Thursday, October 02, 2008

Why I was a pre-teen homophobe. Why *Nice Price* records helped me learn to stop worrying and embrace the use of eyeliner.

From teasing a lad on a scooter to being a weirdo wearing glitter, gettin battered on the bus, in 3 easy steps...

>>>> 1. "Oi puff. You, you puffer! Pufty wufty wuff wuff! You bent bender! ... O, crappy crappingtons..."
>>>>2. "I'll take these 2 LP records, please." "Thank you, sonny, that will will be 5 pounds & 98 pence."
>>>>3. "What the eff do you look like? What is that on your head? A bird's nest. You just wanna be hit. Jeffin askin for it."

Step 2, first: please press play, listen and continue to read

There you go. Right there, up above. Possibly the most boring YouTube *video* of all time. Well, joint most boring-est, probably. A photo of a pink 7 inch record. Which is quite nice really, relaxing. Just don't sit there all *baited* breath waiting for the image to do anything. You're meant to just listen to the music. Appreciate it for what it is. And how do you *bait* breath? Show it a jar full of lovely oxygen? "This is mine, and you're not having any of it!" That would bait your breath, sonny. Leave it gasping...

No, Step 1, first:

Who can remember with any degree of certainty what age they were when things happened? Not when you were a little kid anyway. Old enough to go to the toilet on my own, not old enough to vote. Somewhere in that middle period between being a little idiot and an almost full-grown idiot. Let's say I was 11. Pre-pubic almost certainly. Standing at the end of our road with my little friends - a couple of little males and quite a few little females. We were baiting this young lad (he was probably 19) who used to ride his scooter past us on his way to the rest of his life. He was *different* you see, this young fellow. He lived over on the next estate, in the bought houses. He dyed his hair red. Orangey red. Or blonde. Or purple. The fucker! His coat was a little *odd* as well. That helped the baiting process cos the *red* hair we had to imagine under the white crash helmet as he scootered by us. Possibly only half able to hear our squeaky child voices roaring at him:

"Puff! Pufter! Weirdo puff weirdo!"

I think that was about the size of it. Hilarious. As hilarious as a Chris Moyles joke. Ha ha ha. Ha ha ha. We may, I'm not sure, have been aware of the whole *he kisses men & that's a bad thing* argument. Who knows. From a behaviourist point of view, the only important thing was what happened and how we all perceived it. Us brats thought it was the *most* hilarious activity going. Scooter boy heard us as he whizzed past on his tinny engined scooter. And then he was gone and we went back to playing Postman's Knock, Catch A Girl Kiss A Girl or you show me yours and I'll show me yours. Or maybe we were just skipping. I forget. Probably, it was *Farmer, Farmer, may we cross your golden river*. Innocent games designed to promote heterosexuality and an awareness of the Laws of Trespass.

A couple of days later and scooter boy was back. Ha ha! Run to the end of the road to goad him. Hurrah. I think I was leading the cheering, laughing screeching:

"You big fat willywufter! Go and kiss a man you weirdo freakazoid!" Or words to that affect. Ha ha.

Except. It was a bit of a category error. And the reality was that in those innocent childish days, the most popular look for a gay man was actually to grow a thick moustache and walk around looking *butch*. No one really went to the bother of telling us kiddiewinkles that though.

The point was: scooter boy pulled his brakes. He screeched on his brakes and stopped. And instead of going off to buy a loaf of bread or go to work in manufacturing industry - he got off his scooter. And pranced - or minced - walked in a completely non-anything manner over to me and my suddenly weirded out and scaredy cat friends. And proceeded to give me a right good slap around the head. And say some words that my brain has managed to blank out.

I fought back the tears. He got back on his scooter. The girls asked me if I was alright. I nodded and probably whispered something about "blinking puffs". Ho and hum.

We never even looked in his direction ever again.

It's almost like an advert for the powers of corporeal punishment. But I'm not sure. It was more like he made me look like an idiot. He wasn't a sap. He confronted us. I didn't even hate him. I hated myself for being so stupid.

Step 2, continued in words & pictures

I had older sisters, quite a few of them, quite a bit older. I was some sort of spare Y chromosome kid that turned up late in life. Unfortunate in some ways, fortunate in others. I'm great at ironing and quite good at housework. Well trained. Older siblings are also ahead of you in many things: they know stuff before you do. Music especially. One of my sisters was a bit of suedehead, then she got into Bowie in a big way. And Roxy Music. Her and her friends would dress up in US Army uniforms and go to the Rainbow Ballrooms in Eccles on a Thursday night. That was a bit odd. The going out in Eccles bit, I mean.

But at that stage in my life (age 12?) my favourite album was by the cast of the Muppet Show. Meanwhile the many sisters had moved on from buying music obsessively to doing other things... errm, working, boyfriends, going on holiday, drinking excessively - I got to stay in Friday nights and listen to their music. And hence fall in love with David Bowie & Roxy Music.

Big 12" vinyl records with fold out sleeves. That's what I'd like to say. But no, incy wincy little cassette tapes and 7" inch singles in thin paper generic sleeves. It wasn't until I started buying myself that I really discovered the joys of the LP record. All the words & lyrics for you to read while you were listening. All the pictures to look at.

In the case of Roxy, of course, lots of pictures of barely clad naked ladies. And there is no way I could have ever bought the *Country Life* album as a result. Far too embarrassing. Imagine carrying that around HMV, queuing up and handing it over at the till. It would be like buying porn. You were going too far my friend, Mr Ferry... But it was the music anyway. And the first 3 albums.

So when it came time to invest my saved up money. Saved from doing something, I'm really not sure what I did to *earn* any money. I wanted to buy Bowie instead of Duran Duran, Lou Reed instead of Howard Jones. Plus the fact, in the *olden days* you could buy some old albums super cheap. 2 old uns for the price of 1 chart album.

Step 3: I'm a teenager, I've got madly spiky dyed blond hair, torn clothes etc.

I look a bit odd. I'm on the bus home from the Ritz or Devilles. Me and my mate are a bit mashed up. Our make-up is smudged from kissing too many girls (I'd like to think - that would fit the story better, but it was probably just sweat & cheap Boots no.7 eyeliner).

The Perrys & Casuals & assorted drunken nutballs at the back of the bus are goading, baiting & spitting at us. We do nothing. We almost even enjoy it. Because we wanted to be odd. We wanted badges that said: *Freak*, *Not Normal*, *Not Like You*.

I'm not sure what the message is. But. There was a documentary on about Roxy Music the other night. The first 3 albums are absolutely magnificent and deeply weird. They look and sound terrible live. From 1979's Manifesto album onwards Roxy Music are completely unlistenable (despite having some good tunes, if you know what I mean). They went from being odd, to average, to becoming - with Avalon - the housewives & travelling salesman's favourite band. Loathsome. It hurts me. But I'll always have Pyjamarama, if not on a scratchy old 7" stolen from my sister, Debby...

1 comment:

  1. How to bait your breath:

    1) prepare to breathe
    *breath gets ready to exist*
    2) don't breathe
    3) say (probably just in your head)
    "ha, take that breath, you thought you were going to exist there, but no, I'm no breathing, so ha!!"
    4) periodically make as if to breathe, then don't, mentally tormenting the breath,
    "look at you, you don't even exist"

    until, the breath can't take the baiting anymore and bursts out.

    Try it, the breath always wins eventually though.