When I was seven I used to read a magazine entitled ‘Big.’ Despite what the name suggests ‘Big’ wasn’t a periodical concerning generously endowed males, but a teeny-pop rag along the lines of Smash Hits or the later, disappointing epistle ‘Top of the Pops’ Magazine.
Yes, before the age of eight I was a dedicated follower of what my mother still refers to as “The Hit Parade.” My favourites were Bros, a two piece consisting of leather jacket wearing, gelled haired brothers Luke & Matt Goss, formerly a three-piece that also included their weedy bass-playing school friend Craig Logan. Around the time this particular story takes place the brothers Goss had recently kicked out the aforementioned Logan and were embarking on the recording of their second album ‘The Time,’ which, according to Wikipedia would make it 1989.
Flicking through Big one day I was struck by a new feature entitled Fan’s Corner, dedicated entirely to fans. Each week the editors of Big invited a different fan to tell their readership about their devoted, and frankly scary, obsession with the various pop bands of the world.
The first month they featured Sarah, a self-declared Bros-ette, who had 34 posters of the brothers Goss on her bedroom wall, a copy-cat red neckerchief and ‘a bit of symmpathy for Craig, but Matt was still her fav!” Sarah was a teenager, the height of coolness, but I felt that maybe I could compete. A quick check of my walls told me that I now had 33 posters of Bros, and if I just flipped over that Smash Hits one of the London Boys that’d make 34. Besides I was bound to get a few more before too long, things were looking up. Not only that but I had their album ‘Push’ on tape, and the new single ‘Cat Amongst the Pigeons’ (with their cover of Christmas fav ‘Silent Night’ on the B side). I also knew that debut single ‘I Owe You Nothing’ had bombed at Number 80 in the official UK chart and it was only after the success of ‘When Will I Be Famous’ that the re-issue became their first, and though I was not to know it then, last UK Number One.
I felt confident that it would be own beaming mug on the back page on Big (hahaha – Big) the following month and so went to my mother with what I can only imagine was the same intense, nauseating look on my face as the little boy in Love Actually and said: “Mum, I really want to do this.”
My mother sat down on my bed and read through the article. My heart raced. Her first words were a set-back:
“But she’s already done Bros. You can’t do Bros as well.”
Somewhere in my mushy pink Bros-loving heart I knew she had a point. I’d known all along. I hated Sarah and her neckerchief. Why didn’t I get a neckerchief? But I wasn’t be deterred, Fan’s Corner was my destiny, and I had still has a trump card.
“Well, I’ll do Michael Jackson then.”
Oh yeah. OOOOh yeah! Not content with worshipping teenage girls’ favourite Bros, or gay synth pop act The London Boys, I, a seven year old boy was also into Michael Jackson (though admittedly the first time I saw a picture of him I had asked my mother if it was Madonna). Yes, I was a huge Jacko fan, I even owned a copy of Bad on tape.
My mother looked slightly desperate. She didn’t want to my break my pink mushy heart. But then she didn’t want to raise a fucking embarrassment either, and though it hurt me at the time I will thank her forever for what she did next.
“I’m not sure if you’re a … what they’re looking for.” She picked up Big and started to read me some of the questions they’d asked Sarah.
“How many Bros LPs have you got?” Sarah’s more than adequate answer followed, detailing tapes, records, bootlegs, imports and rarities. My mother looked at her poor, pathetic, gender confused little boy and said, “what could you say about Michael Jackson: ‘I’ve only got a tape.'”
She continued with the article, now substituting ‘Bros’ for ‘Michael Jackson.’ I had become an interviewee and my mother the harshest interrogator I was to face for next 15 years.
“Have you seen Michael Jackson in concert? No, I’ve only got a tape.”
“Have you ever written to Michael Jackson? No, I’ve only got a tape.” Oh, why why why must she persist with the tape?
“Are you a member of the Michael Jackson fan club? No, I’ve only got a tape.”
“Have you got Michael Jackson’s autograph? No, I’ve only got a tape.”
“Have you ever met Michael Jackson. No I’ve only …”
“Ok, mum, stop!” My lip trembled. Why did I think I was a match for Sarah? She and her mate Carly had once touched Luke Goss on the shoulder. I looked at my mother, her eyes filled with pity, mine with tears.
“I don’t have a mother” I screamed.
“No,” she replied “you’ve only got a tape.”