When it comes to music, I’ve always marched to the beat of a slightly different drummer. No, I don’t listen to a bunch of indie bands you’ve never heard of; I just listen to music that’s not always popular with my peers. Growing up, while my buddies were listening to KISS and Jethro Tull, I was enjoying heartthrob Shaun Cassidy.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that for me, my musical choices were a reflection of my budding sexuality. While my best friend, Russ, had the iconic poster of Farrah Fawcett in the red swimming suit over his bed, I hung an open-shirted Shaun on my wall.
Although Russ and my other close buddies just thought the Shaun Cassidy obsession was odd, I on some level recognized that the other guys at school wouldn’t be as accepting. So when our 7th grade English teacher told us we’d be using songs from our albums to demonstrate metaphors and similes, I was torn. On the one hand, I knew that lyrics from Hey Deanie – “like a vision in the darkness of a thousand lost and lonely nights” and “like diamonds in the moonlight” – were simile gold. On the other hand, they were being sung by the Harry Styles of his time.
So I made the decision to borrow my sister’s Simon and Garfunkel album instead. After suffering through “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas several times, the teacher played my entry of “Troubled Water” twice. Guess who got the ‘A’?
It’s been interesting to watch the boys develop their own personal musical tastes. Not surprisingly, I hate their music. Gus likes hard rockers Warrant, and performers whose songs are bizarrely devoid of lyrics like Dillon Francis & DJ Snake, and Martin Garrix. His younger brother, meanwhile, remains wedded to teeny bopper pop. Niko listens to the likes of One Direction and Justin Bieber.
And although none of these performers are on my playlists, there are some strange connections between what they’re listening to and what I do. Take for example Gus’s love of Warrant. These guys are a 1980’s glam rock hair band, contemporaries of one of my favorites, Poison. And although I’d shove rotting leaves in my ears in attempt to avoid the Biebster, Niko’s favorite One Direction song is “One Way or Another.” I’ve told him a million times it’s a remake of the Blondie hit from 1978. And I love Blondie!
As Shaun Cassidy’s stardom faded as quickly as it had risen, I ventured into the world of punk/new wave. Debbie Harry was the queen of the genre. Hell, 40 years later she still is. As I tell Niko, she may be 70-years old, but she could still kick the asses of those boys in One Direction.
Blondie led me to the B-52s and the Violent Femmes. Their success and the rise of MTV, exposing Middle America to new performers, meant the bands I liked were pretty universally popular. Everybody’s cassette tape collection included The GoGo’s, Eurythmics, Tears for Fear, and even Echo and the Bunnymen. But my collection had a slightly queerer bent with Erasure, Pet Shop Boys, and Strawberry Switchblade.
The boys know my musical tastes still live in the 80s, and they’re horrified by it. That’s why they’ve never heard about my earlier Shaun Cassidy period. Sooner or later, one of my brothers will rat me out, and the boys will have a good laugh at Dad’s expense. But I’m ready with a response: it may have been all about “Da Doo Ron Ron“, but at least it wasn’t “Achy Breaky Heart“!