The Bohemian Redhead

The Fevered Ramblings of a Shy Dreamer

Fandom at Forty

As you now know from the few small posts before this, besides being perhaps somewhat quirky, I am also a massive Depeche Mode and Thirty Seconds to Mars fan…and yes before you yell at me, they are not only in that order because alphabetically that’s where they fall, but also because that’s the order in which they came into my life and I fell in love with their music.

I’ve been a fan of Depeche Mode ever since 1985, a whole 28 years of their 33 year career to date. They were (and still are) a band for whom all of their albums have massive meaning. With each new album release has come a plethora of songs which seemed to echo my life, my thoughts, hopes, dreams and desires, their songs feel very much part of my existence.

I have every album on tape, vinyl, CD, remastered CD, various bootlegs from the days when imported, reworked or DJ tinkered with albums were the ultimate in cool band accessory and a small but very coveted collection of tour t-shirts that represent a whole lot of singing, dancing, crying and worshipping at the temple of Dave Gahan and Martin Gore. I have a couple of treasured photos of the band taken during the Devotional Tour when they played Crystal Palace on 31st July 1993, Dave was my ultimate fantasy with his long dark hair, leather trousers, bare chest & tattoos, his voice like honey mixed with razor blades, singing spine tingling tales of wanting to strip me naked and lay my soul bare. I’ve been to every UK gig of theirs since, watching the music evolve, the hairstyles change and the tattoo collection increase.

Fast forward almost exactly 20 years from that gig and I found myself adding an additional love to my music collection quite unexpectedly. I couldn’t even really tell you where exactly I first found them, I guess probably Spotify, YouTube or Amazon on one of my musical forays through the ‘people who like this, also like this’ journey that occasionally takes my fancy.

The band I encountered was Thirty Seconds to Mars. I was intrigued by the voice, hauntingly beautiful tones with a soft American twang surrounded by complex arrangements of both orchestral and rock instruments, harmoniously intertwined like illicit lovers.

‘Alibi’ led to ‘Up in the Air’, led to ‘Hurricane’, led to ‘The Story’, led to ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ and with each track I listened to, I found myself experiencing that same emotional connection, like an intense love affair, one which threw in fleeting sound bites from my musical past.

The owner of the voice was also breathtakingly beautiful, like an anime character brought to life, with big blue expressive eyes, but shrouded in a slight gothic air of sadness, one look into those baleful eyes and you just wanted reach out and hold him close and tell him life would be okay.

Of course had I no clue beyond that who they were, let alone who the singer who did funny things to the pit of my stomach was…never was I more shocked to discover that in fact these guys had been around 15 years already themselves and that the guy I could so happily adopt and take home to Ma and Pa was in fact Angelface! I had no idea that Jared had a rock band let alone a good one and could sing! I guess perhaps that’s the misfortune of starting up during the influx of actors with rockstar pretentions/ambitions, any of the good ones are liable to get tarred with the Keanu brush and ridiculed into obscurity generally.

Becoming a massive fan of such a band in what is a very changed musical landscape has been quite an oddity though. Firstly I’ve condensed 15 years’ worth of albums and history into a few short months and for me particularly I’ve grown up during a period where like for the band itself, those musical influences of The Cure, Pink Floyd, Bjork, Rush, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode etc. were my musical influences, so reading articles written about them claiming a departure from their previous style seems a nonsense to me.

Like Depeche Mode, of whom for me Thirty Seconds are a similarly inventive and creative band, the music has evolved over the years and taken under its wings the various stylistic influences of prog rock, electronica, gothic undertones etc. It has not departed from anything per se, it’s just grown organically harnessing its own musical tastes as any good band should!

Of course fandom also now comes with the application of social media, tools such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook are at both the artist and the fans disposal for both adulation and marketing purposes. Bands have to become cuter at taking control and finding new avenues to promote themselves, not least of which in order to generate an income stream for touring and merchandising, particularly with the evolution of the download market. Often these are the only elements not solely in the grip of the record label – for those wanting a stark look at how to get treated badly by a record company you only have to watch Thirty Seconds own personal documentary Artifact to see what size of a slice of creative freedom the music industry thinks it has a right to!

The problem with all of these media changes is that over time lines have become blurred, firstly there is the download/file sharing arena, bands get understandably peeved that their hard work gets leaked or stolen – especially when you look at what’s left after the label takes their cut. The fans on the other hands often don’t see it that way, some see it as something for nothing seeing the music industry (not the artist) itself as rip off merchants , some see it as a means of music becoming more widely popular, some as merely a testing ground before buying a legit copy.

Then there is social media, fans want a piece of their band, something personal that no one else sees, they want to show adoration and adulation – sometimes in scary proportions!

Gone are the days where it was just Beatle style hysteria, fans screamed outside venues and camped out in hotel lobbies, or you waited patiently outside the back of the gig venue to get an autograph or photograph with your idol. Now fans can monitor and track every comment, photo, movement online with almost serial killer like precision.

