Depeche Mode Biography David Gahan


David Gahan (who more than likely has a second name since all his brothers and sisters do but has left it out) was born on 9 May 1962 in Chigwell. Similar to Fletch's and Martin's story, there are different places (Basildon, of course, and quite often: Epping) mentioned regarding where Dave was born, but Dave himself said "Chigwell" in two or three different articles.
"I was born at 5:00 am on May 9th 1962 weighing in at 8 1/2 lbs. We lived in Romford Road, Chigwell in Essex in a semi which is also where I was born."[1]
(By the way - Dave shares his birthday with a national celebration day in Russia, and Russian fans created their own celebration called "Dave Day.")

Dave's biological father left the family when Dave and his elder sister Susan Christine (born in 1960) were very young. Some sources say that the name of his biological father was Leonard William F Callcott, a man who is listed in the British register of deaths and whose life data would fit. (See this thread for more information.)
Dave's Mother, Sylvia Ruth, got married again and "we moved to another semi in sunny Basildon[2], for this new town, the new world, where it's greener and there are better schools. But it was miserable."[3] He always thought his stepfather, whose surname he got, was his real father. (By the way, Gahan is Irish and pronounced 'Gaan'.) "But my blood father has Malaysian ancestors.[4] My stepdad died when I was nine."[5] (Other sources quote he was seven.)
Dave's two younger half-brothers, Peter Eric, born in 1966, and Philip Michael, born in 1967, come from his mother's second marriage.


(with friendly permission of © Anja - compositionofsound)

"When I was young I was rather tubby all round and a bit of a moaner, always crying in fact," Dave said about himself, "my earliest memory of my childhood is being made to drink hot milk with the skin on at nursery school, but I can't remember if I liked it or not."[6]
In the course of time he revealed a lot of little things about himself, for example that he was scared of many things when he was a child and that he still battles fear, consequently he's not always doing what he would like to. He also admitted that he had always been a person trying to attract other people's attention.
"When I was really young the aunts would come round and I would entertain my mum by doing my best Mick Jagger or Gary Glitter impression across the room, make everybody laugh. I wasn't really good at anything else, but I saw that it really got a reaction."[7]
The first time he was mentioned in a newspaper was for winning a prize for a home-baked cake with the Boy Scouts. He had his first appearances as a singer of Christmas carols with the Salvation Army to which his mother belonged.
"I've never been religious although she stuck to her beliefs. I used to go down to Sunday School with my sister on our bikes and instead of going in we'd just ride around for a couple of hours, and when we got back we'd say it was great."[8]

Problems started when his stepfather died and his biological father appeared. "Then I came home one day - I was about 11" [other sources say he was 10] "and found this bloke at home who turned out to be my father. I was very upset and we all had a huge argument because I thought I should have been told."[9]
Some sources say that this was the first and the last time he saw his father while a Belgian teenage-magazine quoted him with: "From that day on, Len often visited the house until one year later, he disappeared again, forever this time. Since then he gave no sign of life anymore. By growing older I thought about him more and more. The only thing my mother wanted to say, was that he moved out to Jersey to open a hotel."[10]
Dave was angry about this article, so maybe he was quoted wrong here. On the other hand, it suits the life data of Leonard William F Callcott again.
However, it wasn't a positive experience. "There was always distrust for people you were meant to feel safe with after that - teachers, getting into trouble with the police. I'm still a bit like that."[11]
In fact, he got totally out of control and in a lot of trouble. His drug career had actually begun at the age of 12 when he stole barbiturates from his mother who was suffering from epilepsy. Then the alcohol came, later all possible pills, speed and even heroin. "I first took heroin when I was probably 17, when I was living in a squat in King's Cross. But I didn't like it, 'cos speed was the thing at that time. I realise now I've had a very addictive nature when it comes to getting off my head and escaping from myself."[12]
The story with "living in a squat" sounds a bit strange, and many years later he told the same story differently: "I was around 18 or 19 years old. I remember it was at a gig in London and I thought the heroin was amphetamines, so I took a bunch and then I got violently ill. I missed the whole gig and came to in the corner of the club."[13]


