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Love Letter To A Record: Hayley Mary On Cyndi Lauper’s ‘She’s So Unusual’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Hayley Mary – Cyndi Lauper, ‘She’s So Unusual’(1983)

I had just finished high school, and broke up with my high school boyfriend (the kind who you would take home to mum), to embark on a fling with a bit of a bad boy (who you probably wouldn’t), the kind that wore exclusively black and was covered in tattoos (they were still slightly taboo then).

We had decided to run away from our hometown of Byron Bay to Sydney and drove my gold 1980’s Nissan Pulsar shit-box down the Pacific Highway, Bonnie and Clyde style. We felt we were in love and were escaping everyone. In some ways, we were…for a little while. Only problem was I was a synth-pop princess and he seemingly only liked aggressive punk rock. But something about getting out of town, the implicit freedom of the isolated coastal road (before iPhones) seemed to free him up, and I felt game to bare my soul a little and share some of my favourite childhood music.

Of all the 80’s divas I could think of, Cyndi was the one I felt least … embarrassed by. (When you are 17, you still think of some of the stuff you liked as a child as ‘guilty’ pleasures, until you grow up and realise you’re ok with just calling them pleasures.) Cyndi’s 1983 album She’s So Unusual happened to be, and still probably is my favourite album. I reached into the glovebox and pulled out the tape my mum had bought at a garage sale in 1988, and hinted at it cheekily, “Reckon we have had enough of Minor Threat for a moment?”

Of course, he knew the hits, ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,’ and ‘Time After Time’, but when I put the tape in and it crackled a moment and then the piercing first organ notes of ‘Money Changes Everything’ ripped through the vehicle, I saw his expectations surpassed with every tune. He loved the entire record; the songs, her voice, the blend of 80’s synth and dirty guitar production. It sounded magnificent to two kids in love running away. It was aggressively feminine, but not in a way that alienated him; in a way he was in awe of. Cyndi Lauper wasn’t just a synth-pop princess. She was a punk.

I realised something important then; that punk was not necessarily just an aesthetic or sound. I wasn’t just about being angry and wearing black, it was something less tangibly measured than that. I still don’t know exactly what it is, but I think it’s an attitude or identity that can manifest in any person, in any genre, in any time, in any system. A spirit of rebellion. When side A finished and I gave him the option to change it, he just flipped it over and rocked on to side B as we drove into the setting sun. It was glorious.

Hayley Mary’s new solo EP, The Drip, is out this Friday 18 June. Pre-save or pre-order here. Then, head here for upcoming tour dates.

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