QMH February 2004 Script
Bisexual Songs, Part 1
(from "Friends") - bisexual song (Season 2, Episode 12,
Welcome to Queer Voices on KPFT and this segment is called Queer Music Heritage. I'm JD Doyle and I'm here on the 4th Monday of each month to bring you an hour devoted to our culture's music. And this is a very special show and a very different one from what I usually do. I decided that I've been neglecting the B in GLBT. So this show will be about Bisexual Songs. Now, I didn't say bisexual artists; I've often played their music, but on this show the lyrics of the songs themselves will deal with bisexuality.
And that's why I started the show with the character Phoebe Buffay, from the TV show "Friends" singing her well-known "The Bisexual Song." And that went right into a very neat parody from the folks at Bob Rivers Twisted Radio. It was a take off on the song "Bicycle Race" by Queen, and was called "Bisexual." And from there I drifted into Herman's Hermits "This Door Swings Both Ways," from 1966. I'm sure the writer of that song didn't intend that meaning for it, but I thought it would work well here.
Okay, what this show will not do is go into the issues and myths surrounding bisexuality. There are plenty of websites on the net that do a great job at that, and I list several of them, along with many Bi activism sites on my February web page. No, this show will be a loosely structured historic approach, and of course I do not claim to know about every bi reference in music, but I hope that what I've found will give a good overview. Oh yeah, I found so many songs that referenced bisexuality that I could not fit them into one show and still do them justice, so this will be a two-parter, and will continue on the 4th Monday in March.
The oldest song I found was by blues great Ma Rainey. I've played her before, when I featured her lesbian classic "Prove It On Me Blues." But I also found one by her called "Sissy Blues," from 1926, and admittedly some of these references are gray areas. She sings
"I dreamed last night I was far from harm /Woke up and found my man in a sissy's arms"
Ma Rainey - sissy blues (1926)
Now that could be interpreted to mean her man was bi. I found a number of songs like that, spanning the last almost 80 years, where the singer was none too happy about their man or woman being with the same sex. I'll get to some of those later, but before we leave the blues era, here's one more quick reference.
Pinewood Tom (Josh White) - sissy man blues (1935)
That was Josh White, singing then under the name Pinewood Tom, and "Sissy Man Blues," a song often recorded in the 30s. His version was from 1935. I don't think in this case he was really trying to get the point across that he was bi, but it seems he was at least open to the idea. It comes across more that he was hard up enough to proclaim "Lord, if you can't send me no woman, send me a sissy man." Perhaps a bit derogatory, but it was the 30s. The blues from the 30s had a casualness toward sexuality, which often extended to homosexual behavior. But you have to take a big leap forward in time to find that again.
In fact, I'm jumping about forty years, to the late 60s, to 1968, when an English group named The Herd released an album called "Paradise Lost." The group name The Herd may not ring a bell with you, but one of its members, Peter Frampton later left to form the group Humble Pie, and then in the early 70s to release his blockbusting "Frampton Comes Alive" LP.
But back to The Herd. Their 1968 album contained an odd track for those times, called "Something Strange." I guess it depends on your definitions as to whether it qualifies as a bi song or a gay song. It's a story about a couple where, in the last verse, the male is tempted into visiting his gay side. I'm including it because it was so unusual for a 60s song. Here's The Herd, with "Something Strange."
The Herd - something strange (1968)
Yes, those gay voices beacon to some new delight. The Herd, with "Something Strange." I'm going to back up a year, to 1967, for one of those references I told you about where the singer didn't really like the idea of their partner crossing that line.
Mitch Ryder- sally go round the roses (1967)
That was Mitch Ryder doing a cover version of the Jaynetts song "Sally Go Round the Roses."
The Jaynetts hit was from 1963 and Mitch Ryder covered in on his "What Now My Love" album, in 1967. It's the first rock example you'll hear where the singer was complaining about his woman looking at love from both sides now. Folksinger Tim Buckley did a very similar take on that song. It appeared on his album "Honeyman," recorded in 1973.
