Was Andy Flecther part of the most talented class in 1970s Britain?

Was this the most talented class in 1970s Britain? The Basildon school that spawned pop icons Alison Moyet, Depeche Mode, AND The Cure

  • St Nicholas Comprehensive School in Basildon, Essex boasts glittering 1970s alumni list of musical stars
  • At one point, it could count Alison Moyet, Perry Bamonte, Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher among its pupils 
  • Legendary 1980s electronic band Depeche Mode have announced death of keyboardist Andy Fletcher at 60
  • Fletcher co-founded the group with singer Dave Gahan and Martin Gore as schoolboys in Basildon in 1980
  • They quickly scored success and hits included Enjoy The Silence, Personal Jesus and Just Can’t Get Enough
  • The band scored 54 songs on the UK Singles Charts over their 40-year career and had continued to tour

One Essex school has the laid the strongest claim to the crown of Britain’s most gifted and talented class after four international music stars spent their formative years there.

For a brief stretch in the 1970s, one class in Essex was graced with a collection of the most iconic pop icons that Britain has ever seen and can count them among its glittering alumni.

Imagine rubbing shoulders with a young Alison Moyet in the playground. Perhaps you’d have asked to borrow Perry Bamonte’s pencil. Or sitting down next to a teenage Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher during lunch.

For pupils at the former St Nicholas secondary school, in Basildon’s colourful Laindon estate, that was the reality more than forty years ago. 

And as of 2022, that hugely successful quartet had collectively sold more than 150million albums worldwide. 

Emotional tributes this week flooded in after the death of Fletcher, the co-founder and keyboardist of legendary electronic band Depeche Mode who died at the age of 60.

The group, which was founded by Fletcher in Basildon, Essex, in 1980, shared a statement confirming his death, describing the keyboardist as a ‘dear friend’ with ‘a heart of gold’.

The band said Fletch died at home from ‘natural causes’, weeks after pictures were shared online showing him on holiday with his family in Spain and attending Chelsea’s FA Cup Final clash with Liverpool. 

Grammy-nominated singer songwriter Alison Moyet, who is also from Essex and went to school with Fletcher, said they had gone ‘from classmates to label mates’, adding that she was had ‘no words’.

She shot to international stardom with a string of hits both with Yazoo and as a solo artist in the 1980s and previously recalled her encounters with her fellow musicians as they all attended the same Essex school.

Moyet, along with ‘Fletch’ and Vince Clarke, would attend a Saturday morning music school in Basildon. Speaking to the Guardian, she previously joked about the pair’s bravery in wearing ‘Jesus Saves’ signs on their backs.

‘That was pretty brave, in Basildon, walking around like that. I’ve always admired iconoclasts. [It] was a big council estate, it was fine but there was absolutely no culture – we’d set up gigs in car parks or fields. 

‘In my class at school there was Andy Fletcher and Martin Gore [of Depeche Mode] and Perry Bamonte of The Cure.’

She would also describe her fellow Yazoo star Vince Clarke as a ‘God-botherer’ when he was boy, most recognisable because of his ‘white, white hair’ that made him look like a little ‘blond duck’.


Grammy-nominated singer songwriter Alison Moyet, (left) who is also from Essex and went to school with tragic Andy Fletcher, said they had gone ‘from classmates to label mates’, adding that she was had ‘no words’

Alison Moyet, along with ‘Fletch’ and her fellow Yazoo star Vince Clarke (pictured above in 1982), would attend a Saturday morning music school together in Basildon in their formative years

Perry Bamonte, left, attended St Nicholas School in Basildon, Essex before becoming a member of The Cure for 15 years

Emotional tributes this week flooded in after the death of Andy Fletcher (furthest left), the co-founder and keyboardist of legendary electronic band Depeche Mode who died this week at the age of 60

The stars behind Depeche Mode, pictured in 1981, who shot to success in the 1980s and 1990s and would go on to sell more than 100 million records worldwide

Meanwhile, fans and fellow artists alike shared thousands of moving tributes to the 60-year-old, nicknamed Fletch, who remained a member of the iconic group for four decades which continued to tour globally in recent years as one of the most recognisable groups from the 1980s.

Depeche Mode said in a statement: ‘We are shocked and filled with overwhelming sadness at the untimely passing of our dear friend, family member and bandmate Andy ‘Fletch’ Fletcher.

