Script for February 2002, QMH:
Welcome to tonight's show. I've got several new CDs by gay artists to spotlight tonight, and I've got interviews with those artists to go along with it, and I also plan to dig into some queer music history as well. First up is an artist I would, I guess, put in the singer-songwriter category, but his writing and performances seem to transcend that simple title. His name is Tom McCormack and he's released three CDs over the last ten years. His latest CD is called "Running With Light" and before I tell you more about him, let's hear a song from that album, it's called "Called Out of Hiding."
Tom McCormack - called out of hiding (1991)
You just heard "called out of hiding" by Tom McCormack, from his CD called "Running With Light." I was able to interview Tom recently and quiz him about is music. Tom, tell us about your new CD.
Running with light is a very simple recording. It was purposely made very bare bones, very intimate, very kind of naked. Some of the songs on there were one-take songs, we're not talking about elaborate production, but I think the power of the recording is in its simplicity. A lot of people have commented on how deeply the recording has affected them, and I was always somewhat taken aback or surprised by that because it was so simple produced. But I guess that just means it doesn't have to be a big production in order to have an impact.
And, how would you describe your musical style?
My musical style on this cd is ah it's kind of singer-songwriter, pop, spiritual, I wouldn't call it contemporary Christian but it definitely has strong spiritual elements in it. The recording was originally produced in conjunction with a spirituality workshop at which I was performing and I wanted to have some sort of release available at the workshop so that my music could get out there
who is audience?
My audience, god, sometimes I feel sort of schizophrenic I have such a diverse audience um when I first did running with light I had produced it for a spirituality workshop and a lot of my background had been in music ministry so I definitely have a contingent of audience that is more from a spiritual bent, if you will. A lot of my other music has been just sort of basic pop, pop-rock, singer-songwriter kind of acoustic material. And so my audience has also included people of all different ages and persuasions who like that kind of music. And then after my coming out, particularly after the release of my cd "missing," I gained a large gay following and I also began to perform at a lot of colleges sometimes under the heading of gay performer and sometimes not, so I have a fair number of college students who are in my database as well.
In addition to Tom's music, he's made some other contributions as well. In 1995 he and Michael Mitchell co-founded the Gay & Lesbian American Music Awards, the GLAMAs. I first met Tom in 1999 at the 3rd Annual awards in New York City, where I was honored to have been asked to be a judge. For several years the GLAMA organization provided wonderful exposure and recognition to our artists. Another organization that Tom was involved with was Outmusic, and he mentioned that when he answered my next question.
Tom, is it important for you to be out?
I first discovered Outmusic in 94, it was right around the time of my releasing rose-colored glasses. And I'll never forget, I met Patrick arena there and I made the comment to him that you know, why would anyone want to be out as an aspiring recording artist. To me it just seemed a ludicrous and foolish idea, and I made to comment to Patrick, you know, I want to succeed. And Patrick just laughed, he just laughed at me, and I thank him for that, and he said "so do I" and he said "as far as I'm concerned it's too late to go back" and it wasn't until I heard Y'All perform at an open mike at Outmusic, and they just blew me away, I forget what song they sang, but it just totally blew me away, totally blew me away, and it gave me the nerve to get up and perform my song "in secret" and then starting then, gradually, it really took hold of me that this was an important part of my identity of who I am and who I was, as a person and has an artist, and to not incorporate tat into my creative life was probably creative suicide. So I developed that attitude about being out as an artist and I think that's why it's important, creatively. You know it's also important for other reasons, personally, politically, but you know as a creative person to not be out, to not be out in my professional life and my creative life is the same as just putting a dam and blocking that creative flow.
Of what song that you've written are you the most proud?
