She was 13 years-old when the sight of Mick Jagger first made Alyssa Royse tingle. And she’s been chasing the tingle ever since.
In 1983 I was a shy, awkward girl with a rich inner-life that no one would have known about because I didn’t like to talk to other people all that much. (So, pretty much nothing has changed.) I had not yet discovered drugs and sex, but would often skip school to ride my bike the 13 miles around Mercer Island and then go sit on the beach at Luther Burbank park devising elaborate plans to leave home and become a famous writer. (I’m still working on that writer thing.)
It required a great deal of “meditation” to pass an entire school day alone, and a great deal of planning to arrive home at exactly the right time. Not to mention a great deal of acting to eagerly leap and catch the phone to pretend it was a boy when the attendance office called to tell my parents I wasn’t in school.
My route home often involved stopping at the library, to get books, which were my constant companion on these solitary days. But we had just gotten a VCR, and I sometimes checked out a movie. On this particular day, there was nothing I wanted to watch, so I grabbed the Rolling Stones’ concert video from their 1982 Let’s Spend The Night Together tour.
I did not know, as I biked across the funky wooden bridge that snaked through the swampy Ellis Pond, that my life was about to change, forever.
I went into my parents bedroom, (they had the VCR in their room, why, I don’t know, but it seems so typical upon reflection,) and popped the tape in. I sat on top of their immaculately made bed, leaning up against the coordinating pillows at the headboard, and began watching.
I was confused. Why was the main dude wearing baseball pants and knee pads? I checked the back of the box and was reminded that his name was Mick Jagger, but there was no mention of a past career as a baller. But as he began dancing, and diving to his knees with athletic hip-thrusts, I found myself edging closer and closer to the foot of the bed. Eventually, Mick had his shirt off, and was on his knees, thrusting straight towards my newly opened mind, as I sat on the floor, leaning against the bed, eyes wide, knees fallen open and being breathlessly introduced to a feeling that I would later know as “ready to get down, go down and stay down with him.”
It would still be YEARS before a man would introduce me to the tiny and hidden parts of my anatomy that can trigger that feeling immediately, but it will always be Mick who was the first guy to make me tingle in ways that were foreign and intoxicating and felt so much better than the morose longings of a girl who wanted to be anywhere other than where she was.
Indeed, with him, the only place I wanted to be was watching him move around, gyrate, thrust, sweat, scream out with passion I’d never known. I would ride over that wooden bridge countless times to go renew the tape at the library. Eventually, I told them I lost it. Or the dog ate it. Or something. I never gave it back. I couldn’t.
Prior to Mick, my musical taste was what one would expect from such a girl at such a time, in her rich, white suburb. (If only we’d had the label “emo” then. I was oh so “emo.”) Culture Club, Duran Duran, Thompson Twins and other sugar coated meaningless drivel.
I had, in fact, kissed a boy by this time. He was pretty and popular, he wore socks that matched his Izods. Sometimes 2 Izods, collars upturned, shoe-laces changed to coordinate with the collars, and the socks. I liked him because I was supposed to.
But he was no Mick. He didn’t make me tingle. Looking at him, or thinking about him didn’t fill me with thoughts of what the future me would do in the world. I know it’s asking a lot from a 13 year-old, but Mick bit me, and I wasn’t going to settle for less than that feeling. Not in my loins, my heart, my mind, my dreams.
It wasn’t long after the Mick biting that my taste in boys shifted to the darker. I started gravitating towards the artists and musicians. Still a solitary thinker, they had to be smart, creative and kind. (Again, nothing has changed. I never went through a “bad boy” stage, because, WHY?)
And it was one of those boys who introduced me to Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin was trans-fucking-formational. If Mick had shown me the possibility of a world in which I was fully alive and turned on, my love for Mick had delivered me to that world, and that world was Led Zeppelin.
That world is STILL Led Zeppelin.
If you think you can tell the difference between the look on my face when I’m having an orgasm and the look on my face when I’m listening to Jimmy Page’s guitar wail as it is stroked by Robert Plant’s voice, you don’t know me.
