In less than a week, it’ll be All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. The weather here in Chicago has been cooperating in creating the appropriately spooky mood: bright, cold sunlight interspersed with periods of dank cloudiness and cooler-than-seasonable temperatures. When it is sunny, the air has that sharp, clear quality you get after a good thunderstorm with lightning has cleaned up the lower atmosphere, and the sunlight that follows the break-up gives you visual resolution seemingly into infinity. Dusk approaches already by 5:30pm, sooner when it’s cloudy, and what clouds there are are the big, rolling three-dimensional ombre-dark ones that promise rain at night.
Not exactly cruising weather for roadies. More like armchair cruising with a hot drink and a good travel book (or at least a laptop). So how can we reconcile our desire for a Route 66 roadtrip with the approach of The Dead Season? Ah! Our Route 66 Song Of The Week choice can help with that. This week’s rendition (funny how that word has come to mean quite something else during these post-9/11 days) is by Depeche Mode, a popular UK band in the noir-romantic electronica genre. Their take on “Route 66” is definitely in a minor key, and yet compelling; it’s a mash-up that blends “66” with their own song “Behind The Wheel” and a kind of ZZ Top sensibility to the guitars, and the mix works. Listen for yourselves.
And here’s a pleasant surprise: a YouTube contributor by the name of Don Weber used a rare recording of Depeche Mode’s mix of the Bobby Troupe song with some stunning Route 66 visuals. Particularly fine from the 1:50 to the 2:05 mark is a shot of the open road with the darkening sky of dusk coming on in the west and a crescent moon in the upper left of the scene. It looks gloriously surreal for a daytime photo. There’s another gloomy, foggy shot of the road, this time in what looks like Missouri or Kansas, from 3:45 to 3:49. Depeche Mode originally recorded “Route 66” on their 1987 album Music for The Masses.
I first heard their very atmospheric, often dark recordings a decade ago while watching the cult TV series La Femme Nikita with the unforgettable Peta Wilson in the title role (sorry, the current reboot on the WB is a pale shadow of its source material and really a different show; no way is it anywhere near as noir, realpolitik or hearbreaking as the original TV series). The playlist for that show was an anthology of moody, sometimes despairing music running the gamut from punk to techno, from Enya to Enigma to Exciter (probably my favorite DP album, especially the cuts “Dream On,” “Lovetheme” and “Breathe”). The Nikita soundtrack album included a DP track called “The Love Thieves” that I’ve always found to be very haunting; it’s from their 1997 album Ultra, which also includes the seasonally appropriate cut “Sister Of Night.” Their song “Walking In My Shoes” from the 1993 album Songs of Faith and Devotion is in that same vein that would have been used for the show. Their music isn’t exactly upbeat. You might call the members of Depeche Mode grim romantics. All the more surprising, then, that they recorded “Route 66.”
Still, it does have a very driving rhythm (pun intended). Enjoy!
Your own spinmisstress,