Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Music Box: Marilyn

It was the first week of 1984 and Newsweek had a Technicolor Boy George and Annie Lennox splashed across the cover proclaiming the second coming of the British Invasion, yet all my sexually confused 16-year-old eyes could see was endless possibilities. He looked like a chick. She looked like a dude, sort of. I specifically remembering staring at the cover while listening to the Eurythmics' haunting song "Jennifer" and feeling completely sick to my stomach thinking, maybe I wasn't the only one who felt this way.

This was the year before I went all Trapper Keepers
Like many gay people growing up during the '80s, the new wave explosion was a welcome escape from the boy-girl society around us, a convenient way to hide our sexuality behind the fashions and styles of the time. (I'm not sure what I'd have done, say, in the '70s or '90s.) And with each passing year someone new came along to push the boundaries. From Visage, Culture Club and Eurythmics to Haysi Fantayzee and Dead or Alive. But of all the artists of that gender-bender era, none garnered my affections the way Marilyn did.

I'll never forget seeing the 12" single of his debut song, "Calling Your Name," in the bin at Zia Records on Mill Avenue in Tempe, Ariz., with his glamorous blond dreadlocks tossed to the side, perfect makeup and his exposed chest. After tearing up the U.K. charts with that one he never had another real hit even in his homeland, so the singles and subsequent album, "Despite Straight Lines," were never even released here in the states. But that didn't stop me from snatching up every new thing he released (my friend Laura Thomas even had the picture disc of "Cry and Be Free" with the rare b-side "Running" on it, which I promptly taped!) and every No. 1 magazine and Smash Hits that he appeared in. (That's him in the bottom lefthand corner of my English folder from Dobson High. Can you name the others?) Was I sexually attracted to Marilyn? No. But I was definitely drawn to him in some strong way. Looking back I think it was his ability to have enough self-confidence to be who he was with no apologies that made me admire him, despite his increasingly obvious lack of musical abilities. (His outsider within the group of outsiders status was certainly something I related to, too.) When Boy George brought the era to life in the show "Taboo"a few years ago it was Marilyn's biting oneliners that stole the show, of course. And every so often I'll dust off my homemade Marilyn CD of everything he ever released (none of which ever made the leap to the digital age officially) and play it with fond memories of the pretty boy who wasn't afraid to be himself.

"Calling Your Name"

"Baby U Left Me (in the Cold)"

Awesome Songs
Empty Walls Lyrics
Serj Tankian
I Miss You Lyrics
Hannah Montana
Stop Sign Lyrics
Beyonce Knowles
Misery Business Lyrics
Corona And Lime Lyrics
No One Lyrics
Alicia Keys
Thinking of You Lyrics
Katy Perry
Miss Independent Lyrics
A Very Special Love Lyrics
Sarah Geronimo
Beat It Lyrics
Michael Jackson
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Anonymous said...

OMG Kenneth! I totally loved Marilyn too- he was always Boy George's coolest friend to me. Like you, I think his true talent was his look- so completely gorgeous and in tune with the era. I wish I could find any mp3s by him- but alas, none seem to show up. Thanks for the memory!

Anonymous said...

Too bad he couldn't sing a lick. I did love his "Cry And Be Free" song, though, but the rest of his diminutive catalog did nothing for me aesthetically. Even then, as an openly gay teenager in 1983, I admired his candor and openness (even here in NY, where it was generally more accepted, nay, tolerated, being openly gay was a cautionary action). I just wish I could have liked his music.

Dave said...

Wow. Top 100 Worst Videos Ever. Hardly a glowing endorsement. I can't say I am or was a Marilyn fan. I knew him as the image, but never knew his music. After listening to these ones, I don't feel I missed a whole lot.
But on to naming the other groups on your cover. Aside from the obvious (Madonna, Cyndi, Pretenders, Marilyn), sadly, the only one I can identify is The Waitresses.
Maybe I need to turn in my 80's membership card.

nojarama said...

I loved Maz as well. He was my evil twin back in the day. My friends said he & I were the 4th & 5th members of Bananarama (pre-Jacs). He's had some major health issues the past few years & someday we'll get a proper CD release of the DSL album and a tell-all book says he repeatidly...

Anonymous said...

I was 15 in 1984, and Marilyn was on my pop radar at the time as well...all the way up in Northern Michigan where I grew up. Thank god for places like Record Runner, where I ordered everything Culture Club / Boy George ever produced...and the occasional Marilyn 12" too.

Thanks for confirming I wasn't the only US Marilyn fan! I enjoy reading your blog everyday for memories exactly like this one. We grew up in the same great era, and have very similar taste in music both past and present!!!

Anonymous said...

I found this blog by doing a search for a cd release of Despite Straight Lines. Regardless of it still not existing on the cd format, it was refreshing to see others still caring enough to post about him. Calling Your Name was hardly even his best song...hopefully when the cd comes out, more people will realize that.

Kalessin said...

OMG--Zia Records. I too remember seeing Marilyn's 12" there in the early 80s, when I lived in PHX! I also remember seeing an obscure video of Marilyn singing "Baby U Left Me (In the Cold)"--my personal fav song by him--and I became a fan. I am totally envious that you have all his work on a homemade CD. I have been obsessed all evening with finding his songs, but it's been like searching for a needle in a haystack! Desperate, I've even resorted to looking for mp3s that other fans might have posted, but nothing. :-( Could I talk you into burning a copy for me, pretty please? :P

Kenneth M. Walsh said...

send me your e-mail address and I will hook you up.

cherry red records is FINALLY releasing "Despite Straight Lines" on CD next month, btw.

Michael said...

OHHH!!! I just can't wait 'til my copy arrives. I going to Punta Cana for New Year's. so, "You Don't Love Me" seems so appropriate for my Ipod.