Disease generation

Pontaillac- Royan, July 1985

Acquired, listened to, re-listened to, recopied by entire stanzas; lyrics step by step are revealed.
They are thousands, like me, in the derisory secret of their room to feel the same creaking swell that sweeps them away, the same surge of hardened steel that overwhelms them, at the same time.

It’s a need for any growing generation to cling madly to the new musical wave, who, while drawing abundantly from the sources of previous generations, wants more than anything to stand out.

“You didn’t invent anything …” daddy launches us at the table, while in a few weeks my clothes have turned black, that my eyes are hemmed in coal all around; that Colin, disproportionately grown up, gets scolded , because of his long legs he can’t sit really straight anymore without shooting in mines.

Disease generation, silent, pampered and sulky, which carries ingratitude and universal mockery as a standard in its outfit and outrageous makeup.
Like acne, it’s an unjustifiable evil that erupts in every pore; with tight leather collars, unnecessary trinkets sprouted into incongruous growths, with their set of pins and nails, with the explosion of hairstyles. And our tongues, they remain paralyzed.

I feel adults are irritated by these kids who no longer communicate.
Our revolt is no longer played on the barricades of May 68; it’s only an obstinate silence. Edouard calls us “ New Romantics” ( but he hasn’t invented anything either) ; that makes Colin mad. Because once we’ve been given this label, it is no longer necessary to try to understand us.

Colin and I often escape to Royan in the afternoon. First, for clothes.
This time he found me a t-shirt ,very close to the body, with a bare shoulder, diagonally. I really don’t know what my brother has, with shoulders in general… But I trust him blindly.
The record store is a second obligatory place. It’s where I spend all my pocket money, in tapes.

– “A Broken Frame” this week ? laughes David, you’ll soon be smarter than us !
– When Eponine found out the doctoral thesis existed, she said she wanted to write one about Martin Gore …
– Frankly, I pity your parents. I can’t be easy everyday !
– I think you did more to bleach my father’s hair than any of us both…
– Me ? I was the kindest guy with him. It’s just that dissertation and me don’t see eye to eye. But I liked when he taught us about poetry… when I listened …

But I’m praying…

Pontaillac, July 1985

If I close my eyes by touching the glossy paper on the wall, I can feel the leather of your dress. I guess the shadow of a smile that passes over your lips and my universe fills with the words that are yours.

I am Happy
That I have you
Even though you’re not here now

They are all elsewhere and they have the right to live your songs ; but me, I’m only fourteen.
New Wave parties on Friday nights are not safe for a young girl like me.
Colin is not too resistant to parents who refuse to let me go. At the breakfast table, outside; while the tall pines glazed with the sun sway over our heads , he tells me about drugs , sex and alcohol, all those things that seem to be the dangerous price of good music. Maybe he wants to experiment them , after all, without having me around.

The big white tablecloth spread out in the July light then shines like an impassable border between him and me.

– It’s gonna be so long, before i can enjoy it all.
– Not that much, remember what I told you about this Music section in La Rochelle.
– But it’s still that damn classical guitar, and I can’t stand music theory lessons anymore.
– I understand, but look, you can avoid Cordouan High School, with dad teaching there … Believe me, work ; there’s no other way, study, work, work, work.

Nothing of this beautiful summer, neither the glorious sparkle of the sea, nor the deep chords of Shake The Disease which sometimes come up from the street at night; none of this seems to have been done for me.
There’s before me an endless ocean of nights like this one, where Colin is dancing a few kilometers away, where I’m sitting on the floor in my room, in the shade of shutters, my walkman on my ears, trying to unravel the secrets of adult life by listening to Martin’s words about the worries of love and the thrills of bliss, so hard to reach, but sometimes …

A dizziness of truth suddenly stretches in a melodic line. By dint of listening , during these long lonely hours, something is revealed, a light, even furtive, of pure emotion.

All the things I detest, I will almost like

I know now , unlike what we were told at church, that nothing is really given; and especially not this arbitrary grace which separates the happy from the others.  All is a question of listening.
I’ll wait; impatiently sometimes, I know it well; because I have to wait, because I am too young. But I am not alone. The comforting words I always yearn for, when I leave ( too quickly ) the dinner’s table ; they are not misleading.

Girl of sixteen, whole life ahead of her

They tell a true story, and for me it is not over; it will continue, as long as this pencil somewhere in England keeps writing.
I am lucky.

Pictures and Ice cream soda …

                Royan, June 1985

Colin wants to take his time in Royan, he wants to enjoy the early evening by the sea, with all those people strolling and sitting down everywhere.

“ We’ll arrive late. There’s no point on hurrying in an hour like this. What about our unreasonable coke- float with Malabar-strawberry ice cream in it?”

