One of the defining moments of my callow youth was when I decided, on a whim, to purchase Hüsker Dü's then-new LP Flip Your Wig. This would've been in 1985, when I was a junior at Bosse High School. I had always fancied myself something of a music aficionado, but by entering the uncharted waters of underground rock and independent record labels, I took my tastes to a new level. Previously I had spent much of my parents's hard-earned monies primarily on heavy metal and progressive rock albums, but some new wave had crept into the mix and I had also started reading Rolling Stone magazine, whose record reviews were a tad more sophisticated than the ones found in Circus and Hit Parader. In other words, I was ready.
In retrospect, it was highly fortuitous that Hüsker Dü were the gateway to this musical epiphany, because 1) they were so fucking good and 2) they were highly prolific, so there was lots of stuff in the back catalog for me to discover, which I did, most eagerly. When pressed, I'd say that the mighty Zen Arcade is my favorite album by the band, but there will always be a soft spot in my pitch black heart for Flip Your Wig.
Which brings me to Bob Mould, Hüsker Dü's guitarist and vocalist. After the band broke up in 1988, Mould's career was the one I followed most closely (no offense to drummer Grant Hart, who was just as important to the Hüsker sound as Mould... and is also gay) (I guess I should also mention that Greg Norton played bass). Bob's output since then has been up and down. His first solo album, Workbook, was a phenomenal creative triumph; its follow-up, Black Sheets of Rain, was kind of a dud. C'est la vie. However, Mould's worst album is more often than not 100 times better than most other performer's finest work.
Around the time Mould was launching his new band Sugar -- this would've been 1991, 1992 -- he was outed by Faith No More keyboard player Roddy Bottum in an interview in The Advocate. Now, I wasn't a regular reader of that magazine, being heterosexual and all, but MTV News ran a little segment on Bottum's quote and obviously, I had to see it for myself. I ran down to the short-lived Readmore book store in the Ross Center and bought that issue and, sure enough, there it was. Bob Mould was gay -- I mean, if it was in print, it had to be true, right?
Now, I grew up in Evansville, Indiana, a conservative small town. Loathe as I am to admit it, that atmosphere and my upbringing shaped many of my attitudes. To wit: My buddies and I regularly called each other "homo," "queer" and of course, "faggot" much more frequently than we ever addressed each other with our Christian names. Amusing, because I didn't even really know what a faggot was until I was in high school. Personally, I had nothing against "the gays," but I certainly didn't understand them and I was certain I had never met any.
But lo and behold: Here's Bob Mould, this talented songwriter, this monster guitarist, this paragon of indie cred, and he's a homo. It really opened my eyes. I'd never met him, of course, but I felt that I knew him. I certainly looked up to him. I mean, I didn't start donating money to GLAAD or anything, but my attitudes toward homosexuals became more enlightened. So when I read about the discriminatory amendments to state constitutions that the willfully ignorant majority of Americans are voting into law, I always remember my own youthful ignorance and wonder what would happen if, say, a NASCAR driver or a pro football player or some other "manly man" were to come out of the closet. Maybe some of these hillbilly halfwits would change their minds.
How did this celebration of my first punk rock record purchase turn into a rambling discourse on tolerance and all that shit? I'm so gay!