Unfortunately what this also seems to encourage is a lot of in-fan fighting over who gets tweeted back and a more profound sense of loss when comments are not acknowledged. Social media is so much a part of peoples individual daily conversation repertoire that it’s easy to forget that the conversation with someone like a band or artist is often one-sided, unless they have a small fan base and are glued to their Twitter or Facebook feed most will have someone else doing the legwork and so what you get can be a fairly sterile view of your idol, often with a whole heap of marketing opportunities and ‘buy now’ posts which certainly for an older music fan can feel a little exhausting at times and a bit opportunistic.

For the artist themselves social media is a blessing and a curse, ideal for building an enormous fan base, marketing wares and getting information out there, but the volume of messages back must be enormous and after a while every inane question a fans ever wanted to know is going to get asked ‘what kind of socks are you wearing?’ – the question rumoured to have finally killed Vince Clarke’s ardour during the DM years , I’m sure it would wear my patience to the bone!

On top of which can be an all too visible and personal attack on their freedom and choices, ‘why is he/she sleeping with them?’, ‘why are they wearing that?’ blah, blah, blah, slowly chipping away at the soul of the very person the fan proclaims to love. We seem to forget that just because our idol is famous it doesn’t give us a right to know everything about them in the tiniest minutiae, that maybe they are just as introverted and fucked up as we are sometimes and that this is and should be okay.

So is there an answer? In truth I don’t know, certainly not a perfect one anyway!

I guess like any fan I’d like to see glimpses, teases of the real person, I prefer a bands own web/Twitter/Facebook page or their shop page to be left as the place for promotion and marketing and the individual members ones as a place for self-expression. I like a sense of mystery and intrigue, I like flashbacks to past gigs, albums. I hate being sold to, I know it has to be part of it, but I still wish it wasn’t ever present so that I could feel more excited about the post and less ‘oh :-(’.

Fandom in an online world though can certainly be quite enjoyable, I’ve met a whole heap of lovely people across the globe through my love of various things and it’s always great to find like-minded people and have a giggle….and no matter what there is nearly always someone else wide awake thanks to those international time zones!

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Boy Troubles

I came home yesterday to find that while I was out pack life in my previously harmonious garden had changed. My beautiful male juvenile cockerel (known as Lampshade for his outward resemblance to an elaborate piece of Tiffany glass) was looking all muddy and forlorn, while his non-biologically related brother Chestnut who I raised from an egg with him, strutted around owning all the girls, food, water and land.

As I went and rescued Lampshade, attending to his war wounds, cuddling him while he meeped and cried sadly in my embrace, looking all lost and broken, I was reminded once more of those bittersweet pre and post pubescent years.

Before owning and raising chickens I’d never really realised how like us in a lot of ways animals can be, I mean sure my cats sometimes remind me of toddlers, with their whining for food, sulking when they don’t get attention and frequently snatching toys off on another, but chickens especially ones you hand raise and teach, have a lot of very human characteristics and personality traits.

Dealing with the fallout of Lampshades drubbing by Chestnut reminds me of those early years with all too familiar pain, watching him stood on the outskirts of the group, trying to edge in closer when the school ground bullies of Chestnut and his new partner in crime Grumpy (the leader of my girls and not one to cross unless you want to be pecked) are not looking.

Instead of preening away the dirt back to his former beautiful glory, he wears his newfound mucky exterior and hangs his head low in same the way I hid at 15 years of age, under swathes of black, my face defensively painted with ‘don’t fuck with me’ make-up and a forlorn, moody stare.

It’s for this reason I find myself going out and talking to him like I would an adolescent, full of comforting words of how lovely he is, hugging him until he relaxes and is calm again and bossing around the two bullies to let them know he has a defender, so far while he hides behind or to the side of me like a shadow, peeking out at the telling off I’m giving the others.

An Ode To My Teenage Self…

When I was fourteen years old there were three things I knew with absolute certainty:

1. I wanted to be a famous, published writer more than anything in the world

2. I wanted one of the variously unsuitable boys I fell in love with to notice me

and;

3. I didn’t fit in, I was the proverbial square peg in a round hole.

I was shy, pretty but not in a conventional way, with big green eyes and a ton of curly red hair which made me the subject of teasing and ridicule from an early age and on top of this I was completely and utterly socially inept!

At 11 years old I was sent to boarding school, a scary and intimidating experience perhaps for most kids of that age but this was coupled with the fact that I passed my 11+ with a full academic scholarship, the only way my parents could possibly have afforded to send me to such a place. I was surrounded by peers who had grown up with such unimaginable wealth and start in life that I stood out like a sore thumb, with my high IQ, handmade and charity shop clothes, green flash trainers and not a designer label in sight.

