Script for October 2002, QMH:
Coming Out Day Special Show
Diana Ross-"I'm Coming Out" intro
Welcome to a very special edition of Queer Music Heritage. I'm JD Doyle. This is kind of a bonus edition, as my regular monthly show will still be heard as usual on the 4th Monday of the month. And the reason for this show is to help honor Coming Out Day, which is this Friday, October 11th. The theme of Coming Out Day this year is "Being Out Rocks." So, the editor of Outsmart Magazine asked me to write an article on queer music that rocks. The article can be found in the current issue, and in it, as on this show, I decided to focus, oh so subjectively, on some rock songs with queer references that you probably already know, and then, in my unofficial capacity as a queer music historian, I'm going to share with you some you probably don't know, but should.
I've got two quick examples of hit songs from the 50s that contain a gay element, and I'll play snippets of each, starting with this one...
Elvis - jailhouse rock (1957)
Of course that was Elvis with "Jailhouse Rock," from 1957. Now since that was probably not a co-ed prison, didn't you ever wonder why that prisoner thought his fellow inmate was so cute, and what doing the jailhouse rock really meant? And, then, on to 1959, when the Clovers sang about the consequences of drinking too much "Love Potion #9"...
Clovers - love potion #9 (1959)
I guess we're left to speculate on whether our narrator got in trouble for kissing a cop, or because the cop was a man.
Now these songs only briefly touched into the area of gay lyrics. My next song jumped in with both feet. It's a classic and you probably already recognize it in the background. From 1972 Lou Reed walked on the wild side as he sang about transvestites, male hustlers, and a drag queen named Candy giving head.
Lou Reed - walk on the wild side (1972)
Ah, that's my favorite part of that record. That "Walk On The Wild Side" got played on the radio enough for it become a hit is still kind of amazing, but I guess we shouldn't have been all that surprised, as two years earlier Ray Davies and the Kinks gave us "Lola," and it had some classic lines...
Kinks - lola (1970)
That song made it into the top ten. You'll notice I'm only playing parts of these songs. That's because, well, I think you're already quite familiar with them, and this will allow me time to play in entirety the songs in the second part of the show, songs that may be completely new to you.
I've got two more songs from the 70s. One was a little controversial as to whether it was really what it seemed. Was it really a song about a man singing about his love for another man. Take a quick listen.
Elton John - daniel (1972)
Well, that was Elton John singing "Daniel," and it made it to #2 in 1972. I guess I prefer to think that yes it was that male to male love song, but then I warned you that this was a subjective list. This song was from Elton John years before he came out as bisexual, and later, as gay. And, you might remember that in 1984 he married a woman. I don't know what that was all about, but I remember at the time seeing on television an interviewer asking his friend Rod Stewart if he was surprised to hear that Elton John got married. Rod replied, "wouldn't you be?"
Rod Stewart brought us what is probably the first sympathetic song about a gay bashing. From 1977 his record "The Killing Of Georgie" climbed all the way to #30.
Rod Steward - killing of georgie (parts 1 & 2) (1977)
Also from 1977 was the last song I'm featuring from the 70s, and it's about one of the strongest gay anthems you could imagine. There's no doubt whatsoever about the message given by the Tom Robinson Band.
TRB - glad to be gay (1977)
Tom's "Glad To Be Gay" was not a hit, but I'm playing it in the "songs you already know" section because I simply do not want to believe, despite the song not making the charts, that any gay or lesbian listening to this show could not be aware of it.
Diana Ross - i'm coming out (1980)
I started off the show with Diana Ross singing in the background her 1980 hit "I'm Coming Out." Now, personally I never thought her delivery of it packed the necessary sincerity even acknowledging her being straight. And who knows if the writers Edwards & Rodgers had calculated their lyrics to appeal to the gay disco market, but appeal it did, and even if we didn't think it was really about coming out of the closet, it was fun to pretend.
