Under yr Crown

Local upcoming pretty girl, performance art star, writer and astro-witch Jaime posted something on Facebook asking about what the best thing about being a Leo is. This is a question dear to my heart. We're in Leo season these days, and I am in love with another Leo (who is also a Cancer rising, natch).

Madge: "A meeting of the Leo’s! A Cosmic Convergence!!"

This question of the best thing about being a Leo also reminds me of one of my favorite bands in the world, a crucial queer root for me, The Need. In particular, the 7" record they released in January of 1997 which is maybe my favorite record in the world.

It's six songs, but really two. I mean each side has one bigger song and then two smaller (shorter, I mean) songs. It's kind of a masterwork. "Majesty" and "Crown" are the sort of hits here, they were also recorded for the self-titled CD that came out on Chainsaw later that year (I think?). I remember reading somewhere that they wrote "Crown" and "Majesty" to be about each other (as Leos would) but I can't find the source. The B-sides here are amazing, and were part of the live show for many years, and very important to me as well.

The infamous bloody knuckle sexing poster. 

I remember having a VHS bootleg of a daytime performance they did at a college somewhere, where they played "Crush". I saw this before I had seem them live myself, and before I got the self-titled 7". I only had the Chainsaw album, and "Crush" wasn't on it, and I was obsessed with The Craft (like everyone was) but I was too cool to really fully admit it (because we felt like it was sort of exploitative of, you know, actual Wiccans) and I was thinking about magick and alternate ways of understanding and being in the world because I was 14 and I was starting to think that I was probably queer, that I probably had mysterious urges and desires that seemed scary and suddenly it occurred to me that they could be powerful (this desire, these ways of being) and The Need had a fucking song where the chorus was Rachel chirping "Light as a feather! / STIFF! AS! A! BOARD!" I love "Crush".

"Stiff as a board" isn't even the best part, the best part is the end with the "Do you believe in vibration?" bit. That's the thing about this record and these songs; they're fucking PACKED. Of course The Need was packing back in 1997. There's so many hooks. There're so many catchy phrases and anthemic moments, but they're all strung together. It's a kind of metaphor for the shorthand of emotional intimacy with someone, like inside jokes. It's trusting, like it expects you to follow (and you do).

There's something very Leonine, as well, about the actual material of the songs. It's this thing of abundance, generosity, focus dressed up in extravagant drag as distraction. It's like what I was saying earlier about the sense of being packed full of hooks, gems. It's a fascination. It's a kind of dorkiness, the willingness to get so specific and so tender and lovingly "into it".

In this interview with Plazm Magazine from 1998 they talk about being Leos.
"When a discussion of lesbian pack mentality and gay male isolation prompts Rachel to quip “Each a king in his own domain,” I mention that images of majesty crop up throughout her lyrics and artwork. 
Radio: Well, Rachel’s a double Leo, and I’m a triple Leo. 
Rachel: Leos have pride, they’re attention lovers, they have big egos. Honestly, a common Leo trait is to feed off attention, and it makes perfect sense that we would be in a band together for that reason. Trying to impress one another inspires us. Radio sings me love songs in our practice space-a new one every day. Tomorrow’s the heavy metal Rachel one. I can’t wait. 
Radio: I sing different genres, all about Rachel. She gets this funny look on her face, like she doesn’t know what to think, because I can’t sing very well."
I remember seeing them perform (in 1999? 2000?) in Oakland, at Club Not. That was the warehouse around the corner from the much more widely-known Club Hot!, which is where Seth from Panty Raid and Jenny Legs from Erase Errata lived, where they would often have shows. No, the Need played at the warehouse entrance around the corner, where Luis from Pansy Division lived, called Club Not. It was smaller and felt strange, a little "off" or queer. It was perfect. I remember seeing that both Rachel and Radio had Leo tattoos on their forearms.

Ian from Panty Raid kept requesting "Kathy Qualuude" (one of the songs on this record) and I thought that was such a weird request. But then they DID perform it, and it was fantastic. All of their songs are good songs. It's like you think they focus inward, and they sort of seem to, but it explodes outwards. It shines. Much like the Sun, or the way that diamonds trap light.

After being out of print for many years, you can (and should) download the record HERE.

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