[I thought I was gonna have time to edit this today but then all this stuff happened. So I hope it's okay. I guess it's like a blog, so there are no rules, just right.]
I started with music like everything, like girls: it was on and I was there. I loved it from where I stood but I couldn't get close, so I mouthed the words while everyone else sang.
I was one of the only girls I knew/know who couldn't sing or dance or play an instrument, and I was jealous of the girls who could. That was one reason I never felt like a girl but more like this half-breed androgyne child on the outside of things girls could do. All I was sure of -- I mean unsure -- was girls and music.
I started this blog for a girl. Girls are a lot like music, I think that's why my favorite love songs are written for girls. Lesbians specialize in achy raw gutted acoustic love songs [songs you either ADORE or completely despise because they annoy you] and gay boys put out the best pure happy thumping pop songs you'll ever hear. Because when girls make music for girls there's so much room for drowning, it's bottomless ... and a man can write a song for a girl that splits your heart right open. But it won't climb inside your heart and claw at the inside of your gut with a guitar string like a girl-for-girl song will. Girs-for-girls can be wide open and not worry about losing political capital in the process. They can just wail wide open.
But I think I grew up listening mostly to boys. I liked my parents' big record albums, heavy things, but I couldn't make the record play myself. I had a portable cassette player I'd carry around with me so I could listen to the right music all the time, record things, or, later, provide a soundtrack to our music videos. Just because.
On Saturday mornings we had Carole King and french toast with Shabbat dinner's leftover challah. It sounds so fucking cutesy now, like it's about music AND food, like the Jews with the hippie music and flat, sweet slices of bread. The sun shining on us like dust.
James Taylor. The Who. Pink Floyd. The Beach Boys. The Allman Brothers. Some big brassy showtunes, like Gypsy. Mostly though I loved The Beatles. That was where music began for me. There was The Beatles, and then there was other music, and all other music was considered as it related to or differentiated from The Beatles.
The Beatles sang songs about boys -- about what it was like to be boys who liked girls, but it was more about the liking itself than the object of their liking -- and so I grew up listening to these songs about boys sung by boys, their yearning animal mouths almost kissing the round bulbs of their microphones. There was a period where The Beatles started writing songs about teenagers and sometimes songs about men who were dying, but you could still hear the Boy in it. After The Beatles I had a phase of The Bangles and Paula Abdul and Debbie Gibson. Then The Police and INXS and Phil Collins, and then junk throaway pop like New Kids on the Block. Then a period of love songs -- big uncomplicated love songs with simple names sung by women who knew a few things about life like I Will Always Love You and Total Eclipse of the Heart and Save the Best for Last and Now & Forever. The first cassette tape I ever bought was Madonna's "Like a Virgin."
But I grew up with The Beatles. We listened to children's music too -- Raffi, Free to be You and Me, The Gemini Brothers, The Song Sisters, Really Rosie, alleged recordings of muppets singing. Those gigantic records were bigger than my head. We had every Beatles record.
I remember the wild trippy colors and pictures on the cover of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover. I wanted to memorize it, and then later announce it to a room like I was just guessing. A lot of growing up is finding places where you can just memorize something instead of doing too much work.
Then it's nearly the mid-nineties, and I move on from the uncomplicated by-women-for-men love songs to songs by men about misery and being scared about the increasing distance from being a boy. Nirvana, Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails. Then we got softer as the decade itself soothed out. The Lemonheads, The Fugees, George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars, the Grateful Dead, and the first threads I ever heard of Ani DiFranco. Then onto mostly Billie Holiday and Gorecki and musicals, just music too fantastic to not be theater.
Then I just listened to music made by my friends, or soft poppy girl-boys singing about cartoons, like Belle & Sebastian, The Sea & Cake and Heavenly. From there it's been all over the map. Every year I have at least one period of Just Hip-Hop Hop Hop Just Hip Hop and at least one period of Ani & Chris Pureka & Melissa Ferrick and at least one period of dying men like Jeff Buckley, Martin Sexton, Rufus Wainwright.
