Dog's Dinner

"You're not loved because you're lovable, you're lovable 'cause you're loved."

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Enough is Enough

In seventh grade, the awkward boy, a green, bewildered Boulderite newly transplanted to what then seemed the matter-of-fact megapolis of DC, a misfit unaware of who was the Redskins' star quarterback and later to be nicknamed "Dada" by an English teacher for his incoherent clowning, loved visiting suburban malls with his family on weekends, if only to briefly high-tail it from their stultifyingly practical and prosaic shopping rounds and chase his own private VisionQuest, scouting the Sam Goodys and other fluorescent-lit music chains of the counties Fairfax and Montgomery for old Depeche Mode albums, glowing, shimmering arcana, the Silmarillion of DM fandom for a pre-teen neophyte in 1986. More than that, he loved scouting the urban music shops, chain or Mom&Pop, for the twelve-inch singles with their tantalizing treasures: the extended remixes, the live versions (where, curiously enough, Dave Gahan tended to sound slightly less like a young Adonis and slightly more like a laid-off Basildon factory worker after a few pints), the bonus tracks: it was just possible, remotely, that there might be a new song, never before released, in the magic stretch of rack between Deep Purple and Devo; there might even (gasp) be a New Single.

Even more than that, he, or should I say, I, loved riding the L2 or L4 from Van Ness to Dupont of a Friday afternoon while listening to DM's masterpiece, Black Celebration, or their best-of collection, Catching Up With Depeche Mode. The highlight of the show was riding over the bridge just after Woodley Park-Zoo Station: the listener became ensconsced in green trees and blue sky and felt the ecstatic heartache of the truly tragic, whether listening to the darkly erotic dirge "Fly on the Windscreen" or the buoyant yet somber closer, "But Not Tonight."

But the elusive Grail, the perpetual motion machine that I dreamed of possessing, was the Depeche Mode video. MTV was not the eclectic and pluralistic multi-tiered operation then that it is now, no sir. Actually, I don't remember if my family even had MTV that autumn, but I rather doubt it. We had, however, had it in Boulder that summer, and after my conversion upon listening to Some Great Reward (in fact the real masterpiece, DM's Revolver if Black Celebration is their Sgt. Pepper), an unbirthday gift from my good friend Degan, I had been ever alert and on standby for some gobsmacking Gesamkunstwerk or Gotterdammerung from the Boys from Basildon; and by the Sevenfold Shield of Ajax, that accursed spawn of Satan MTV (Channel 11 on Boulder TV at the time, I remember) had well and truly failed me.

Having joined Columbia House Record Club, as I believe it was then called (you know the drill: "ten pennies, ten albums" or some such and then you sign in blood) in the spring of that fateful year, I went ahead and ordered the anthology "Depeche Mode: Some Great Videos." But what I got in the mail some three weeks later turned out to be something called "Depeche Mode: Live in Hamburg," a concert on the Some Great Reward tour, featuring a more-than-usually atonal Gahan. Gahan's shocking oafishness and smallness-in-stature notwithstanding, it was fun to see them in concert; still, the disappointment, after waiting so long for a kaleidoscope of futuristic video art juxtaposed with My Favorite Music as-heard-on-album, was bitter.

[The discrepancy, however, later became the ace up my sleeve in a tense game of cat-and-mouse with the sinister minions of the dread Columbia House. The threat of a lawsuit for false advertising kept the bastards at bay.]

And if there was one song I really wanted to see illustrated on film, despite all the bubblegum back-street/wolf's-lair poignancy of Some Great Reward and the sugar-coated apocalyptic romance and cynicism of Black Celebration, and the candycorn Socialist agitprop of Construction Time Again and the Poor Man's Ray-Ban Wordsworthiana of A Broken Frame, it was probably DM's poppiest, happiest and most radiantly joyous hit ever: "Just Can't Get Enough," from the first album, Speak & Spell, with a spruced-up, clean-shaven version on Catching Up. Although at the time I had never really been in love, the song, a euphoric Valentine, gave me a crystal-clear premonition of what the happy moments of being in love would be like. I listened to it in the rain, walking home, on the bus, in my room, on lunch break, any chance I could get, and it never seemed to get old. When I eventually did fall in love, it was there for me again, and I again embraced its truth, this time with the feeling of being in on the secret.

