Lately I’ve found myself with a lot of free time on my hands. And it’s during this time that I find myself living within my head more than I should.
It is after all, not unlike the repository at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s full of memories and closed chapters: Boy Scouts, Navy, familial dysfunction, playing the role of Paralegal at work, Animation Production, married years, single years, straight years, gay years… all chapters that make up the crazy novel of one person’s life.
Recently while in the dusty attic of my mind, I recalled my little suitcase record player. My world was constantly being expanded by the flat grooved bits of vinyl that spun around the little metal stub in the middle. And I begin to realize that hints of what was to come were – in retrospect – quite possibly evident from the very early on. Did the music shape the man I became or was the man that got buried deep inside for decades, simply finding the music that made his true soul dance?
Oh sure, the early experiences were musically provided by my Mother, who listened mostly to Classical. She supplied me with all the Disney tunes I could absorb. But what I craved more was hidden behind a sliding door in old cabinet of hers. With those doors, I found my own way.
Initially it was the album covers that sparked my interest. An old man in a cloud, dangling two people on puppet strings (the London Cast of My Fair Lady) – I listened and heard the voice of Mary Poppins and was hooked!
There was a violinist sitting on top of a house (Fiddler on the Roof) and a sketch of a bandleader who sang about “76 Trombones” (The Music Man). Well, my Mom took notice of this attraction (as I was always borrowing her albums). She then introduced me to Danny Kaye (as Hans Christian Andersen), Nat “King” Cole, Kiss Me, Kate and Streisand. I ate it up.
Soon, I had my own albums (in time, the vinyl collection would swell to about 2000). My Mom also began taking me to see things films like Oliver! and the cast album soon followed. In time, I started performing my favorites.
Oh, how my younger brother and sister loved those shows I’d put on for them… lip-syncing each and every song and performing each album in their entirety. And I did this for them often. Trust me, they’ve not forgotten. Thoughts of Jesus Christ Superstar still give my sister the shivers.
A few years later, my own record store wanderings found me perusing the Soundtrack/Cast Album section, as was my wont, and I came across this black and red and white album cover that stopped me in my tracks. Actually I came across two albums around this time, one was Patti Smith’s Easter with her hairy armpit on the cover. I was so grossed out – that might have shaped something, too!
But the album I’m specifically referring to had: an attractive nerd kissing a pretty girl; what looked like the Bride of Frankenstein; a bald guy with piercing eyes and stringy hair, peering around this guy/girl (?) with red lipstick. On the back, someone was grabbing the pretty girl’s breasts, a muscle guy was in a Speedo… what was all this about? With the promise of “16 Great Songs” and one of them being sung by Meat Loaf (who I recently liked from his “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad”), I gave it shot.
OMG… to quote the lyrics, “…my mind has been expanded.” This was, of course, the soundtrack to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and while it would still be a few years before I encountered that actual movie – another mind-altering, game-changing experience – my perceptions were becoming clearer. Other early favorites were the glam rockers, very androgynous boys that intrigued me. Freddie Mercury oozed sexuality that I found surprisingly attractive.
I vividly remember one People magazine cover (September 6, 1976) with this not-unhandsome woman? Or was it man? The attraction was so strong, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I remember it at the checkout stand and I kept stealing glances at it hoping no one would see me. The caption said David Bowie. I didn’t care, I was attracted to him (I’d already loved his track “Space Oddity”).
So long ago. And while I didn’t actually ‘come out’ until much later on, musically I may have been out at an early age. I’m not saying that every little boy who likes Musicals is gay, for me I think these were glimpses into the real me that was struggling to break free.
I still cherish these Albums (on my iPod now). Hearing these songs still make me smile with more fondness than other songs do. The kid inside is quite pleased.