On Monday, I wrote about the theory that 14 is a key age for determination of musical tastes. Of course, all of one’s teen years are musically memorable. Fourteen is just the start of it. Personally, I have a lot of love for the music of 1983, when I was 15 (Kajagoogoo!). Then, in 1985, when I was 17, one of the albums I was fixated on was Bronski Beat’s Age of Consent. (I wrote about it in a 2009 blog post on albums that changed my life.) I loved singer Jimmy Somerville’s falsetto and the album’s gay-rights message. I loved Age of Consent so much that I hand-wrote a review of it for my high school paper. Guess what? That essay turned up in a pile of papers my parents gave me while cleaning out my childhood home. The blue writing is mine, the red writing is a teacher’s. Please pardon the use of the word “preferences” (that’s what we said/thought back then in small towns) and the awfully stilted writing. Damn! I guess I wasn’t a child prodigy after all!
In case you can’t decipher the handwriting, the teacher decided that my essay was “questionable to use” due to the paragraph about Bronski Beat’s out and proud homosexuality. The teacher’s notation on that paragraph reads “rather not!” Seeing the review again, I found this reaction remarkable enough, but what really blew my mind was the typed letter attached to my review. GeorgeB — my right-of-center, Republican father — protested to the school system’s supervisor of curriculum. His letter reads in part:
The letter ends: “Students have the right to express themselves, as do all citizens of this country.” Wow! A round of applause for GeorgeB, please! He must have been thinking, “Where did this child come from?” but he stood up for me anyway. Another interesting fact is that the review and letter are both dated May 1985, a month before my high school graduation. Instead of indulging in senioritis, I was looking for a fight. (I do suspect that I knew exactly what reaction my Bronski Beat review would get.)
I was reminded of all of this by a great video that’s gone viral on teh Internets in the past couple of days. Last month, in Berlin, a street musician was singing Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy” when Jimmy Somerville himself came along and joined in.
I die! And the way the musician asks Jimmy, “Is it you?” makes my day.