From misfit boy to dazzling rock star.
The lead singer of the multiplatinum-selling band Scissor Sisters explores his evolution as a young artist: coming of age in the Pacific Northwest and Arizona, his entry into New York City’s electrifying, ever-changing music scene, and the Scissor Sisters’ rise as they reached international fame in the early 2000s.
Candid and courageous, Shears’s writing sings with the same powerful, spirited presence that he brings to his live performances. This entertaining and evocative memoir will be an inspiration to anyone with determination and a dream.
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Jake Shears is the lead singer of the multiplatinum-selling glam rock band Scissor Sisters. Born in Arizona, he grew up in the Seattle area before moving to New York City, where he studied fiction writing at The New School. He wrote the music for Tales of the City, a 2011 stage musical based on Armistead Maupin’s bestselling book series of the same name, and will join the cast of Kinky Boots on Broadway in the role of Charlie Price in January 2018. Jake Shears recently finished his debut solo album, which will be released in 2018. He divides his time between Los Angeles and New Orleans.
“Wow! So brutally honest and such a really addictive read.”
“On the stage, Jake Shears is a triumphant explosion of unembarrassed carnality and charm. On the page, he's very much the same. Boys Keep Swinging is one courageous joyride of a memoir. It should be illegal for rock stars to write so beautifully.”
“Jake Shears puts it all on the line. He draws you in and you can’t look away. Boys Keep Swinging is the book everyone will be reading and talking about.”
“Boys Keep Swinging goes beyond the origin story behind some of my favorite music...A wild, sexy, emotional ride through underground New York at the millennium. From the fringes to the top, it’s a tale that speaks to the outsider in all of us.”
“This is a beautiful, fascinating memoir by a beautiful guy who has lived a fascinating life—and he has the insights and receipts to prove it. Wonderful!”
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I was born a showman. For years, even my birth played out in my head as a grand entrance. I assumed my mother’s giant stomach had exploded in some public place, followed by a balloon drop, confetti cannons, and people celebrating in the streets. It would have been a mess, a gory birthday party, with a lot of cleanup involved, not to mention my poor mother would have to be put back together.
I haunted all corners of my house, like a jazzy poltergeist with swinging hips and splayed hands. I terrorized my sister’s unsuspecting girlfriends. My favorite catchphrase, ironically, was “I looooooove women!” I was desperate for their revulsion. Ew, your brother is like . . . so gross. But then I would ratchet up the charm, a perfect little gentleman. Aw, he’s so sweet. Where’d you get those blue eyes, huh?
In kindergarten, I told flat-out lies. I confessed that I was very sick, bathing in the concern of my classmates—and especially that of their mothers. God, sympathy was satisfying. One afternoon, my mom picked me up from school and my teacher said she hoped I would get better soon. My jig was up. “You can’t try to make people believe things that aren’t true,” my mom said afterward.
But human pity was preferable to the distant regard my stuffed animals offered. They lined my bedroom shelves and did not bother to applaud my one-man shows, which I performed against the wooden footboard of my bed. No matter how loud I sang they just stared back. Tough crowd.
My imagination was wild and irrational. The first time my mom took me to the doctor for my blood to be drawn, for some unknown reason I thought everyone would be wearing Victorian garb, that I’d be auctioned off to the highest bidder in some antiquated display. I was so sad, thumbing through a booger-ridden Mr. Happy book in the waiting room, thinking it would be the last time I saw my mother. I was relieved that there ended up being no auction, but the drab gray room into which they led me, where two ladies told me I’d feel something like a beesting, still wasn’t half as cool as the Dickensian scenario I had imagined. Unsurprisingly, I cried.
My sisters would get their hair done at a beauty parlor that had a huge painting on its front window of a woman with giant, Medusa-like locks. “Is that what you’re gonna look like?” I remember asking just before they shut the backseat car door in my face. I was disappointed when they finally emerged from the salon, not with giant, freaky hairdos that could barely fit into the car but with simple, feathered blowouts. If only it had been my salon, they would have looked like super-vixens with ashen bushfires encircling their painted faces.
Maybe that was why when I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, the first thing I could think of was a “hairdresser.” I loved going to the barber with my dad, feeling like a big boy riding in the front seat. My first haircuts were from a vampy woman outside the Phoenix suburbs by way of sleepy desert side roads. She had long black hair and smoked as she cut, a cigarette clamped between her lips while I sucked on my binky.
Later, my regular barber spot was in the entryway of a Smitty’s grocery store. When I sat in the chair, a very tan, wrinkled man would ask me if I wanted “the G.I. Joe or the Mr. T?” Duh, the Mr. T: He had a Mohawk. My dad, as if he believed the barber were serious, tapped his shoulder and said, “Just a regular cut is fine.” I was crestfallen when we left. My hair looked like it always did.