Last night, the music world reeled from the news that Andy ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, an original member of Depeche Mode, had passed away, at the age of 60. Only three men have been involved in the entirety of Depeche Mode’s evolution from clean-cut, teenaged Bowie, Kraftewerk and Talking Heads fans with a couple of keyboards into one of the most singular, important and influential artists the music world has ever produced. Andy Fletcher was one of them.
The Nottingham-born musician witnessed the birth of synth pop at the tail end of the '70s which inspired the early days of Depeche Mode; was part of his band’s reinvention into the darker, more goth-inclined group that would inspire so many rock and metal musicians throughout the '80s; and would be with them all the way through the '90s, when Depeche Mode rose to become stadium-filling superstars, constantly pushing forward with restless creativity as they secured their standing as one of the biggest bands in the world.
But, despite his longevity and obvious importance to the band, Andy Fletcher rarely attracted the same level of attention and scrutiny as his bandmates. It’s easy to see why in some respects; Fletcher had neither the snake-hipped, rock star preacher charisma of frontman David Gahan, nor the mad scientist allure of the band’s lead songwriter and visionary, Martin Gore. Fletcher himself joked to Rolling Stone in 2005 that his role was “to turn up for photo shoots and cash the cheques.”.
This, of course, is self-deprecating and inaccurate; Andy Fletcher brought much to Depeche Mode. An unassuming but essential component at the creative nucleus of the band, Fletcher was DM's everyman, the most relatable member of a group who inspired devotion in their fans en masse.
It was a beautiful thing to watch Fletcher interact with Depeche Mode’s passionate supporters. Often the first to make contact with fans as the band arrived at an airport or left a hotel, Fletch seemed to delight in such interactions, happily chatting and signing autographs for starstruck devotees. In 101, D.A. Pennebaker’s world class documentary about the band’s 1988 US tour, there is a moment at the end of a show where Fletcher reaches out and briefly holds the hand of a girl in the front row. Her reaction is one of delirium, and you can see Fletcher’s smile crack as she screams and tears up after making contact with him. Fletch - tall, wiry, thick-rim glasses, bright red hair - wasn’t an untouchable rock star, but a normal human being, one who had found himself in extraordinary circumstances, and was determined to make the most of it.
He also was the glue that held the band together. As the band’s career progressed, he became more involved in business operations, to the point where he was often in charge of legal and financial decisions.When Gore and Gahan’s fractured relationship was at rock bottom in the aftermath of 2001’s Exciter album, it was Fletcher who played the intermediary and healed the rift. His ability to play peacemaker helped extend Depeche Mode’s career by at least two decades - years in which Andy Fletcher continued to play on some superb albums and take part in some magnificent live shows.
Humble and self-effacing, you’d imagine that Fletcher himself would pooh-pooh his part in it all, allowing his more high-profile bandmates all the credit. The truth is, though, that every band needs an Andy Fletcher. Passionate yet unassuming, maximum effort with minimum fuss, always steady, always reliable, always thankful for his part in one of the greatest bands ever to do it.
Rest in peace, Fletch. Enjoy the silence.