Technical difficulties had almost ruined the night. It was a show that would forever be remembered, with the location even going on to become the title of a single. Thanks to the National Archive and RTL's filming of the evening we can now show you the footage of 30 March 1982.
Countless international stars have at some point performed in Luxembourg: Michael Jackson at the Krackelshaff in Bettembourg in 1997, Prince at the Rockhal in 2011, Rolling Stones on Kirchberg in 1995. But these were all shows attended by thousands of people at the height of the artist's career. Some bands, such as British synth-pop group Depeche Mode, made it to smaller clubs in the Grand Duchy in their early days, just before a massive breakthrough.
On 30 March 1982, Depeche Mode, then on a European tour of some major venues, stopped at the Rainbow Club in the minuscule village of Oberkorn. The band was confused about the location. Something must have clearly gone wrong, remembers Martin Gore, the band's keyboardist: "We rarely bother to look at our schedules and so naturally thought we'd be playing Brussels. But instead we found ourselves pulling into a tiny place called Oberkorn."
"It was a curious kind of village with a population that would hardly fill the first few rows of any ordinary theatre so it was quite a fascination for us to find out what was going to happen. Instead of our gig being a handful of people, the place was packed as the audience came from all around and even from across the borders", Gore said.
Indeed, 250 fans from all over the Greater Region flocked to Oberkorn to see the band in such an intimate setting. The weeks before they had been playing at Trinity Hall in Hamburg, The Ritz in Stockholm and New York, Hammersmith Odeon in London, and at the BBC studios. Now they were standing on a half-improvised stage in a gloomy club.
Today, Depeche Mode have sold over 100 million records worldwide, scoring 54 chart hits and inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame three times. But all artists start out somewhere, usually with terrible conditions and low budgets.
Shortly before the band got on stage for a soundcheck in Oberkorn, technical issues hit the organisers. "When the group arrived, it was total chaos", remembers André Depienne who had organised the concert, together with Roland Nilles, both proprietors of the club, speaking to L'essentiel in 2009. All fifteen technicians on site, the members of the band and the manager were stressed out. "After hours of tinkering we finally managed a soundcheck. RTL set off to record the concert. But in the moment of connecting the cameras the fuses fried and so did the programming of the electronic band. After the second try, Depeche Mode wanted to cancel the concert."
The technicians managed to solve the issues and for the band to start the gig. Since the stage was so low, RTL had put their cameras in the back of the venue, asking the crowd to sit on the floor. But when the group launched into their first song, a woman stood up and started to dance. A security guard tried to get her to sit back down again, sparking an angry exchange of words. Singer Dave Gahan jumped off stage and got involved. It later turned out the woman in the audience was his girlfriend.
The night turned out to be unforgettable. The group had given the title "Oberkorn (It's A Small Town) to an instrumental song released on the B-side of the single "The Meaning Of Love" (1982). Legend has it that that producer had asked Martin Gore to give a title for the track during the moment when they were in Luxemburg. He had spontaneously replied: "Oberkorn". "It's A Small Town"
The title was inspired by a remark by the waiter of the hotel that the group was staying in. To Gore's question of if they could have an egg for breakfast, the waiter replied that this was not possible because they were in the countryside: "It's a small town!"
A big thanks to the Depeche Mode Live Wiki for highlighting and compiling these incredible quotes and memories.