Script for Jan 2005, QMH:
Modern Rocketry - Homosexuality (1985)
Meco - Over The Rainbow (1978, in the background)
This is Queer Voices on KPFT and this segment is called Queer Music Heritage. I'm JD Doyle and welcome to my fifth anniversary show, and this one will be a bit different, as you may have already figured out by the opening song. That was a group called Modern Rocketry, and in 1985 they released what just might be the gayest disco song ever, as it was just called "Homosexuality."
Disco Music" is the subject of this show, and while I've played
a few disco songs on my past shows, here and there, I have never approached
the music as a genre. That's my mission tonight, and it will be continued
So, I'm going to try to tackle the subject of "Gay Disco Music," and to explore, in my opinion, what it is and what it isn't. Now note that I said "gay" disco music, and I've found that my first challenge is that to most people disco music IS gay music. For example, I could be describing my radio show to someone who hasn't heard of it, and I'd say its purpose is to share and preserve the history of gay music. They'd say, "oh, disco music." No, no. And I'd climb up on my soap box and ask why they would think disco music is gay music, since most of it is by straight artists, mostly women, and only a tiny percent is lyrically gay. Very little of it is actually about our lives. By this time their eyes are quickly glazing over, and I realize once again I've taken the purist approach. But I certainly can't deny that to most people disco or dance music is the genre most associated with gay culture.
Now, I'm not going to completely ignore disco music produced by straight artists, and I'll explain that in a little bit, but before we get any further I want to encourage you to stick around for the last part of tonight's show, for a special interview with probably our greatest drag diva, RuPaul. She's had plenty of very queer dance releases, all done her way.
So, I'm going to be covering the major gay disco artists, and quite a number of songs that actually have gay lyrics. Some of them were quite obscure, and my regular listeners know by now how I love to share the obscure recordings of our history. And to define things a bit more, a lot of the music I'll talk about can be described with the term Trash Disco. These were the hits we danced to in the late 70's and into the early 80s. I have a particular fondness for this music, as it's the first music I heard when I came out. It's the music that for many of us helped us celebrate our gayness. You could say It was our party music, up until AIDS ended the party.
And by the way in the background you've been hearing an instrumental produced by Meco, from 1978. He's not gay but I couldn't resist using his dance version of "Over the Rainbow."
Okay, that's way too much talking without getting onto some more music, so let's get started. I can't get too far without talking about the almost cliché phrase "Gay Anthem." And for the most part, when you think about it, it's easy to conclude that the songs you'll hear next were written specifically for gay men. They related to a gay lifestyle, but were generally performed by women, probably to allow greater commercial success. I've put together a medley of eight of the best of these to show you what I mean.
I started and ended that medley with Gloria Gaynor and the song "I Am What I Am," from 1984. It has perhaps the most legitimate claim to the title Gay Anthem, as it is actually a lyrically gay song, and of course it came from the Broadway hit musical "La Cage Aux Folles." Most of the others you'll also know: "I'm Coming Out" by Diana Ross, "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge, and into the "man" songs, with Grace Jones and "I Need A Man," Hazel Dean with "Searchin' (Gotta Find Me A Man)," the more obscure "I Need A Man In My Life" by British singer Katie Kissoon, and the super classics, Miquel Brown's "So Many Men, So Little Time" and the Weather Girls doing "It's Raining Men." And both of those had very hot videos.
Paul Jabara - Last Dance (1978)
And someone is probably going to ask, where's Donna Summer? Well, while considered by most to be the Queen of Disco, her songs just had a different slant. She wasn't singing about looking for a man. She had great music, but I just don't think of her hits as being gay anthems. But talking about her leads nicely to the first obscurity of the show. In the background you've been hearing an earlier version of Donna Summer's hit "Last Dance," done as a ballad by the song's writer, Paul Jabara. He really should be more known because in addition to writing "Last Dance," (which by the way won him an Oscar and a Grammy) he wrote "The Main Event" for Barbra Streisand and the smash duet by Donna and Barbra "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)," and if that wasn't enough, he co-wrote "It's Raining Men." But I'd like to share with you a song that he sang that never thought about being a hit, but I loved it. It's a disco cover version of a song by one of my favorite teen crushes, Bobby Vee. It's the classic "Take Good Care of My Baby."
Paul Jabara & Patti Brooks - Take Good Care of My Baby / What Am I Gonna Do (1978)
Paul Jabara, from 1978, and Patti Brooks came in on the end of it with the song "What Am I Gonna Do." Jabara died of AIDS in 1992, one of a number of gay male artists from the disco world to suffer that fate.
