“My creativity was my outlet, and I never censored myself there”
A love letter to Darren Hayes from Louise Oliver
It seemed a little incongruous for a teenager who was an avid reader of Anne Rice novels and whose musical spectrum included Green Day, Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters to suddenly and without warning become obsessed with Savage Garden. I think I was about 14 when it happened.
I was in the middle of my post-school routine; come home, watch Hey Arnold on Nickelodeon, eat a bowl of cereal and erratically flick through all the music channels for two hours solid. I am surprised my mum didn’t think I had some form of autism. One song made me stop channel hopping.
When you feel all alone and the world has turned its back on you. Give me a moment please, to tame your wild, wild heart……if you need to crash, then crash and burn you’re not alone.
There was this devastating dark haired man with an achingly beautiful voice on the telly. My Coco Pops stalled half way to my face and I became certain he was singing directly to me. It was all angsty as fuck but then I was angsty as fuck.
When the video ended – which, by the way, appears to be set somewhere with faulty electrics that wouldn’t look out of place in a Saw movie (I thought it was the artiest thing I had ever seen) – I learned that this was Crash and Burn by Savage Garden and the man singing to me was Darren Hayes.
I had never heard of Savage Garden up until this moment but I immediately sought out every album they’d made… both of them. Ordering a very rare B Sides CD from Japan for the pocket money crippling sum of £29 was a high point I seem to recall.
Now I should make it clear that liking Savage Garden at this point in my life, in small town Scotland, was categorically un-cool. But again, I was categorically un-cool so I suppose it was an ideal fit.
My teenage years were pretty dreadful. That’s not to say I was neglected, I didn’t have a horrible home life (it was just as dysfunctional as everyone else’s) or was singled out to be bullied more than was standard for the slightly different kids at school.
I was a vampire-loving, poetry-writing, Star Wars watching, musical theatre nerd who bloomed extremely late and disappeared daily into dreams of performing on stage. The problem was that I was desperately uncomfortable in my own skin. Just like everyone else at 14 I had absolutely no idea who I was but for some reason, for me, it felt like a war.
On the surface I pratted about and maintained a sunny disposition but I was painfully insecure, deeply awkward to the point of being a nervous wreck and felt completely unable to talk to anyone about the person I felt I really was.
But there was something about Savage Garden, and specifically front man Darren Hayes, that just reached me. I think, at one stage, I convinced myself I was in love with the man. A couple of my more worldly wise friends who tolerated my sudden and intense infatuation with this band would say “You know he’s gay, right?” I would blink at them and say “what’s your point?”
I completely lost my shit when I put two and two together and realised that he had named his band from a quote from my favourite book “the mind of each man is a savage garden in which all manner of creatures rise and fall, and anthems are sung and things imagined that must finally be condemned and disavowed.” (The Vampire Lestat, page 465….seriously, I told you I was a loser)
Darren Hayes doesn’t know this but he became my best friend in high school. We were totes BFFs, Darren! You introduced me to Prince. PRINCE! Do you have any idea how significant that is?! Of course you do.
The more I got to know you the less alone and weird I began to feel.
The Vampire Chronicles are your favourite books? Those are my favourite books!
You love Star Wars? Shut the front door! l love Star Wars!
Michael Jackson is the best performer in the entire world you say? OK stop it now, this is getting spooky…
Your music has been with me at almost all of my most life changing moments.
When I found out I got accepted to Glasgow University and got my braces off (same day, what a day) I danced around my bedroom to I Want You.
The day that was the beginning of the end of my family unit, I was at a small seaside town in Scotland where my dad had bought – rather controversially – a small flat. When the shit hit the fan I ran out onto the beach with my Discman (remember those?) and blasted The Animal Song into my ears. I stood on that beach and I screamed as loud as I could. Your words and those drums calmed me down.
When I got my heart broken for the first time I was really into the Goo Goo Dolls but it was you I turned to. As I silently cried on the train from Glasgow back to East Kilbride you sang to me and I felt better.
Eventually my obsession calmed down. I calmed down. And in all honesty, before I started to write this blog for LGBT Icons I hadn’t listened to Savage Garden in a very long time. And on reflection, I can honestly say that Darren Hayes and his music were fundamental in making me who I am today. They both helped me to learn to be ok with who I am.
When Darren came out in 2006, I was 21 and had long since left the insane little 14 year old girl behind. When I read the statement he had released that announced that he had married the love of his life, it just so happened that the love of his life was a man named Richard, it made me really happy.
Darren, you once said in an interview that you warred with yourself about your sexuality, that for a long time you didn’t like yourself and your initial coming out saved your life. Well, Darren, old buddy old pal, I want you to know that you saved mine. You see, the thing is, it wasn’t just your talent that saved me but who you are as a person. I am so sorry that for a long time you didn’t know who you were but you should know that the amazing person that you have always been inspired me. As I started to see light at the end of the teenage tunnel I resolved that I would try to be as passionate, creative, ambitious and as good a person as you.
I hope you are comfortable in your own skin now and have the happiness you deserve because you helped me to find the me that fits. That’s why you are my LGBT Icon.