The Story of Never Let Me Down Again connects to The Last of Us

As the title suggests, 1987’s Music for the Masses is one of Depeche Mode‘s most popular albums, containing some of their biggest hits to date: Strangelove and the classic among classics, Never Let me Down Again. The group’s sixth album was doubly important because, when it emerged in the electronic craze of the 1980s, the band seemed true to its name, which alludes to the brevity of fashion (Depeche is French for fast and mode, fashion), so it wasn’t exactly taken seriously with their dance songs. As a die-hard fan of theirs, I disagreed from the start, but Depeche Mode‘s sound certainly changed as we entered the 1990s.

Released on September 28, 1987, Music for Masses (in other words, commercial music) solidified the band’s success in the US market, especially with a show at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, as recorded in the documentary/album 101. They came from a depressing turn with Black Celebration and followed the darker side of lyrics, melodies, and arrangements that are their trademark today. If we listen carefully, everything in the album’s sound excludes commercial sound, but even so, it was successful.

The track that opens the album is precisely today the song that traditionally closes all Depeche Mode concerts (more on that below), Never Let Me Down Again, which has been used with brilliance in The Last of Us series, ending the first and the sixth episode, perfectly marking the relationship between Ellie and Joel.

Like almost all DM songs, it was written by Martin Gore with the perfect fit in Dave Gahan‘s vocal timbre. At the time, the ambiguity of the lyrics was widely discussed by critics and fans alike. There is a strand that believes that Martin was already alluding to the drug problems that would plague Dave’s career. (We’re Flying high, we’re watching the world pass us by, in an allusion to the feeling of drugs), and there are those who argue that it is just a plane trip like the ones they have to do on long tours. There is also another theory that suspects a homoaffective relationship because he sings “Promises me I’m safe as houses, As long as I remember who’s wearing the trousers”, but the expression “who’s wearing the trousers” is (with a macho background) created to say “who’s in charge” or dominates the subject, therefore it’s a person who is trusting the best friend and at the same time making it clear that he is also leading the journey.

This part of the lyrics is also found in the series because there are times when Ellie will be in control (soon!) and Joel is not “the boss”.

Returning to Depeche Mode, Music for the Masses also marks the beginning of their greatest partnership, the one that unites them with photographer and director Anton Corbijn, who started to take care of the look of the group’s albums and videos. For Never Let Me Down Again, there are eight minutes of footage of the musicians in black and white, with a series of disjointed images.

The band later cited influences from Led Zeppelin for the guitar riffs and even the drums, but the chorus, melodic, would have nuances of the song Torch, by Soft Cell (a contemporary of theirs). And it was its live version, immortalized in a show in the country (and part of the documentary, 101), that turned it into an anthem. Being the last song of the show, Dave waved his arms to the audience of more than 60 thousand people who imitated him, creating a chilling image. Since then, it has been one of the signatures of all Depeche Mode performances.

Ever since the phenomenon The Last of Us aired, Never Let Me Down Again has been leading the stream. For the showrunner, Craig Mazin is Ellie and Joel’s song. Does anyone questions it?


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