I never forgot Mick, don’t get me wrong. If it weren’t for him, I don’t know if I even would have known my clitoris was a thing, until my 30’s. That quest to figure out what made THAT feeling was, literally, a spiritual quest for adolescent me.
It wasn’t about just the physical sensation that, years later, I would realize was my clit illuminating the tiny green light saying “go here, follow this feeling.” (It was much later that I learned that listening to that message was not always wise.) It was a desire to feel “turned on” in all regards. I recognized, at that age, that feeling alive meant, well, feeling things. All the things. It meant the ability to dream and fantasize, to devise plots to make dreams come true. To soothe myself, when the world around me didn’t. To get through pain and loss and fear and be able to sing about it, in whatever way I sing my song of self. Being alive meant being one with everything that I wanted in, for and around myself. It was awareness of the power that I have, and wanted to be around. It was a quest, sparked, and impossible to stop.
Like all the best loves, they showed me something about me, inside of me, that I wanted to become.
Zeppelin led me to Hendrix. Which led me to Janis Joplin. Which somehow lead me to The Grateful Dead, because everyone needs down time. It also, somewhat oddly, led me to The Talking Heads (via, I believe, the Ramones and what would become a very deep exploration of CBGB and that whole scene.)
The Talking Heads became my next great destination. They were like my vacation home in the country of my soul. I could go there to relax, have silly, costumed dance-parties with my imaginary friends made through future literary triumphs. David, Tina and I would entertain friends while cooking food and inevitably evolving into an enlightened food-fight as we congratulated ourselves on our ability to stay young and goofy despite our age and tribulations. (As I said, very rich fantasy life.)
The Talking Heads and entire CBGB scene led me to punk, and even the nonsensical silliness of Frank Zappa. It led me too far, to Laurie Anderson, which, to my ears, was all posing nonsense just trying to make an impression.
She was the double upturned collars of the musical world to me. And would send me screaming back to the raw reality of Zeppelin. I just wanted to be where things were real. Where I could not escape all the feelings.
And I have never comprised on that. I still chase that feeling. I look for that initial tingle, in all things. That feeling I first got from Mick. And as I follow it, I look for that enlivened soul-sigh that is Zeppelin. I look for it in friends, business opportunities, my own writing, and of course, dating. (Well, when I was single.)
Does it make me tingle? If no, no go. If yes, go see what you find. If I go in and I find the Thompson Twins, I’ll be glad I looked, but walk away. All trend, no traction. If I go in and find Zeppelin, I’ll stay.
When I am counseling both friend and clients, we talk about the tingle. I always talk about the tingle. Whenever people are at a crossroads, I ask them to identify the parts of their body in which they feel something when they think about the possibilities. Then we work to identify the feeling.
I got that from Mick. When I was 13.
I’m all grown up now. Mick still makes me tingle. I don’t spend as much time with him as I do with Led Zeppelin. For me, Led Zeppelin is both church and teacher, still. My “Best Zepps” playlist on my iPod has 36 songs. As in, I had a hard time culling it down.
When my daughter was young, I might have somewhat inadvertently taught her that Led Zeppelin is the best band ever in the history of the universe. I taught her that, it now appears, in the same way that the religious indoctrinate their children with stories about imaginary men creating and ruling the universe. She came home from school one day, with all the anger that an extraordinarily happy 2nd grader can muster, and informed me that Led Zeppelin was NOT in FACT the greatest band ever in the history of the universe, but that was only my OPINION. They were learning the difference between fact and opinion at school, she had apparently presented the fact of Led Zeppelin’s supremacy, only to learn that it was a mere opinion.
I took the opportunity to teach her about finding her own truth, and looking for the tingle. It’s never too early to teach your children to find joy, and be true to themselves.
So here we are. I’m 44, and little has changed. Except that I am hopelessly happy in my life. Still looking at the same water I looked at in my youth.
Still listening to much of the same music. And here’s the most wonderful part; I discovered that the Talking Heads station on Pandora plays mostly Talking Heads, Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. More Zeppelin than the Zeppelin station. And when I’m coaching CrossFit, that’s what we listen to in my classes.
And now everyone knows why.