I felt lost, I had nothing in common with those around me, my parents did normal things, my Dad was an engineer, my Mum stayed at home and looked after us, we grew our own fruit and veg, holidays were camping and walking in the UK, usually to various nature reserves and beauty spots, we were taught the value of the world around us and lived a make and mend lifestyle, whereas my new classmates had parents who in a lot of cases came from money themselves and so didn’t have to work, they ate out and holidayed abroad in places with funny names.

I wasn’t jealous of what they had, in truth I didn’t really comprehend that sort of lifestyle at all, something that even now I earn a reasonable living myself, is so far ingrained that I feel guilty spending money and shy away from the obvious trappings of labels and flashy things. I just wanted to be able to join in, to feel less of an outsider, to find some common ground and to make some friends.

Little by little I started to make some friends, people who like me were bright but awkward, we formed a rag tag group of weirdos and oddballs who lived mostly in black, wore thick eyeliner and mascara (including the boys) and absorbed ourselves in the warblings of bands like Bauhaus, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails & Sisters of Mercy, finding some simpatico in the world at last. My parents didn’t really understand the maudlin creature that returned home during the school holidays and tried their best to encourage me into dressing more cheerfully but I tended to just immerse myself in the fantasy world of literature and music trying to drown out my innate loneliness.

Teenage life was hard, pressure seemed to come from everywhere, to fit in, to be cool, to look fabulous, to be in a relationship & ‘put out’, to study – a never ending mental drain and apart from studying I was terrible at the rest! I fell in love a few times, but generally my intentions were either not reciprocated by the too cool for school object of my affections, or short lived, boys would ask me out but once the more seniors kids discovered that said boy had asked out the ‘odd ginger goth girl’ they were ridiculed into submission and I’d be quickly ditched.

I then made the fatal error of falling quite hopelessly in love with one of my male best friends, mistaking our closeness for more. Jamie was a vision of long blonde hair, button nose and eyes so blue and endless that they gave an infinity pool a run for its money, his cuteness allowed him to transition between the oddballs and the cool kids, the male equivalent of a gateway drug, easy to be around and left you wanting more. To his credit he goes down in history for the best ever gentle let down when I finally plucked up the courage to ask him out in one of our nightly exchanges of notes about our day. He wrote the most eloquent of ‘its not you its me’ letters telling me why we weren’t really suited and that we were just ‘sugar mice in the rain’, a Marillion lyric that like him I still hold dear in my heart to this day.

My spare time outside of classes, sports & study was mostly spent writing teenage angst poetry or surreal short stories, dreaming of a career as a writer with a cottage by the sea and just the cliffs and waves for company and inspiration..and maybe a cat..and to play violin effortlessly and sing folk songs. I had some minor success in writing competitions and somewhere my poetry aged 14 lives in published form though I’ve never been able to force myself to track it down and buy a copy preferring to leave it out there in the ether like a mythological creature, I fear to read it now would dash my romantic notion that it was possibly quite good.

Nowadays of course I’m not a famous writer at all, or a haunting voiced violin playing folk singer (though I do own a fabulous purple electric violin like Ed Alleyne-Johnson which I’m still learning to play). Nor did I go on to be one outside of those teenage ambitions, not because I tried and failed, or didn’t try but because the dream changed, morphed and took a different path the older I got. I work hard and have a career which I love. I’m not famous, but I am successful in my field and I’m able to put my social conscience to good use, trying to make the world a better place a little step at a time each day, so hopefully in my own way I can make a difference. I’m still an oddball, I have a self-deprecating sense of humour, I’m a huge 30 Seconds to Mars and Depeche Mode fan, so my music taste is pretty similar, I’m still not great in large social groups as I’m still quite shy but I’m better than I was at finding my own place and I get by and have good friends.

So why am I writing all this? I guess I’d like to tell my teenage self (and others out there) not to worry, not to stress so much and to enjoy life!

To reassure her that one day there will be that right boy and that finding him will be fun (okay and yes heartbreak as well!) along the way. The world is full of all sorts of different guys with luscious locks (and you’ll be responsible for increasing the growth of some of it!) and infinity pool eyes, some will break your heart and some will love you right back and you’ll probably break theirs, but its all part of life’s little mysteries.

That university and life after is full of amazing oddballs just like you, in fact there are many oddballs out there, creative, kind, intriguing, inspiring, challenging people who will make and shape your world.

That true friends know you, love you and remain with you through thick and thin no matter what and you don’t have to be anything but yourself for them.

To keep writing, for enjoyment, for pleasure and to never lose the wonder that is words on a page, no matter how bad the writing might be.

That life will have its up’s and down’s but that with a song in your heart , determination and a dream in your head you’ll be just fine!

 

“Dreams are the result of a million choices, a billion failures, and a few successes.” ― Jared Leto

“I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.” ― Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones

“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.” ― Dr. Seuss

“I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.” ― Neil Gaiman

“I’m not insane, I’m voluntarily indifferent to conventional rationality.” ― Jared Leto

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” ― Dr. Seuss