Late summer 1985. I just started 5th year of High School. I still didn’t belong to the popular boys and I never really kissed a girl. For that and many other reasons I felt pretty miserable. My all encompassing shyness made life a living hell, but like all adolescents I also nurtured my negative feelings; ultimately everything was style and fashion. Fifth year, the year before final exams, was a year full of rituals on our school. One of the rituals was a trip abroad for all students. We had two options: Rome or the German Democratic Republic. I chose the latter. In retrospect it was one of the last years of communism, but at the time the East German border guards looked impressive and dangerous. To increase the sense of adventure our teachers warned us almost daily not to exchange money on the streets. Why would we? Alcohol was practically for free. We just felt rich. Rich and miserable.

The threat of nuclear armageddon was everywhere. In response to Russian SS-20’s NATO wanted to station cruise missiles in Western Europe (both Fisher-Z and The Sound had a song about it). The overall atmosphere was dark and gloomy. We listened to bands like Joy Division but our favourite song was ‘Your Attention Please’ by The Scars, a 4 minute radio broadcast just before nuclear annihilation. Like true nihilists we drank and partied. What else could you do if all was coming to an end? A  couple of years later we would have fancy jobs and interesting careers. It was only just a phase, a perfect waste of time

I was in love with many girls in my class. Problem was that many of them liked U2, almost a crime against humanity for me. U2 was everything I despised: optimistic, positive, likeable and appealing to a bigger audience than just a handful of kids and critics. I in particular hated Bono, but I loved the girls, and maybe they just chose U2 because it was the closest they could get to alternative music, and to us self-proclaimed music experts in a way. In my world all girls weren’t really interested in music, or in me for that matter. My response was dramatic and childish; I became a professional depressionist and isolated myself even more during that week in East Germany.

(To be continued)