the home of one of Depeche Mode’s strongest fanbases. While the band chose Los Angeles as the site of its historic 101 concert at the Rose Bowl in 1988, Germany — and Berlin in particular — have been their focus for the last decade or so. They kicked off the Global Spirit Tour with an intimate show at the Funkhaus, chose the first two fans for their Facebook Takeover from Berlin (I was Day #1), and ended the tour at the city’s Waldbühne amphitheater, where they also filmed the two concerts and fan footage for their feature film Spirits in the Forest.
The band’s connection to the German capital reaches back to its early days. For the three years I lived in Berlin, I was constantly coming across locations I’d seen in videos and photos and, of course, I was a regular visitor to Hansa Studios, where the band recorded three albums: Construction Time Again, Some Great Reward, and Black Celebration. On one occasion, I discovered I’d been living just blocks from a location (the Hand mit Uhr statue seen near the end of the “Everything Counts” video) and hadn’t even realized it.
If you do ever find yourself in Berlin (or the City Different, as I like to refer to it), here are the best places to visit for selfies or just to get a taste of Depeche Mode nostalgia. I’ve left out performance venues, since you can’t go inside most of them unless there’s a show, and just stuck with places where you can snap a photo of yourself for bragging rights.
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Let’s start with the obvious — and my personal favorite. Hansa Studios — or “Hansa by the Wall,” as it was then known — is where the above three albums were all recorded. When it came to perform “Somebody,” Martin Gore stripped down to his birthday suit in the Meistersaal. Stories differ on whether Alan Wilder, playing the piano, was in the room with him or not. For many fans, just being in the room where Martin was known to have been stripped down to the bone would be reason enough to make the pilgrimage.
If you take a tour with Berlin Music Tours (the only way to visit Hansa), you’ll have a chance to hear DM’s songs played through the very soundboard where they were recorded. You can also sit in the window where David Bowie wrote “Heroes” (more on Bowie in Berlin) and take a photo on the staircase that the Basildon boys made famous in an image from that era.
Further photo ops await outside. The video for “Stripped” was shot in front of Hansa, and just down the block is the Stresemanstraße street sign where the band posed for a photo.
Hand mit Uhr Statue
Found in front of the Gymnasium Tiergarten, the Hand mit Uhr (“Hand with Clock” — I know, real creative name) statue can be seen at around the 3:13 mark in the video for “Everything Counts.” More Info
The lake seen at the end of “Everything Counts,” located in the Wannsee section of the Berlin borough of Steglitz-Zehlendorf, is the most popular bathing spot in west Berlin and one of the longest inland beaches in Europe. If you visit, don’t be surprised to see Germans walking around wearing as much clothing as Martin did while recording “Somebody.”
“Everything Counts” is almost an homage to then-divided Berlin, what with all the locations showcased. Some of the scenes of Dave ’80s-dancing to a backdrop of an overhead train were shot on Skalitzer Strasse. In 2018, the crew of Spirits of the Forest had fan Daniel Cassús run back and forth under the same tracks.
This one’s a bit of an Easter egg. The exterior of Bar Tausend is where the video’s protagonist enters in the closing scenes (beginning at 5:45 in the video below) of the projection used for “Walking in My Shoes” during the Global Spirit Tour. Note that the neon “BAR” sign was used for the production only; it does not exist for the actual bar.
And there’s your virtual tour of Depeche Mode’s Berlin. Did I miss a place? If anyone knows the address of the residence where Martin lived during his time in Berlin, please let me know.