As a pupil Dave wasn't very successful. "I hated school. It's really funny because I can remember everything over the last seven years or so really vividly, but I can't remember a thing about me school life. When it was a quarter to four and we finished at four, that last quarter of an hour seemed to last forever. That's my lasting image of those days.[14] My fondest memory from school was the teacher saying,'Gahan, what is so interesting out of the window?' It was just a field, but if I was feeling courageous, I'd say, 'a lot more than what's going on here', and off to the headmaster's office I'd go. I was out of my mind already.[15] All I was interested in was going out every night to see a gig. I was 15 and refused school because I was being dictated a way of behaving so as to bury me in a boring, stupid, repetitive job. I left everything and fled to London."[16]
He described himself as a very destructive teenager, and instead of studying for school, he preferred to hang around. "First I was a soulboy, I've done it all, I've been everything. I used to like soul and jazz-funk like The Crusaders. I used to go to soul weekends and hang around with the crew from Global Village and I went to, like, The Lyceum on a Friday night.[17] I tried to fit in with lots of different groups of friends but I was just different, an odd kid. In a way, you could say I was a bit nerdy even though I was hanging out with street kids who were getting in trouble and all that.[18] But, really, I was drowning. My mother says that I was very stubborn and hard-headed. I liked to think I wasn't following the norm. I liked the reaction of doing bad things, teenage stuff. It was a good way to get a reaction."[19]
So music was very important to him. It was something he could find a hold in. "I remember I had a small radio that I would go to bed with. My two little brothers and me shared a small bedroom. I was on a mattress on the floor in a sleeping bag, while they were in the bunk bed. I had this little earpiece thing which I would use to listen late at night to John Peel or whatever weird music that wasn't on daytime radio or TV, which was another important part of my musical upbringing."[20]
Then punk came along. "I, much to my mum's dismay, became involved in it, dyeing my hair various colours and sporting clothes from Seditionaries. I saw many bands that year in Chelmsford, Southend and London.[21] But I ended up being bored by punk because everybody looked the same: same clothes, same haircuts, it had become the norm, it was a pain."[22]

And he got into conflict with law over and over again. "From the age of about 12 I was getting into trouble. I was a proper tearaway. I was nicking cars, joy-riding, writing graffiti. I wasn't such a bright graffiti artist either. Used my surname as my graffiti tag. There weren't too many Gahans in the whole of England never mind Basildon. I was arrested a fair few times. Not a very good villain.[23] I got into trouble with the police and mixed with a lot of people who got into trouble.[24] I just wanted attention. I put my mum through a rough time, in and out of juvenile court."
He ended up in weekend custody at a sub-Borstal 'attendance centre'. "It was a real pain in the arse. You had to work - I remember doing boxing, stuff like that. You had to have your hair cut. It was every weekend, so you were deprived of your weekend, and it seemed like forever. I was told very clearly that my next thing was detention centre."[25]

And there was another disappointment that could be described as a crucial experience: "The one girl I did end up falling for as a teenager, my best mate Mark ended up s***. I was at this party and I couldn't find my girlfriend anywhere. Everyone was looking at me. They knew. I pushed open the bedroom door and there's Mark's white a*** bouncing up and down. That was my first reality check. It set me on this idea that I'm not good enough. I've been battling it ever since."[26]


Dave left school at the age of 16 because he was so bored with it and didn't like being pushed around. "My qualifications in art and technical drawing didn't seem much use. I went through loads of jobs. In eight months I had twenty occupations from Yardley's perfume factory to labouring to Sainsbury's soft drink man.[27] I never held out very long and my bosses hated my rebellious attitude.[28] Finally, I realised I had no career so I went for a job as apprentice fitter with North Thames Gas. My probation officer told me to be honest at the interview, say I had a criminal record, but I was a reformed character blah blah. Course I didn't get the job because of that. It cost me a lot of confidence, having been through so many IQ tests and been shortlisted. I went back and trashed the probation office."[29]
I couldn't find out if he had really done this. Only one thing is sure: Sometimes Dave tends to embellish stories a bit.

Finally, he went to "art college". Here, I would like to clarify that the words "college" and "study" refer to studies at a higher level than they actually were in this case. My understanding is that Dave's qualifications would have never been good enough to attend university. He told the story a little different from time to time and embellished it a bit, so in the end it sounds as if he had studied fashion design or art. Actually, it was probably more geared towards a manual/technical education with the aim of learning the profession of a window dresser. But as such, the subjects of fashion design and art are applicable.
Some sources say he had finished this degree. Another source says he "was asked politely to leave the school" because he was absent too often. The last one is correct.

