1980-03-xx Woodlands School, Basildon, Essex, England, UK
'Composition Of Sound', comprising Vince Clarke, Andy Fletcher and Martin Gore, was formed around March 1980, and they would rehearse several times at the youth club in Woodlands School in Basildon. One day, they did an unpaid gig there in front of young kids. It is likely that they did this gig after a few weeks, so at the end of March, but is possible that this has happened sometime after March as well. This "gig" is often overlooked, even by the band afterwards, presumably because it hardly constitutes as a "gig", and resembles more of a "dress rehearsal". It's also possible that this "gig" wasn't even planned, but that it was more of a "Hey would you like to play in front of a class of kids this afternoon?"-thing. In any case, there are a few moments when one of the band members bring up this... event:
When Martin Gore wrote a press release for 'New Life' in February 1981 (barely a year after he had bought a synthesizer and got asked to join French Look and 'Composition Of Sound'), he stated: "[Depeche Mode was] formed in March 1980, Basildon based DEPECHE MODE first performed live at the Woodlands School under 12's disco - but were hurled off by abusive youngsters with more classical tastes."
In May 1985, Andy Fletcher said in No.1 magazine: "Martin, Vince and I teamed together and started rehearsing in Woodlands Youth Club. The earliest Depeche songs like ‘Photographic’ were written then. We played a gig at Woodlands in front of an audience of nine-year-olds. They loved the synths, which were a novelty then. The kids were onstage twiddling the knobs while we played."'
Martin Gore in April 1985, in The Saturday Picture Show: "We did actually play at my and Andy's school, just a sort of youth club or something. We did play another youth club in Basildon, they were sort of the first two concerts that we did."
Most detailed is an interview with Andy Fletcher and Dave Gahan on BBC Radio Stoke in February 1982:
Q: So you still have the tapes of some of the original material then?
Fletch: Yes. When we first started, we did concerts around people's houses in Basildon, that's before Dave joined, and it was quite good. One of the gigs we'd played, we played in front of 7 people and 10 teddybears. (laughter) And we dressed up in eh...
Dave: - pyjamas (giggles)
Fletch: pyjamas. It was just a good laugh. We still got the tape of that concert. We've done a lot of gigs around people's houses.
Q: When doing your first gig, I believe one of your first gigs was in an under 12 disco, was that the one you were on about now?
Fletch: No, that was our first proper concert, that was quite funny as well.
Q: When you say "proper", the fact that you're getting paid for it, is that what you mean?
Fletch: No, we wasn't getting paid, it was a favour, because at that time we was rehearsing in this youth club, we played just for a favour. The funny thing was that kids had never seen a sythesizer before, and were just fiddling about with our knobs...
Q: And they thought it was all flash or something?
Fletch: Well yeah. It was a very small synthesizer as well. It was quite funny, though.
- So if the gig at Woodlands School was the first "proper" concert, then those concerts at people's houses would nevertheless be the true first concert(s)! The only other info on these house gigs is to be found in Simon Spence's 2011 DM biography. Martin Gore's school friend Mark Crick, who later also became friends with Vince Clarke, said in there: "When CoS started, I remember them playing in Martin's front room. There would have been a small crowd watch: me, Fletch's pal Rob Andrews; Martin's sisters, Martin's mum." Anne Swindell, Martin's first girlfriend, also said in there: I've got some photos of one of the first CoS gigs in Fletcher's front room. It was more for rehearsal really - to get a sense of what it would be like to be lined up and feeling like there would be an audience." Rob Marlow: "CoS were playing gigs in people's front rooms - each other's front rooms, basically. I seem to remember a memorable CoS gig where the audience was made up of Martin's sisters' teddy bears. There'd be people like Anne Swindell, Denise Jekyll, Steve Burton, and Rob Andrews there. We would come around and join the teddy bears. Fletch played a bass guitar, Vince played guitar, and Martin played the Yamaha CS5 he'd bought. They were a bit like the early Cure: all the songs were in place, the ones in the early Depeche Mode set." Nikki Avery, Deb Danahay's friend: "I had seen CoS play at Martin's house. They'd play in each other's front rooms on a Sunday afternoon or something. It was like that."