To mark LGBT History Month, 2013, Polari asked its contributors to recall a song that had an impact on their own stories.
‘This Is Acid’ – Maurice
by Demetri Moshoyannis
New wave music paved the way for my coming out. It wasn’t the music as much as the androgyny of the artists that helped. From the shocking red crew cut of Annie Lennox to the rouged cheeks of Nick Rhodes, the barriers of gender and sexuality were breaking down around me. Unisex abounded throughout the 1980s. From clothes to haircuts, it didn’t seem to matter if you were a boy or a girl.
I knew I was different, though. And, I relished the knowledge that I was unlike my peers. My sense of personal style and my way of thinking and acting reflected a growing divide. On some level, my musical preferences mirrored my sexuality. I fixed the stereo dial to my beloved radio station, WLIR/WDRE, singing along with Robert Smith, Tom Bailey, Dave Gahan, and my many alternative music heroes. With more make up and misery than an adolescent could bear, I knew there were kindred spirits to whom I could relate. I felt unusual, lonely, hurt, and damaged; and, the lyrics of my favorite songs told me I wasn’t alone.
It wasn’t until I was 17 years old that I would experience my first true New York City club. Growing up on Long Island (only a short train ride outside of ‘The City’), I was taught to believe that our nearby metropolis was full of psychopaths and dangerous freaks. I grew up in a modestly conservative suburban area. So, when I made my first gay friend, Brian, I was ecstatic. I was also scared that he wanted to take me out in the City, show me around, introduce me to his friends, and go clubbing. Not only was I under age, but also I didn’t know what to expect (much less how to dress to impress).
When we arrived at his friend Michael’s house downtown, his boyfriend Keoki was spinning records. We downed a quick cocktail, and soon left for a hot summer night full of music and magic. Tunnel, Kilimanjaro, and Pyramid were on the agenda. And, for the first time, I witnessed a gay community in action – chatting, flirting, dancing, and coming together. The night was mostly a blur. I do remember drinking frozen lime daiquiris at Tunnel, witnessing a vogue off at Kilimanjaro, and then relishing a few drag performances at Pyramid. It was a lot of information and entertainment to absorb as a young gay boy.
Most of all, I remember house music. My debut as a gay man was also my introduction to a genre of music that would change my life. Previously, my musical tastes had reflected my sense of sadness, of difference, of division. But, coming out made me feel happy. From the hits of Inner City to late night tracks at Sound Factory, there was a whole new auditory world for me to explore, too. Of all the songs, the one that stood out most was ‘This Is Acid’ by Maurice (Joshua). It was the pivotal song of a dance movement. A caller response of “Can you feel it?” Sirens. Groans. Syncopated beats. Vocal samples. Jagged synths. And, “Jack the house!”
In a glimpse, it was a reflection of my exploration – sexuality, drugs, and nightlife. It was my life in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, my life as a young queer in the City.