Tim Buckley - sally go round the roses (1973)
Again, that was Tim Buckley, from 1973. But the year before David Bowie was going through his Ziggy Stardust phase, and he had already declared to the press that he was bisexual, which was probably just hype. Anyway, he had recorded the song "John, I'm Only Dancing," which was about a bisexual man dancing with a woman but telling his jealous male lover that there was nothing to worry about...
David Bowie - john, I'm only dancing (1972)
"John, I'm only dancing, She
turns me on, but I'm only dancing." One of my friends in England
tells me that his earliest gay musical memory was seeing David Bowie
on Top of the Pops on television, with his arm draped around fellow
band-member Mick Ronson. There's a famous rock photo of Bowie going
down on Ronson's guitar.
George Melley - good time george (1973)
Okay, now it's 1975 and we're still in England, and the glam-rock group Sweet is very non-judgmental when the lead singer describes his girlfriend as "AC-DC"
Sweet - a.c. -d.c. (1975)
That was a bit of "AC-DC" by Sweet.
[2008 footnote...check out Joan Jett's cover of the above song...:]
Over in Australia the next year the group Supernaut had a huge hit with a song that got right to the bisexual point, called "I Like It Both Ways."
Supernaut - I like it both ways (1976)
"I Like It Both Way" from 1976 by Supernaut.
You many have noticed that we're almost through the seventies and all of the songs I've played were from England or Australia. Where are the American bi songs? Well, the closest we came that I found was the group Gotham. This was a very popular gay group in the 70s & 80s, playing in clubs around the country, doing mostly a pop style. But in 1979 they joined the disco trend with "AC-DC Man." I remember my impression at the time was that here was this gay group who had never recorded anything with gay lyrics, and they figured a safe first step would be to do something with bi lyrics. Well, that was my theory, but it was wrong. I recently had a chance to ask one of the members of the group, David McDaniel, the reasoning behind that song. After we hear a of it, I'll tell you his answer. Here's Gotham.
Gotham - AC-DC man (1979)
Well, here's the reason a very gay group did a bi song. The group Gotham was very popular in the Washington DC area. They would do 3 or 4 months a year there, standing room crowds, year after year, and their audiences, who were mostly straight, loved to be kidded. So they had a routine about Washington AC/DC. Their producers at that time, who also wrote their material, were two straight men, and they wrote the song to capitalize on this popularity.
In 1980 Peter Allen released an album called "Bicoastal." Now, at that time no one had really heard that word, but also not too many people thought Peter Allen was straight, except it seems Liza Minnelli. So, I don't know about you, but when I heard him sing the word 'bicoastal' I thought 'bisexual'. And though the words are seemingly comparing New York and L.A., there is that quick verse near the end that says
All those girls in TV movies
Check it out.
Peter Allen - bicoastal (1980)
Peter Allen going "Bicoastal." He had a very interesting career, which sadly ended due to his death from AIDs in 1992. A Broadway show recently opened portraying Peter Allen's career. It was called "The Boy From Oz," and starred Hugh Jackman.
Also for this show I put together my own medley of bi songs:
Well, that's enough of that foolishness, but this is a good time to remind you to be sure to listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Saturday night from midnight to 4 am, on KPFT, it's Queer Radio, with attitude. Also, I invite you to check out my website, at www.queermusicheritage.com where you can view the play list and see photos of the artists and recordings, and listen to the show
My research of music from the 80s didn't really give me much for this show, but in one of them the singer did not like the bisexual idea at all. In 1983 soul singer Barbara Mason released the song "Another Man." She had a big hit in 1965 with the song "Yes, I'm Ready" and hit on the soul charts in 1981 with one called "She's Got the Papers, I've Got the Man." She makes reference to that title in the intro of her song, "Another Man."
Barbara Mason - another man (1983)
But next is a song that I think deals with the issue in a much more even way. It's by Tom Robinson. Tom is one of my queer heroes. His song "Glad To Be Gay," from 1978, is one of our anthems. But by the early 80s he was questioning his sexuality and slowly realized he was more bi than gay. This got him a lot of very difficult press in England, which may have been what encouraged the BBC in 1984 to commission him to write a song for a television play they were doing on the subject. The play and the song are called "More Lives Than One."
