People Are People

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Written by Martin Gore; recorded and mixed at Hansa Tonstudios in seven days. According to Alan Wilder, it was pre-programmed at a rehearsal room in Dollis Hill, North London, elaborating:

"We would have finished it sooner except that some of the work had to be redone after the infamous incident when a particular member of the band turned up, only to trip over the main power cable and pull the plug."

Martin Gore in the 1984-03-10 issue of Record Mirror:

"Although it's a song about racism, that's just one example of people not getting on. It's about all sorts of differences between people."

Quotes from the documentary on the DVD of the Some Great Reward remaster from 2006:

Gareth Jones: "The acoustics of People Are People and the sound of the beats and the big fills things, is all the sound of the rooms, with the beats getting thrown around Hansa Studio: three floors down for the bass drum, snare drum one floor over, toms in another room over there that, kind of thing. The whole building was shaking."

Alan Wilder: "It gives quite a big sounding record, the biggest sort of in that sense [makes a large box with hand gestures], the biggest we've ever made, and it seemed that it had something going for it."

Daniel Miller: "We just basically pressed 'play' and just ran it, and everybody sang along, and it just seemed like it all sounded great, even before we recorded it properly.

Andy Fletcher: We thought it was a good song. Now, we're not too keen on it. It's probably... It's our biggest hit that we don't play."

Alan said in Electronic Soundmaker & Computer Music magazine, issued April 1984:

"When we do a single like this [People Are People] we mix for radio rather than for hi-fi. Danny [Miller] bought a little gadget which we're evaluating called the Ear Opener — it's supposed to reproduce exactly the compression and re-equalization you have on radio. So we constantly cross-reference what we hear in the Control Room with what comes out of this little modified transistor radio: previously we were finding that our mixes weren't spunding all that great on medium-wave; one thing we've learned is that you have to go way over the top with ambiance and reverb to get the same effect on radio as you would hear on a hi-Fi system — that's why Hansa is so good, 'cos you can pass your most computer-like sounds through amps and even huge PA stacks in their large, halls, mike them up, gate them to hell and come up with the most incredible and powerful sounds. That's how we did People Are People: I suppose you could call it Controlled Dirt."

Martin Gore told Electronics and Music Magazine in 1986:

"Usually we spend two or three days before recording just sampling sounds. Then we sample as we go. If somebody has a good idea, we just stop recording and do some sampling. Sometimes we use old favourites — like one sample which we first used on 'People Are People'. It’s a Hank Marvin-type guitar sound, an acoustic guitar plucked with a 50-pfennig piece. We’ve used that three or four times now."

Martin and Alan say in the November 1984 issue of International Musician And Recording World:

Martin Gore: "The bass drum at the beginning was just an acoustic bass drum sampled into a Synclavier then we added a piece of metal to that – just a sampled anvil type sound – to give it a slight click and make it sound a bit different. That's the beauty of the Synclavier, you can edit sounds together to make what we call combination sounds. The main synth sound is the actual 'synth' sound on the Synclavier, that's the one that plays the bass riff. But the bass sound is a combination sound too with part of it being an acoustic guitar plucked with a coin, which sounds very interesting when the two sounds are sequenced together. I took a stereo Walkman when I was going on a plane from England to somewhere. I originally brought it along to take the takeoff but while the air hostess was doing her safety speech at the start of the flight I decided I'd take that as well. But as she was telling everyone to 'Check the instruction cards under your seat,' the door flew open and all this air rushed in which made a real noise and everyone laughed. Anyway I looped the end of what she was saying and the laughter so it goes, '…tion cards ha ha ha ha …tion cards ha ha ha ha,' which sounds funny but I used it in conjunction with a choir sound and it added a really nice texture to the bridge on People."

Alan Wilder: "There's very little playing going on in People [Are People], virtually everything is sampled into the Synclavier. With the guitar sounds we altered them slightly once they were in the Synclavier because you sample in one note and then you can alter the length and dynamic of every note in the sequence for the guitar part so it will give expression, but it will still be completely in time. You can justify all the rhythms, you see, so that you can have articulation but it’s all in time. There's a Synclavier harp sound in the verses, and an ARP sequencer playing very fast in the chorus and there's some Emulator sounds that we used for adding a few frills here and there. We got a lot of people singing the high, 'It's a lot,' and then a low, 'Like life.' The choir sound on People, again, we used a combination sound of different choir sounds on different synths and then put them slightly out of time with each other. Like we took one sound from the Synclavier, one from the PPG and one was on the Emulator. [The three throaty clunks at the end of each chorus] was a combination sound. First of all we sampled Martin going, 'Unk Unk Unk,' with his throat then we added a bell sound and a timpani to give it depth. We only took those down a tone and it was unrecognisable as someone going, 'Unk', with their throat."

