Friday, April 4, 2008

"Jesus It Must Be Great To Be Straight..."

I have always distrusted overt displays of male testosterone.

And yet, I'm heterosexual, straight.

So, as a kid, and then as a teenager, it was something I could not even express -- something I did not even know I wanted to define -- my distrust of machismo even while still being attracted to girls/women.

So, along with Morrissey, it was a relief to hear and see someone -- even if in film clips -- like Marc Bolan of T.Rex.

Here was a guy, a voracious heterosexual man by all accounts, clearly in touch with his feminine side and not giving a crap about living up to earlier ideas of "masculinity." About as far from John Wayne and William Holden as one could get.

Earlier Robert Plant had displayed some marked flamboyance in his performance style, but he remained the template for "cock rock." (Make no mistake: I love Led Zeppelin but realize their moments of pretension quite clearly as they are easy to ridicule.)

And then, Bowie arrived. But Bowie also seemed to be using flamboyance and an effeminate performance style as simply tools to reach stardom; the more he changed styles, the more it seemed as if the "Ziggy Stardust"-era Bowie was not the "real" Bowie and that that was simply another pose for him -- he would change again into the Thin White Duke persona or the alienated fascist of the Berlin LPs.

With Marc Bolan, you get the sense watching this guy that this is a man sure of himself, letting his hair down, and rocking out.

It's "cock rock" without any of the machismo that went before.

It's Mick Jagger morphed with Lord Byron.

It's no accident that T.Rex had an album called "Dandy in the Underworld."

So here's a clip of Bolan and T.Rex badly lipsynching to "Buick Mackane" from the 1972 album, "The Slider."

In another 11 years, Morrissey pushes the envelope further and then, in 1993, Suede emerge from England, brazenly flaunting an indeterminate sexuality.

Yes, Brett Anderson was straight but he was dating Justine Frischmann of Elastica who looked like his twin.

Shortly thereafter, Pulp finally achieved massive success in England and some moderate acclaim in America.

With 1994-era singles "Babies" and "Do You Remember The First Time?" Jarvis earned his tag as "the straight Morrissey." He combined all the flamboyance and fey bravado of stage performers like Moz and Bolan into something new, someone who, as he sings in "Babies," wants to "give you children."

And by the time of "Do You Remember The First Time?" Jarvis is now the outsider looking at the "straight" couple with disdain and a bit of jealousy. It's clear he's the rejected suitor as he sings "Jesus, it must be great to be straight" with some degree of sarcasm. Later to admit "I don't care if you screw him" [changed in the video to "knew him"].

Now we have the fey flamboyance of Bolan and the wit of Morrissey wrapped up into the bookish but still over-the-top Jarvis Cocker -- even the name is a bit "cock rock."

So, thanks to Brett, Morrissey, Jarvis, and Marc, a guy can rock out and not conform to male mannerisms of another era; a guy can be straight and not another football-playing, Budweiser-swilling knuckle-dragger.

In my efforts not to be like most of the men I grew up around, I can still be straight and not a total asshole.