And when you talk about dance artists who have died of AIDS, probably the first one that deserves our attention is Sylvester. He had a very colorful music career well before he had his first disco hit. In 1970 he joined the San Francisco phenomenom The Cockettes, and released several albums of mostly R&B oriented material before he stuck gold in 1978 with a pair of disco classics, "Dance Disco Heat" and "You Make Me Feel Mighty Real." They were brought to life by the production genius of Patrick Cowley, and he had one more hit with Cowley called "Do You Wanna Funk," recorded shortly before Cowley died of AIDS in 1982, at age 32. Sylvester himself died of AIDS in 1988. Here's a quick medley of all three songs.
Regrettably, if I'm going to make any headway, I'm only going to be able to play short clips of most of the songs on this show. Again, that was "Dance Disco Heat," "You Make Me Feel Mighty Real," and "Do You Wanna Funk." On many of Sylvester's recordings he had the help of a duo called the Two Tons of Fun, later known as the Weather Girls.
Patrick Cowley - Menergy (1981)
In 1981 Patrick Cowley had a solo hit with another classic, with Sylvester contributing vocals. It was called "Menergy." I've read that Cowley and his business partner were working on a song called "Energy" and they were high and jokingly stuck a letter M in front of it, and an inspiration was born. Patrick Cowley was a major contributor to the use of the synthesizer in dance music, and you can hear his influence in artists like the Pet Shop Boys.
Patrick Cowley's very gay title "Menergy." He also wrote and produced the hit "Right On Target" for gay artist Paul Parker.
Paul Parker - Right On Target (1982)
Up next is a little diversion using a song I'm sure you've heard before.
Simpson's Gay Mix (over CC & Music Factory's "Everybody Dance Now" from 1991)
That's one of those snippets you can find on the Internet and never know the source. Obviously someone crafted gay comments from The Simpsons, and they put them over the song "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" from 1991 by CC & the Music Factory. By the way, that was Martha Wash of the Weather Girls singing lead on that one.
RuPaul QMH Drop
And this is a good time to invite you to check out my website, at www.queermusicheritage.com. If you visit it while you're listening you can see the playlist and follow along, while looking at photos of the artists and recordings. I've always considered our music history as a visual as well as an audio experience. Also, for more very queer programming, please listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Saturday night from midnight to 4 am, on KPFT, it's Queer Radio, with attitude.
And now, since having an Internet version of this show allows me to stretch it a little, I can't resist including the audio from one of my favorite scenes from the movie "In & Out." Kevin Kline is taking butch lessons. This always makes me smile.
In & Out - Do Not Dance (1997)
Boystown Gang - Cruising In The Streets (1981)
Now I want to squeeze in an underground classic by the Boystown Gang. In 1981 San Francisco DJ Bill Motley started a label named after the popular bar Moby Dick, and his first release was a wonderful medley of the songs "Remember Me" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." But its flip side attracted its own attention. Guest vocalist Cynthia Manley started off the song "Cruising in the Streets," and it contains some of the most sexually aggressive lyrics of that era.
Alas, that was a very edited version of "Cruising In The Streets" by the Boys Town Gang. And another song I have to edit is by the Skatt Brothers. In 1980 with their song "Walk the Night" they got into a little s&m, and I'm not talking about "stand & model"
Skatt Brothers - Walk The Night (1980)
Up next is is top ten hit from 1974 by Monti Rock III. Oh, you're not sure if you've heard of him? Well, he's one of those show business curiosities of questionable talent whose somehow been around for decades, as a flamboyant actor/entertainer/hair dresser and now a gossip columnist in Las Vegas. He was on the Johnny Carson Show 84 times. And in the mid-70s he managed a million-seller with the song "Get Dancin'," under the name Disco Tex & the Sex-o-lettes. This is a very truncated version because I want you to hear the end, where he tells the crowd his chiffon is wet.
Disco Tex & the Sex-o-lettes - Get Dancin' (1974)
Wet chiffon and all, that was Disco Tex & the Sex-o-lettes, also known as Monti Rock III, and "Get Dancin'"
Now I want to tell you about some songs that are much more obscure, and with much more openly gay lyrics. In 1976 there was a French porn movie called "Sex O'Clock USA," and it even had a soundtrack, which was only released in France and Canada. It featured the very gay song "You're My Man." Here's just a bit of it.