My relationship to the girl-on-girl music is more private than the other songs. We just can't belt Fiona Apple together, that feels lonely, you can only belt it alone. But there's other music I feel safe belting in the car - I was remembering earlier about the night we drove home listening to The Killers and I knew you'd tell me later that you felt infinite and then you did and I thought then we were safe for some reason. But that was just girls and music and the drunk airless night.
Thanks for telling me about your favorite songs last week.
Some time later, a Beatles-themed restaurant came to Ann Arbor called Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club. They randomly booked good shows at night, all the good indie bands. The catch is you had to play a Beatles song. These bands -- mostly boys singing about girls or girlish boys -- skinny/fat boys with bangs on purpose and so many feelings -- always chose Hey Jude. They liked it's mournful, young thudding spirit. My friends' band did something else. Twist and Shout, maybe.
Stef is at SXSW. I went last year with Crystal, Cait and Tara, which feels a lot like yesterday even though clearly -- look at us -- it isn't. Cait & I were dedicated to the "Uh Huh Her - and - Uh Huh Her - only" Project and Crystal & Tara got out and saw lots of bands including a band called "The LK" 'cause of the name and it turned out to be really good.
Even though I've never known how to do music, I've always ended up with musical people, good dancers or musicians. Except Chris. I'm remembering a bar on the main road in Ypsilanti -- which I remember as always gray, rainy -- Theo's? Cheap, with red lights, Hey Ma and Ludacris's Growing Pains and Jay-Z's booming swagger got inside these kids like hormones themselves -- something untouchable, something they could never shout that loud themselves -- this desperate sex filled the air. It was gross power; the kind that felt right at the time.
I'm not noble, there's always a girl or music or both. I think one of the first songs I ever really knew was "I Wanna Hold Your Hand."
I'm glad I was raised on The Beatles because it made me hopeful, because I think their music was inherently likeable & pleasant. Their music even at its trippiest or most indulgent was an earnest beating thing you wanted to bop about to. You kinda want to french kiss The Beatles. Hard! "I Saw Her Standing There" was my favorite. What magic -- the way she looked was way beyond compare. Way beyond compare!
Because music is more real than anything else, it's like it doesn't exist 'til you turn it on.
But now that you know so much of my fact, it seems even more naked to dare to write fiction, or to write like music. Fiction which I hold so dear. Which come to think of it was probably also for a girl, to some degree, and because of music. I don't trust writers who don't have music happening all the time in their head, like in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter [quoted in that picture -- "All the time -- no mattter what ..."] and I don't trust musicians who don't read. I trust nearly everyone, because Paul McCartney told me I was way beyond compare.
Do you remember when you were first allowed to pick your own music? Or girl? Even if you've already made a choice, the permission is rich, as endless as music.
Question #1 from my Exclusive Interivew with Luna Dot Typepad Dot Com . He's in Austin, Texas right now too but he always is.
Q: "I thought you were a female lesbian or bisexual when I first read your blog. Does this surprise you? Why or why not?"
A: "It did not surprise me because for some reason since around a year into the blog's existence, I started to get emails from some people assuming I was a girl. When it first happened I was surprised because I could not step away from the source and inspiration of my posts and think of it in any other way than a guy writing about a girl. If I read it objectively I can now see how it could appear as a female lesbian. With one objection though: Leonard Cohen worships women but in my mind his point of view is distinctively heterosexual so I would expect quotes from him ( and Charles Bukowski or Bono among others) to lean more towards the fact that a guy was writing the blog."
[the rest of this Q&A will be on autostraddle "tomorrow"* with maybe some other stuff about gender/art.**]
[he picked: Love is a Battlefield ]
[I picked: a catalog of increasing disasters, sex for depressives, the art of losing -- god! I'm morbid tonight!]
There's a lot of blogosphere people at SXSW. I hope you're all about to have a kickass time. If you're there or not you can answer a question: what's something you want someone to say to you tomorrow? Or you can just say something else. Or music.
*I have a very loosely defined concept of "time."
**Usually when I split posts up, it's to make all the comments in one spot on one blog or the other, but this time it's 'cause I genuinely wanna add some stuff to it before I put the rest up "tomorrow," it's not like a gimmick.*
***FYI we made Advice Vlog #35 !!