I think the songs that I'm the most proud of are probably the ones that actually feel I have the least claim on, creatively, there are some songs that have just sort of written themselves, were some sort of gifts that came from somewhere. I know early on in my songwriting when I was younger I remember hearing something attributed to michelango where he talked about sculpture, his sculpture and that all he was doing was releasing what was already in the stone and I had this same sort of feeling that the songs really aready existed and it was just my job to identify them and pull them out and give them a voice. One song in particular that this applies to is called "everything." Which is on "running with light", and the song "everything" came out of an experience that I had, this was long before I was accepting the fact that I was gay. I had gone to this party and had just found myself just incredibly attracted to and I came home not knowing what to do with this feeling, feeling very frightened and yet at the same time very excited and I basically started praying and I said I don't want to run from this, whatever it is, it's too big to run from and give me the courage to just sort of face this, to understand this, and I sat down at the piano and I just started playing and singing what was in my heart and that song "everything" came out start to finish, I never went back and rewrote anything, I just started singing it and I wrote it down immediately after and it never changed after that. and I've often thought of it as my theme song because it so closely speaks to the heart of who I am and my journey and my yearning. An interesting thing, when I recorded that song, for "running with light" I was trying to record one of the other songs on the album and having difficulty and my engineer, garrott cusio, said you know just take a break, just play something else to get that song out of your head, so I just started playing this song, not intending that this was, you know, recording, I didn't even know if he was just running tape, and I played it and I looked at him when I finished, through the glass, and just looked at me with this stunned look and he came into the studio and he just gave me this big hug and he said "that was awesome," and I said, please tell me you had the tape recorder running, and he did thank god, but it was a one-take deal and he said I know exactly where you're coming from and he had tears in his eyes, it was just a remarkable experience.
Here is his song "everything"
Tom McCormack - everything (1991)
Another contribution Tom has been making to our society is a series of programs he's been giving at colleges, where he gets to use his music to educate the audiences about gay issues. The presentation is called "Hate Speech and Love Songs," and he describes it this way.
"hate speech and love songs" is a program that I do at colleges across the country and it's been an amazingly rewarding experience. I was showcasing at a conference of college campus activities personnel and I was showcasing as a musical performer but one who happened to also be gay, you know I was out in my performance and someone approached me afterwards, he was programming a peace and social justice series at a small catholic college in new England and he said I do this speaker series and I would really love for you to come and be part of it, and I said "I don't speak, I sing, I play, but I don't speak" and he said, no, no, you can do music, you can do whatever you want basically, I just want a gay person's perspective, and it took a long time for this school to accept this concept of this openly gay man coming to this catholic college. There was a tremendous amount of resistance, it took about a year and a half before they actually brought me in. and it was very successful, and I found that there were other schools out there that were looking for a program such as this. It deals with my own experience as a gay man, my coming out, my growing up. I don't speak as a victim, I don't speak as an expert. I just simply speak from my own experience and I use music as sort of chapter headings and sort of jumping off points. Music has a way of getting to the hearts of people more quickly than the spoken word, so the two of them together are very effective. I've performed it at state schools, I've performed it at tiny little religious schools and I'm always impressed and surprised by its impact, and I'm grateful for that
One of the songs he written for those presentations is called "Stigmata." I think it's a very powerful song. It's never been released as a recording but Tom had given me a copy of it along with permission to air it on this show. So I guess this is probably a world radio premier of the song, and I thank Tom for that. I'll let Tom describe the song before we hear it.
the song "stigmata" grew from my work with "hate speech and love songs" I had been already been doing the program for several years and I was in the process of doing a mailing or something and the image came to me of stigmata, um, you know sort of these mysterious marks, that seem to speak of violence yet they were something much much more profound, at least that's what people believe stigmata to be, I don't know, I've never had it. And this was after Matthew Shepard's murder, and I wasn't writing about Matthew Shepard, but his experience certain informed the writing of this song
- stigmata (2002)
Also, be sure to listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Saturday night at midnight on KPFT, it'' Queer Radio, with attitude. And This is a good time to mention that since there are often many obscurities heard on this show, I thought those on the internet would like to be able to see photos of the artists and recordings, and view the playlist. You can do that at www.queermusicheritage.com.