Alas, the prayed-for Gesamkunstwerk, the consummation of the revelation, never came. I saw them perform "A Question of Lust" on TV at some Pan-European Christmas Eve concert in Vienna (I think) that December (I remember the Eurythmics sort of blew them out of the water, even for a Mode-ahadeen, if you'll excuse the slightly tired metaphor, like me), which quenched my thirst like Coca-Cola, and in 1988 I got to see them live in concert at some outdoor arena near DC with my sister Sarah, older brother Geoff and Bavarian shaman Joern (a sort of au pair boy who stayed with us that spring when Nick [known to readers as Small Man] was still actually small). But by that time I was much more into the Beatles, after a brief Cure phase.

Imagien my surprise after all these years, then, when I finally happened to catch the video of "Just Can't Get Enough" on MTV Classics in a bar (the one where Karen X's double works) near my apartment here in Gliwice some weeks ago. The great burning unfulfilled desire of my early adolescence (besides, um, er, the obvious) had been satisfied. And it turned out to be curiously uninvigorating. The video mostly features the lads hanging out in a bar or on some street, presumably in London, lip-synching without any particular panache. The most memorable feature, to be honest, is the slightly embarrassing haircuts of most band members, very dashing at the time no doubt.

Speaking of which, the Williams Family Christmas Card Pics (taken at Thanksgiving) of that year document for the ages my seventh-grade obsession with Being Dave Gahan. As I recall, I actually brought a photo of Gahan, probably from Star Hits (US version of UK Smash Hits) magazine, to the hairdresser and asked for something similar, i.e. an inoffensively spiky crew cut. (Ironically, people have since told me that I bear some resemblance to Gahan's Secret Sharer, curly-haired Martin Gore, blond lyricist and "Maidenform Man" of the band.) (My hair changed from straight to curly during the eighth grade; my blondness has since been steadily diminishing.) Fortunately Gahan in '86 was well past his mullet phase, otherwise I might really have something to regret now.

So we see that indeed, as E.M. Forster shows in his slight, but charming story, "Mr. Andrews" (well worth reading in a time when misguided Muslims and Christians talk of Holy War), it is not the fulfillment of desire, but desire itself, which brings joy. And not just any desire, in fact, but the desire to make others truly happy. Which Gahan and Gore have done a good job at over the years, in their own way. As a very serious, very postpunk British critic (contemptuously dismissive of and hostile to Duran Duran) wrote in 1981 after a concert at Hammersmith, "They are the boys who want tomorrow, with the best will in the world."

3 Comments:

At 2:30 PM, Blogger jimeye said...

With this single blog you have revitalized my desire to write a script with you. When do we get started?

 
At 2:32 PM, Blogger jimeye said...

With this single blog you have revitalized my desire to write a script with you. When do we get started? (not that ever didn't want to write a script with you but their are so many great images here, it got me excited)

 
At 5:34 AM, Blogger JO C714 said...

BOOTS
IT'S BEEN MANY MOONS SINCE OUR LAST, CHANCE ENCOUNTER. YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF DM HISTORY IS UNBRIDLED. I THOUGHT I WAS BUT THE FINAL REMNANTS OF THEIR OLD WORLD DOMINATING GLORY. YOUR WORDS HAVE BLOWN LIFE BACK INTO THE DYING EMBERS OF COLD DM COALS.
FOR THIS I AM THANKFUL.
I HAVE HAD A LONGTIME VISION OF A DESTRUCTIVELY ROMANTIC HIGHSCHOOL MISFIT WHO CONJURES DEATH AS HIS EXCUSE FOR LIVING.
POP-CULTURE PUNK IS BACK IN THE STREETS OF HOLLYWOOD. THEREFORE THE NEXT PHASE OF CIRCULAR PATTERN EURO-AMERICAN ICONOGRAPHY IS UNDENIABLY THE RETROFITTING OF DM, WHICH AT ONE TIME RULED AN ENTIRE GALAXY OF TRAGICALLY LOVELORN YOUTH WHO CRAVED THE INNOCENCE BUT WERE SURROUNDED BY LUST.
THE LONG LOST RED ROSE MUST ONCE AGAIN BE HELD IN SUNLIGHT.
THE POST-MODERN UNREQUITED BALLADS OF JOHN DONNE AND EDMUND SPENSER ARE DESTINED TO LIVE AGAIN.
WE MUST SPEAK OF THIS.
MY E-MAIL, IF YOU CAN MANAGE TO TEAR YOURSELF AWAY.
JOEYCURTIS714@HOTMAIL.COM

 

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