songs that soundtracked the AIDS crisis: tasmin archer’s “sleeping satellite”

i can still picture us hanging out in his dimly lit room as he sang his heart out to tasmin archer’s “sleeping sattelite.” i didn’t get it. i just didn’t hear what he did. where was the beat? how do you dance to this? what the hell was is it even about? he just said, “it’s about failure. human failure.” still, i didn’t get it.

i cannot remember how he and i met. i think it was at teen night at woody’s, the first gay club i ever patronized. he went to high school with a mutual friend. i didn’t. i was a high school dropout. what i do know is that we entered each other’s orbit sometime in the fall of 1993. we were fast friends. he was a loner and oh-so whimsical. his presence was sporadic but i really didn’t mind. except when he played this damn song!

released in late 1992 in the UK and in the US in early 1993, “sleeping satellite” is the debut single from british singer and songwriter tasmin archer. the song blends pop, rock, and folk and lyrically references the apollo moon missions from 1968-1972. the song’s ethereal production, coupled with archer’s emotive vocal delivery, express a sense of disillusionment. the song’s metaphorical title, “sleeping satellite,” can be interpreted as the untapped potential and dreams of those still holding out for hope in a world that often seems indifferent. 

in 1994, he asked me to accompany him to a doctor’s appointment. i really didn’t think much about it. it was an opportunity to get out of the house and hang out with him, so i was down. we walked into the clinic, and were immediately greeted by a black nurse. she welcomed us, told me to take a seat, and then took him a private room. i waited in the main area. after about 10 minutes, he came back out and motioned towards the exit. we then rushed out into the busy street awaiting us. 

“you will beat this!” “they are working on a cure,” and “i am here for you,” were my replies.

on the way home, he abruptly disclosed that he had just tested HIV positive. at first, there was just silence. then i put all of the inspirational messaging i learned from watching my fair share of “on this very special episode of…” TV sitcoms to use. “you will beat this!” “they are working on a cure,” and “i am here for you,” were my replies. i meant every word but, chyle, i was 17 and doing my best to keep us both from panicking. and in 1994, inspiration and hope was pretty much the only thing that could be offered. 

co-written by tasmin archer, “sleeping satellite” achieved international chart success reaching #1 on the UK singles chart and top 20 in several countries, including the US, in 1993. the same year, the song earned archer a BRIT award for best british breakthrough act.

we kept that day of the clinic a secret from our other friends for weeks. we young people holding a piece of the epidemic on our shoulders. he immediately told his family. they rallied around him as much as a family could in 1994. because they knew that i knew that i was welcomed into the fold. i spent many nights at their house, in his room –  as he blasted “sleeping satellite.”


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