Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


Girl of fifteen, whole life ahead of her

Filed under : Depeche Mode,Travel
On July 20, 2011
At 3:30 am
Comments : 2

Did I ever tell you about the time I went to Wales? Wow, are you in for some boredom. It mostly involves me sitting on a clifftop and staring at sheep ambling by. That was in 1999 so those sheep are probably long eaten by now. In conclusion, sheep are dull. I’m glad we had this little chat.

Oh right, also, I took that vacation to stare vacantly at sheep because I was at a crossroads in my life and I needed a few moments to sort it all out. The sheep and the sea beyond them were just a pleasant target for my eyeballs. My company had just been purchased, all my friends had been laid off, but somehow I had survived to get promoted to the next phase of my career. As Kylie Minogue would say, I was so lucky… lucky, lucky, lucky. But also, as Led Zeppelin, or rather Jake Holmes, would say, dazed and confused. Was I supposed to be happy or sad? Was I ready for a job where I’d have to make decisions rather than carry out other people’s decisions? Just why did they paint those sheep with streaks of fluorescent color? I never came to any conclusions, but just taking a couple of days to stare at sheep was really helpful. I came back feeling somewhat more ready and moved from the cubicle at Gutted Records to the office at Up & Coming Records a few days later.

Here is a helpful illustration to tell you what I was looking at. The sheep were afraid of the camera.

I did not take this picture, thanks for your understanding.

I never really thought of this vacation that way, more as a reward for hard work and a chance to relax and, frankly, the normal thing one does when one hasn’t had a vacation in three years and now finally have a job and the means to pay for one. It was somewhere around the seawall in Stanley Park, Vancouver that it all came to me. I should explain that Stanley Park is like Central Park in that it’s the place in the city for urbanites to experience nature and jog without worrying about cars. But bigger and wilder and with better views of mountains and sea. You have probably ascertained that I like mountains and sea.

I turned on my iPod and I don’t know what possessed me, but I had this urge to listen to Depeche Mode’s “Everything Counts,” maybe because it was stuck in my head or something. A few songs later on my “every DM song in order” playlist came the start of Some Great Reward with its sample of Blasphemous Rumours (I think.. I’ve always suspected) breaking into “Something To Do.” And then suddenly I was me in a summer 25 years before, sitting on the bus at camp, waiting to head out to some activity. I actually remember hitting the tactile play button and starting the tape as we pulled away. That was me, you see, always preferring to stare out the window with a walkman rather than talk to anyone. And in some ways, exactly 25 years after that summer where I first acquired Some Great Reward (my dubbing it from a friend then has probably been made up for by the 3 or 4 copies I’ve purchased since), I am still that person. But in lots of other ways, I could never have imagined the me I am now stopped at the station between one career and another. 1986 was such a big year in my life, it’s hard to believe it was a quarter century ago. I’m not sure I could have predicted that 2011 would be just as pivotal (the magic fortune ball is just for show, it has to be admitted). As the sheep would say, life is odd.

Then I proceeded to mis-read the map and be forced to walk eight miles all the way around the park and then some. Oops.

Here’s what I was looking at around the time of my revelation. You can see the seawall on the bottom left. Not pictured: my panic when I realized the seawall diverged from the inner pathway with a large cliff between them.

Spoiler: I made it out alive but have rarely been that tired in all my life.

Coming soon, some more pictures and then I guess we’ll return to posts about videos I came across on the Internet or what have you. This year also marks twenty years since my favorite album of all time was released. More on that some other day, too. Maybe in October closer to its anniversary.

The girl in the song is actually sixteen, but I wasn’t. Also, she commits suicide. But anyway, from the classic album, Some Great Reward, title comes from:
Depeche Mode – Blasphemous Rumours


Running through my head secretly

Filed under : Depeche Mode,Music
On March 18, 2011
At 12:30 pm
Comments : 4

I tweeted about this already but just to flesh out the story and to tell you what was actually the funniest part, I was in Starbucks with my cooperating teacher today (although I will probably post this not today) in the middle of telling some story, I think, about The Killing Fields, when a lady remake of The Cure’s Love Song came on. If you know me, you know I am terrible about this, just terrible. I will interrupt you, your friend, your mother, or even myself when a song I can identify comes on the speaker in a store or restaurant. I did this a few weeks ago to Alex the Intern (Alex is no longer an intern, I am an intern, but whatever) about eight times while we were at Joe, the Art of Coffee, because they like to play a lot of music I can identify. Poor Alex. And it’s worst when I am interrupting myself because I speak a little like I post, that is, kind of rambly with lots of parenthetical asides, and it’s hard enough to follow without me interjecting out of nowhere, “I think this is Animal Collective!”

