Goodbye to Andy Fletcher, a beloved New Wave uncle to countless Depeche Mode fans over the years. Fletch, who died at age 60 of natural causes, was a founding member of the pioneering synth-pop sages, and a crucial element in their chemistry. Every sullen goth teen who ever wore black in the Eighties has a soft spot in their heart for this man, which is why fans all over the world are blasting Black Celebration in his honor right now. Fletch represented their original punk-rock spirit of inspired amateurism. As he told the NME right at the beginning, in 1981, “You don’t have to be a great musician to play and get a message out. We certainly didn’t know anything about music.”
In Depeche Mode, Fletch always stood between two mega-flamboyant personalities. On one hand: Martin Gore, the brooding songwriter, pouting “Understaaand me” to the camera in a leather jacket. On the other hand: Dave Gahan, the flamboyant, extroverted, extremely topless lead singer, never shy about preening in white jeans. Fletch was in the middle, the quiet one, always slightly bemused at finding himself caught up in such a long-running pop melodrama.
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As Depeche Mode kept getting kinkier and gothier, Fletch kept giving the vibe of an affable accountant who wandered into the industrial sex club by mistake. He always seemed to have the same haircut, the same glasses, the same dry smirk. The closest he came to the others’ theatrical decadence was lip-synching the screams in the “Master and Servant” video.
Fletch always had a unique and enigmatic role in this most unique and enigmatic group. To be specific, fans weren’t quite sure what he actually did. He was famously hands-off musically. Unlike the other two, he didn’t sing or write; nobody seemed to know if his keyboard was even plugged in. That was part of his mystique. He appeared onstage—but his real job was looking after their business affairs. As Gahan once mused, “Maybe we should set a fax machine up for him onstage.”
Yet he was also an eloquent spokesman for the whole Depeche Mode concept. “The beauty of using electronics is that music can now be made in your bedroom,” he told Rolling Stone in 1993. “You don’t need to get four people together in some warehouse to practice.” For him, that set artists free for new kinds of creative liberation. “Obviously, it’s sad to see the demise of the traditional rock group. But there’s always going to be a place for it in cabaret.”
The group started off with in the London suburb Basildon, with synth wizard Vince Clarke writing the songs. They scored brilliant hits—“Dreaming of Me,” “New Life,” “Just Can’t Get Enough”—and the classic 1981 debut Speak and Spell. When Clarke quit and moved on to Yaz, everybody assumed Depeche Mode was finished—but they carried on in an extremely weird four-man configuration. Martin Gore wrote the songs, Dave Gahan swiveled his hips, Alan Wilder played most of the music—and Fletch looked after the office. Wilder left in 1995, but the core trio carried on, as cheerfully dysfunctional as ever.
The Mode became elder statesmen, touring the world. “Traveling gets harder as we get older,” Fletch told me in 2009. “But you know, we do travel in a certain amount of luxury.” They always kept making great music in the studio—their last album, 2017’s Spirit, is a truly underrated banger. The gorgeous 2005 Playing the Angel is a top-five Depeche Mode album, with one of their loveliest singles in “Precious.” And they remained monstrously awesome as a live act. “We’re not the Cure,” Fletcher said. “We don’t play for four hours. I think Dave would die of a heart attack if he kept running around the stage dancing for that long.”
Fletch was famous for his dry, oft-caustic wit. When Depeche Mode was inducted into the Hall of Fame, via long-distance video, Dave Gahan gave a speech thanking the group’s artistic heroes, like David Bowie, Iggy and the Stooges, the Clash. Fletcher chimed in, “The Eagles!” In the classic D.A. Pennebaker documentary 101, fans follow the group on an American tour. Fletch spends the whole movie looking slightly surprised, yet amused by all the fan hysteria around him, not to mention the melodrama in the group itself. That’s how fans will remember him. R.I.P., Fletch.
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