The first time I heard this song, it resonated with me. Even though I'm not gay myself, the lyrics perfectly captured the feeling of wanting to escape from a place where you feel like you don't fit in.
You can hear the longing in Jimmy Somerville's voice as he sings about growing up in a small, narrow-minded town. The other boys used to laugh at how he walked, and he just didn't fit in. As a teenager, I related to that feeling of being an outsider and not quite belonging wherever you were.
When it builds to the chorus, and he sings, "I'm just a small-town boy living in a lonely world, took the midnight train goin' anywhere," it gives me chills every time. You can feel his desperation to get as far away as possible. I've never experienced the kind of intolerance he's singing about, but I think we've all had that dream of just leaving it all behind and starting fresh somewhere new.
The stark synth melody is perfectly gloomy and adds to the melancholy mood. But underneath it all is also a feeling of hope - he's on that train heading where he hopes to find acceptance. Even though it's about a painful experience, it's also ultimately aspirational and inspirational.
It was ahead of its time in bringing mainstream attention to gay themes, too. I have a new appreciation for the song every time I hear it. Even though the lyrics don't describe my experience, the raw emotions resonate with me on a human level. It's truly a powerful piece of music.