‘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.

‘Our hearts are with his family and we ask that you keep them in your thoughts and respect their privacy at this difficult time.’

Alison Moyet was born in Billericay and grew up in Basildon with Fletcher with both attending Nicholas Comprehensive along with fellow Depeche Mode founder Martin Gore and Cure member Perry Marmonte.

Vincent Clarke, also a member of Depeche Mode, went to school nearby and after leaving the group formed Yazoo with Alison Moyet who were signed by the same label, Mute Records, as his former band. 

Moyet wrote on Twitter: ‘I have just heard the news. Since we were 10. Same estate. Class mates to label mates. He who kept faith with all the old gang and they with him. It doesn’t compute. Fletch. I have no words.’

Roger O’Donnell, of The Cure, wrote on social media: ‘This is turning out to be a very bad day for Rock and Roll…. very very sad news.

‘Deeply saddened and shocked at the loss of Fletch… one of the true characters in this business..’

The Cure’s drummer, Lol Tolhurst, also shared a heartfelt tribute to Fletcher.

He wrote: ‘Very sad news today. Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode has passed. I knew Andy and considered him a friend. We crossed many of the same pathways as younger men.

Emotional tributes have flooded in after the death of Andy Fletcher, the co-founder and keyboardist of legendary electronic band Depeche Mode who died yesterday at the age of 60. Pictured: Andy Fletcher performs with Depeche Mode in 2017

Family: Tributes flooded in after the death of Andy Fletcher, the co-founder and keyboardist of electronic band Depeche Mode who died at the age of 60. Pictured: Andy at the FA Cup Final on May 14 with wife Grainne, son Joe and daughter Megan

Last month, Andy’s wife Grainne shared a picture of him receiving treatment for a fractured wrist after a bike crash in Spain

‘My heart goes out to his family, bandmates, and DM fans. RIP Fletch.’

Pet Shop Boys said in a post on Twitter: ‘We’re saddened and shocked that Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode has died.

‘Fletch was a warm, friendly and funny person who loved electronic music and could also give sensible advice about the music business. Our sincere condolences to his family and friends and to Dave Gahan and Martin Gore. Neil & Chris xx’

Fletcher leaves behind wife, Grainne, to whom he was married for almost 30 years, and two children, Megan and Joe.

The cause of death has not yet been confirmed but a source close to the family has said the musician died from ‘natural causes’ on Thursday.

Fletcher was born in Nottingham and moved to Basildon as a young boy, where he formed the band that would become known as Depeche Mode with Martin Gore and Vince Clarke.

While Clarke left in the early 1980s, Fletcher stayed with the group throughout its four-decade history, from its debut album ‘Speak and Spell’ to 2017’s ‘Spirit’.

During this period, two of its albums reached Number 1 in the charts, ‘Songs of Faith and Devotion’, and ‘Ultra’.

Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode performs during the band’s ‘Global Spirit Tour’ in West Valley City, Utah on August 23, 2017

Pictured: Andy Fletcher during a recording of the ‘Later with Jools Holland’ TV programme in London on April 28, 2009 

Left to right: Fletcher, Dave Gahan, Alan Wilder and Martin Gore of Depeche Mode in 1987 during the height of their success

Pictured left to right: Fletcher with Depeche Mode bandmates Dave Gahan and Martin Gore in Berlin on March 21, 2013

Tributes have poured in for the musician from across the entertainment world.

Carol Decker, lead singer for the band T’Pau, tweeted: ‘Oh no!!! Fletch was a lovely guy DM one of my all time favourite bands sending all my love to his family friends and band members.’

Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid said: ‘His keyboard sounds crafted not just Depeche Mode’s sonic approach but shifted the direction of Techno, EDM, Downtempo, Triphop, & Electronica. Crucial loss.’

And Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark tweeted that he was a ‘beautiful person in an amazing band.’

Fletcher was often modest about his role in Depeche Mode compared to that of his fellow musicians, Gore, Alan Wilder and Dave Gahan.

In an interview for the 1989 documentary 101, he described their roles as: ‘Martin’s the songwriter, Alan’s the good musician, Dave’s the vocalist, and I bum around.’

