Script for December 24, 2001, QMH:
Gay Liberation Quire - hark the herald fairies shout (1981)
Welcome to Queer Music Heritage. I'm JD Doyle and I'm here on the 4th Monday of every month to bring you an hour devoted to our culture's music. This is my special Christmas edition, featuring the music you won't be sick of by now. Because all of the music you're going to hear is by gay & lesbian artists, and most of it is lyrically gay.
I opened the show with a very rare song by the Gay Liberation Quire of Sydney, Australia. And they spelled Quire, q-u-i-r-e. That group was formed in 1981, and over the next six years was very active in the gay movement in Australia, giving over 300 concerts at all sorts of venues. They took songs that everyone knew and crafted lyrics that made social commentary on not just the fight for gay & lesbian rights, but for a host of progressive causes. They did fundraising and consciousness raising with their lyrics, and in 1983 released an EP single called "The Gay Liberation Quire Goes Down On Vinyl." It contained one other Christmas song, which they called "god help you merry dykes and poofs"
Gay Liberation Quire - god help you merry dykes and poofs (1981)
The Gay Liberation Quire was not the only choral group doing political activism in the early 80s. At that time Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority was perhaps at its loudest and a choral group in San Francisco was formed in protest. They called themselves the Choral Majority and their goals were to celebrate the gay community while at the same time challenging audiences and informing them of issues, all to the tune of a church choir. Here is an example of a song they re-titled as the "old closet door"
Choral Majority - old closet door (1981, part)
I was able to track down one of the members of the Choral Majority, Larry Wisch. He wrote much of the lyrics to their songs and he shared with me these memories of the group.
Larry Wisch Interview (1:35)
They recorded a cassette around 1982 called The Choral Majority's Greatest Hits, and about a third of it was comprised of transformed Christmas songs. From it, here is "we three queers"
Choral Majority - we three queers (1982)
Besides Larry Wisch, the other members of the quartet were Leslie Hassberg, Barbara Brautigam and Tim Curbo. Regarding Tim Curbo, Larry gave me some additional insight into the next song you'll hear. The lyrics refer to Tim and his lover, Tom. Tom, is Tom Ammiano, who is currently president of the Board of Supervisors of San Francisco, and was the main architect of the city's domestic partners ordinance. In 1999, he gained national attention by getting into the race for mayor, against Willie Brown, as a write-in candidate, and in the run-off he got 41% of the vote. Tim and Tom were together over 15 years, until Tim's death to AIDS in 1995. But here's Tom Ammiano, 18 years ago, being mentioned in Choral Majority's version of "it came upon a midnight clear."
Choral Majority - it came upon a midnight clear (1982)
We're going to stay in San Francisco for one more song. From 1997, here's Tony Espinosa singing "Christmas in the Castro."
I followed Tony Espinosa with a bit of country, by Sid Spencer, doing "it's christmas time in texas" from his "Family Ties" album, released in 1994.
Spencer blessed us with three outstanding country albums before his death in 1996 from AIDS. I consider his death a real loss to our music culture, because he was really just coming into his own. His third album, "Out 'N About, Again" was full of songs with wonderful openly gay lyrics, done in very danceable country style. Who knows what else he could have created for us.
I'm going to move now to a christmas album that's brand new. Hosting a radio show has occasional perks, when artists send you their CDs. It doesn't happen nearly enough, but I got an unexpected one in the mail last week and I was very pleased with it. The artist calls himself Happy Charles and the album is called "The Christmas Dream." The album is so good that I had trouble picking which track to play. You can get your own opinion of the different songs at his website, www.happycharles.com. The website describes him as "that big strapping blond guy from Texas with a feather boa." Which probably explains why he left his home town of Lubbock as soon as possible. He's been in Nashville for the past several years, and has managed to sing on two Garth Brooks albums. The Happy Charles album contains mostly originals, but I've chosen to share with you his interesting arrangement of "it came upon a midnight clear."
Happy Charles - it came upon a midnight clear (2001)
Judy Garland - have yourself a very merry christmas
Thank you, Judy. This would be a good time to take a break and remind you that you are listening to Queer Music Heritage, a part of Lesbian & Gay Voices on KPFT, Houston. Also, be sure to listen to KPFT every Saturday night at midnight for After Hours with Jimmy Carper. It's Queer Radio, With Attitude. And, I want to mention that I've set up a special webpage for this show, where you can see photos of the artists and recordings, and view the playlist. That's at www.queermusicheritage.com.