But I am glad I did this because it led my CT to interrupt me (burn!) with a story about how he had had Dave Gahan’s stepson as a student and the phone calls Dave would make to him. He’d had some live encounters as well, but I think I had already fallen out of my chair by that time and my mind couldn’t handle any further revelations after the “It’s Jimmy’s Dad, what happened to Jimmy’s computer?” story. (Another interjection, after doing some Googling, I now see that Dave adopted his stepson, but he was still officially a stepson at the time.) Isn’t it great to hear that Dave Gahan, after whom I named several of my own computers (shut up), is such an involved parent?

But in hindsight, the freakiest part of this story is that at first my CT made the mistake of thinking Robert Smith had called him (thus, the Love Song connection) and I was able to prove through a truly stalkery collection of facts in my possession that this couldn’t be the case and that it had been, rather, Dave Gahan. Because, at least twenty years after my prime fan years, I know that Robert Smith has no stepson, that his wife could not ever have been in a previous relationship because they got together at 14 and never broke up, that he has no children at all, that he lives in the UK, that Dave Gahan lives in New York, that he has been married/partnered several times and has several children from those relationships, and that his wife has also been previously partnered in a committed fashion. My CT had to check his set of facts on iPhone Wikipedia, whereas with me, there is an ever present and actively edited wiki in my brain where 80′s artists still live, and it contains a repository of knowledge on their current personal lives. I found myself saying with utter naturalness, “yes, Dave Gahan lives on the Upper West Side and I keep hoping to run into him at Fairway.” Also, I am a mature adult woman.

In conclusion, I may have to reconsider this whole “working at a private school” thing.

Title comes from:
Depeche Mode – Ice Machine

By the way, if you are a scholar of Depeche Mode, you will be as excited as I was to learn that early, pre-signing DM demos are available – they’re real and they’re spectacular. You can find all three in the stream of this YouTube user under Composition of Sound, their original name. Ice Machine is one of them.

This song always felt like a hidden treasure to me because it was a B-side to a single I didn’t own and so when I found it years later, it was like discovering a secret panel in a familiar room. Nowadays, we just find any track by Googling on our iPhones at Starbucks. Back then it was different.

This is the demo version of Ice Machine and Dave Gahan would have been about 17 or 18 years old when it was recorded – and kind of sounds it. It’s a bit different from the final version I linked to above and it’s insanely, unbelievably great.

Relatedly, and also tweeted by me this week, the first mention of Depeche Mode 30 years ago in the legendary UK music magazine, Smash Hits, has been posted on Flickr. The blurb ended by announcing the release of their first single, Dreaming of Me, backed with, of course, Ice Machine.

Finally in This Week in Depeche Mode, Thursday marked the 25th anniversary of the release of Black Celebration, still my favorite DM album and sounding just as good to me now as it did then. 1986 was one of the best years of my life and the majority of that was personal events and such but another part was the great, great music. I saw Depeche Mode for the first time that year, at Radio City Music Hall, almost missing the meet up with my friends (I was at my sister’s wedding, and, well, we didn’t have those handy cell phones they have now) but finally making it to an amazing show. I went with The White Whale and a couple of other people… maybe this will be the year I find her again.


For alienated youth everywhere… and Germans

Filed under : Depeche Mode,Music
On November 22, 2009
At 5:00 am
Comments : 2

I just saw the greatest documentary ever! It’s of relevance to all my readers who will all love it as much as I do.

These two statements, my friends, were lies. I’m sorry. But on the day I traditionally write about music, I’d like to share a bit of it with you, and in fact, that first statement is somewhere near the truth. Oh, it wasn’t Capturing the Friedmans (that, actually, is my favorite documentary of all time. See it now!), but I did sit in rapt attention and wish fervently that it was longer than 90 minutes. How many documentaries do you wish that about? Except for Shoah. Nine hours is just not enough for any movie!

