By Rosalie Tirella
… was a kid, going to Providence Street Junior High, was SWEET. My Catholic upbringing was a tad oppressive. My mom was lovely but demanding (she never SAID I had to get all A’s all the time – but I knew I just had to – plus work after school). So it was (all the time): Go to school, go to work after school (I had a job in junior high), do your homework, study, study, get all A’s, wash the dishes some days, dust the living room every Saturday morning, go to Mass with Ma and my two kid sisters every Sunday or Saturday nite, go to confession every week (!) before Mass, attend catechism classes at St. Mary’s School on Richland Street every Monday nite – from age 6 to 14 … even if the nuns in the upper grades were kinda mean and scary and a little ugly! We used to call one: THE TRAPEZOID. She was shaped like a trapezoid!
THEN THIS! MUSIC! ROCK ‘n’ ROLL! GLAM ROCK. SWEET. Elton John. Smack dab in the middle of my conservative Catholic upbringing!
Elton ruled the US airwaves! He wore beautiful, sparkly platform shoes! They glittered, just like Dorothy’s ruby red slippers in the Wizard of Oz! He had the shiniest jackets, too! I’d go to the record store, just to look at Elton John album covers …
The music playing on my cheapie Emerson “stereo” in the 1970s was where it was at for me! The singers reminded me how I really felt about life! My 45s and albums and the FM radio were the veins and arteries running to and from my girl’s heart! Everyone listened to the radio back when I was a kid, and there was all kinds of incredible music for America to be blown away by! Rock, pop, soul, white-ified blues, country on country stations, rhythm and blues, 1950s rock and roll – all with a turn of your radio dial. Very democratic – totally accessible.
To my young self my feelings about EVERYTHING were expressed by the music of the times. Singers and musicians seemed to read my young mind. They understood that I longed for … EVERYTHING! LOVE, boys, horses, experiences, growing up and being who I needed to be … Music, as John Lennon once said, GOT TO ME. I’d play one of my 45s or a track I liked off one of my albums 10 or 15 times in a row so it would … get under my skin. I wanted to know more than the lyrics and melody. When I listened to a song I loved I wanted osmosis to happen between me and the music. So it would become a part of me … it was a physical thing. I still listen to music this way.
In the upbeat, downbeat, sometimes cloying, fun, crazy, lots of times AMAZING music I (along with most of the USA) was listening to I found the real me. Like all kids do in music or their favorite books. But music was better than books sometimes. It was stories about feelings being sung! SUNG! You could pogo around your bedroom to it or (if my mom wasn’t around) even jump onto your bed and BOUNCE up and down on your mattress to it!!! For exercise: There was gym class at “Prov,” walking downtown to go to the Galleria, and then there was SECRET DANCING IN MY BEDROOM. Unlike my two sisters who shared a bedroom, I had the luxury of my own bedroom, my own space with a big, full-sized bed. Why not use the space to let my thoughts run free? Why not use my bed as a trampoline?!
Songs were sung by amazing looking, different looking men and women – kids really, several years older than I was.
Did I say it was all very emotional?!
My pal at Prov told me Elton John was “bi.” She was super skinny and tall, wore her hair in this big, bouncy afro, had the coolest platform shoes to go with her flared blue jeans! Wow! He’s bi, I said back to her, grinning like an idiot, not knowing what the hell bi meant, but validating my cool friend’s ideas. BECAUSE SHE WAS TALL AND SKINNY AND EXOTIC LOOKING.
Elton John was great. But SWEET was the group I loved best of all. Poppy, bouncy, easy to sing along to, nothing too heavy! Cute guys in great outfits not ever having to go to catechism class!
I just knew it!