Sex O'clock USA - You're My Man (1976)
And in 1975 an obscure offshoot label of Motown released a 45 by an artist named Valentino, and the song was called "I Was Born This Way." It was an R&B flavored song, but two years later it was a natural for getting a disco beat. That was done by Carl Bean, who later founded the Unity Fellowship Church in Los Angeles, dedicated to helping blacks with AIDS. He too was happy and gay and was born that way.
Carl Bean - I Was Born This Way (1977)
"I Was Born That Way" by Carl Bean. And another obscurity was called "Castro Boy." It came out in 1982 by Danny Boy & the Serious Party Gods. I've seen this one go for over $200 on eBay, and check out the campy dialogue.
Danny Boy & Serious Party Gods - Castro Boy (1982)
The later verses get a lot more explicit. And, here's one more, by a Dutch duo going by the name Gay Men. You can't get any more Out than that. Their song from 1983 was "I'm a Man Who Needs A Man."
Gay Men - I'm A Man Who Needs A Man (1983)
The Gay Men. They had another release a few years later that didn't do as well, called "Get Your Hands In My Pants." Other than the title it was instantly forgettable.
A cover version that's a lot of fun is by Jeff Elder, who records under many names, one of which is Adam Baum and Frustrated Housewives. From a couple years ago, here's a little bit of their version of the Waitresses' song "I Know What Boys Like"
Adam Baum & Frustrated Housewives - I Know What Boys Like (2003)*
That was Frustrated Housewives. Holly Johnson is probably best known for leading the group Frankie Goes To Hollywood. But in 1994 he released kind of a list song, and a very queer one at that.
Holly Johnson - Legendary Children (1994)
"Legendary Children" by Holly Johnson. And now something very upbeat, in 1998 German artist Manuel Sanchez brought out this very infectious updating of a familiar song, but his rendition was called "Oh Happy Gay."
Manuel Sanchez - Oh Happy Gay (1998)
Manuel Sanchez with "Oh Happy Gay."
Okay, I've got many more obscurities, but they're going to have to wait until next week's show, part 2 of my Gay Disco Music Special. During that show I'll also cover the huge impact of the Village People. That will include a special interview with their cowboy, Randy Jones. And I'll cover some of the British acts like Bronski Beat, the Communards, and Erasure. They're all going to have to wait because I'm going to finish this show with a very special interview with RuPaul.
It's hard to believe she's been on the music scene for 20 years now, and who would have thought a drag queen 6'4" tall (in stocking feet) from Atlanta would end up with hit records, a TV show on VH1, and appearing in a number of movies. She's published her autobiography and is representative for a major make-up company. I won't be able to do justice to all her contributions to our culture. You heard a few comments from the interview already, if you listened to my Queer Xmas Show last month. So here's the rest of it, celebrating the release of her first new album in a number of years, called "Red Hot."
Tell me about
the new album.
RuPaul - Supermodel (1993)
Coming Out Crew - Free Gay & Happy (1995)
This is JD Doyle and you're listening to Queer Music Heritage, a part of Queer Voices on KPFT in Houston. And this is Part 2 of my special on Gay Disco Music. My aim of these two shows is to explore the gay side of disco, focusing on gay artists and songs that are lyrically gay, some of which were quite obscure. And if you missed Part 1 it's available for streaming at my website, www.queermusicheritage.com. You'll want to stick around because in a few minutes you'll hear a special interview about the Village People, with someone who's an expert, their cowboy Randy Jones.
Now, starting this edition was the British act Coming Out Crew with the very catchy "Free Gay & Happy," from 1995. Like a lot of dance songs, that one came out with a number of mixes, and it was Sabrina Johnston singing lead.
If you listened to my show last week, you heard me comment that very few disco songs were actually by gay artists, and only a very small percent of those had gay lyrics. I've had many experiences over the years when I had a chance to walk into major dance music stores in the gay ghettos of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, and so on and ask the owners if they could recommend any music that was lyrically gay. I always just got blank stares. And yet, if you look at the covers of the scores of dance music CDs in the stores, with titles like Gay Happening, Gay Dancing, Gay Power and so on, you'd be lucky to find one gay artist on each one, but most of them of course have photos of hunks on the covers, that's just good marketing. But where are the gay songs? Why don't CDs obviously aimed at the gay market contain songs that speak to us?
I wish I knew. While researching this project I put together a spread sheet of the songs I was considering, a very short spread sheet. The list is not all that long. I noticed that the most blatantly gay songs, my favorites of course, were also the most obscure. The ones that became hits left their gayness open to interpretation or innuendo, like this one.
Paul Lekakis - Boom Boom Boom Let's Go Back To My Room (1990)
That was gay artist Paul Lekakis from 1990 with, of course, "Boom Boom Boom (Let's Go Back to My Room)."
