To mark LGBT History Month, 2013, Polari asked its contributors to recall a song that had an impact on their own stories.
‘Hideaway’ (Little Louie Vega Mix) – Erasure
by Dan Hall
It’s Christmas Eve 1987. I’m fourteen and too old to be excited about presents. But this year is different; there’s a synthesizer on its way tomorrow. And frankly, I’m exploding with excitement. But being fourteen, I’m keeping it cool.
It’s a bit of a special one tonight. We’re off in the car to festive celebrations at a riding stables that my Mum frequents. Amongst the horses and whips are handsome, confident young men and giggling crush-driven grooms.
Within the large equestrian complex that straddles the M1 is a private members bar. And this place rocks. Not for its grubby interior or shabby paint-peeling exterior. Nor for its appalling toasted cheese sandwiches or resigned crisp packets. No, this fourteen year old loves the private members bar because it is very lax about drinking age limits. And importantly, within reason my parents are too.
So with boozing tonight, handsome men chatting to me, and a promise of a wonderful gift tomorrow, the evening is set to be perfect.
It’s about half an hour to Elstree from our home in suburban Finchley – never quite long enough to listen to an entire album, but too long to allow my folks to pop on Radio 4. Finchley is a curious place to be a teenager; too nice to rebel, too suffocating not to. Our MP is Margaret Thatcher, and frankly we can’t complain. She does a great job. Our schools are great, the local GP is efficient. With nice suburban surrounds and a loving family, there’s really no reason to rebel. And so I don’t. At least, not with tempers and tattoos. But I wish I could. I wish I had a reason!
For all their uncoolness, the Now That’s What I Call Music LPs were a fantastic introduction to music. Where else could you get a bit of Pet Shop Boys, some Swing Out Sister and a touch of Sisters of Mercy? And it is through one of these that I’m introduced to Erasure. Their synth melodies aren’t as frighteningly dark as New Order, and there’s something in the lyrics that subconsciously connects.
We set off to Elstree in the car with me reaching forward and shoving in a cassette of Erasure’s Two Ring Circus. This is a period when remix albums are all the rage. Madonna’s recently released You Can Dance, a barely-disguised low-budget effort to get more money from an album-starved market. But this one from Erasure is a real quality effort. The whole critically-acclaimed album The Circus is reworked into a selection of excellent extended remixes and re-recordings.
We’re somewhere on the North Circular and we’re all talking over each other, loving the excited atmosphere. And then the conversation lulls for a moment. This rarely happens in my talkative family, and so in the space my Mum instinctively turns up the music. On cue begins the Little Louie Vega Mix of ‘Hideaway’. It opens as pretty standard Erasure fare, bouncing chords, a pleasing ’80s synth line. And just past the minute mark, a lyric fills the Volvo:
One day the boy decided to let them know the way he felt inside,
He could not stand to hide it, his mother she broke down and cried.
And that is it. The car explodes with overt gayness and queer narrative. I’d been outwardly gay to myself for years, but had only recently realised through peer influence at school that it was “wrong”. For over a year I’d considered how to keep my secret a secret forever.
But these lyrics splice through that; all in the car listen to those opening lines and with it the unmentionable subject has been mentioned. It being an ’80s track the vocal is high and clear in the mix. The car hasn’t imploded. Nor have there been any homophonic reactions from either parent.
It’s the beautifully frightening moment of realisation: the question is no longer if one comes out, but when.
This is my rebellion, finally found! It’s my revolution and my birth into adulthood. I rest in the back of the car with heightened anticipation. Not only for the synth tomorrow, the booze or the handsome men that night, but a world that is coming. Whether I go there alone or with my family, this song shines a light on a future that will be at times tough and miserable, but will ultimately be beautiful, open and infinitely rewarding.
It’s Christmas Eve 1987. I’m 14 and too old to be excited about presents. But this year is different; sometime soon I’m going to tell the world I’m gay. And that time is closer than I dare dream. I’m exploding with excitement. But being 14, I’m keeping it cool.