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PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2007 10:45 pm
by howard male
Pop music taught me that my parents would have been OK about it if I'd been gay.

I was obsessed with Bolan and Bowie and by the time I was fifteen I had a foot-high pile of scrapbooks full of pictures of these two apparently homosexual weirdoes, so what else were my parents to think? I was also painfully shy and had a mouthful of metal, a face full of spots, and habit of blushing twenty times a day, which meant I had no girlfriend, and no hope of getting a girlfriend.

And then one day my dad gave me one of those brief, cryptic man-to-man talks which he was so bad at. He basically said that there had been some very talented artistes like Noel Coward and Oscar Wilde had been persecuted wrongly for who they were, who were, nevertheless, great artists. He just seemed to want me to know that he didn't hold their poofiness against them and therefore I could infer from this that he wouldn't hold it against me.

My dad came from a strict Presbyterian background and I don't think it was easy for him to speak to me about this, or take this position. So I learnt from pop music that he could be a good, open-minded person, if he needed to be, and if love meant he had to be.

I was a bit of a tease as a teenager so I didn't put him out of his misery by telling him I wasn't gay. And anyway, sexual identity was something I think many teenagers of that era had an opportunity to explore, if only by growing shoulder-length hair and wearing pink or purple shirts in interesting new fabrics - and that was all pop music's fault.

Funnily enough, once the metal was removed and the spots decreased, I got a girlfriend and the gay issue came up again. This girl's evil stepfather* used to spy on the two of us when I'd meet her from school and walk her home. He asked her what was wrong with me - apparently I never gave a second glance to any of the cars we passed, and this made him suspect I was gay. Then when I failed to turn my head at a couple of apparently attractive women who walked passed, that was it - I must be a screaming queen. So I just laughed and told my girlfriend to tell him that this was the case, and just as I'd hoped, he left us alone after that. But he was a very scary man.

I seem to have gone off the subject a bit there, but sexuality and its changing face (or faces) was such a part of growing up in the early seventies and also such a part of popular culture - particularly music at that time - that I don't think it's influence can be overstated.

I suspect that there are very few forumites who hit their formative years at precisely those strange years of 71 - 73, and so won't be able to relate to the experience of having their first thrill of the visceral joy of distorted guitars (which we're all so tired of now) delivered by musicians who were apparently a new race, or even sex, from another world. You only have to be a couple of years younger or older than me for it all to have seemed either a little lame or a little too tame.

* And he really was evil - years later we found out he was a pedophile who had forged qualifications in order to get a job running the boys juvenile delinquent home in which he lived with his wife and daughter.

Re: Boston Tea Party

PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2007 11:24 pm
by CantSleepClownsWillGetMe
nikki akinjimni wrote

I do recall hearing a song called "The Boston Tea Party", (I can't think of the name of the group/ person)


Hi Nikki

'Boston Tea Party' was sung by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. I know this only because I was a fan of the band in the 70's otherwise I'd probably have had to Google it too. By a strange coincidence, I downloaded this very track (along with 'Next', another of their songs) a couple of nights ago!

PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2007 1:45 am
by Adam Blake
howard male wrote:I suspect that there are very few forumites who hit their formative years at precisely those strange years of 71 - 73,


Hello Howard! You're not alone! 1971 was the year that pop became my religion and I had a fantastically good time with it. It was the year I went to secondary school and that was so ghastly that I completely retreated into pop and it provided me with just about everything I could possibly want or need. I loved it all without reservation and I don't regret a moment of it. It was a great year for pop/rock: "Who's Next", "Electric Warrior", "Hunky Dory", "Led Zep 4", "Tapestry", "Sticky Fingers", "A Nod's As Good As A Wink" - plus all those great singles. I have only the fondest memories of that music and, yes, I think it was a great time to hit puberty. My first crush had her big sister's record collection at her disposal and she turned me on to Humble Pie, Caravan, Man, Hawkwind, Yes, ELP, crappy crumbly Morrocan hash, Afghan coats and awkwardness beyond all imaginings.
You just don't get an education like that nowadays!

PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2007 9:09 am
by howard male
Ah yes - the ghastliness of secondary school! Pop was a lifesaver wasn't it? I was at a very homey infants school were boys just scrapped by wrestling each other to the ground and playfully punching each other on the arm or shoulder.

Then on the first day of secondary school the fist came from nowhere, landed on my nose, and sent me flying - just because I'd questioned another boy's right to push ahead of me in the lunch queue. So, this is the new order I remember thinking as I tilted my head back to stem the flow of blood. And so it was, for the next five years (stuck on my mind!)

My school even looked like Colditz (as seen on the TV series at the time) and was populated by teachers even more evil and sadistic than the pupils. God, how we needed our pop music during that dark, dark time!

PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2007 10:53 am
by Adam Blake
Ha ha!! See The Smiths "Headmaster Ritual" for further painful identification. Only pop/rock band from the 80s I can listen to. Cross country running in the freezing rain, cold custard made with water, snotty nose, spots, B.O, horrible communal showers, getting flicked with wet towels, getting put in detention, getting beaten up, having ink flicked at you, hard toilet paper in toilets that don't lock - all part of growing up and being British!

PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2007 11:29 am
by howard male
Mashed potato with blue-grey lumps was always a favourite of mine. And being literally lifted off the ground by my sideburns by the aptly named Mr. Dangerfield. And having my nose held while playing-field earth was shoved into my mouth for missing a penalty. And being sat on the water fountain, and having a damp arse for the rest of the day. And feeling the sharp sting of a gym shoe on the backside from the PE teacher who used to wait on the cross-country route to catch out boys who had taken to strolling rather than running.

And you only had ink flicked at you! Spitting was fashionable at Coleridge Secondary School a good five years before punk rock.

I finally got my revenge on one bully when he decided to tear in half a drawing I was particulary proud of - it was one of those last-straw moments.

It only takes a couple of judo lessons to learn to throw someone over your shoulder, even someone several stone heavier than you. So this guy ended up on his back on the concrete and baffled as to how he got there.

But as I didn't have the killer instinct to then kick the shit out of him while he was down, I stood there petrified at what he was going to do to me next, as he stood up again, now shaking with rage. But fortunately I'd sufficiently freaked him out with my sudden display of marshal arts skills and so he just verbally threatened me and then never bothered me again.

But then after a day of crap like that, I'd get home, slide the Slider from its cool black and white cover, and be transported to a world of fantasy which was nevertheless a kind of reality. That was one of the joys of pop for me: it was a natural progression from my TV heroes of only a few months earlier - Tom Baker's Dr Who, The Prisoner, Tarzan, Superman. Anyone remember Timeslip?

Perhaps we should expand this to - what did popular culture teach you?

I learnt more about how to draw from American comics than I did from a dozen art teachers - from school right through to BA, there wasn't a single teacher who taught me as much as those comic artists did.

By looking at Superman and Batman comics I learnt that a billowing cloak helps to give the impression of movement (something that the comic artists had in turn learnt from Renaissance artists - that's why they gave those guys cloaks in the first place) and I learnt how shading could give the illusion of shiny roundness, when I carefully drew a little square of light on each of those circular bumps on the casing of a Dalek.

PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2007 1:36 pm
by Adam Blake
It's interesting - this brings it all back. I learned very little at my school. It was institutionalised brutality from day one and, as I say, that was a GOOD school! Perhaps if there'd been girls there it might have been slightly less awful. If you just allowed your spirit to be broken and did everything they told you to do - then you'd probably wind up at a pretty good university. I was a bright kid but I just turned off completely. I enjoyed acting in the school plays, enjoyed doing English and Music - and that was it. Everything else was torture. It's IMPOSSIBLE to overstate how important pop was in a context like that. It literally made my life worth living. I studied it with all the love and fanaticism of a religious zealot and if I had applied 10% of the care and attention I gave to pop to my schoolwork I would have got straight A's instead of barely scraping my way through to a miserable four 'O' levels.

To give credit where it's due: I was very much in the present in the early 70s with regard to pop but I was fascinated by the 60s and I remember reading about Frank Zappa and how he said, "drop out of school and go to the library and educate yourself!" I took that very much to heart and I wonder how many other people had similar experiences.

If I hadn't been so miserable - traumatised - at school, would I have been so obsessed with pop? As you describe, it virtually did my living for me when I was 11, 12, 13. By then I knew I was going to be a musician and that sustained me through all the rest of it. I just got on with my guitar playing and the rest of it could go hang. Still my attitude in many ways! But maybe that's a reason why us Brits were always so good at pop/rock - at least once The Beatles got us kick-started. Because the old post-war education system, where it was perfectly ok for sadistic old bastards to hit male children in their charge, made boys so thoroughly miserable that they embraced pop with a truly desperate passion. Love, revenge, respect, beauty, truth - it was all there in those 45's, wasn't it?

"A crack on the head is what you get for asking. A crack on the head is what you get for not asking" - The Smiths (again)

PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2007 3:38 pm
by howard male
Adam wrote -

I studied it with all the love and fanaticism of a religious zealot and if I had applied 10% of the care and attention I gave to pop to my schoolwork I would have got straight A's instead of barely scraping my way through to a miserable four 'O' levels.


Yes, what an infuriatingly contrary thing the human brain is. Those pesky history dates just wouldn't stick, but all the lyrics to Aladdin Sane are still up there for me to access should I ever need them.

I left school with two 'O' Levels and a bunch of totally useless CSEs and so had to spend another year taking some more O Levels before I could be considered not too stupid for art school.

