To mark LGBT History Month, 2013, Polari asked its contributors to recall a song that had an impact on their own stories.
‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’ – Nancy Sinatra
by Paul Baker
I grew up on a council estate in the north-east in the 1980s and apart from The Golden Girls and Prisoner Cell Block H, pretty much hated the entire cultural output of that decade. I was that swotty kid who took piano lessons, read Agatha Christie and Jane Austen, played Dungeons and Dragons and feigned illness to get out of football. I had one friend, Michael, who was equally gay and fey, but also cool in a way I could never be. He bought Smash Hits and his older sister, who was a trainee hairdresser, put blonde ‘tips’ in his hair for his 14th birthday. To be honest, our emerging sexuality was about the only thing we had in common.
I was always on the run from the present because it was so grey and crap, finding solace in speculative books about a gleaming 21st century future by Arthur C Clarke and Brian Stableford or going back in time, where men had neat, slicked down hair and all the people in films interacted with much better manners. While I could never fathom Duran Duran or Bros, I found a whole new world in the fading LP collections of my older relatives, and I would scour them, making little mix tapes of my favourites. I cautiously presented one such tape to Michael, who was going through a Boy George phase at the time. It began with ‘To save my rock and roll soul’ by The Stylistics, and as there was no internet in those days, for a long time I assumed that the lead singer was a woman rather than a falsetto man.
I wasn’t sure if Michael would appreciate my strange, secret music tastes. But a few days later he rewarded me with his own mix tape, having raided his father’s collection. Among other gems it contained ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’ by Nancy Sinatra, and if you have not seen the video of it, you should go and watch it on Youtube now. I still love this song for its nursery-rhyme lyrics and the self-confidence with which Nancy tells her rubbishy boyfriend that she’s going to dump him for someone better. Such good advice paired with great taste in go-go boots to boot. What’s not to love?