Pansy Division - homo christmas
I ended that little promo with Pansy Division singing a bit of "homo Christmas" from their 1995 album, "Pile Up" I wish I could play the whole song but the wonderful lyrics just don't jive with public radio.
For this show I searched all over the world for queer christmas music, and I'm reasonably sure you've never heard the songs I'm playing next. They come from a TV special that aired in England in 1993, called Camp Christmas. The show was hosted by Melissa Etheridge and Andy Bell, of the group Erasure, and I sure would not have expected to ever hear them doing Christmas standards. They duet on "winter wonderland," "sleigh ride" and "have yourself a merry little christmas," and in between Melissa solos on "santa claus is coming to town."
& Andy Bell - winter wonderland/sleigh ride
That show was just packed full of gay & lesbian guests, including Lea DeLaria, Quintin Crisp, Armistead Maupin, Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer, the Gay Men's Chorus of NYC, and a number of British comedians and performers, far too many people for a one hour show, but still quite amazing in how very gay the show was. I sure have never seen anything like it on American TV.
Next up are two songs where the singers are not that happy about it being christmas. The first is by Martin Swinger, singing "christmas blues" from his 1998 album "Scrapbook." I interviewed Martin last spring and got these comments about his song.
"Christmas blues is a song that actually was a challenge song. I was going to be singing with the Maine Gay Men's Chorus, and had been invited to sing as a soloist. The fellow who was directing at the time asked me if I didn't want to write a Christmas song for the chorus. And so, and he suggested a Christmas song that's not necessarily peppy and happy, try to take a twist to it, and "Christmas Blues" was what I came up with ."
Martin Swinger - christmas
That last song was "it just don't seem like christmas without you" and was by Mark Islam. I've played Mark's music several times on my show and my favorite by him is his anthem "get used to it." But his christmas song came from his 1995 album "The Calloused Heart Collection."
And, now it's time for two more improbable recordings. From 1966 through 1987 the comedy duo called the Two Ronnies was a stable fixture on English television. I'm playing their parody called "boys in the ballet", and I'm following it an odd version of "silent night,"
Two Ronnies - boys
in the ballet (1976)
Singing "silent night" was Klaus Nomi. He came to New York City from West Germany in the early 70s, and developed his own pseudo-glam rock style. One of the highlights of his career was in 1979 when David Bowie asked him to appear with him on Saturday Night Live. His blend of opera, rock & roll, and high drama made his performances memorable, and he produced some amazing interpretations of such varied songs as "cant help falling in love with you," "you don't own me," and "ding dong the witch is dead." His career was cut short by his death from AIDS in 1983.
Now, I can't do a christmas show without playing the classic "walkin' round in women's underwear" by Bob Rivers & Twisted Radio, from the 1993 album "I Am Santa Claus," but this year I can follow it with another christmas song, kind of on the same subject, so after Bob Rivers you'll hear the Vandals singing "my first christmas as a woman."
Bob Rivers - walkin'
round in women's underwear (1993)
The Vandals song was from the album from last year called "Oi to the World".
Okay, just two more songs left, and I also can't do a queer christmas show without including Venus Envy's song "I'll be a homo for christmas", from the 1995 album by that same title.
Venus Envy - I'll
be a homo for christmas (1995)
After Venus Envy I tacked on a bit of Rufus Wainwright, singing "what are you doing new year's eve" from his GAP TV commercial of three years ago.
Before we get to the last song, I want to thank you all for tuning in to the show, and I especially want to thank Larry Wisch of the Choral Majority and Martin Swinger for their interview comments. Larry provided me with a copy of the Choral Majority tape and the photos of the group that you can see on my website, at www.queermusicheritage.com. And if you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please email me. This is JD Doyle for Lesbian & Gay Voices on KPFT in Houston, and I'll be back on the 4th Monday of next month with my second anniversary show. I've got some special artist interviews lined up, so please join me then for another installment of Queer Music Heritage.
I'm closing tonight's show the same way I closed my christmas special last year, with a song from one of the best gay Christmas CDs of the last few years, RuPaul's CD called "Ho, Ho, Ho," from 1997. From it, here's "rupaul the red-nosed drag queen."
RuPaul - rupaul the red-nosed drag queen (1997)