Gay Music

Script for Jan 2005, QMH:

Part 1

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."

And "Gay 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 in
Part 2, airing at the same time next week. That's right, I've had two-part shows before but never back to back, a week later, and I want to thank my Queer Voices producer for allowing the extra time this month.

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.

Gay Anthems Medley:
Gloria Gaynor - I Am What I Am (1983)
Diana Ross - I'm Coming Out (1980)
Sister Sledge - We Are Family (1979)
Grace Jones - I Need A Man (1977)
Hazel Dean - Searchin' (I gotta find me a man) (1983)
Katie Kissoon - I Need A Man In My Life (1984)
Miquel Brown - So Man Men, So Little Time (1983)
Weather Girls - It's Raining Men (1982)
Gloria Gaynor - I Am What I Am (1983)

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.

Sylvester Medley:
Dance Disco Heat (1978)
You Make Me Feel Mighty Real (1979)
Do You Wanna Funk? (with Patrick Cowley, 1982)

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

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 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.

Cynthia Manley

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.

RuPaul Interview

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.

I'm very excited about "RuPaul, Red Hot" because it's my first in a long time and it's the first time I really ventured into certain areas of human, well, of my human emotions on a record. I talk about my break-up of a relationship, a long-term relationship. Actually I sing a few songs about it. And I sing about gay marriage, and being free, and having the right to do whatever you want to do, so long as you don't hurt anybody. Plus it's a lot of the stuff that I've been know for, you know, the hot, pumping dance tunes that are full of optimism.

There are a lot of messages in this album, on a variety of areas. Was there a conscious effort to put more meat into the lyrics?

Well, you know I've had a lot of time to work on this album. And I had a lot of time off. I took some time off to really go inside and take an emotional journey, a journey that I never had time to do all the years before, when I was really, you know, turning out so much product and doing so many different things. So, I've always been a very emotional person. My mother would say, "Ru, you're too damn sensitive," and it's true, I am. So the album reflects who I am. Before, on my other records, I really wanted to, you know, not necessarily play it safe, cause drag has never been safe, but I wanted to, you know, not sort of hit anybody over the head with my ideals. I wanted the music to just be fun and for people to enjoy it. Now you know I'm older and I own my power, more than ever before, and I wanted to say something which is relevant

So other than more meatier lyrics, how is this different from your past work?

Well, there's more of me in it. I didn't really have to compromise anything. I took years to actually make this record, and it's very thought out. There's a lot of songs that didn't make it onto the album, so you know I had a lot of time to think about this, and I was the one calling all the shots. You know, before they were collaborative efforts, and yes, I did collaborate on this album, but in terms of what ended up on the record it's all my choices.

Is the song "Coming Out of Hiding" also sort of a coming out anthem?

It is absolutely a coming out anthem, but it also was my doctrine to come back to the scene, to come back to being a public figure. I was basically living a very personal life for the past four years. My way of saying okay, I'm ready to come back to be the RuPaul that everyone knows, and actually more of the RuPaul that people don't know. [because it was more personal] More personal. You know, when I started out in show business it was the dream of a kid, a young kid, who wanted to be famous, and I got famous, and I was able to do a lot of great wonderful work. But the, you know, I'm not a kid anymore, and I achieved that goal. You know, I can continue with the original dream. I had to figure out why I wanted to do this anymore. In fact I thought for a minute I probably wouldn't come back to it, but I did come back, because I have a lot more work to do and, plus, you know, there's nobody else out there doing what I do. You know, and I feel like it's a duty, I have a duty to some of the younger kids to show that there's more than one way to see the world. There's more than one way to sculpt your life, or to sort of mold your life.

Well, it's like you created yourself and you're doing it your way.


RuPaul - Coming Out of Hiding (2004)

Tell me about "Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous"

Well, "Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous" is a very optimistic song about owning your God-given beauty. You are God's gift to this world, all of us really are, and it's about owning that, and it's an affirmation that you should say every single day. You know, a lot of kids out there don't feel that way. I get a lot of emails from kids who are stuck in some town in Texas or Indiana who feel so disenfranchised and feel like there's nothing for them out there. Well, this is an anthem that says, you know what? You are gorgeous, you're fabulous. Go out and strut your stuff.

RuPaul - Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous (2004)

The song "Love Is Love," that's gone on to other uses, too. I believe you contributed it to the "Marry Me" project. What was the inspiration for the song?