As one of the co-founders of Depeche Mode in 1980, Fletcher was behind a string of hits including ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’

Fletcher performing with Depeche Mode at the London Astoria on July 23, 1981

Clockwise from top left: Dave Gahan, Alan Wilder, Andrew Fletcher and Martin Gore of Depeche Mode in Berlin in July 1984

Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode in concert in Budapest, Hungary, on February 2, 2018

Despite their popularity, the band never had a No.1 single, though they reached No.4 across three separate decades with People are People, Barrel of a Gun and Precious.

Industrial metal supergroup Calling All Astronauts tweeted: ‘Omg! Fletch has died, Andy was a really nice bloke, I used to go to his restaurant Gascogne off Abby Road, he was always really friendly. And of course Depeche Mode have been an inspiration to so many of us RIP.’

Fletcher last hit the headlines last month when he fractured his wrist on holiday in Barcelona.

The Cure co-founder Lol Tolhurst wrote: ‘Very sad news today. Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode has passed. I knew Andy and considered him a friend. We crossed many of the same pathways as younger men . My heart goes out to his family, bandmates, and DM fans. RIP Fletch.’

The band chose their name from French fashion magazine Depeche Mode, with frontman Gahan explaining: ‘It means hurried fashion or fashion dispatch. I like the sound of that.’

Fletcher formed the group that would become giants of British electro-pop along with fellow synthesizer players Clarke and Gore, and lead singer Gahan, in Basildon in 1980.

Andy Fletcher with Depeche Mode in concert at the Stade de France in Paris on June 15, 2013

Depeche Mode bandmates (left-right) Martin Gore, Dave Gahan and Andy Fletcher at the Q Awards in London in 2002

Musician Andrew Fletcher of Depeche Mode at the 2013 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival in Austin on March 13, 2013

Depeche Mode played their first gig at school in 1980 and went on to make demo tapes, personally delivering them to record companies.

They eventually recorded their first single ‘Dreaming of Me’ in December 1980 for independent label Mute Records, whose founder Daniel Miller was interested in their unique electronic sound.

It reached number 57 in the UK charts. Buoyed by their early success, the band recorded a follow-up single, ‘New Life’, which made it to number 11 in the charts and landed their first appearance on Top of the Pops.

Memorably, the band travelled to the BBC studio in London by train, taking their synthesizers with them. 

The band’s debut album ‘Speak and Spell’ opened with ‘New Life’ and closed with one of the band’s enduring hits, ‘Just Can’t Get Enough.’

It was this third single, ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, that propelled the group to stardom and scored their first top ten hit.

Around this time, original synthesist Clarke left the band to form Yazoo with Alison Moyet, but Depeche Mode followed their 80s success with other hits, including ‘Enjoy the Silence’, ‘Strangelove’ and ‘Personal Jesus’.

The group would find international success with 1984’s ‘Some Great Reward’ and the single ‘People are People,’ and their prominence would only grow throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.

Fletcher would lend his keyboards to classic albums including ‘Music for the Masses,’ ‘Black Celebration’ and ‘Violator.’

The first of these led to a world tour that brought a live album, a documentary, and a legendary concert at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, that represented the pinnacle of the band’s prominence.

Fletcher (pictured in 1984) helped define the synth-pop genre of music as keyboardist of Depeche Mode

Musician Andrew Fletcher of Depeche Mode speaks onstage at the Convention Centre in Austin, Texas, in 2013

Andy Fletcher attends a private view of photographer Dave Benett’s new exhibition ‘Great Shot, Kid’ in London on February 16

A fan of Chelsea FC with a penchant for chess, Fletcher assumed a low-profile in the group. He did not sing or write songs, and his face never as familiar as those of his bandmates.

Fletcher handled many of the band’s business and media interests; and expanded his career in the 1990s by running a restaurant named Gascogne’s in St John’s Wood, North West London.

He admitted to suffering depression and endured a breakdown in 1994 after a series of bad investments, but he recovered to continue performing throughout the subsequent decades.

He started his own record label, Toast Hawaii, in 2002, releasing an album by the band CLIENT.

Fletcher would perform DJ sets at the band’s live shows, which he continued to do at festivals and clubs after he and CLIENT parted ways.

The band’s last studio album ‘Spirit’ came out in 2017.

In an interview with AFP ahead of its release, its members said they were proud to have attracted listeners of other genres, including rock fans who would have rarely stepped into a dance club.

‘One of our legacies is to make electronic music popular to the masses,’ Fletcher said.

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