I jump into my adorable brother’s arms. He always knows what pleases me , all the more so if we disobey our parents a little… and just before taking a seat on the terrace, he grabs a magazine from the little kiosk next to our favorite Café.

“ Maybe you want to know how they look like… the article is in the middle, I think.”

While I’m searching , he lights a cigarette and scans through his mirror sunglasses the crowd of young people who also notice him.

I laugh by seeing the four boys on glossy paper.

“ The guy in the middle , what is he doing?
– Oh, this is Martin Gore, says Colin leaning over the photo, maybe you’ll reconsider his style by knowing that without him there would be no Shake The Disease, no Master and Servant and all their gorgeous songs. He’s the heart of the band. Lyrics and melodies, it all comes from him…
– I still prefer the one who rests his head on his shoulder.
– Alan Wilder. In fact you’ve got good taste. He joined the band a little bit later, and he’s a magnificent musician. A classical pianist basically.
– Like you?
– Nothing to compare, sister.”

I couldn’t say now how I loved this moment with Colin, the taste of unctuous and chemical melting ice-dream in sweet to death soda, almost head to head over the magazine.

“ On the left, there’s Andy Fletcher; he plays synthesizer also; and you see the main singer at the bottom. Doesn’t his hairstyle remind you of someone?
– David , I guess.
– His name’s Dave…
– Oh, I see… just because he wears the same name he will copy all of him…
– You don’t seem to like David very much, why?
– I found him contemptuous.
– He’s not, I can assure you. Once you know him, he’s the embodied loyalty. I met him in Cordouan; he was the kind a little angry with school; the archetype of heartbreaker… and the perfect friend for me ! I thought you would found him cute…
– I don’t know if I should have an opinion on this…

I leaf through the magazine a little nervously, surprised that my brother undertakes me on such a subject.

– But as I see, Alan will definitely win the palm … Well, we probably have to go now. Even if I find it unfair to impose this evening on us while I have just returned from Bordeaux and that I am dead tired.
– I didn’t congratulate you for your…rank in first year? I’m sorry, I don’t know precisely why everybody considers this as such a success.
– Because it’s nothing extraordinary, for the time being. It’s just something that feeds the pride of family, and relatives. I did it, but I don’t recognize myself in this part anymore.

The record store

Royan, June 1985

Depeche Mode. Of course, I’ve heard their name before, a quite famous name as far as I know ; but searching in my memory I didn’t hear anything from them before.

Sitting in the front of the car, Colin gives me amused glances.
“ D’you think we’ll have the time to go at the record store in Royan before tonight mum?
– But Colin, aren’t you exhausted enough? You felt asleep in this train…
– I’m perfectly fine now, and it’s for an emergency. I take Epo with me, the 4L still starts well?
– What do you have in mind, you both?
– Never mind mum, Epo and I we’ll join you at the Dumonts’. I’ll take my shower in Capucine’s bathroom ; but can you please prepare my clothes and bring them for me?  Plaid pants, suspenders, black tank top …
– Edouard is going to comment on your outfit again…
– He will be there? One more reason !
– I find you a little ungrateful, my boy, he promised to make things easier for you when you’ll integrate Normale Sup in Paris.
– Who knows what life has in store for us until then? I just want to be “kindly” dressed to blow away your boredom at this party… You can do me this little favor, mum?

And he kisses her tenderly on the cheek. As usual, all her doubts vanish at this time.
I envy my brother for this ability he has to always be original and charming at the same time. I still believe that he devotes a lot of effort on deconstructing his image of good student and kind boy. But when he’s here, time flies at full speed. Like now where we jumped from one car to another; in the old 4L which nevertheless took us to Morocco three years ago. The heat is unbearable in it despite the open windows, however, we’re driving slowly along the sea, which makes the traffic jam more pleasant. All those people who’ve worked hard all winter and spring long yearn for terraces on the seafront; and I seem to hear this song, my song,  through a door next to us.

Shake The Disease will shake up summer nights, sister. You really didn’t hear it before ?
– I would have remembered. It was so special, I mean earlier, like I wasn’t in my body anymore…
– I guess I understand what you feel ; I’ve experienced that before , with music. I’m sure they’re some kind of signs those … ecstasies. We have to feed them , so, shall we go for it?”

Colin hard pulls the handbrake, and just after, we’re walking arm in arm in the crowd ; under the golden sun which blinds and streams over the seafront.
Drums beat heavy on the red walls in the crowded record shop , and seeing Colin arrive, a saler with a geometric brush cut peroxided on top, in a advantageously white tight 501 leaves a couple of customers and joins us.

“ Hey Colin ! It’s been ages… what can I do for you?
– Not for me , dude, for my sister . What have you got for Shake The Disease ?”

