Creators and Shapers: The Women in Dave's Life
February 7, 2021
Welcome to the first installment of "Creators and Shapers: The Women in Dave's Life!" In this mini-series, we aim to take a closer look at all of the women in Dave's life who have had an influence on him to some degree. The title comes from a line in the song, "Presence of God" by Soulsavers, where he sings about a female figure who "torments" him and "creates and shapes" him. It is evident that Dave has had many strong female figures in his life, from his mother, his sister, his past and present wives, his daughter, friends and mentors, and they all have had a role in shaping him in various big and small ways. Each installment will focus on a different woman as we take a closer look at each one as individuals as well as what role they played in Dave's life and how they influenced him, whether good or bad. So without further ado, read on for the first episode of "Creators and Shapers!"
Episode 1: Joanne Fox
Founder and manager of the first Depeche Mode fan club newsletter, punk fashionista, and music lover, she was also Dave's first wife and mother of his eldest son, Jack Gahan. On this episode of "Creators and Shapers," we present Joanne Fox and five things you may or may not know about her!
1. Joanne and Dave met at a Damned concert in 1979
Dave was such a big fan of The Damned that he was a member of their fan club.1 Apparently, Joanne was a big fan, as well, as the two met each other at one of their shows in 1979. Soon after that, the two began dating and were inseparable.2. "I was attracted to his sense of humour," she says. "He also had a rapport with women — he could relate easily to girls, he was just easy to be with. He was also a bit different from other guys. He was a cool fashion icon, willing to push the boundaries of fashion...He took care over his appearance and it didn't bother him if blokes thought he was slightly effeminate..."3 The two dated for just 12 weeks before becoming engaged. "He was my best friend and I adored him. We were each other's first serious relationship and often felt we were 'one' person."3 Though their engagement happened rather quickly, it wasn't until over five years later on August 5, 1985, that they got married. Of course during this time, Dave and his band were quickly on their way to becoming world-famous superstars, having already released four albums by this time, so this could be the main reason why it took so long. "I don't know why we got married," Dave said about their "spur of the moment" tying of the knot4, "It was something we both fancied doing. Jo's the only person I feel completely at ease with and when you feel you can do anything in front of someone and it's totally natural, then that's the person you should stay with."5
2. Joanne ran the first Depeche Mode fan club newsletter
Joanne Fox and Deb Danahay
Along with Martin Gore's girlfriend at the time, Anne Swindell, and Vince Clarke's girlfriend at the time, Deb Danahay, Joanne started the Depeche Mode Information Service, the official fan club newsletter for Depeche Mode that ran from September 1981 through August 1985. As the precursor to BONG, this newsletter featured news about the band, tour dates, and also included solicitations for autographed photos of the band and other merchandise like T-shirts and posters. After Deb left in December 1981 and Anne left in June 1983, Joanne became the sole overseer of the publication until August 1985 when Bravado, Depeche Mode's tour merchandiser, took it over. On the reason why Joanne decided to relinquish those duties, Dave said in 1987, "It just all got a bit too big. I'd come home, and there would be posters and records everywhere — all I wanted was a break! I just couldn't handle it. I just couldn't get away from Depeche Mode. It got to the stage where [Joanne and I] didn't talk anymore. She'd just ask me questions like 'What colour socks were you wearing that night in Berlin?'"4 Whew! I can imagine what a demanding job that would've been! I wonder if Joanne, Anne, and Deb in those early days had any idea just how big the band and how valuable some of that merchandise would become later on?
3. Joanne had a brief stint in acting
Joanne made an appearance in the 1987 comedy movie, Firehouse, in which actress Julia Roberts was also in. In the movie, Joanne played a character named June Hopkins. According to IMDb, the plotline of this movie reads: "Some sexy women get out of Fire Fighter School and go for the jobs they trained for, but first they must survive their male counterparts teasing them." Judging from just the synopsis and the genre, I can't decide if this was either more like a Charlie's Angels or Legally Blonde sort of deal, as I'm imagining a plot involving "sexy women" becoming firefighters and surviving males teasing them could either have them being femme fatales or total klutzes. Unfortunately, I cannot find any further information about Joanne's role in the movie.