Now, I am usually pretty much a purist about dance music. From my soap box I usually say that disco or club music is not gay music at all, because almost all of it is sung by straight women, and it only very rarely contains gay lyrics. Okay, I got that out of the way. Now I can honor a dance hit that I think was one of the most influential gay songs of the last 20 or 30 years. I love this record. It's "Smalltown Boy" by Bronski Beat. In it Jimmy Somerville uses his haunting falsetto to tell us about a young man who feels he has to run away from home to escape his world, and in his world he was persecuted for being gay. It conveys the sadness of his life, but also the hope of finding a new life, where he can be himself.
Bronski Beat - smalltown boy (1984)
This was a powerful record, and I have a close friend who has shared with me that this song helped him deal with being gay. The song just broke into the top 50 in 1984, and Somerville has gone on to release other fine recordings as a member of the Communards and as a solo artist, and all the while never flinching as being an openly gay artist.
Now there was another record from that same year that also did not flinch. Flinch is about the last word you might think of when the group Frankie Goes To Hollywood suddenly shattered our senses with their mega-hit "Relax." It even spawned a wave of "Frankiemania" in England at the time, as they sang...
FGTH - relax (1984)
I can remember the controversy at the time, and even seeing, just once, MTV play the initial video for it, which was quickly banned. That version showed what looked a little like a roman orgy at an S&M bar. Gee, I wonder if that video's still available? Anyway, another song that had a striking video was Joe Jackson's "Real Men." From 1982, this was a mini-masterpiece of social commentary, as he sang about society condemning those who fit into certain stereotypes, like being gay, while it moved on to question the role of masculinity in society itself. A remarkable song...
Joe Jackson - real men (1984)
I can still remember watching the video and thinking, wow, is that song about what I think it is? It indeed was.
I've got one more song I want to mention from the "songs you probably know" section of the show. I couldn't possibly leave out Melissa Etheridge, because she forged her own way into the world of rock, and has been producing excellent music for many years. To represent her I've picked one of her first big hits. Here's "Come To My Window."
Melissa Etheridge - come to my window (1993)
Melissa Etheridge, from her 1993 album, "Yes I Am." Okay, now for the part of the show that is especially fun for me, because I get to share some outstanding, and very queer music. These are almost all by independent artists, which means you probably haven't heard them on the radio, unless you've heard them on my show or on Jimmy Carper's After Hours. By the way, this is a great time to remind you to be sure to listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Sunday morning from 1 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 playlist and see photos of the artists and recordings, and listen to the show anytime.
Okay, onto some songs I think you'll enjoy. The first one is actually by an artist you probably do know. Pete Townshend of The Who released a surprising solo album in 1980, called "Empty Glass." One of the songs on it was called "Rough Boys," and listen for the lines like "come a little closer, rough toys under the sheets," and "I want to bite an kiss you." Just amazing, here is "Rough Boys"
Pete Townshend - rough boys (1980)
From the album "Empty Glass," that was Pete Townshend. He's given various interviews over the years in which he's both verified and denied his own homosexual experiences. In a recent Rolling Stone interview, he as much said that in the 60s he did so much drugs, he's not sure what he remembers. From "rough boys" I'm moving now to a boy with a secret. That's the name of a song on the debut album by Barnes, called "Loud Boy Radio," from 1998. I think this song has really interesting, and very out, lyrics. I was able to get some comments by Barnes about it.
First of all, thank you so much for selecting this song as one of your short list, it's been a really, really meaningful song for me personally as that really is the story of my own growing up, feeling like a dirty like I had a dirty secret, and I never really understood what made me different growing up. I knew that I was not right. I knew I wasn't normal and then a lot of things happened to me as a kid as does happen to a lot of queer kids, where I didn't really know I was gay yet, but other people did and so there was some abuse and a couple of sexual incidences when I really wasn't sexually active yet but the adults were. And those enter in are in the song as the moment when my mom actually discovered me with my first boyfriend. She came home from a writing conference in Berkeley a day early and she discovered us with our pants kicked off on the stairs and that really was a true thing. All of it's true. There's nothing in that song including the priest eyeing my crotch while talking about God. It's all stuff that I thought other people would relate to. I really just kind of burned through my shame, burned through my self-judgment about what it was okay or not okay to talk about when I was writing the song, and I think the reaction to the song tends to be, especially for gay people, that kind of recognition, that kick of recognition I really wanted. And in terms to the response to the song, the letters started to come from kids on Army bases, who are isolated. I started to get that kind of confirmation that I had spoken for people who were not yet able to speak for themselves with that song.