So, my mission on these two shows is to bring you the disco music that was actually by gay artists and the songs that had gay lyrics. And this next song is one of the most blatant, and definitely one of the rarest, as it was never even released on record or CD. It's from 2000 by a duo calling themselves Rent. I downloaded it from the site MP3.com several years ago and there was almost no information about them, just a photo and three or four songs. I remember I emailed them at the time asking about a release and got an answer back that they are working on one but could not predict when that would happen. They have now disappeared beyond the grasp of Internet search engines, so I may never learn anything more, but I'm glad to share with you a little of their song called, "I Love To Be Queer."
Rent - I Love To Be Queer (2000)
"I Love To Be Queer" by Rent. I want to slip in a song now for sentimental reasons. The artist, Linda Clifford, is not gay, and the lyrics aren't either, but I'll always remember it because it's the first song to which I danced with a man, and I thought it was a very fitting choice.
Clifford - If My Friends Could See Me Now (1978)
Both of those were from 1978. I went from Linda Clifford's "If My Friends Could See Me Now" to an even bigger hit, "I Love the Nightlife" by Alicia Bridges, which reached number 5 on the Billboard charts. We didn't know it then, but Alicia Bridges was more of a kindred spirit than we thought. She came out of the closet in 1998.
Next up, the Village People.
They were a phenomenom. There's no other way to describe it. The writing/producing team of Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo put together six men who were Christopher Street fantasies come to life. They were able to exploit gay images without offending their straight audience, with some of the catchiest songs of the disco era. And their music has become part of Americana. But let's hear a quick medley of several of their gayest songs.
Just some of the Village People's major recordings. In order, they were "Fire Island," "Macho Man," which blended into the very gay "I Am What I Am," "Key West," "San Francisco," "YMCA," "In The Navy," and "Go West."
And I'm delighted to bring you an interview with the cowboy from the Village People, Randy Jones.
Randy Jones interview (January 2005)
Welcome to Queer
And, as often
happens in interviews, after I finished the questions I had planned
there was more of interest discussed. I was explaining to Randy one
of my goals for these two shows.
Randy Jones QMH Drop
Oh, before we leave the Village People I can't resist playing a little bit of this parody from 1979 by British comedian Billy Connolly.
Billy Connolly - In The Brownies (1979)
That was "In The Brownies" by Billy Connolly. And I can't help myself, here's one more Village People diversion. Who would expect a cover version sung in Cantonese?
Unknown - YMCA (in Cantonese)
of that, but it's just amazing what you can find on the Internet?
Bronski Beat - Smalltown Boy (1984)
In the background you're hearing the haunting opening of a gay dance music classic. "Smalltown Boy" by Bronski Beat was the first song released from their debut album "Age of Consent" in 1984. It topped the dance charts here and it reached #3 on the pop charts in England, making it the first hit song there to deal openly with the struggle of gay people coming out in a homophobic society. One of my friends has shared with me that that song, and the video, helped him deal with his own coming out. Bronski Beat were Steve Bronski, Larry Steinbacheck and Jimmy Somerville, and it's Somerville's almost ethereal lead vocals that would become their trademark. They had a number of songs that were very political and dealt with gay issues, such as "Why," "You Are My World," "Need a Man Blues," and a cover version of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" mixed with the song "Johnny Remember Me." Jimmy Somerville continued making his very out music when he quit Bronski Beat to form the Communards, and after that as a solo artist.
No, the answers you seek will never be found at home. "Smalltown Boy" by Bronski Beat. A very influential record, not just musically but in the impact of its lyrics.
Ringtone for "Smalltown Boy"
You're hearing an example of the musical impact. Who would expect a cellphone ringtone being available to the tune of "Smalltown Boy"? But I've got a much better example to share with you, and it's so new it hasn't even been shipped yet, so I want to thank DJ and promoter Harry Towers, of New York, for getting me this advance copy. There's an act known as Dare 2B Dif'rnt, comprised of Debra Torres and Paulie D., and they've had several critically acclaimed releases in the past ten years. But this time it's more personal. The song "Please" was written by Paulie D. as a description of the day he moved out of the house to pursue life with his lover as a gay man, and it pays a musical tribute to "Smalltown Boy." Here's Dare 2B Dif'rnt and "Please."
Dare 2B Dif'rnt - Please (2004)
Bronski Beat - Why (1984)
Again, that was Dare 2B Dif'rnt. And I have a little more on Bronski Beat. Steve Bronski released on his own a very nice acoustic version of "Smalltown Boy" in 1994. But I mentioned the Bronski Beat song called "Why." It's lyrics were even more open.