By the way, in case you’re new to this blog, I am not comparing a movie about The Human League to a Holocaust film. Don’t even go there! And I love documentaries in general; they may be my favorite type of movie.

No, the movie is called Synth Britannia and is from the BBC. It’s about… well, I’ll let the Beeb take it away: “Documentary following a generation of post-punk musicians who took the synthesiser from the experimental fringes to the centre of the pop stage.” My spellcheck is going to hate that sentence, I just know it. The first half is fascinating and about early acts such as the aforementioned Human League and Kraftwerk and Gary Numan, but the second half, which is a lot about Depeche Mode, is as you can imagine, utterly riveting to me. This, I think, is my favorite part:


Wait, wait, wait a second! In the 80′s not everyone in England walked around wearing eyeliner and playing synthesizers?????? This person who felt different and a misfit in those years is stunned. Don’t ruin my utopia, Simon Reynolds! I’m not sure about the gay part, though. I was always sure everyone was straight, even the Pet Shop Boys. My gaydar was not especially developed at 16. But I did feel dissident and I still get surprised at how many people liked DM towards the end (that is, the end of the 80′s). Weird. Nowadays, I’m still convinced that half the people who show up at Madison Square Garden on any given DM show night only liked Personal Jesus.

The other great thing about this particular segment is that you get to compare Martin Gore’s old and new teeth. Bonus! Alas, this film is no longer available at the BBC site but is always findable for those who are looking. Thanks to Slicing Up Eyeballs, one of my favorite new blogs, for reminding me I wanted to see it.

This post brought to you by yet another shameless plug for my new 80′s mp3/video blog, Are Everything.


Further excerpts from: the Depeche Mode concert

Filed under : Depeche Mode,Music
On August 6, 2009
At 6:00 pm
Comments : 2

A follow-up to yesterday’s Depeche Mode post, because if you really love a concert, you think about it for several days after. Plus, I won’t be able to do a post like this in a couple of weeks, what with the statistical evidence I’ll be using.

Unless it’s a very great omission, you rarely notice what isn’t played until way after the show. You mostly take note of all the gems they did play. For me, how good a show is is at least 75% made up of what the setlist was plus how good my seats are. It occurred to me right away that DM didn’t play their current single either night which is totally weird to me. What band doesn’t play the song they’re promoting right now? Back in the day, and that day was before Napster, the tour was intended to promote an album. You saw the show for the songs you knew and heard new ones that you liked. Then you went to the store and bought a copy so you could hear them at home. Or, to “prepare” for the show, you bought the CD a bit before. Or, you weren’t going to the show at all, but the radio station you listened to was playing the hell out of the single and giving away tickets to the 92nd caller. At some point, the song being played six times a day got you to buy the record. I know this happened in a more than anecdotal fashion because I see the sales every week. When a band plays a city, the sales go up before, during, and for a few weeks after. Then they go back to regular levels.

Now, in our world of free downloads and single-track sales, bands make most of their money from the tour itself. They don’t need to flog the album sales so much, although of course they’d like to. The single’s still meant to do that and to have all the stations playing the same song at once and TV playing the video and the band performing it on the talk shows. Based on its digital sales, I couldn’t even tell you when the current single, Peace, was released. And as far as airplay, Peace received two spins this week (yes, they’re still called spins even without the vinyl record). One of them was on my local station, WRXP, woot! But, that said, that’s pretty pathetic. In contrast, Enjoy the Silence, released in 1990, got 240 spins nationally this week. Enjoy the Silence was also DM’s most downloaded song this week (we’re talking legally here), and Peace has about 8% of its sales, ranking at #21 in DM songs. The first single, Wrong, is at #3 (Personal Jesus is #2), so that’s something. I mean, maybe Peace just failed as a single, but really, I think DM just isn’t a singles band or even an album band anymore. As savvy as they are about selling their records, they know the big bucks come from the tour and with word of mouth just seconds away on the Interwebs, why not give the fans what they really want to hear? And obviously, that’s Enjoy the Silence and not Peace.

