Smalltown Boy

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“Smalltown Boy” is my favourite 1984 song. The year before that it was “Relax” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood but they (and that song) deserve a post all of their own…so, Smalltown Boy: the haunting voice and lyrics spoke directly to me.
My English teacher who was very fond of me because of my ability for the language and my love of all things British told me the song was about the pain and struggle for acceptance of a Scottish gay boy. I may have been a precocious child in many ways due to my love of books, but I knew very little about the gay community or even about what being gay actually meant. There were no “gays” in my village or if there were, they were in hiding. Gay rights would have been an alien concept in this rural area. My teacher and I looked up Glasgow together which is where the singer Jimmy Sommerville came (and had escaped) from. It looked desolate to my eyes and very different from my sleepy Burgundian village. And yet…

I guess it was the first time I properly understood the fact pain was a universal concept whatever the reasons behind it. When I heard the words “the love that you need will never be found at home“, I identified completely and felt that the gay boy from Glasgow and I were the same, united in this yearning for something and somewhere else. He suffered in a big city and I among the fields of wheat. We “never cried to them but to our soul.” By the time the song was released, he had already left with “everything he owned in a little black case” and so would I years later, but in 1984 it gave me hope to know he had escaped, to realise you didn’t have to put up with misery, that it would get better, that there was a place somewhere where acceptance was possible. Funny that it turned out London was Jimmy Sommerville’s destination when he ran away, because that’s where I ended up too. 

Years after I had left, there was a big scandal in my village because my English teacher who had been so pleased to teach me about Britain was caught in a compromising position with a male student. It turned out he was gay, no wonder he had known so much about the gay community. Of course, I had not suspected anything at all, as I said I was precocious in some ways but still very naive in others. To this day, I cannot listen to Smalltown Boy without being transported right back to that time, it’s a song that I still love and it still means so much to me – it made me feel understood and infused me with hope. 

*This is an extract from a personal essay I wrote last year. I am going to an 80’s night on Saturday and the shameless selfie is the outfit I selected this afternoon for the occasion. Sadly, I do not own a smalltown boy t-shirt so I decided to go with ‘Frankie says’ out of my 80’s t-shirt collection – yes, I have one, I still love 80’s music. And always will.*

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53 thoughts on “Smalltown Boy

  1. Haha, those 80’s throwbacks – it makes me laugh to think of the kind of fun we had back then, I remember seeing Boy George on top of the pops looking like Tripitaka from the Monkee TV series, kinda cute, couldn’t decide wether to engage with a sexy female with a husky voice, or throw myself thru a window in outrage! Pop stunt of the decade – amazingly, even the Sun (paper) loved him! Have fun on Saturday, I Know you will ! 😀 😀 ❤

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  2. Frankie rocks! I love Two Tribes, too. I thought that this following song was 80’s, but it turns out to be late 70’s, but I think it fits the theme of your post. LUV your shorts. And I know that they’re not navy blue. 😉

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    1. Frankie are amazing. Welcome to the pleasure dome, the world is my oyster, the power of love…still listen to that stuff and love it. And no, they’re black, haha! Now, HOW do you even know this song??

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      1. Frankie did a great cover of “Born to Run”, too. I was familiar with the Elton Motello version, then someone told me that there was the original french version. It’s such a novelty song and I had NO idea what the hell they were singing! lol

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      2. Thank you, but I believe that assumption would be greatly contested by your readers, especially after listening to the two songs that I had posted. 😉

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      3. I do! I can’t pretend it didn’t upset me at first to be painted as some awful Nazi and ‘far-right’ when I’m anything but…but the left has gone nuts. Those people are not worth being upset about.

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      4. People really need to bone up on history. Reading about Alger Hiss, Yalta and FDR will demonstrate what real collusion is, and how the FDR administration was severely compromised. I know it sounds irrelevant, but it demonstrates how far back the left has been compromised for.

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      5. I’m making light of it but it’s so fucking pathetic. The ‘morally superior’ are the worst. ‘I’m good, you’re bad’ hence I’m cutting you out. How can anyone be that self-righteous?!

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      6. Self-righteous or delusional? Or both? I’m concerned that many don’t see it for what it is. The suppression of free speech is terrifying, and the only real collusion that I see is the mainstream media working with this new far left movement.

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      7. Good grief, it’s SO good to have somebody on here who GETS IT. Do you know Brian?He’s French but lives in Mexico I think, he totally gets it too. His blog is equinoxio21, he’s brilliant.

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  3. Picture is amazing–you be one SMOKIN’ hot babe–and I really connect to, and identify with, your essay piece. I’ve always identified with the “outsider’ people as well. I’m not gay, but I’ve had so many gay friends from my theater days over the years, that I’ve lost count. I always felt a kindred bond with them and much more welcomed by them than by the supposedly more “traditional” types of people whom I’ve never felt comfortable around. I miss the 80’s. Had a lot of good times then, some of which I actually remember. Hope you have a fun night of it. $Amen$

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    1. Ah, traditional people…I’m sure they’re fine…if you’re the traditional type, but we aren’t, are we? 😉 The 80’s were great, though I’m not sure if I look back at it with rose-coloured glasses because I was just a kid. But I don’t really think that’s it…

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  4. What a poignant post, Nathalie. I love the way music can speak to us so deeply and capture a time in our lives. I’m older than you and in my youth didn’t know anything about gay people or the alienation they felt. I know the world has made some progress, and I hope that it continues for everyone who feels like they don’t belong.

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    1. Ah, thank you, Diana. The personal essay was on 80’s Music but it was, er…very personal, so in the end I couldn’t bring myself to post it on here and I went for just an extract. But yes, music can be very powerful of course

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  5. It’s amazing how some songs can affect us so deeply; how they emotions they communicate resonate with our own experiences.

    And no shame about your selfies! Yours are some of the nicest and least annoying I’ve seen.

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  6. Living just outside in the selfie capital of the world (apparently, it’s official), I am immune to selfies. One thing I can’t resist though is the toe tapping 80’s sounds that keep coming up on YouTube, it is hard to resist clicking on those old classics.

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