To mark LGBT History Month, 2013, Polari asked its contributors to recall a song that had an impact on their own stories.
‘Reel Around The Fountain’ – The Smiths
by Bryon Fear
The Smiths played a critical role in my teen years. Until the day I discovered the Smiths, my music taste had been handed down to me by my parents – which is a blessing and a curse. When you are handed down music from the generation before you, you never really feel like you own that music, or that it’s a part of your personal heritage. It’s someone else’s. I think if I had discovered Pink Floyd on my own terms as a teenager they would have blown my mind, but since they were a Sunday favourite they were just a part of the sonic furniture of my parent’s home.
I remember clearly the first time I heard the Smiths. I was with my very good friend Siân, and we were at her house hanging out in the back room den affectionately known as ‘Matilda’. Siân was excited to play me a song, and that song was ‘Reel Around The Fountain’. I was immediately smitten … I had never heard music that touched me so profoundly, and in that way only a teenager can be profoundly affected. I had been carrying the millstone burden of my sexuality since I was 8 years old and now I was a teenager who felt isolated, who had never had his first kiss and who was full of a longing that he couldn’t talk about with anyone. Yet, my unspoken feelings seemed to be woven throughout the lyrics of the songs we listened to that night and my secret was being decoded and laid bare in the music. That evening Siân had unlocked a door through which I knew I had to pass through.
Two weeks later, back in ‘Matilda’ and listening to the Smiths, I passed a very short note to Siân. It contained the three words that frightened me the most in the world – three words that I had not been able to speak aloud for fear and shame. Siân took the note, unfolded it and read it silently. Looking up, she smiled and shrugged a ‘so what?’ and said, “do you want a cup of tea?”.
No further mention of it was made that evening, but Morrissey’s words had a greater resonance for both of us. In that moment our friendship was cemented for life, forged with lyric and bound in music that became an intrinsic part of our friendship and formative years.