Martin: "I felt a bit of a berk doing that."

Gareth Jones told Sound on Sound magazine in 2007:

"Martin made a demo for 'People Are People' — it was also the first time the band had done a pre-production session — and this had one ambient sound that he'd recorded with a Walkman on an airplane; a bit of laughter and noise. He looped this up on the demo, and we decided to somehow recreate that sound, but it was impossible to recreate because it was a 'found sound', full of texture and rhythm, so we ended up using what was on the demo. Nobody thinks anything of that now — found sounds are used all the time — but back then it was a bit of a breakthrough for us. The demos were all very lo-fi, recorded on four-track or whatever, yet somehow a tiny snippet of this sound still existed in the Emulator and it became a big part of the chorus. I remember that very clearly, because there was a moment's confusion when we thought, 'How are we going to recreate that?' and then suddenly we realised we didn't need to recreate it, we'd just use it."

In the same interview, which focuses on 'People Are People', Gareth also says:

"Radio play was really important to us, and we had a little box called an Ear Opener which was like a tiny domestic radio. It was bandwidth limited and attempted to emulate some of the [BBC] Radio One-type compression, and since the record company was so concerned about getting the song on the radio we spent a lot of time listening and mixing on a two- or three-inch speaker. However, listening to 'People Are People' now, I'd say we probably spent too much time doing this, because while it sounded absolutely amazing on a small system, on bigger systems I can hear all the faults. You know, 'Oh God, I could have got more bass on it,' or 'It would have been great if the high-end could have been a bit smoother.' Obvious things. If I'd been a more experienced engineer, I would have paid all the due attention to the little Ear Opener monitoring system and also paid a bit more attention to the big monitors, because the boundaries of the sound are, well, crude. Still, having said that, the track did of course have incredible energy and vibe coming out of a radio or little television set. It was like the radio was going to explode, and that's why it was a massive hit all over Europe, so overall I'm incredibly pleased and proud of that work. [...] That song was kind of a stepping stone between Construction Time Again and Some Great Reward. It signalled the band's transition towards more industrial sounds."

When Depeche Mode was interviewed about the songs on the '101' CD for the April 1989 issue of French magazine 'Best', Andy Fletcher said (translated from French):

"This is one of our biggest hits, but we had a long discussion before deciding if we were going to play it on tour. Martin and I were against it. Martin cannot stand this song now. He finds it too commercial, not subtle enough. I think that, next time, it will not be on the setlist."

Dave Gahan told Entertainment Weekly in 2017:

"This was the first song of ours that made a dent, really, into popular radio. We were using all these tape loops to create rhythms and the technology was quite advanced, but it wasn't anything like it is today, the things that you can do. [...] It's not one of Martin's particular favorites, this one, and I don’t think we've done it live since the mid '80s. It's quite literal, very poppy, all major cords — something Martin doesn't like so much these days [laughs]. But the song really propelled us into a new cosmos at that particular time. [T]he song became a no. 1 hit in a lot of countries in Europe, and it allowed us to then go off and create the music that we wanted to create."

Martin Gore echoes this in the April 2009 issue of Rolling Stone Germany (translated from German):

"God, that was such a long time ago - 1984 or something like that. I really don't remember what was going through my head at the time. The whole process is mysterious to me. But nevertheless it was good that we recorded this song, because it brought us to a newer, bigger level. It was our first big hit in America and also here in Germany. Or our first number one, I think. I really don't appreciate the song anymore nowadays, but without it, we might not have been around as a band right now."

Dates with available recordings of People Are People

There are currently 174 recordings of People Are People available.

Dates where People Are People was played

1983-1984 Construction Time Again Tour

People Are People was played 2 times during this tour.

1984-1985 Some Great Reward Tour

People Are People was played 81 times during this tour.

1986 Black Celebration Tour

People Are People was played 75 times during this tour.

1987-1988 Music For The Masses Tour

People Are People was played 68 times during this tour.

1990 World Violation Tour

  • People Are People was not played during this tour.

1993 Devotional Tour

  • People Are People was not played during this tour.

1994 Exotic Tour

  • People Are People was not played during this tour.

1997 Ultra Parties

  • People Are People was not played during this tour.

1998 The Singles Tour

  • People Are People was not played during this tour.

2001 Exciter Tour

  • People Are People was not played during this tour.

2003 Paper Monsters Tour (Dave Gahan solo)

  • People Are People was not played during this tour.

2003 "A Night With Martin L. Gore" (Martin L. Gore solo)

  • People Are People was not played during this tour.

2005-2006 Touring The Angel

  • People Are People was not played during this tour.

2009-2010 Tour Of The Universe

  • People Are People was not played during this tour.

2013-2014 Delta Machine Tour

  • People Are People was not played during this tour.

2017-2018 Global Spirit Tour

  • People Are People was not played during this tour.