This was inspired by Priscilla Presley's book Elvis And Me, where she described their relationship. Martin Gore of Depeche Mode said: "It's a song about being a Jesus for somebody else, someone to give you hope and care. It's about how Elvis was her man and her mentor and how often that happens in love relationships - how everybody's heart is like a god in some way, and that's not a very balanced view of someone, is it?"
Johnny Cash did a stripped-down version on his 2002 album American IV, The Man Comes Around. Martin Gore revealed to The London Times that the band were unaware that Cash had covered this song. When they heard about the country legend's recording, the threesome were naturally thrilled. Said Gore: "I think when you're somebody of Johnny Cash's caliber, you don't ask for permission."
Cash explained why he chose to cover this song (as quoted in Mojo October 2013): "I heard that as a gospel song. And if you think of it as a gospel song, it works really well. We didn't have any major disagreement over that song, I just heard that a couple of people had recorded it, the writer wanted me to try it, and I did, and I loved it. And I went for it."
This was the biggest-selling 12-inch single in Warner Bros. history to that point.
The video was the first by Depeche Mode to get significant airplay on MTV. Directed by Anton Corbijn, it has an Old West theme, with Dave Gahan and Martin Gore as cowboys.
During the heavy breathing section of the song (around 2:20), there are some tight silhouette shots of Gore huffing, and then a shot of a horse's hindquarters. "I don't know if Anton was consciously trying to be perverted, I think it was more coincidental that it happened at that point," Gore told Uncut. "These video people see things very strangely."
It was a little too much for MTV, so Corbijn made an edit eliminating some of the silhouette breathing, and that was the version the network aired.
Marilyn Manson covered this on their 2004 album Lest We Forget
. This version was used in the trailer for the 2011 movie Priest
Elliot - St. Louis, MO
The 2008 Hillary Duff song "Reach Out
" is based on this track. Duff's tune changes the lyrics from "Reach out and touch faith" to "Reach out and touch me
Def Leppard covered this song for their 2018 The Story So Far: The Best of Def Leppard compilation album. They chose that particular track as the band's producer and sound tech Ronan McHugh plays "Personal Jesus" every day to test the PA.