My life changed forever when I was 13 years old. Up until this time, my thoughts were filled with jumping my BMX bike off curbs and lighting things on fire in my back yard. This day didn't seem all that different from any other day, but it became the day that divided my life into two. It was on this day I lost my pop-culture virginity to Depeche Mode.
I can always remember important days because the oddest details stick in my mind. I remember sitting cross-legged on the floor in Justin Holcher's room. The thick carpet cluttered with Dungeons & Dragons pieces, magazines, and a new red skateboard his mom bought him. More important than these details is that Justin put a tape into the boom box and pressed play. A slow, dark, synthesized sound began to build through the speakers. Then a quickened beat pulsed and my heart began to beat faster. "Let's have a black celebration. Black celebration. Tonight," began the full voice of David Gahan, lead singer of Depeche Mode. I was mesmerized. At this moment, all the details in the world became muted except for the song. I stared at the little black box waiting for every word, listening like I had to capture each new idea birthed from the speakers.
The education from Black Celebration continued with "Fly on the Windscreen," which cut my illusion of childhood immortality like a Ginsu knife. "Death is everywhere. There are flies on the windscreen for a start reminding us we could be torn apart tonight." As a teenager, the thought of death never crossed my mind. Yet, in some sort of nihilistic disregard for mortality, Gahan used death as a pick-up line, "death is everywhere, the more I look, the more I see, the more I feel a sense of urgency tonight. Come here, touch me, kiss me, touch me now." This song was only foreplay for the blatant sexuality to come.
Black Celebration introduced me into the warm, tingly thoughts of sex like a kid who stumbled into his dad's hidden stash of Playboys. I have to confess, at 13, I was a late bloomer, having missed the big E on the eye chart when it came to Sex Ed. I didn't know this because the norm for me was my father whose first kiss was my mom in college. Yet, the next several songs pushed deeper into a dark place of sensuality. Their songs dealt with teen sex in "A Question of Time," the casual sex and the loss of virginity in "World Full of Nothing," to the nakedness of "Stripped." Depeche Mode wasn't afraid to portray a colder reality of sex in "It Doesn't Matter," as Martin Gore writes, "Though it feels good now I know it's only for now." It was with this album I entered through a pop-culture rite of passage.
Depeche Mode pulled back the curtain and exposed a new reality for me. Through their lyrics I began to transition from the safety of childhood into something that felt dangerous and exciting. I felt like I had a new decoder ring to unravel secret messages that my parents and teachers would never dare to speak about. I'll always remember Black Celebration nostalgically as my first. It has been a while since I've returned to Depeche Mode because my tastes have changed over the years, but my education continues to this day. It continues each time I turn on the radio, watch a movie or flip through a magazine. Pop-culture has become a pimp in my life that influences my speech, the clothes I wear, and the decisions I make whether I like it or not. What started with an innocent encounter years ago has led me to be a man slut to pop-culture.