The Depeche Mode Song John Lydon Was Impressed By Its Bravery

In the early ’80s, Depeche Mode had already begun to convey its music to a large mass with many synth-pop hits since stepping onto the music scene. 1981’s ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ was followed by 1984’s ‘People Are People,’ and with these and other hits, they were starting to build an audience. However, at that time, the band was not praised much by the ‘serious’ music circles, and their works were mostly labeled as ‘dance music’ until their turning point in 1989.

With their 1990 release ‘Violator’ approaching, Depeche Mode was going to make a song featuring Casiotone effects and Dave Gahan’s repetitive and prayer-like command, ‘reach out and touch the faith.’ Many music critics would consider this song both an incredibly subtle critique and a sound entirely grounded in terms of musical background. Also, this would be the first time the guitar sound would dominate a Depeche Mode song.

1989 is the date Depeche Mode released ‘Personal Jesus.’ This radical change of direction, both lyrically and musically, was really well received by many musicians and fans, including Sex Pistols’ John Lydon. He was really inspired by that song, so much so that he would even mention it in his book.

Depeche Mode never hesitated to incorporate technology into its sound. However, this 1989 release was their first also to feature catchy blues riffs and a drum-based sound. When the synth sound that could almost be described as ‘sinister’ was combined with the song’s religious lyrics and its irresistible guitar riffs, Depeche Mode embarked on a new era.

In ‘Anger Is An Energy: My Life Uncensored’ penned by John Lydon, there is a passage in which he mentions this Depeche Mode song. According to the passage, the fact that Depeche Mode incorporated technology so efficiently in their sound, almost creating a new way of singing, not only changed Lydon’s ideas about the use of technology in music but ‘Personal Jesus’ among the rocker’s favorite tracks.

“It’s a serious problem for me, all this technology,” John Lydon wrote, reflecting on the increasing use of technology in composing songs. “The people who’ve used it best would be Depeche Mode. ‘Your own Personal Jesus!’ Bloody ‘ell mate, they got it! They were using the Casiotone effect, and they wrapped a song around it, but they didn’t let it dictate to the song. That’s another tune I just absolutely love – I was so impressed with the bravery of attempting such a subject matter.”

The song was also highly praised in rock circles. In 2002, Johnny Cash covered the track, describing it as ‘probably the most evangelical gospel song’ he had ever done. Two years later, in 2004, Marilyn Manson covered the song and described it as ‘hypnotic, sexy, and inspirational.’

‘Personal Jesus’s lyrical content still retains its relevancy today, perhaps even more so. It continues to give goosebumps to many who hear the ‘reach out and touch faith’ command and seductive guitar riffs that accompany the track’s alternative sound.