There are few artists who have moved me or been a constant in my life as much as Bob Mould. His music, beginning with Hüsker Dü, which the gay punk glitterati who worked in my father’s Polk Street bookstore would play loud at night to discourage shoplifting, because when Hüsker Dü is on, everyone is paying attention – then his solo albums, I would blast in my first Los Angeles apartment, wearing out the double cassette player with Songbook and Black Sheets of Rain and then Sugar – which I got to see him play in the flesh at the Palladium. Tall and handsome and humbly dressed in a green cardigan – I think it was green – Bob onstage sitting down for the acoustic portion of the show. He was the most exciting man in rock to me at that time – at any time really, and his music endures, stays with me – has stayed longer than anyone else’s. I’ve purchased the album Copper Blue so many times – cassette, then another cassette when the last one was left in a rental car somewhere near Lincoln, Nebraska, then CD, then digitally and then digitally again when all my music files were lost in a hideous audiophile armageddon. I got my first electric guitar, a creamy white fake Fender, on sale at the Guitar Center – which I then promptly gave away because I wasn’t able to pick up the opening riff of “A Good Idea” perfectly. I got another guitar, and now, many, many guitars later, I am still trying. I will figure it out someday.
My old friend Janeane Garofalo said that Bob came to comedy shows sometimes, and that he was friends with Lizz Winstead. She said he was shy, and she said she thought he was gay, and I thought, “Oh that’s why…. that’s why…” I realized what obsessed me about his music was that it was essentially something that I was recognizing in myself and didn’t fully understand. In the early 90s everything and everyone was straight. The ‘alternative’ movement, although rebellious and progressive in all its myriad forms was a heterosexual revolution. Boys ruled, girls followed – we wore cords and had semi-manufactured dirty shagged hair – I used some kind of styling mudd, Janeane went in for rosemary oil. It was refreshingly filthy in contrast to the neon and harshly megalomaniacal vertical lines of the 80s, but it was stick dick straight. I still felt like an outsider amongst the outsiders. I knew I was queer, that there was so much more happening in me than anyone was talking about, and I found solace in Bob’s music. Songs like “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” spoke to my helplessness, and it wasn’t like I felt like singing that song to another person – it was like I was singing it to the world. If I can’t change your mind then no one will.
I did meet Bob eventually, much much later. He came to a show of mine in Washington DC, maybe it was the Warner Theatre. He was the first person to stand up at the end to give me a standing ovation. Rarely am I as starstruck as I was that evening. It was difficult for me to perform but I got through it. I just kept thinking, Bob Mould is right there. He is right there. He gave me his email address, and there were a few hasty correspondences, but we lost touch. Later we performed together at a benefit for Wedrock, put together by my friend John Cameron Mitchell, and we said a brief hello, but it was busy and loud and crazy and he was at the beginning and I was at the end and it’s hard sometimes at those big events to hang out with people, even those you worship.
Anyway, the book! The book!! Oh god – the book! Bob’s new book, “See a Little Light: A Trail of Rage and Melody” is the rock autobiography of all time. Usually rock autobiographies are good reading, fairly thin on revelation, especially for avid fans like myself, but because much of Bob’s life has been hidden from public view, as explained by the author as a personal choice, until now, this – his story in his words – is all new information. I held the book (in kindle form thankfully for my eyes and back) in my hands and nonstop read it for a record three days. I was also very sick, some kind of creepy Scottish flu had gotten into my skin, raising bumps like Braille on my arms as fever wracked my nerves. The book was a great comfort, and I escaped my illness and felt it less and less as his life unfolded. I read many passages over and over, thought about how many of the people in the book I knew, how all the events he described were for me those I viewed at a distance. The book reminded me, in the simplest and truest way, that we all live in the same world, and that in the best times and the worst times, we are in this whole thing together. Bob, true to his power as an inimitable lyricist, is also a tremendous storyteller, as well as quite an adventurer. Even though his demeanor (and ruthless self incrimination) claims shyness, he’s lived harder and more fearlessly than most of the loudmouth bon vivants I know, and his experiences are an inspiring lesson in how to be and how to rock – from music to sexuality to being a man to being an artist to being an icon. I hope I can see some of his readings and performances on his tour. He’s going to my favorite places – but I’ve already missed him at Largo which breaks my heart in too many pieces to collect them back up again. I missed it – I will never get over it. He’s also going to be at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, another beloved place I play and go see friends play. If you see Bob, say hi for me, and Bob – if you read this, I love you.