Next up is a brand new CD by one of my favorite artists, Mark Weigle. Mark released his first CD, called "The Truth Is" in 1998, and it immediately became what I consider to be one of the essential CDs in anyone's collection of queer music. Mark has the ability to write wonderful openly gay lyrics that just speak to our hearts, and to surround those lyrics with his folk-country style and make them memorable. His follow-up CD in 2000 was called "All That Matters," and it was equally masterful. I'm also honored that over the last few years Mark & I have become good friends, which makes following his career even more satisfying. So I've been waiting with anticipation for his latest release, and to say the least, I'm not disappointed. I've got one of the first copies of it, and Mark also sent along some recorded comments on the songs. He knows me well enough that I would be immediately bugging him for comments if he didn't provide them. The new CD is called "Out Of The Loop" and here's Mark telling us about the song "Have I Told You In The Last Five Minutes"
Mark Weigle - have I told you in the last five minutes (2002)
Mark Weigle - cody (2002)
Those two songs were called "have I told you in the last five minutes" and "cody." On Mark's new album he did something that I think is really special, but to tell you about it I have to give you some background. In 1974 an artist named Steven Grossman released the first openly gay album on a major label. The album was called "Caravan Tonight" and it was on the Mercury label. By far my favorite song on the album was called "out," and I've played it often on this show. Unfortunately, this album was Grossman's only release and he died of AIDS in 1994. What Mark Weigle did that I think is really neat is that his new CD features a duet on the song "out" using Steven Grossman's recording of it. I think it's a wonderful way to pay tribute to one of our pioneers. Here's Mark's comments on this song.
Well, doing the song "Out" is sort of one of the things in my career that keeps me satisfied when it's all said and done and when I'm 80 I can look back and say, you know, that was really cool. My story with that song when I was like 20 and just coming out and not out to my parents yet, my first ever lover had this song on a cassette, and there was no label on it, he didn't know who it was. And I was already into singer/songwriters, Fogelberg, Lightfoot and all these guys, and here was this great singer and this great well-written song, and it was speaking to exactly to where I was at in my life then about coming out, and I was just blown away. It was really an important song for me.
And then years later I was writing songs
myself and met Blackberri, himself a gay musical pioneer, and the
first night we hung out together he said, "oh, have you heard
Steven Grossman?" And I said, no, and he put this LP on and I
was just floored that that was the song, and it was called "Out,"
and it was by Steven Grossman. And Steven was on Mercury Records doing
this incredibly out, lyrically out gay music. So he's definitely a
pioneer, so it's a real honor to do this song and I think a lot of
folks that knew his music will be hopefully pleased to hear this.
Mark Weigle & Steven Grossman - out (2002)
That was Mark Weigle and Steven Grossman singing the song "out", from Mark Weigle's new CD called "Out of the Loop." Now, I mentioned that Grossman died in 1994. A few months before his death some of his friends helped him record about a dozen songs, and these songs have never been released. They were recorded with just bare acoustic tracks, and the intent was to take the tracks into the studio and add fuller arrangements to them, so that an album could be produced. This was done with about four of the tracks, and then the project lost steam and financing. Richard Dworkin is one of the people working on that project. Some of you may recognize his name, especially if you read album credits, as he's played drums for Doug Stevens & the Outband, the Alix Chilton Band, and has been a session artist on a large number of other releases. And he was also Michael Callen's lover, and he produced the postumous album of Michael's work called "Legacy." Dworkin and Grossman were roommates in San Francisco. My point in this explanation is that I owe a big thanks to Richard Dworkin and Mark Weigle for the next song you'll hear, since Mark arranged for Richard to send the song to me, so that it could be played on this show. The song is one of the Steven Grossman tracks from 1993, and it's never been played on the radio before anywhere. Here is Steven Grossman singing his song called "steps"
Steven Grossman - steps (1993)
Again, that was an unreleased recording by Steven Grossman, called "steps."
