- Robert Marlow – vocals, synthesiser
- Paul Redmond - synthesiser
- Martin Gore - synthesiser
French Look (or "The French Look") was an all-synthesiser band active from late 1979 till June 1980, created by Rob Allen a.k.a. Robert Marlow. After The Plan dissolved, Vince Clarke started Composition Of Sound, and Rob then decided to form a new band as well. Biography author Simon Spence mentions that an early form of French Look featured Martin Gore on guitar and that they played at the Focus Youth Centre in Southend-on-Sea, but no other info about these two claims are known.
Rob Marlow invited Paul Redmond to be a part of his band, mainly because "he knew everybody". Paul was known to be a big, older, popular guy who had a lot of friends, including Dave Gahan. Originally, Dave and Paul bonded over punk: "I was just a mate of Paul Redmond, this massive punk guy in Basildon with bright orange hair who everyone was scared of. I clung on to Paul because no one would touch me then." In late 1979, Dave was also dating his future ex-wife Joanne Fox, who was friends with Paul's fling Fran Healy. Around that same time, Dave and Paul and all of their friends got a taste of electronic music. Gary Harsent of The Vermin reveals: "When the electro thing started, Paul was bang into it. [...] Paul got a synthesiser and [he and his friends] were toying around with what they were doing to do, band-wise." This would be another main reason why Rob invited Paul to form a band. Paul owned a Korg MS10, which Rob describes as "a little upright thing that was a great source of sounds", although Rob also notes that Paul "couldn't play it." Since Paul was a bricklayer, he allegedly could afford to buy even two synthesisers pretty quickly.
By this time, Rob already owned a Korg 700 which he got right before forming The Plan, although he now admits that he "only used it with one sound." Rob was not only friends with Vince Clarke but also with Martin Gore, who had been a part of the folk duo Norman & The Worms for about three years at this point. Martin was also developing an interest in synthesiser music, and out of generosity, Rob lent his synthesiser to Martin for two weeks. Martin says 36 years later: "I just really enjoyed it. I was a big fan of Kraftwerk at the time, and there was a burgeoning electronic scene, and there was bands like The Human League, whose early stuff I really liked [...]. [S]o after this two-week rental of the synthesizer, I decided to go and buy one." Martin went and bought a Yamaha CS5, which Rob remembers having "its Sample and Hold, a completely useless effect where you'd press a key and it would just play random notes! It was a good way to start a set, though." Martin acquired the synth with the help of his two other friends, Andy Fletcher and Vince Clarke, who then asked him to be a part of their new band, Composition Of Sound. Unsurprisingly, Rob then asked Martin to be a part of French Look as well. This resulted in a falling out between Vince and Rob. Rob: "[...] I'd poached his protégé. I say, protégé, but actually Martin was probably the most musical of all us. Martin didn't bring any songs to French Look but he was great at adding thing to it, little lines. He was getting quite accomplished on the keyboards and he had a consummate ear for pop music. And so Vince and I had a really big falling-out, and we didn't speak to each other for ages."
In the meantime, French Look would rehearse at the youth club at Woodlands School. On one predestined Wednesday afternoon, French Look happened to be rehearsing at this school at the same time as Composition Of Sound. Rob explains: "Dave [Gahan] was a mate of Paul's. Dave was our sound engineer. I say sound engineer – he twiddled the knobs, turned the volume up and down. We used to rehearse up at Woodlands school, and Composition Of Sound had the classroom next door. They used to rent out the classrooms to rehearse in. The caretaker would let you in and you set up. Dave was with Paul Redmond one time and he got on the mike and was singing 'Heroes'. It turned out he could hold a tune. Vince spotted Dave's potential almost immediately. Of course, I should have him to sing in French Look, but ego being what it is, there was no chance.". As Martin was rehearsing with French Look and not Composition Of Sound that day, Vince first asked Martin if it was Dave who had been singing, and then he called up Dave to ask if he wanted to join his band. For more info on this event, visit the page 1980-04-0x Rehearsal, Woodlands School, Basildon, Essex, England, UK.
In May 1980, Rob and Vince would help each other out with getting gigs while at the same time still holding a grudge for sharing the same band member. They would share their first two concerts, the first one being 1980-05-30 Paddocks Community Center, Laindon, Essex, England, UK (for all details regarding that gig, visit that page). When French Look booked this "gig", Rob asked party organiser Nikki Avery if Vince's band could play at the party as well. Rob and Vince agreed that French Look could headline at this gig, and Composition Of Sound would be the support act. Right around this time, they also secured a second gig, 1980-06-14 Nicholas School, Basildon, England, UK, and subsequently Composition Of Sound would headline that gig, with French Look being the support act. As for the second gig, Rob is rumoured to have had arguments with not only Vince but with his own band member Paul Redmond as well (for more info, visit the page of that gig). This was the last concert for French Look.
Rob and Vince would rekindle their friendship about a week after their bands' second concert. Rob: "At the time [our fight] seemed like months, [but] it was probably about a week! And then I saw him in the street, and we had a laugh and it was all back together again." Rob feels that while French Look was a step ahead of 'Composition Of Sound' when they both started out, once Vince started getting gigs, "Composition Of Sound soared ahead of French Look." He explains: "I sort of lost contact with Vince for a while, because I [moved], and I went to the local technical college to do drama. Meanwhile Depeche Mode started to play gigs at The Bridgehouse; Vince spent all of his time getting gigs or trying to get record company interest. In hindsight, Composition Of Sound had a lot more going for them in that they had Vince actively seeking gigs and really putting his mind to it."
Once Martin became more and more tied up to Composition Of Sound, Robert seems to have given up on French Look entirely. In Jonathan Miller's Depeche Mode biography, Rob is quoted as saying that Martin made "occasional guest appearances with me in another band called Film Noir." However, the only known 'Film Noir' gig would happen well over a year later, and there is no further evidence that suggests that Martin ever played in 'Film Noir'. Eventually, Rob Marlow established himself as a fairly successful solo artist.
- Source: Just Can't Get Enough by Simon Spence, 2011.
- Source: Stripped by Jonathan Miller, 2001.
- Source: THE MOJO INTERVIEW: interview with Dave Gahan, Mojo magazine (UK), published 2013-03-22.
- Source: 2016-01-25 The RobCast, Los Angeles, CA, USA
- Source: Interview with Robert Marlow for Erasureinfo.com, 1999.