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Dad, Rocket Man and Me

YPRL Staff

28 June, 2024

Dad, Rocket Man and Me...

blog written by Patrick Boyle, author of Queer Icons from Gay to Z.

Until we were able to hit the pub together, my dad and I had shared roughly zero interests.

Growing up in coastal NSW, I was a pasty drama nerd with allergies to sports and outdoor activities of any kind. Dad, on the other hand, is a helicopter mechanic who has lived a big, boisterous life. His coming of age was spent driving and mechanic-ing across every corner of this great southern land, as well as exotic locations like the rainforests of Papua New Guinea and Hua Hin, Thailand. These stubby-clad journeys armed Dad with enough storytelling material to last him a lifetime.

Looking back, I can’t help but wonder what Dad must’ve made of me as a kid. We got along famously; our house was always full of laughter. But I’m sure Dad saw through my feigned passion for State of Origin matches and his sacred Bathurst 1000 weekends. At those beer-fueled summits of family and friends, I could be found holding court in the kitchen with Mum and the rest of the gals.

With all that distinctly Aussie masculinity in the air, it comes as something of a surprise that one thing unites the clearest memories of time I spent with Dad: Elton John. To be more specific: Elton’s output in the early 1970s, namely Madmen Across the Water and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. These two records, along with some select works by Pink Floyd, ABBA, The Corrs and The Chicks, remain the soundtrack to my life.

Before my little gay brain could comprehend anything about boys, or what kind of fun life lay ahead of me, I understood showmanship innately. Elton and his long-time writing partner Bernie Taupin are the GOATS of operatic storytelling. These two albums, theatrical pop classics of my dad’s younger days, are pure camp: soaring Westerns and barnstorming dance numbers that tell three-act tales across two sides of vinyl.

Each Elton track was belted out by Dad, myself, Mum and my sister, on every road trip of my young life. We found ourselves on the Pacific Highway often, zipping between loved ones in Sydney and our home on the Mid-North Coast. These performances in no way resembled the sweet harmonies of The von Trapp Family. Plenty of tantrums and Game Boys were thrown in the backseat of our Commodore, but we all loved singing along to Elton. Dad more than any of us, I suspect.

A few years back, I released a book called Queer Icons from Gay to Z (still available where all good books are sold). It’s a fun, colourful hardback that celebrates LBGTQ+ artists, activists and trailblazers. There was a smattering of press around its release, and more than a few times I was asked something like: “So, who’s your favourite queer icon?” Every time, of course, I would respond that it’s been Elton all along.

I see now that having a shared interest around one camp, rhinestone-studded Brit has brought so much joy to the relationship between me and Dad. Not unlike Elton, we are both storytellers and wise-arses at heart. I still listen to all of that theatrical 70s fodder he raised me on, but I’ve also come to love the folkier Laurel Canyon rock of the same era. Today, Dad and I can be found bonding over our favourite records from Crosby, Stills & Nash and Harry Nilsson. There’s also a shared obsession with Adele’s 2011 set at Royal Albert Hall, but that’s a story for another time.

It brings me endless joy that today, youngies growing up in regional, rural and remote Australia can find openly queer representation through folks in their own community and all the people singing and dancing on their phone screens. For them, I’m truly stoked. But nothing can compare to the unlikely primordial ooze of 70s Rock, Pop and Glam from which I emerged.

All the music that made my dad the bloke he is today, it’s the same music made me who I am.

For that I say: thank you Elton, and thank you Dad.

Queer icons from Gay to Z : artists, activists & trailblazers by Patrick Boyle

After an eternity spent in the closets and on the fringes, queer icons around the world and across history are receiving the recognition they deserve. These pages pay tribute to LGBTQ+ activists, artists, comedians, writers, musicians, Olympic gold medalists, philosophers, poets, drag queens and more. These icons have championed civil rights, radically increased visibility, and offered release through their soul-affirming artistry. Studded throughout this rainbow alphabet are moments of queer history--like the pivotal Stonewall Riots, why there are new and diverse pride flags, and growing LGBTQ+ visibility in the worlds of entertainment, sports and beyond!

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