Up next is a group from Philadelphia that bring power pop to queer music. The name of the group is the Bootlickers and you'll find out how they picked that name in a few minutes. The group is comprised of vocalists John McNeill and Ed LeBlanc, guitarist Paul Sinclair, and drummer June Bromley. Their first release came out in 1998 and was called "Universal Nancy." But first let's hear a song from their new CD. The CD is called "Huge" and the song is "love comes back"
Bootlickers - love comes back (2002)
That was the Bootlickers singing "love comes back." I recently interviewed the group and Ed answered the first few questions, starting with an introduction of the group.
This is Ed, the name of the CD is "Huge," cause it is huge, which one of us is hugest? John McNeill is the lead guy. He does lead vocals, plays guitar, does the keyboards and strings on the album. He's responsible for all the writing that was done on the album. Paul Sinclair plays rhythm guitar, does backup vocals. June Bromley is our drummer and the person in charge of glamour, always need one of those, and myself, Ed LeBlanc, I play bass and sing background vocals as well.
How would you describe your style?
Well I guess basically we're catchy pop rock, yeah, we're kind of whores for a good hook. The Philadelphia had a quote about us and they anyone who thinks gay music is just about rehashed disco and granola rock need only listen to the Bootlickers. And another paper said that if we were a cocktail mix, we'd probably be one part Go-Go's, two parts the Beatles, and a dash of Dollywood.
Are you full time musicians or do you juggle other careers?
[This is Ed]. Well, until we sell our first million CDs of course we're going to have to work at doing something. We've got the run of the mill kind of jobs, you know, one of us strips, the other fluffs, we have two supermodels in the group, so until you all buy our CD out there, we're saddled with these terrible jobs.
John fielded the next couple of questions. Is it important for you to be out?
Well, it's important for us to be ourselves, and what we are are three gay males and a transgendered male to female, and we don't hide that. We go out and we play, we play to a mixed crowd, and everybody seems to love the music, and have no problem with it. From a songwriting standpoint, it's predominantly in first person, and I think that gives it a more universal appeal. And there's not really any conscious choice when I'm writing, that's just how I tend to write. I personalize things and I think that in doing so that makes it more universal. And our audience, be they gay, straight, lesbian, transgendered, whatever, I hope that they can get something out of it, apply it to their life, and just generally enjoy the music, enjoy the sentiment, and leave the show having a great time, or listen to the album, and want to hit Play again.
Well, a lot of people are going to be curious as to how you came up with the name Bootlickers, can you tell us about that?
This is John. When we first started we basically just got together and played, we didn't have much of an intention of becoming a group. We had a friend who was organizing a gay music festival called Queerstock, the first Queerstock, and we were asked to perform. He knew we used to get together and jam, and said you guys should play. So, here we were, we weren't even a band with a name, and we had to perform, the performance was coming up in less than a week, so, we had gone to a local gay bar, and we were seeing another gay band, this band called Size Queen, who were fantastic. So here we are at the bar, seeing this great band, having a few drinks, some cocktails, whatever, people were buying us drinks, you know, we're sort of like bar floozies, having a great time, you know, networking, just sucking up the sounds, and we come across the local Philadelphia weekly that's sitting there. I think it was the Philadelphia Welcome Mat. And there was a feature article on personal ads. Well on the front page there was this big personal ad. And in big letters it says "looking for an ass-kicking, bootlicking blah blah blah. Well, I think we all saw it at the same time, and we all just started cracking up. We were kind of looped, having a great time, and the moment was right, and we had to play in less than a week, we were under pressure, that's it, that's the name, bootlickers. So we played the gig and we thought we'd keep it for just that one gig. Well, the gig went well, we got more shows from it, and we didn't really take the time to change the name, and then people started remembering it, and it kind of snowballed
Okay, I mentioned that the Bootlickers had a CD in 1998. It was called "Universal Nancy." That was a CD I liked right away, so I want to play a couple songs from it. One of the songs is called "Stephen" and John talked about this song when I asked this next question.