"I liked art school. The teacher was a nice geezer who let us smoke. Good times. I enjoyed college, I was designing clothes for mates, going off to see Gen X and The Damned."[30] He also met Joanne, his later first wife, at a Damned concert.
He wanted to become a punk front man actually. "I rehearsed a couple of times with a few bands. I have never given a concert, practised only with a band named The Vermin after school."[31]
When he was no longer interested in punk he went to the clubs in London and listened to music like David Bowie, Roxy Music, Kraftwerk and Gary Numan. "A gang of us hung out together all living for the weekend, saving up for a bag of blues (pills), going without dinner all week. We'd go to London all night, end up at some party then catch the milk train from Liverpool Street to Billericay. It was a bloody long walk home! I got bored with that, but for a while it was exciting. I had a double life, mixing with the art school mob then going home to Bas. I'd go to the pub wearing makeup, but cos I knew the local beer boys, the spanners, I was OK."[32]
Finally, his ways crossed those of Vince, Fletch and Martin, and he took the chance to become a member of a band that played the music he liked.


(with friendly permission of © Ulrike Müller)

Today Dave is the father of son Jack, born in 1987, from his first marriage with Joanne. Dave's second wefe was Theresa with whom he did not have any children. Since 1999, Dave has been married to Jennifer and officially adopted her son Jimmy in 2010. Together they have a daughter, Stella Rose, born in 1999.
In addition to DM, Dave also did some solo work. He contributed a single song A Song for Europe (originally from Roxy Music) to the Dream Home Heartache Sampler (1997) and gave his voice to some songs of other bands. Solo albums are: Paper Monsters (2003) and Hourglass (2007). In 2012 he released the album The Light the Dead See together with the band Soulsavers.

[1] A Broken Frame Tour Programme, 1982
[2] A Broken Frame Tour Programme, 1982
[3] Interview with Dave Gahan, Mojo, 22 March 2013. Words: Martin Aston.
[4] Ask Dave, Bong 7, October 1989
[5] Facing my Monsters, Daily Mirror, 27 June 2003. Words: Gavin Martin
[6] A Broken Frame Tour Programme, 1982
[7] Just Can't Get Enough, Uncut, May 2001. Words: Stephen Dalton
[8] Blasphemy Rewarded, Melody Maker, 22 September 1984. Words: Mark Jenkins
[9] Dave Gahan: The Wild Boy, No. 1, 4 May 1985
[10] Depeche Mode begs for a vacation, Joepie, 1984, author unknown
[11] Facing my Monsters, Daily Mirror, 27 June 2003. Words: Gavin Martin
[12] Dead Man Talking, NME, 18 January 1997. Words: Keith Cameron
[13] Interview with Dave Gahan, Mojo, 22 March 2013. Words: Martin Aston.
[14] Intimate Details, No. 1, 12 September 1987
[15] Interview with Dave Gahan, Mojo, 22 March 2013. Words: Martin Aston.
[16] 80's, Mode d'Emploi, Best, October 1987. Words: Gerard Bar-David
[17] Three Modes in a Boat, NME, 22 August 1981. Words: Paul Morley
[18] "Through That Darkness You'll Find the Light", EB Magazine, 12 March 2013, Words: A.J. Samuels.
[19] Interview with Dave Gahan, Mojo, 22 March 2013. Words: Martin Aston.
[20] "Through That Darkness You'll Find the Light", EB Magazine, 12 March 2013, Words: A.J. Samuels.
[21] A Broken Frame Tour Programme, 1982
[22] 80's, Mode d'Emploi, Best, October 1987. Words: Gerard Bar-David
[23] The Basildon Bond, The Times Magazine, 14 April 2001. Words: Paul Connolly
[24] Coming up Smiling, The Face, February 1985. Words: Sheryl Garratt
[25] Just Can't Get Enough, Uncut, May 2001. Words: Stephen Dalton
[26] The Ten Commandments: Dave Gahan, Q, November 2005. Words: Dave Gahan / Johnny Davis
[27] Dave Gahan: The Wild Boy, No. 1, 4 May 1985
[28] Depeche Mode prive (Part 2: Dave Gahan), unknown author, media and date
[29] Dave Gahan: The Wild Boy, No. 1, 4 May 1985
[30] Dave Gahan: The Wild Boy, No. 1, 4 May 1985
[31] Just Can't Get Enough, Uncut, May 2001. Words: Stephen Dalton
[32] Dave Gahan: The Wild Boy, No. 1, 4 May 1985

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