Well, I'm just fed up with ignorance, fed up with people thinking, saying that there's only one kind of love that is valid. And it's like if you've ever loved you know that love sees no color, love is love. You know, truthfully, there aren't different kinds of love. We have this misconception that the love you have for your mother is different that the love you have for a lover. Love is just love. It's the same one, the same respect, the same care you would give to a brother, it's the same care you would give to your pet, or, you know, and you know you actually do people a disservice by putting them in a special category of love, like my boyfriend I love in a special category. That's not a gift, that's a cage.

RuPaul - Love Is Love (2004)

I understand the phrase "RuPaul is Red Hot" has some history to it

Yes, "RuPaul Is Red Hot" is a slogan I came up with in Atlanta, Georgia, over twenty years ago, when I was starting out, and I thought it was important for me to acknowledge my humble beginnings on my return. I'm coming out of the ashes, renewed and rejuvenated. So I thought it'd be perfect for me to start where it all began with RuPaul is Red Hot. [These were like posters that you put up] I put flyers from Kinkos all over Midtown Atlanta and I'd become famous in that area of Georgia for doing that. I'd become famous for my self-promotion. Then I started working in...well, I was in a band at the time, I was promoting the band, making my name well-known, and it worked

What would you consider the queerest song you've done?

Well, ah, probably "RuPaul the Red-Nose Drag Queen," but on this album, let's see, the queerest song on this may be "Kinky Freaky," which is about men on the DL. You know, the whole [that's pretty out there] It's pretty out there and, maybe that one, which you know talks about a man who's with a woman and wants to creap with me, a drag queen

A lot of your songs are really kind of on the edge of being Out, but they don't push it in your face

Right, well, on "The Price of One" it's another scenario where I'm in a club and a guy is coming onto me and I tell him what the deal is, and he's like, I'm fine with what the deal is, you know, and I say you get two for the price of one. I'm more man than you'll ever be and more woman than you'll ever have

Can you tell me about the song "Free To Be"?

"Free To Be" was done, written for the "Wigstock" movie. And it was released through Elektra Records and I love that song, in fact's one of my favorite songs, that I wrote with Jimmy Harry. You know, I grew up...I was born in 1960, and I grew up in the 70s, in the free-to-be-you-and-me era, and I wanted to bring a bit of that back cause you know, when I wrote that song, I think in '95 or '96, something like that, I could sense that that ideal was leaving and absent from out culture and I was right. It's all but gone

RuPaul - Free To Be (1995)

I gather you recorded the theme song for [the Showtime cartoon series] "Queer Duck". And you were also associated otherwise with that project?

Well I did, um, I did some voices. I did the voice of two characters on there. It's been so long, yeah, two characters on there, and, I sang the theme song.

RuPaul - Theme from Queer Duck (2000)

I want to ask about a quote....the quote "Everytime I bat my eyelashes it's a political statement." Can you expand on that?

Well, being yourself, following your heart is the most political thing you can do, so anytime you do follow your heart you're basically, you're going to rub somebody the wrong way. Somebody's not going to be happy with that. And you know, it's completely organic when you follow your heart. In fact I got into drag because it was what I was told not to do. The reason I was attracted to it was because I was told, you're not supposed to do that. You know, it's still what attracts me to drag. It was never about I want to be a women or, you know, dressing in women's clothes makes me feel good. It was a lark, it was a wink, and it was to piss people off, it was punk rock. I didn't know though, when I started it that people's reaction to me would be "damn, you look good." You know, I didn't count on that part. So I thought, well, I'll take it. I'll use it, and I have. [and you do look stunning in drag] Thank you, thank you very much

Okay, I've got one more song, but before I get to it I want to thank you all for listening, and to thank RuPaul for the very special interview. I also want to give a special thanks to my friend David Norman in England for his input. He's become a faithful Internet listener to my show and I bounced ideas off him for how to shape this one. He provided me with some song ideas and even mp3 files for a couple songs I lacked. 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, of course is at This is JD Doyle for Queer Voices on KPFT in Houston, and please tune in to Queer Music Heritage next week for part 2 of my Gay Disco Special. Back to the interview.

Tell me about "Strudelmodel"

Well, that was funny because we were going to do a maxi-single of the song "Supermodel" and, or, wait a minute, I think "Strudelmodel" was, yes, "Strudelmodel" was I think may have been on the next single of "Back To My Roots." You know, we wanted to do it as fun. Everything I do has a lot of humor in it, but of course underneath the humor the real message is just loving yourself and having fun with this life experience

RuPaul - Studelmodel (1993)

Now you didn't really think I was going to end the show with "Strudelmodel," did you. That was the parody. From 1993 is the real thing, RuPaul's biggest hit so far, "SuperModel."

RuPaul - Supermodel (1993)

Total Time: 67:25 net
58:00 air

Part 2

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, 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 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.