Communards - There's More To Love Than Boy Meets Girl (1987)
And when Jimmy Somerville broke away from Bronski Beat, he and Richard Coles formed the Communards, and the songs stayed political, as evidenced by this song from their 1987 album "Red."
Obviously, that was "There's More To Love Than Boy Meets Girl." Somerville went solo in 1989 and immediately produced perhaps his most political song, almost a battle cry, designed to bring awareness of AIDS issues into the pop music world
Jimmy Somerville - Read My Lips (1989)
That was a little of "Read My Lips."
Erasure - Gimme Gimme Gimme A Man After Midnight (1986)
The works of Bronski Beat, the Communards and Jimmy Somerville on his own were not the only gay dance songs to come out of England. In 1986 the group Erasure released a delightful cover version of ABBA's "Gimme Gimme Gimme A Man After Midnight."
Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Relax (1983)
That was Andy Bell and Vince Clark of Erasure. And, while not exactly lyrically gay, I can't leave out "Relax," the worldwide smash hit by Frankie Goes To Hollywood from 1983. I sure remember dancing to that one. There were three different videos for that song. At the time MTV aired the uncensored and very gay one only once, but now you can get them all on a DVD.
And, one more Euro-dance song. In 1995 a German artist going by the name Sin With Sebastian had a minor hit with "Shut Up and Sleep With Me,"
Sin With Sebastian - Shut Up and Sleep With Me (1995)
but his album also contained the very out track "He Belongs To Me"
Sin With Sebastian - He Belongs To Me (1995)
If I had time I would let you sample some of the lyrically gay songs of the Pet Shop Boys, who did a smashing tribute to the Village People with their version of "Go West," or their work with Dusty Springfield, but that will have to wait until another show.
Michael Dane - Let's Make Love (1981)
Okay, last week I promised I would play some very obscure disco songs with openly gay lyrics, and maybe that's why they stayed obscure, but the obscure will always get my attention. First up, in 1981 an artist named Michael Dane released the very laid back song "Let's Make Love."
And it definitely goes down hill from there very quickly. In 1987 the artist Man Parrish joined the duo Man 2 Man to become one of several male acts covering the Grace Jones classic "I Need A Man."
Man 2 Man & Man Parrish - I Need A Man (1987)
In the early 90s a French singer named Marseilles released a cover version of the Charles Aznavour song "What Makes A Man A Man."
Marseilles - What Makes A Man A Man (1990s)
And still another cover was done in 1998, this time of the Little Peggy March gem from the 60s.
Laurance Tan - I Will Follow Him (1998)
You could probably tell that English was not the first language for that artist, whose name is Laurance Tan, a native of Singapore who has emigrated to Toronto. That was his version of "I Will Follow Him."
The last artist I'm featuring is Dan Hartman, another of our greats who we lost to AIDS. He died in 1994. In researching him I learned that he had a career much more varied than I knew about. For example, he was a member of the Edgar Winter Group for several years in the early 70s, and in the 80s & early 90s he did production work for such varied artists as James Brown, Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Nona Hendryx and many others. And a lot of listeners may most remember him for his 1984 hit "I Can Dream About You," from the movie "Streets of Fire."
Dan Hartman - I Can Dream About You (1984)
But my memories are from his hit disco songs from 1978 and 1979 that just made you want to dance, like "Instant Replay," and the medleys of "Vertigo/Relight My Fire," and "Count Down/This Is It." You remember those, don't you, well here's a very small sample.
Dan Hartman - Relight My Fire / This Is It / Countdown (1978)
Last June when I interviewed Tom Robinson I knew that he had been friends with Dan Hartman and they had also worked together, so I asked him about Dan.
Tom Robinson on Dan Hartman (2004)
Tell me about
your friendship with Dan Hartman.
I'm going to end the show with Dan Hartman's biggest hit, a million seller from 1978, but before I get to it I want to thank you all for listening, and to thank Randy Jones of the Village People, and Tom Robinson for their interview comments that helped make this show special. And again I want to give thanks to my friend David Norman in England for his very knowledgeable input. And, as always if you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write me. And I wish you would. My website, logically enough, is at www.queermusicheritage.com. This is JD Doyle for Queer Voices on KPFT in Houston, and please tune in on the 4th Monday of next month for the next edition of Queer Music Heritage.
And now, as promised, in my opinion one of the greatest songs of the disco era, Dan Hartman's "Instant Replay."
Dan Hartman - Instant Replay (1978)