But if I hadn't gone to York Street Further Education centre I never would have met the three guys who were to become John Peel favourite, The Users, and I wouldn't have seen a totally forgetable band called the Police (I only know I saw them because someone told me I had, and because they also functioned as the backing band for Cherry Vanilla who was headlining) support the Users just round the corner at the Howard Mallet Club (no relation), and I wouldn't have developed the ambition to form my own band, and I probably wouldn't have been introduced to the subtle pleasure of smoking marijuana while listening to 'Venus in Furs.'

So once again, pop (or at least it's bastard offspring, punk) saved the day.

PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2007 8:00 pm
by Ted
Adam Blake wrote:It's interesting - this brings it all back. I learned very little at my school. It was institutionalised brutality from day one and, as I say, that was a GOOD school!


Like Saki said: "You can't expect a boy to be truly vicious until he's been to a good school"

I try not to think too much about school. Thankfully 1973 is a long time ago now. Experiences generally pretty similar to Howards & Adams. Pop music as religion/ sanity saver especially.


TW

PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2007 10:51 pm
by nikki akinjinmi
Con Murphy wrote:
Gordon Moore wrote:F-


Not for Nikki's post, surely?


Thanks Con, at least Gordon did not give me a "U" (I think that was the lowest grade at one time...for unclassified, or utter b.... I suppose)

And thanks to CantSleepClownsWillGetMe - (Is there a Steven King thing going on here?) - for providing the name of the group, the Sensational Alex Harvey band. I was trying to resist the google search, and was hoping the name would come back into my consciousness eventually.

On the subject of learning from pop music one that springs to my mind is Bruce Hornsby & The Range's "The Way It Is" which makes a point about racial discrimination in America in the 1960s, and a song recorded by Gilberto Gil called "Quilombo" (which is about a settlement, I think it was called Palmares, which was founded by free born and runaway slaves of African descent in Brazil). This song can be found on Beleza Tropical the Brazilian music compilation put together by David Byrne.

I heard both these songs a lot later in life. (I did try to find out about Palmares at the time the album came out and could not find anything. This was before the spread of the internet.)

I am sure there are Bob Dylan songs such as "Hurricane" that have spurred people on to finding out about the subject of the song, or prompted some to go on a quest for knowledge. No quips about about carnal knowledge and/or lingerie, please...

Sorry to hear about the painful memories...I can relate to Adam Blake's quote of the Smiths, alas...

PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2007 9:40 am
by Con Murphy
Didn't any of you guys play football? That was a sure way to avoid the worst of the bullying, and a short cut to acceptance with just about every gang going.

But Adam's Zappa comment struck a chord with me. Music mainly taught me which books I thought I should be reading - 1984, A Clockwork Orange, Catcher in the Rye, Absolute Beginners. God, I must have been insufferably smug! Orwell in particular was massively influential, and I only learnt about him because Strummer, Weller and the like name-checked him. So, having suffered hours of History at school taught by a teacher-cum-lecher who put all the best looking girls at the front of the class and taught their breasts about the Industrial Revolution, the Spinning Jenny and Stephenson’s hur-hur Rocket, I would go home and learn about the conditions suffered by the actual workers. Ah, the idealism of youth! Anti-racism was the other big thing. Punk and ska (or 2-Tone, as we called it) were completely at odds with the numbskull racism of many of my Heavy Metal or non-music loving peers.

PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2007 10:19 am
by howard male
Con wrote -

Didn't any of you guys play football? That was a sure way to avoid the worst of the bullying, and a short cut to acceptance with just about every gang going.


Well, I'm sure Nikki kicked a ball around in her youth, but not me. As a kid I always enjoyed games where you used your imagination - being soldiers or secret agents or whatever. Then all of a sudden I lost my best friend (and secret agent sidekick) to football. I know I should have taken the opportunity to grow up too, but he was good football and I was crap - no co-ordination. So that was that. I had no one to play with after school, and I realise (in retrospect) that that's probably why I have no time for football to this day.

PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2007 11:22 am
by Adam Blake
I would have loved to have played football but they made us play rugby which I hated with a passion. My school was run like a minor public school except it had all the thugs from the local council estates in it. This made for a very, er, interesting atmosphere...

PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2007 6:36 pm
by Gordon Moore
nikki akinjinmi wrote:Who knows what would have happened had I written "Coulda Woulda Shoulda".


Perhaps I was harsh. It is a clever homophonic alliteration, and though not original, was used reflectively and in context with a sensitive approach.

Therefore on appeal you are hereby accorded a II2 degree. We hope you have a successful future in advertising.

The University of Webbery.

PostPosted: Sat May 19, 2007 12:34 am
by nikki akinjinmi
Gordon Moore wrote:
nikki akinjinmi wrote:Who knows what would have happened had I written "Coulda Woulda Shoulda".


Perhaps I was harsh. It is a clever homophonic alliteration, and though not original, was used reflectively and in context with a sensitive approach.

Therefore on appeal you are hereby accorded a II2 degree. We hope you have a successful future in advertising.

The University of Webbery.


Gordon, thank you...I was considering going into therapy....