Tom Robinson - more lives than one (1984)
That was "More Lives Than One" and at the time, 1984, it was only available on a single, but now it appears on the reissue of Tom's "Hope and Glory" album.
On to 1989. Gretchen Phillips has been in a lot of groups over the years. She was born in Galveston, Texas, and went to school in Houston, and then moved to Austin. The names of some of her bands are Girls In The Nose, Two Nice Girls, and the Gretchen Phillips Experience. And she's released recordings as a solo artist, and, most recently as a duo, known as Phillips and Driver. As a member of Two Nice Girls she had probably her most success with her very tongue-in-cheek song "I Spent My Last $10 on Birth Control and Beer."
Two Nice Girls - I spent my last $10 on birth control and beer (1989)
That was from the 1989 album simply called "Two Nice Girls."
The first interesting bisexual song of the 90s was just called "Bi." It was by New York City group Living Colour. That group won back-to-back Grammys in 1989 and 1990 for Hard Rock Performance. The song I'm playing is from their 1993 album called "Stain."
Living Colour - bi (1993)
That was "Bi" by Living Colour. Up next is a dash of bi punk. The San Francisco group Sta-Prest released a single in 1995 called "Vespa Sex" and from it is a very bi song. They tell us, slightly off key, to "Double Your Chances" for a date.
Sta-Prest - double your chances (1995)
And also from 1995 is a social commentary by a group with a strange name, Hypnotic Clambake. From their album "Kent the Zen Master" here's "Bisexual Military"
Hypnotic Clambake - bisexual military (1995)
You may have noticed that very few of the artists featured so far have been from the GLBT family. Maybe that's due to the pressures of society. In other words, it's safer to comment on bisexuality if you're not bisexual. That's slowly changing, and an example is the artist Karen Hellyer, with her song "Pink and Blues"
Karen Hellyer - pink and blues (1995)
That song can only be found on a various artists compilation CD of Chicago area artists, called "You Are What You Shoot." Oddly, it was produced by Mother Jones Magazine. Karen seemed to be winking at us in that song, and sticking with 1995, here's a lesbian artist going for broader humor, so to speak
Monica Grant - my boyfriend's back (1995)
That was Monica Grant doing her version of "My Boyfriend's Back," from her album "Parodisiac." Next up is a song that got quite a bit of airplay, and I think it's delightful. From 1995, we find out that Jill Sobule just kissed a girl.
Jill Sobule - I kissed a girl (1995)
On to 1996 and another dose of punk music, whether we need it or not, from Canadian singer Coyote Shivers. Yes, that's his real name and the name of his first album. From it, here's a little bit of "Bisexual Girl"
Coyote Shivers - bisexual girl (1996)
In 1997 I found a couple very interesting rhythm & blues records, both definitely dealing with bisexuality. But before get to them, I want to thank you all for listening. If you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write me. And I wish you would. On my website this month I'm including the lyrics to as many of these songs as I could find, and also plenty of links to lots of information about bisexuality. That's at www.queermusicheritage.com. This is JD Doyle for Queer Voices on KPFT in Houston, and I'll be back on the fourth Monday of next month with Part 2 of my look at Bisexual Songs.
Back to those two R&B recordings I was telling you about. The duo Peggy Scott and Jo Jo Benson had several hits in the late 60s, but then they both fell into relative obscurity, until this next song brought Scott, now known as Scott-Adams back to the limelight.
Peggy Scott-Adams - bill (1997)
Peggy Scott-Adams with her hit, "Bill," from her album "Help Yourself." Now, the subject of that song was just dishy enough that it begged for an answer record. And of course someone obliged. An artist named Thomas Richardson turned it into a soap opera with a fitting closing song for this show, his answer record to "Bill," called "Bill Goes Both Ways"
Thomas Richardson - bill goes both ways (1997)