Of which song that you've written are you the most proud?
I'd say "steven." From our first CD "Universal Nancy." It kind of, it was one of those songs that just kind of took on a life of its own. When it was written it was totally written in real time. It just sort of flowed out. And when we recorded it, I don't know, it just sort of became something beautiful "Steven" is about my ex-boyfriend's best friend growing up. And you know they knew each other from when they were two years old, went through school together, and came out together, Steven had come out first, and Steven was always sort of a role model for my ex. Well, when they were in college Steven had contracted AIDS and eventually passed away. I had never actually met him, my ex would speak of him, and when he spoke of him it was like he was revered. It was really powerful and it was really amazing, and I felt as if I knew him. And I felt like I really missed out having not ever met him. So when I went to write the song it was the easiest thing I ever wrote. It was, it was, it was obvious that it should have been written, and it was pretty amazing, so I guess it wasn't just..i don't want to sound new age, but it wasn't like my songwriting flowing through me but there were other energies there. It was the energy of my boyfriend at that time and just kind of a powerful presence, it's very odd, that I felt, having never even known him. So it was a tribute to a really beautiful person.
Bootlickers - stephen (1998)
That was the song "stephen" from the album "Universal Nancy." My other favorite song from that album was called "sure of you" and I asked John to tell us about how he wrote that song.
This is John. When I was growing up my favorite favorite character in books in the world was Winnie the pooh. I loved Pooh, and I had a favorite quote from Pooh, from when I was quite young. As I got older I started reading more mature literature, though no more important than Pooh. One of the things I started reading was the series by Armistead Maupin, "The Tales of the City," which are just fantastic, and I was mesmorized by them, and loved them, loved all the characters, couldn't put them down. And I remember getting to the last book. It was called "Sure of You." and instantly it kind of triggered my favorite Pooh quote. So I opened up the book, disappointed yet excited because it was the last book in the series, and I look inside and right there is the source of inspiration for the title of the book, and don't ya know, it's from "The House on Pooh Corner," by A. A Milne, and it's my favorite quote from childhood: Piglet siddled up to Pooh from behind, "Pooh," he whispered. "Yes, Piglet?" "Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw, "I just wanted to be sure of you." And it's just the greatest quote .it's so beautiful, and I read the book, and the book was beautiful, and I had to just write a song, it was like two great tastes, chocolate and peanut butter, and I had to put that peanut butter cup into a song. So I wrote a song and I had to make it a really loving and beautiful song, and fun, and I came up with "Sure of You." it's written about a boyfriend, I didn't have one at the time, so it's written about a idealized kind of boyfriend. There's a lot of joy and happiness and just love in it and it's a little campy at times. And it goes over really well live, people jump around, they sing to it and people always come up and quote a certain part of the song, always, always, and I think they probably always will, let's see it goes .[sings a verse] I guess it's a song that makes people happy. It's kind of nice to have a song that makes people happy.
That was real nice, thanks, let's hear the whole song
Bootlickers - sure of you (1998)
Bootlickers QMH ID
That was from the Bootlickers album "Universal Nancy" and was called "sure of you." And I want to thank them for the really neat show ID they did for me. I'll be using that again. I'm going to bring things back the present and play one more song from their new release, to close out the show. But before I do, I want to thank you all for tuning in to the show, and I want to thank Tom McCormack, Mark Weigle, and the Bootlickers for their interview comments. If you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write to me. This is JD Doyle for Queer Voices on KPFT in Houston, and I'll be back on the 4th Monday of next month with another installment of Queer Music Heritage.
So, as promised, from their CD called "Huge," the new album by the Bootlickers, here's a song by them called "Hope."
Bootlickers - hope (2002)
total time: 59:00