As part of Pride month, I’ve recounted 5 songs that marked my youth by LGBTQ+ artists. Women that inspired me to become comfortable with me…
When Pride month comes around, I get extra celebratory. We’re talking streamers, glitter, and this year’s Pride make-up: a Ziggy Stardust lightning bolt in rainbow… glitter. Who am I kidding, that’s me all year round, but for Pride month, I get to celebrate it with #hashtags.
Discovering the extent of music outside of that I’d grown up around and that which was played on the radio went hand-in-hand with coming to terms with my sexuality. Indeed, the late 90’s were the era of boy bands and the Vengaboys, so I had to resort to the budding explosion of things-I-shouldn’t. A pre-youtube era where streaming services disguised porn as Janis Joplin videos and mislabeled Patti Smith’s “Dancing Barefoot” as U2. Siouxsie Sioux lyrics printed off from the computer lab at school, and a binder full of cutouts and printouts of my favorite artists.
These are five of the songs that shaped me and an accompanying playlist to make your June just a little bit gayer.
4 Non-Blondes, “Spaceman”
“I guess I’m lookin’ for a brand new place
Is there a better life for me?”
“Spaceman” wasn’t the song I used to sing in the tub as a music-obsessed six-year-old, but it is one of those I forgot existed until I was older. I went through a Linda Perry thing about fifteen years ago. And by “went through,” if I’m to stand back to look at myself, I have to note that I mean “and never reached the other side.” Linda Perry is fantastic and 4 Non-Blondes were more than the one hit wonder music sites like to think. During the beginning stages of that Linda phase, I heard “Spaceman” and realized I’d heard it somewhere before. It was the lyrics that stood out to me. If I were louder, I might’ve yelled, “I feel like a spaceman!!!” at my then-hip Windows XP desktop. In fact, I probably did.
Tegan and Sara, “I Bet it Stung”
“Tell me you love me like you think you want to be loved”
To say it was difficult to pick a Tegan and Sara song that defined my teens-to-early-twenties would be an understatement. For a while, they were all I listened to. The First? Proud? Living Room? Fix You Up? Nineteen? (Call me). I Won’t Be Left? So Jealous? Where do I even begin? If I could’ve included their entire catalog, I would have. “I Bet It Stung” is my favorite track from So Jealous, so we’ll go with that. Tegan and Sara were my first ‘grown up gig’. There’s a story behind why it took me so long to have that and if you buy me a drink, I’ll tell you whether you want to hear or not.
Sleater-Kinney, “The Ballad of a Ladyman”
“I could be demure like girls who are soft for
boys who are fearful of getting an earful
but I gotta rock! I’d rather be a ladyman”
I was given my first guitar at 12 when I wanted to be the bizarre love child of Sheryl Crow and Courtney Love. Because of my lifelong tendency for self-deprecation, I stopped playing after a month. My second chance at guitar came at 17. Again, distraction won over. When the bug hit me though, it hit hard. I spent a large amount of time at 18 doing windmill kicks around my bedroom, pretending I was Carrie. Can you play pretend at 18, not be an actor, and still have it be passable? Of course you can, if you’re an artsy type. I finally got to see the girls when they played the Radio 6 Festival. I was in the back but I like to think I frustrated the others on the balcony by singing my youth.
Janis Ian, “At Seventeen”
“Those of us with ravaged faces, lacking in the social graces
desperately remained at home, inventing lovers on the phone”
Talk about relatable content. Can I get a check to give to the winner, please? I knew this song from my mother playing it when I was a kid. I’ve spoken about it before but she’s a 70’s kid. All of the greats were introduced to me via her. For a while though, I thought she was another artist that just had one song. How wrong I was. I caught her on BBC4’s Songwriter’s Circle a few years ago with Ryan Adams. She blew me away and it reminded me of how much I related to the song with the Bacharachian chords and cutting lyrics, the first time I heard it. What’s it say about me that I was around 9 when I did?
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, “Crimson and Clover”
“I don’t hardly know her, but I think I can love her”
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ cover of Crimson and Clover is a gay anthem. Pair it alongside The Runaways “Cherry Bomb” and do you really need anything else? It’s an anthem to the degree at which I didn’t know it was a cover. All I knew when I heard it for the first time was here was a chick with a guitar who wore leather jackets and I wanted to be her. And here she was singing to, about, and for another woman. It’s been the theme of the passing loves in my life as well as recently, the theme to my first proper-grown-up-crush, the story to which is hilariously barebones.
What about you? What songs marked your youth? I’ve made up a playlist with the help of the other Inspirer girls that might help you remember. Enjoy and don’t hesitate in sharing your own stories!