I'm one of those people who regards her high school years as time spent mostly in Hell.
But a few people made parts of the whole process tolerable; including one who went on to a moderate level of fame as a singer.
I'm not about to pretend that I have hyperthymesia or even an eidectic memory, but I still have a vivid recollection of meeting M for the first time. It was in the cafeteria when I was in grade 12, shortly after the start of the school year. M was new to my school and had recently come to Canada from England. He was tall, incredibly thin, and sported long, LONG strawberry blond curls.
Another friend brought him over to meet me and told him that I had the same level of knowledge of music that M did. The very first thing he said to me was "do you know who Marc Bolan is?" And I replied, "of course I do; he was the lead singer of T-Rex and he died last week." The other people at the table looked at the two of us like we were crazy, but we each felt we had found a kindred spirit.
From that day forward, we got together to discuss music. We shared a love of the British blues musicians who made their names in the late 1960s: Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Gary, Moore, Ray Davies... plus all of the bands these men had belonged to and those who owe their careers to them.
We each were owners of Queen's first album and preferred it to the popular "A Night at the Opera", we had discussions about the merits of progressive rock and southern rock and disco and the emerging New Wave movement. M didn't share my love of The Eagles, The Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd, though he was instrumental in helping me put together my Linda Ronstadt lip-sync for a theatre arts presentation that got me the highest mark in the class.
I would like to tell you that we were wild and crazy - it was the 70s after all. But we were boringly sedate. After school, we would take the bus to the apartment M shared with his mother and lie on the floor in the living room doing our homework while we listened to music. The strongest thing we ingested was tea; M, being a Brit and all, made a GREAT cup of tea!
When homework was done, he would take out his guitar - electric, not plugged in - and would play along with the recordings. We would sing along with Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin, The Strawbs, Rod Stewart and Genesis. M is responsible for my love for Peter Gabriel.
We were never girlfriend and boyfriend. People at school would sneer at me about having a "gay boyfriend" and yet we never went beyond a few relatively tame sessions of kissing. The only time we did anything remotely "date-like" was taking the streetcar all the way downtown to make pilgrimages to Sam the Record Man on Yonge Street on those Saturdays when neither of us was working at our part-time jobs. We would go to the bargain floor and paw through the bins, seeking out the over-looked gems. Our only other "date" was an afternoon at the repertory theatre seeing an abridged version of the Woodstock movie. All the way home, we dissected the performances.
M was always, ALWAYS sure that he would make it in the music business! I was less sure - for both of us. He pushed me to sing outside of my comfort zone and would sometimes transpose pieces into my lower register for me. By the time we parted ways after an intense 2 years of friendship, I could sing both Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks' parts on the entire Rumours album.
That first year at school together, during the annual talent show, he heard another classmate play drums with his band. The band was pretty bad, but R's drumming was great, and M set about recruiting him for his own band.
When you look up M's band on Wikipedia, it tells you that they were formed in 1981. This is patently untrue; they formed 3 years earlier than that, when M and R and another friend of M's played at the next year's talent show. They brought the house down. R didn't really like M; he once asked me why I was friends with "that freak". He then went on to admit that he thought M was a "talented freak, but a freak just the same". Needless to say, when the band finally got their recording contract shortly afterward, R wasn't part of the band. However, I do remember holding in my hands the demo vinyl single where R was the drummer for M's band.
M and I graduated in the same year; I went to university to try to become a lawyer instead of a singer and he went off to make his way in the music business. He succeeded for a while; enough that his voice is totally recognizable on the Canadian Christmas charity single "Tears Are Not Enough". He was disappointed with my decision, believing that I should follow his path. But when I did finally go the musical route, I went into opera instead of rock and roll.
I blew out my vocal chords by the time I was 34; M still tours on the "nostalgia circuit". Go figure.
Strangely, I also have a vivid memory of the last time I met him face to face. I was on my way home from my singing teacher's place. It was a steamy summer day in Toronto and I was walking to my bachelorette pad. In my travels, I crossed the path of a recording studio and coming down the sidewalk toward me was M.
He stopped and did a double-take and then ran toward me with his arms outstretched. We held each other for long moments and then he asked me to tell him what I was doing. I showed him my binder with the scores I was learning and we asked after each others' parents and siblings. After that, I don't remember anything else. I do know that we did NOT promise to keep in touch; too much had torn us apart in the intervening years.
He was in town this weekend, performing. I didn't go to see if I could meet him. I didn't want him to see me not looking like the girl I used to be, even though I know he's not the boy I used to know.
Today I listened to a lot of music from the 60s and 70s... and I remembered all that music, and all those days spent together.
And how happy I was spending time with my dear friend.