I spent a lot of time grounded in 1975. Banished to my upstairs room. Left alone to beat myself at Monopoly, Sorry, to dress up like the Green Goblin (I mean I made the whole outfit), or to just listen constantly to the radio. I had one of those all in one stereo set-ups. Turntable folds down, speakers fold out, big tuning knobs to the right. On a good cloudy night, I could pick up Chicago stations. Chicago seemed like a continent away. Really, it was just 10 hours but I was ten so what did I know? I was grounded for a lot of infractions. Flashing the neighborhood girls, peeing on their playhouse, tearing up the neighbor's tree, crapping in their yard, jumping off the television set, lying, being lazy, and really just having a good time being a kid. What else was I going to do?
The radio was always on. Tuned to local FM stations in the day, tuned to them secretly at night while I lie in bed with ginormous, Keith Moon headphones on my head. In 1975, all I really wanted to hear was Queen. I had LP copies of Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack. I played the crap out of them. I pranced around my room dressed in my self fashioned harlequin leotard to "Killer Queen" all the damn time. I had no idea what the hell Moet Chandon was but I really didn't give a shit. I should have taken the act on the road to fifth grade show and tell. By late 1975, the FM dial began playing a new Queen song, "Bohemian Rhapsody." It was the most brilliant thing I had ever heard. Theatrical, expressive, odd, freaky, gigantic.
I was probably the only kid my age who had a subscription to Rolling Stone and I plowed through every issue. I hung pictures and covers on my wall, like any dedicated follower of fandom. I knew everything there was to know about Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon, and Freddie Mercury. My idol. Freddie. I had a pool cue that screwed together and I used the top half as my half-mic stand. Just like Freddie. I wore mom's ballet leotards and fashioned different outfits, just like Freddie. My dad, who owned a record store a few hours away, hadn't sent me my requested copy of Night At The Opera yet so all I did was sit, wait, and flip the fuck out when my song came on. One particular grounded day, it came in spades.
Up in my room I waited. The DJ would spin all the FM hits. I sat on the end of the bed, at my desk, at the window, on the bed, in full Freddie regalia, waiting for my song. It came on, I performed it like a god. Later, it came on again. I freaked out again. A third time later, exhausted from a long, full day of rocking out, I sat on my floor in front of the speakers, my head as far into them as I could go and listened... "Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?" I rocked back and forth to the light introduction, paying close attention to the tale of a guilty man. "Mama, life had just begun, but now I've gone and thrown it alllllll awayyyy."
During the big, monstrous, operatic bit I would do as many of the harmonies as I could. I acted out roles. Accuser, bailiff, judge, murderer, Galileo, Figaro. Thunderbolts and lighting were very, very, frightening to me. But I knew what was coming up. I knew that snare crack and the guitar solo were on the horizon. I could feel the surge coming from inside the carpet, into my feet, up to my ass and up my back. I stood up. I grimaced, made a proud peacock pose, and ran to my desk. I opened the drawer, I pulled out my matches, and just as Brian May was well into his solo, I set my bedroom on fire.
Any way the wind blows.
ap - 2009