No Romance In China
- Vince Clarke – vocals, guitar
- Andy Fletcher – bass
- Sue Paget – guitar
- Pete Hobbs – drums
No Romance In China was a band active for a few months starting around May 1979. The band was created by Vince Clarke, who would leave his band Kev & Vince not long after this period in time. While Kev & Vince had a fairly evangelical message, No Romance In China was not like that at all. Andy Fletcher's friend Rob Andrews describes the band as "pretty much a guitar band".
Vince, as well as Rob Marlow, moved into Pete Hobbs' one-bedroom flat. Pete was coincidentally also a drummer, and had been involved in Martin Gore's Norman & The Worms for about a year now. Pete says about Vince: "Vince changed. Although he wasn't into the punk thing at the time, I remember when he turned because he actually went to Chelmsford Punk Festival. And he had his hair all chopped off and it went all curly – he had a blonde Afro. He got this leather jacket and he had these winkle-picker shoes and he just completely changed." Rob Marlow echoes this claim: "Up until the punk thing we'd been inseparable really. Best mates. I remember Vince sort of changed when he went to the Chelmsford Punk Festival. I didn't go. [...] Then he cut his hair and got with the programme a little bit, really." Sue Paget, who had been a guitar player in The Vandals, remembers how Vince approached her: "I was very surprised when he turned up at my door on a Sunday afternoon because I'd seen him in the church preaching, singing with a guitar, and that's the only thing I knew about him. He used to hang around trying to press 'Jesus Loves You' badges onto people. He was a very active Christian. [...] He and Pete came to my door and asked if I'd go and rehearse with them at Woodlands. So I went along, but I was very wary because I only knew of Vincent as a real dedicated Christian and I wasn't like that. And I didn't know Pete at all. I thought he was going to sing gospel-type things – after the evening had finished and they said we'd really like you to join our band, I said: I thought you were all into God and everything. I can't remember his actual words but I think he said: we don't believe in God anymore. Something along those lines. I don't know if he had a complete transformation within himself or whether he was still very religious and he was hiding it under the surface. It just seemed like overnight he changed from one person to another person."
Vince Clarke had also become a huge fan of The Cure, inspiring him to create a similar band. Vince reveals: "We wanted to be The Cure. I've got a CD copy of my first demo, which is surprisingly like The Cure." Sue confirms: "Vincent was obsessed with the first Cure album [Three Imaginary Boys] and used to sneak it out of my bedroom sometimes. He didn't have any records of his own so he used to nick that one. It would go missing out of my room and I'd find it in his room. And he pretty much modelled himself on the Robert Smith sound." Pete: "He was always very much into The Cure. No Romance In China was like a cross between The Police and The Cure. It was different to the folksy stuff he'd been into: Simon & Garfunkel and all that gospel, folk acoustic stuff." Vince Clarke's equipment involved "a crappy Stratocaster copy" and "one of those Selmer Auto-Rhythm drum boxes with the little pitter-patter beats that you put on top of your home organ." He confesses: "I'd spent loads of time working in crappy jobs trying to buy a decent guitar, a Fender Strat or something and a Marshall stack, because I was under the impression that the more expensive equipment you bought, the better you would sound."
There is some dispute regarding who was actually in the band. Pete claims that Vince's friend Andy Fletcher was never in the band: "What can you say? Good luck to him – I don't know what he remembers. He might have picked a guitar up once but he didn't play, never did. It was just the three of us: Vince, Sue, and me." When Southendpunk.com interviewed Sue in 2011, she also does not mention Andy as having been part of the band's line-up. Vince Clarke's friend Gary Smith was surprised to hear that Andy was in the band "because... how can I put it? Andy was not really that musically orientated." Andy Fletcher has often claimed to have been a part of NRIC: "Vince and I had a group when we were 16 called No Romance In China which tried to be like The Cure. We were into their Three Imaginary Boys LP. Vince used to attempt to sing like Robert Smith. I played guitar (pretty badly)." It is possible that Vince Clarke more or less coerced his Boys Brigade buddy to join his band, as Fletcher later on confessed: "Why am I in a band? It was accidental right from the beginning. I was actually forced to be in the band. I played the guitar and I had a bass; it was a question of them roping me in. I was never really that interested. Even when the band got going, I was just there for the social bit of it." Vince has repeatedly stated that Andy was indeed a part of the band since the beginning: "I managed to persuade Fletcher to get an electric bass, and we used to play the odd gig — in each other's bedrooms. Fletcher was really quite good. [...] I kind of showed him how to play it. He was very keen and enthusiastic — very eager to listen and learn. And that's really how Depeche Mode started; it was just me and Fletch." In turn, Andy's friend Rob Andrews cannot remember Sue having been a part of the band.
Sue Paget explains the process of the band: "It was a guitar, bass, drums setup. We were a really good band, actually. Vincent and I would bang around in each other's bedrooms rehearsing constantly and Pete used to come along when we went out to Woodlands to rehearse. It was the first band I'd been in that had proper coherent songs... It was very much like The Cure. I've got a tape of one of our rehearsals in his room. Apart from Television Set, the other songs are all named after days of the week. I think he gave them the name of whatever day he had written them on. So we had 'Tuesday', 'Wednesday', 'Thursday', 'Friday', and '2nd Tuesday'. The song 'Tuesday' that appears on the first Yazoo album was actually called 'Thursday' when we played it. There's an amusing moment on the tape where we had a bit of a laugh with a violin and snare drum, basically making a terrible racket, and you can hear his mum screaming 'Vincent!' from downstairs." Basildon journalist Mat Broomfield recalls seeing Vince, Andy and possibly Pete practising at St. Paul's Methodist Church in an eight-foot — square storeroom: "Andy was awful on guitar! No one really knew Vince, but he was very serious about being a musician — a bit like John Lennon being the driving force in The Beatles."
Sue claims that No Romance In China only played "one, possibly two gigs". Nevertheless, only one gig is ever recalled: at The Double Six pub in Basildon. Vince remembers: "They had a jam night on Wednesdays. There was a drum kit in there already set up and you just went on and did your songs. We only did about three or four numbers. We wrote our own songs; we didn't ever do any covers." This was future The Cure guitar player Perry Bamonte's first gig to have attended. Given the fact that Pete and Sue stated that Andy hadn't been a part of the band's line-up, it is possible that he did not actually perform at this gig.
There is no clear reason why No Romance In China ceased its operations. But its driving force, Vince, notes that "[a]ll of these bands could have lasted just two days. They're just names.". Vince acquired a taste in synthetic music soon after, and so he might have lost interest in being in a guitar band. He formed synth-pop acts The Plan and then Composition Of Sound in late 1979.
- Source: Stripped by Jonathan Miller, 2001.
- Source: Just Can't Get Enough by Simon Spence, 2011.
- "Source: 1985-05-18 - No. 1 magazine (UK) - "The Brigade Boy", interview with Andy Fletcher.
- Source: A Broken Frame Tour Programme, 1982.
- Source: 1993-05-xx - Pulse! Magazine (U.S.) - Fashion Victims, interview by Marc Weidenbaum.
- Source: 1984-03-xx - Electronics & Music Maker (UK) - Downstairs At Erics.
- Sue brought this tape with her to a Depeche Mode convention in Basildon in 2011, commemorating the 30th anniversary of DM. Fans who were there could listen to the tape.
- Source: Depeche Mode: Black Celebration, 2001.