Relatedly, they played nothing at all from the album Exciter, just two records back. I think they know no one wants to hear it. Again, it’s about you not posting on your favorite fan forum, “ugh, too much Exciter, not enough Violator,” but rather, “”

Which is a good segue to me posting last night on Facebook about what a good time I had. I got in return comments from people from all eras in my life who had attended DM concerts with me. I had, in order:

1. A current friend who wants to see them in Atlanta.
2. My camp friend, a fan of classical music normally, who discovered Black Celebration through my incessant play in our bunk and still knows the words to Question of Time.
3. A friend from Musicland who was the one who did the road trip with me where I ditched high school to follow DM to New England.

Amongst others. In fact, I have at least six friends on Facebook with whom I’ve attended DM shows at some point and several more who were just fellow fans somewhere in my lifetime. As amazing as I think it is that I’ve loved the same band for 27 years, I find it even more awesome that they still bond me with my friends as well.

Title is a take-off of:
Depeche Mode – Further Excerpts from: My Secret Garden


I’m taking a ride with my best friend

Filed under : Depeche Mode,Music
On August 5, 2009
At 2:00 am
Comments : 4

This post is a musical, so RSS readers of JBall will need to come over to the post to hear sound. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’s better than Cats. Except for me, I don’t come out too well, although I do end up better than Billy Bigelow in Carousel, I have that going for me. Also, the music’s by Gore & Wilder & Gahan & Fletcher, rather than Rodgers & Hammerstein. You probably saw that one coming.

Act I is the first Depeche Mode concert where everything went wrong. First, the subway had a signal problem and I got there late. Me, late to the highlight of my year. Make that every 3-4 years. It was horrible. That was actually the least bad thing that happened to me, though. For crazy legal reasons, I can’t tell you everything that transpired, but it ended with me in a wheelchair (I’m OK) in the zamboni area of the Garden. In between, I had a fight with a lady over a seat. I thought it was mine but I was….

In fact, that’s the song that was playing… you cannot make this stuff up. I’ve had some troubles lately (if you haven’t seen me around on Twitter or Facebook or whatnot, this is why) and I thought I’d lose myself in this show, but instead, I thought about the fight with the lady and the thing that led to the wheelchair. Then, of course, my troubles. In fact, during this part of the song, Come Back, which is my favorite on the new album, I thought of my mother and started to cry.

But mostly, I felt uncomfortable and edgy and not really into it. Bleah. Then they played this song and for a moment everything was OK. I really think when this song stops making me feel happy, I’ll be dead. It’s my ringtone, by the way, so if I play this snippet, I’ll probably think I have a call. But you go ahead.

Then they played this. The title of the post comes from this song and man, just the intro is enough to send 20,000 people into hysterics. The riff is only five seconds long, but live they play it three or four times, just to drive you into a frenzy. Well done, sirs. It goes something like this.

By the end, I was headed off to seek medical attention. The moment I found someone, they started my favorite song by them. It has been since 1986, the year I left my sister’s wedding early to see them at Radio City Music Hall. I told one of our interns this story this week and he was flabbergasted. He kept saying, “your sister’s wedding?????” What? It was one of the greatest nights of my life. My friends understood, at least. When I finally called them from the synagogue phone booth to touch base (we didn’t have cell phones back then, whippersnappers), my BFF said, “what took you so long?” Well, I was in my sister’s wedding and… Anyway, so you can imagine my chagrin as they wheeled me away to the strains of my favorite part of my favorite song. :: sigh ::

Almost worse, as the supervisor was talking to me about what would happen next, I could see in his stack of papers (it was facing me) the setlist and the very next song was always the one I loved to hear live most, and they rarely play anymore. God, did I dance my ass off to this song back in the day! These days, I run to it, it’s so full of infectious energy, but I won’t be doing much running just now.

It’s a lot, it’s a lot, it’s a lot, it’s a lot, like this:

You probably guessed that one from my intro. I couldn’t help myself. But, you know, seeing MSG from a wheelchair was just as… yeah, I can’t pull that one off. I didn’t even get to see any zambonis.

Act II, the next night, was a whole lot better. You know why? It wasn’t because I found my seat right away and it wasn’t because I wasn’t injured in any way. It was because I saw the show with my friends and they were friends I always see DM with. And we could joke about Fletch waving his arms when he had nothing to do (that’s most of the time) and Martin’s shiny pants (oooooh, shiny pants!) and the weirdos around us. Not much time to think about troubles. Old friends are cool, right Martin and Dave?


Closing credits roll….