Andrew Fletcher, who has died aged 60, was the keyboardist and one of the founding members of Depeche Mode, the Eighties synth band that made catchy pop hits such as “New Life”, “Just Can’t get Enough” and “People are People”.
Fletcher – known to fellow band members and fans as “Fletch” – joined the group in 1980 and went on to see 43 of their single releases reach the UK Top 40, while two of their albums reached the coveted No 1 spot.
Andrew Fletcher was born in Nottingham in 1961, the eldest child of John and Joy Fletcher. He grew up in Basildon, Essex, where, while still a teenager, he first heard punk music and met his fellow band members.
Depeche Mode had its origins in No Romance in China, a punk group formed in 1979, with Fletcher on bass, Vince Clarke on vocals and guitar, together with Sue Paget (guitar) and Pete Hobbs (drums). Hobbs once described the band, which only played one live gig, as “like a cross between The Police and The Cure”. Their sound, raw and unpolished, was missing those instantly recognisable synth keyboard melodies that would characterise Fletcher’s next band.
Fletcher switched from bass to playing electronic synthesisers, introducing a fresh electro-pop sound to the group that would achieve fame as Depeche Mode, with a line-up including Clarke, Martin Gore and Dave Gahan. Fletcher later recalled an existential moment at which he asked himself “why am I in the band? It was accidental right from the beginning. I was actually forced to be in the band. I played the guitar and I had a bass; it was a question of them roping me in.”
The group made a Top of the Pops television debut in 1981, launching their second single, “New Life”, an upbeat synth-pop anthem with storylike yet enigmatic lyrics. The song peaked at No 11 and gave Depeche Mode their much-needed breakthrough.
Vince Clarke, who wrote “New Life”, would soon leave the band for other projects, later going on to found Yazoo with Alison Moyet. Although the line-ups for so many Eighties and Nineties bands were in constant flux and others faded into obscurity, Fletcher remained a lynchpin of Depeche Mode for four decades, together with Gahan and Gore. And although their star had faded somewhat in the UK by the Nineties, their popularity endured in mainland Europe and the USA, as they adopted a darker, more gothic, soundscape.
Over their 40-year history, the band sold more than 100 million records, with a total of 54 singles in the UK charts, 43 of those making the Top 40.
Depeche Mode toured widely, including a major 96-show tour in support of the album Songs of Faith and Devotion (1993), which was one of two to reach No 1 in the UK album charts, the other being Ultra (1997). The group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – a major music world honour – in 2020.
Behind the scenes, Fletcher took on the role of manager for the group and acted as the essential “glue” between its members, holding the band together. Asked in 2013 about his contribution to Depeche Mode, Fletcher replied self-effacingly: “Within the band, I contribute the element of pop. Martin L Gore, who writes most of the songs, loves American blues and country. And Dave has discovered jazz for himself. I, however, will probably eternally feel loyal to the simple pop melodies and the lightness they stand for.”
Depeche Mode paid tribute, saying: “We are shocked and filled with overwhelming sadness with the untimely passing of our dear friend, family member and bandmate... Fletch had a true heart of gold and was always there when you needed support, a lively conversation, a good laugh or a cold pint.”
Fletcher is survived by his wife of nearly 30 years, Gráinne, and their children, Megan and Joe.
Andrew Fletcher, keyboard player and musician, born 8 July 1961, died 26 May 2022