4. Joanne and Dave have a son named Jack
On October 14, 1987, Joanne gave birth to Jack Gahan, Dave's eldest son. He can be seen as an infant in 101, playing with the video camera, and also being bottle-fed in Dave's arms in another scene. It's clear that Dave was a proud and dedicated father during this time, even as he had a world-famous band to record, tour, and do publicity stints with. Later, Dave and Jack were to be separated for a few years in the 1990s, as after Joanne and Dave had separated (see next section), he moved to the US and got married to a new woman. His move and new marriage also coincided with a downward spiral into serious drug addiction, suicide attempts, and fruitless soul-searching. This downward spiral prompted Joanne to keep Jack away from him for some time, and Dave made little effort to connect with them. But things changed for the better since he got clean in the late 1990s; he has repaired his relationship with his oldest son and they have been closer than ever. In 1997, Dave said of their newly-mended bond, "What's fantastic now is spending a couple of days with Jack. Being there. Being really there. Last night at the hotel when I heard him kind of moaning and I went into his bedroom and climbed into bed with him and just cuddled him and he went back to sleep...six months ago I wouldn't have been able to do that. I wouldn't have wanted to. Because of the guilt and the shame I felt about myself."6 Nowadays, Jack is a grown man and is happily married.
5. Joanne and Dave split in 1991
Translated to English the caption says, "After six years of friendship they married: Jo and Dave." Sad to say that after five years of marriage, they split up for good.
As the saying goes, "All good things must come to an end." The pressures of fame eventually got to Dave in the late eighties and he simply no longer wanted to be married. "I felt trapped by everything that was around me," he said. "[Depeche Mode] had a lot of success and Violator was huge round the world — and I should have been on top of the world, and I wasn't. I had everything I could possibly want, but I was really lost. I didn't even feel like I knew myself anymore. And I felt like shit, 'cos I constantly cheated on my wife, and went back home and lied, and my soul needed cleansing. I had to figure out why...I just packed a case and split...Went off and rented a place in Los Angeles. During the Violator tour, I split from my wife. My year was really spent doing a lot of soul-searching and trying to find out what had gone wrong in my life, and thinking, to be quite honest, about whether I wanted to come back and do the whole thing — records, tours, fame, Depeche Mode - again."7 Even two years later in 1993, with the divorce still somewhat fresh, Dave had admitted that he was mostly to blame for their marriage falling apart. "I'd been with my ex-wife, Joanne, for a long while, and we used to be really great friends, and that had deteriorated - mostly on my part. Ninety percent of that was my doing, definitely...What I hope...what I really hope, is for her to meet somebody and fall in love and realise that, probably, we weren't in love at all. That would be the best thing for me, because it would remove a lot of the guilt that I now feel..."8 And thus ended a five-year-plus-long marriage. It took a long time, but Dave and Joanne are now on friendly terms with one another, at least.
- "Just Can't Get Enough", Uncut (May 2001)
- "Chapter 1: Essex Boy", Dave Gahan - Depeche Mode & The Second Coming (November 5, 2009)
- "Chapter 3: A Fashionable Composition", Stripped: Depeche Mode (2003)
- "Intimate Details", No.1 (September 12, 1987)
- "Depeche Mode: From Lads to Dads", Just Seventeen (March 19, 1986)
- "Tears of My Tracks", Q (March 1997)
- "I never wanted to destroy Depeche Mode", Melody Maker (April 3, 1993)
- "Devout Moded", Vox (February 1993)
So, what do you think about this article? Do you have any details about Joanne Fox that I missed, or simply want to get something off of your chest? Who would you like to see featured in a future installment of "Creators and Shapers?" Please comment below!