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Black Celebration, Depeche Mode

Mute Records, March 17, 1986

Track Listing: 1. Black Celebration, 2. Fly on the Windscreen (Final), 3. A Question of Lust, 4.  Sometimes, 5. It Doesn’t Matter Two, 6. A Question of Time, 7. Stripped, 8. Here Is the House, 9. World Full of Nothing, 10. Dressed in Black, 11. New Dress, 12. But Not Tonight

“Not when we’re alone
And she’s dressed in black”

-fromDressed in Black

He is not wearing black for our interview but I can picture him decked out in the mid-80’s Waver uniform of choice: black on black, ink spot on a page. They were the dancers of darkness, strobing to the discovery of a new world. They were different. They listened to music like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, Billy Idol, New Order, The Cure. His first exposure to Depeche Mode came like it did for many of his friends, with the song “People are People.” And then the album, Black Celebration. Music really can change your life. It can make you think different, dress different. He grew his hair out—something akin to a Martin Gore-Mick Hucknall love child—even if such a coif made him an obvious target in the crowded, whispering high school hallways. It definitely took a little courage to go all Simply Red in front of your high school peers but the road to discovery is only open to those who dare enter. It was official. He was now a Waver, experiencing the rite of passage that comes when a teenager learns to rise above ridicule and self-doubt. He was proud to be associated with this cool new sound.

G: You’ve said that Black Celebration is your favorite Depeche Mode album.

J: Music for the Masses is right up there, and of course Violator, but I think it has to do with Black Celebration being the first one I bought. That connection is big. And I love every song on it, start to finish. Still do. [He starts singing “A Question of Lust.”]

G: Tell me what it was it like to grow up in Fort Worth, Texas … near an Air Force base, right? I imagine that could be a tough place to grow up, high school especially.

J: I don’t think Texas has much to do with it, or the military. High school is high school, you know? There are always in-crowds, and cool cliques, whatever. But I think the Wavers brought a new kind of cool. Unexpected. Even if all of us weren’t friends directly, it was nice to see others with similar style and attitudes and of course the shared association to the bands.

G: Did you ever get picked on for dressing different or looking different?

J: Sure, sure. Who hasn’t been picked on at one time or another? I don’t think that I was that much different than anybody else though. Well, maybe the hair. [He points to the picture, hair dyed reddish-blonde, sprayed to stick straight up in front with a curl on top like a wave coming in from the Red Sea. We laugh.] When we started listening to this music, it just became the scene. The music was very important. Somebody could make fun of you or whatever, but there were so many other things popping up that it didn’t seem to matter as much anymore. New groups. New sounds. Of course, MTV. Videos were huge back then. You got home from school and were glued to the TV, watching for hours, video after video. And the radio. Most of the really non-mainstream music I was introduced to came from KTCU, which was a college radio station that had a show on Friday nights called “The Electric Cafe.” All New Wave. I would record the program from 10 to midnight so that I could listen to the songs over and over on my jam box. [He laughs.] And then later, the concerts. Everybody remembers that first concert.

G: Who was your first?

J: Billy Idol at Six Flags in Arlington. We rode coasters in the day and saw Billy Idol at night. It was hot of course. Texas summer. [He smiles.] I remember my sister drove us, which was cool because she was older than us and so that made us feel like big shots. But it is funny, I think even she was taken aback by the crowd. Mohawks, the black leather. The chains. It was definitely new to all of us.

G: And Depeche Mode, when did you see them for the first time?

J: I remember the exact date! [His face lights up.] It was December 12th, 1987. The very same day, I got my braces off and got my first job, working at a mall, so obviously it was a huge day! And my first Depeche Mode concert. I was 16. It was for the Music for the Masses tour. I remember just wanting so much to be part of that band on top of that stage. What it would be like to be Martin Gore or Dave Gahan, in front of all those people.

G: And thinking about what it would be like to be a star in one of the videos you loved?

J: Exactly. Like “Take on Me,” or “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” all those great videos by Dead or Alive and Bananarama … King’s “Love & Pride.”

[We take a break to go walk his dog, enjoying the July sun in Chicago.]

G: So do you still listen to Depeche Mode a lot now?

J: Of course. Last month, I actually got a new copy of Music for the Masses. Old one was too banged up to listen to anymore. It’s strange to think about when I bought it the first time and here I am buying it again. I grew up with them. A lot of years have gone by. It really is a nice to have some things that stay the same. In fact, they have a tour this year. I’m seeing them at Lollapalooza. Really looking forward to it.

We will talk again after the summer. The subject of Depeche Mode will come up. He will tell me all about the show. How perfect it was.