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Stephen Gately was my first crush. When I was 7 I met a girl named Aisha who introduced Boyzone to me. They were a concoction of pre-pubescent dreaminess, tied together with harmony and sporting white t-shirts and denim overalls. Before N-sync strutted in with their dirrrty bubblegum pop and poor-grade CGI futuredome videos, there was Boyzone. Before Simon Cowell decided to show his potato-sculpted face on screen, revealing, like some fantastic magician, the audition process for merry-band-making which was previously hidden behind pages of The Stage, 5 Irish lads were selected to be Boyzone. Before the Internet there was Boyzone. Before Barack Obama there was Boyzone. And they rocked my little world.
The first ever live show I ever didst see was a Boyzone one. It was in Cardiff Arena. Aisha, me and her mum took a train from Bristol to the welcoming arms of a sold out 2000 capacity dream-sanctuary where I was to come face to face, separated by 100meters or so, with my hero. He was almost angelic, perhaps due to the overwhelming use of white polyester, or the overkill of 100W bulb usage (oh the good old days when it was legal to mimic the almighty power of the sun). I look back and realise how wrong it was, for me, as a child, to count how old Stephen would be when I turned 18, just to make sure he could have his wild marriage way with me yet still not be old-man-creepy and get sent to prison. Ok, so what if I didn’t know the legal age for ‘love’ was 16, in those days sex was still the icky with the finger going into the hoop made out of the other hands’ fingers. But at least I was willing to wait; young girls these days would scratch each other’s eyes out with a good size cactus, or hedgehog, to get the 2-finger-deal with Robert Pattinson, of Twilight (lets spend 2 hrs gazing into eyes intensely) fame, or one of the Jonas brothers (not the one who is now married although well done him..with that face...). In my day, it was a little bit more innocent. As we sat on that train to Cardiff, painting our nails, although in hindsight, what a retarded idea that was; strong fumes in a confined space, we literally counted down the seconds until we would see our beloved Boyzone. There was a moment when I swear Stephen caught my eye and yes, hear these words and laugh; it...was...like...he...was...singing...only...to...me. Golly. I don’t remember much else, not even my favourite song or how long the set was. Only that me and Aisha brought matching Boyzone dogtags and thought this was awesome-gee-wiz-cool.
I also remember that the only copy of a Boyzone album I had was a tape, with two sides and everything; they were called side A and side B dontchaknow and it was totally pirated and sold to my Dad at Easton market. I always did feel the shame of my non-legit copy. The printing was a fail on both paper gsm and ink and there wasn’t even any lyrics printed, lyrics as classic as ‘love me for a reason, let that reason be love’.
I grew up and at the age of 13 rejected all my Boyzone love to turn grunge... then slightly goth, then a bit new-age 80’s finally ending my teenage years as very much 50’s. I denounced ever liking pop music; the trout of the fish-aisle, and never did the story of my first gig escape my lips. It was only after the last dreads of Fresher-mentality escaped my being that I truly appreciated my childhood and all the god-awful music that came with it; N-sync, Britney Spears, the Spice Girls (although for some reason Steps will always lurk below appreciation, much like everything that ‘H’ stood for...seriously, it’s like Cluedo with the card in the middle stuck on your opponent’s head, gaping at you...H...H...H...stands for...??? During the time it took me to grow up, Boyzone split up, Ronan declared that life is a rollercoaster and Stephen became Prince Charming in musical theatre. He also came out of closest, shocking girls everywhere and making me question how much tail he got in his Boyzone years, if any, before he decided to bat for the other team. People named him as a hero for gay rights although in my opinion being smoked out of the closest makes you more a hero for battling career-blackmail; an epidemic in our times. Since then, Stephen kept to himself, only releasing singles in sporadic periods of his life, but faithfully did not parade himself in celebrity big brother-stuck-in-a-jungle-cootie-love-island . Ok, so he did go on Celebrity Ice Skating, but that travesty was on ITV which is practically like broadcasting in a desert.
It was only until last week when his name even crossed my mind, and for all the wrong reasons. As I did my daily breakfast routine of a cigarette and reading Sky news on my mobile phone it was announced that Stephen Gately had tragically died on holiday. There were no suspicious causes and an underlying heart condition was suspected. Even though his death has shocked and saddened me, I firmly believe that it was accidental. However I cannot believe that Jan Moir of the Daily Mail managed to squeeze out of her column (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1220756/A-strange-lonely-troubling-death--.html) a large turd of conspiracy theory about drugs, sexual deviance and full on gay-bashing. I shan’t say anymore than what Charlie Brooker has very eloquently put in his comment (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/16/stephen-gately-jan-moir ) except Jan, get back into the kitchen. And I don’t mean that in an anti-feminist way, but in a ‘you’re a friggin cookery writer’ way (for example here is an excerpt of her faboosh writing; ‘incidentally, a Scottish muffin is very different from an English muffin, while the one Americans call and English muffin is what the Scots call a crumpet....Perhaps this baked goods confusion is what lady Gaga is referring to in her song Poker Face, when she sings about ‘bluffin with my muffin’)...well done Jan, well done. (To read the whole of that riveting article about different muff’s – head to Jan’s page in the link above).