The guy barely looks at me, and take Colin to the shelves.
“ Well it’s weird; nothing announces that they will release a 33 rpm this summer… But here’s the 12”maxi-single version.”
He pulls off a large cover, half in black; with a weird picture of a man raising his arms in a thick line of multicolored paint. I didn’t expect this picture that I like now, Colin and the boy are surprised at my reaction.

“ We never have enough of songs we love; maxi 45 rpm are lovely for that… Would you please give us the simple 45 rpm also? To dance with uninitiated friends …
– When you’ll be bored of them, there’s a real New Wave party in Rochefort on Friday night. Will you finally join us, you intellectual?
– I’ll try , David … Are you still playing with your band?
– No, I’ve met more interesting guys… in La Rochelle. Potential was a little limited here, and in terms of girls…
– If you’re interested, I spend the evening at Capucine’s… Parents’ party…

The famous “David” pat him friendly but a little hard on the shoulder.

“ Nice of you , sugar. But I’m not fond of snobbishes…”

Epiphany at 2:00 P.M

La Rochelle-Pontaillac , June 1985

– This one, Colin ? Black again, with a high collar ? Seems weird for a swinsuit …
– Exactly this one , mum. The only one she will accept and which will highlight her!
– I hope so, for the price… But isn’t it a bit too “sophisticated” for a young girl?
– Don’t we have to motivate her for this “pool party”? You better know what you want…

Mum resigns after a big sigh and my brother Colin comes proudly to me, with his laughing eyes under a bunch of messy blond locks.

– What do you think of it ?
Colin’s in his element . He loves chosing clothes for me. In fact, he loves doing it for everyone ; and I don’t have the heart to hurt him.

– Please make a just a smile for your brother, Eponine; and for heaven’s sake leave that long face ! By the way, you’ve put your tee-shirt upside down…
– How can you know it?
– The label right here… Isn’t it your trademark anyway?

I tear the swimsuit from her hands.
I don’t want to show myself at this fucking pool-party by my parents’ posh friends. I don’t want to find myself alone in the stifling fitting room with this 14 years-old skinny and pale body of mine. What promises to be rejoicing for everyone will just be a torture for me.

I feel like entering a sauna, bombarded by the stupid voice of a radio host from the loudspeaker above , and by the music. The music… this time, quite different…
It seems like the voice , a lonely voice comes from the ground as my clothes miserably fall, and in the pace of heavy metallic notes, my shoulders slightly start to move. Then, circular long scrapings replace the voice and curl up in the cramped space which heat just began to vibrate in rhythm. Still falling, lighter notes bend in the flickering light, and I’m surrounded.

My hand , my gesture hang in the cottony hair, I can’t see them clearly anymore. Another voice arose, a deeper voice; coming from the ground , and slowly feeding my breathe. My chest leaves with each sentence , in a suffocating way that covers my eyes with mist.
I don’t understand clearly what he says, this is my first year in English; but I feel something compelling , essential, is just being said. The voice may be firm, it’s tinged with pleading though; and it’s like my whole body becomes this prayer.

There is nothing around me and even inside me anymore, nothing more than this flashing stream between the voice rising from my feet and the sparkling notes raining vertically on me. There is nothing, not even my paltry body, nor my diaphanous reflection in the mirror that I feared, now all is drowned in my listening to the first voice, and its modulated supplication,

Understand me;

These are the only words I know, and as strange as it may sound; they are enough for me to understand. To realize that this plea, sent by those voices in the dampness of emerging summer; it might be my whole life. Because nobody knows me, and I didn’t knew myself completely either, before I heard the two stubborn words in that trembling voice.

Understand me

How it ends , I don’t remember. Maybe because it doesn’t end , even if I am assaulted again by the nasal idiocies of the host.
But what was it, you fucking dumbass, what was it? He doesn’t tell…

“ Does it fit Eponine? You’ve been here for ages !
– Oh, yeah, yeah; it’s alright mum…”

In fact I don’t know. I put it on well but I don’t remember anything. And mum doesn’t notice my trouble at all , just in a hurry to pay because we have to drive back to Pontaillac. More than an hour’s drive from La Rochelle.

I stand nervously in the middle of the store shelves, where high school girls pass, their arms laden with vaporous dresses, when a friendly, a brotherly hand rests on my shoulder.

“ What happens to you, Epo? Why are you shivering like that, and oh … you cried?
– Help me Colin, you always know anything… I mean, about music.. What was it ?
– What the hell are you talking about? Do you … Oh, wait, when you were in the cabin, am I right?
– Please tell me…”

And he looks at me with his surprised big blue eyes.

“ But Depeche Mode, girl, of course ! Where have you been living this month ? ”