Barnes - boy with a secret (1998)
Barnes is from Canada, and from hearing
" boy with a secret" it's almost hard to believe that for
a while he was a member of the successful a cappella group, The Nylons,
the styles are so different.
Jallen Rix - I saw jesus down at stonewall (1995)
Yes, I saw jesus down at stonewall, by Jallen Rix. And, if some of these artists names are not familiar to you, remember you can always go to my webpage for this show, where you can link to their sites. Now, for another very powerful song, where the artist, Scott Free, is singing about our place in society. I asked Scott to tell us about his song "Not Good Enough."
It's a song about growing up gay and that long period where you're just waiting to be free, really. It's those long years when you're trapped in school, parents, friends and you know you're in the closet basically if you have the awareness to understand your sexuality. It's about that period of time. [It's kind of an angry song.] Yeah, "Not Good Enough" definitely has a lot of anger. It points toward again the violence that happens to us specially as kids growing up and it just it also talks about what happens to us when we have that pushed on us. Some of us commit suicide, some of us just hold that in and it comes out in other ways as adults. It's a lot also about kind of self-esteem and how having to live in the closet when you're growing up can have a very damaging effect on you.
Scott Free - not good enough (1999)
From his 1999 album "The Living Dead," that was Scott Free. I just love the opening verse of the next song I want to share with you. Meg Hentges wraps very catchy music around her wonderful lyrics for her song "This Kind Of Love."
Meg Hentges - this kind of love (1999)
Meg Hentges included her song "This Kind Of Love" on her CD, "Brompton's Cocktail," and the song won a GLAMA award for Out Song Of the Year, for 1999. Also, Meg was at one time a member of the group Two Nice Girls, and has always been on the cutting edge with her music.
Up next is another in-you-face queer song, and I love it. The song is by Mark Islam and appeared on his album from 1998 called "The Recent Past." It's called "Get Used to It." I was pleased to get Mark to tell us about it.
I wrote "Get Used To It" as a reaction to a specific event in my life where I was going to UC Berkeley one summer session and I was riding in an elevator in my dorm. There was sort of a bulkily built frat type, football player type who never liked me, and I knew why. I knew that he was deeply homophobic and let it be known in his energy and his demeanor and so I was on this elevator with him and he had a tennis racket and he kept staring at me menacingly while sort of slamming the rim of his tennis racket into his open palm. It was definitely a threat. There was something about my presence in the elevator with him that was a threat to him and I started writing the song because I wasn't going to just take it. And so, you know, in writing the song what I wanted to do was sort of hold up a mirror to the person who has a problem with it. If you notice in all the verses I'm asking and I'm being confrontational. I'm saying "what's the matter? Do I threaten you?" And every single verse opens up with that expression. And the reaction has been all over the map, but I don't necessarily ever do anything for reactions. I usually writing and recording to figure out where I am. And you know my big hope is people see themselves in my writing.
Mark Islam - get used to it (1998)
Now, for my last song, I've got to include one by Pansy Division. But, gee, I like all six of the albums they've released since 1992. And, frankly, there are very few of their songs that can be played on the radio, and many of which I couldn't even tell you the titles on the air. Still, this group produces downright fun, punk rock music. Hey, it's more than that...it's aggressively raw material that deal with many elements of gay culture, and with lots and lots of sex. They are not afraid to sing at the top of their voices about what they want. There's a real element of, okay, reality about their lyrics, but again, they do it with charm and humor. It's not an angry attack; it's more of a wink.
But before I play the song I picked by them, I want to thank you all for tuning in to the show, and I want to thank Barnes, Mark Islam, and Scott Free for their comments about their songs. If you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write to me. And, again, my website, with more info about all the songs you heard, is, logically enough, at www.queermusicheritage.com. 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.
Now, closing the show, from Pansy Division, from their 1992 album "Undressed," here is "Rock 'N Roll Queer Bar."
Pansy Division - rock 'n roll queer bar (1992)