Linda Clifford - If My Friends Could See Me Now (1978)
Alicia Bridges - I Love the Nightlife (Disco Round) (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.

Village People Medley:
Fire Island (1978)
Macho Man / I Am What I Am (1978)
Key West (1978)
San Francisco (1978)
YMCA (1978)
In The Navy (1979)
Go West (1979)

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 Music Heritage

Thank you, how ya doin' man.

Good, I want to find out a lot. The six of you kind of portrayed Christopher Street images come to life. Now it has kind of a camp aspect. Do you think that was ever intended?

Well, I think it was a genius. It was all intended. We very very definitely intended to do everything that we did, but it was very very complicated and it was convoluted and people were aware of the differing of all of it to varying degrees. But not only did we feel that, you know, we were kind of like spoofing or copping images that you could see in homosexual subculture or on Christopher Street at that time, but we also were taking those images from the Hollywood film industry that had already purveyed these images. These images had already been distributed, accepted, absorbed and people were familiar and comfortable with them all over the world because of the film industry, Hollywood. We took images that were not only were people familiar with. They were American icons. They were safe; they were non-threatening, and they were something that we could use to purvey our music and subtly and subversively purvey our liberation message in a totally non-offensive way

Okay, how many members of the original members were gay?

I truly don't know, From personal experience I honestly do not know. I know Glen has passed away now, so, and I really, you know I mean...[I think Felipe has been very Out] I did do an interview with Felipe. We both were in The Advocate, so I can say, yeah, Felipe. Felipe has definitely owned up to what his life is.

I've read reports here and there that there were rumors, and you can tell me if they are true, that Jacques Morali gave directives to the group not to discuss their sexuality.

It's not so much as Jacques gave that directive, but we kind of...we realized what we were doing, we realized that if we wanted to sell Halloween costumes and lunch boxes, as we did, to children, and have, you know, young teenage girls want to put our poster up on the back of their bedroom door, and if we wanted to continue to be pinups in Sixteen and SuperTeen we all decided that the best thing for all of us to do was to not answer directly either way, and to pretty much say that, um, the only person that need to know the answer to that question is if I want you to be in my bed, and, sir, I don't

Well, the element of mystery is always appealing to the public, too.

That's sort of the way it is. Once they find out everything about you, then they're not interested anymore. You know, so that was one of the things that we decided early on. It disturbed some of the people, especially in the gay media early on, because our original audience was, had been really heavy black, Latin and gay. And certainly gay people, the gay media wanted to hold us up as an example and say, you know, this is a gay group. But the truth of the matter is, everybody in the group is not gay, is, was and is not gay

They lyrics in the act were geared to the gay market, at least at first, right?

Well, even when you listen to songs like "Fire Island," which says, don't go in the bushes, I mean that's good advice for anybody. It just says don't go in the bushes

Right, but they were celebrating gay images, in San Francisco, Key West

Yeah, we were celebrating places that were, that had become known as places where gay men gathered...we walked that fine line

It was like it was gay enough to appeal to the gay market, and subtle enough not to offend the main stream

Yes, what it was, if you were gay and you were aware of it, or you knew people that were gay, or had been there, then you would get it at that level, what it was that we were doing at that level. But if you didn't, you just see it as a big old celebration of a place. There wasn't anything in there we said about gay, or anything about having sex with men. You know what? More straight people enjoyed, got off on what we were doing and bought records than certainly gay people did

Well, that would have to be so, due to the millions sold

Yeah, right, because more, millions more heterosexual people bought it than gay people did. One of the reasons it's lasted so long, and it still holds up, I mean, is because it was such a delicate, fine balance...

And the songs were just incredibly catchy.

There you go. Again, you know, a fine crafted pop is one of the hardest things in the world to create and...

And Jacques did several.

Jacques and the team. I give Jacques Morali lots of credit, but Henri Belolo was the absolute Executive Producer and if he didn't want it out, it didn't go out. Plus, there was Horace Ott, who was the most incredible arranger and orchestration person. The one name that always has to be remembered in all of this and ti's probably one of the least known names by the broad population is Henri Belolo. And Henri was executive producer and he was our manger and Henri just was brilliant in what he did

What's your favorite Village People song?

Probably "YMCA"...I honestly thought the title cut from the fourth album, called "Go West," I really loved "Go West." But I love what "Go West" says, I think it's a beautiful tune, and "Go West" and "YMCA" were my favorites

What did you think of the Pet Shop Boys' version of "Go West'?

Hey, they got, they got even millions more people aware of it. I think they did a terrific job on it. But "Go West" in the lyrics and what it says, it's really a wonderful song

Which song do you think is the gayest?

Um, is the gayest? I don't know, do you remember a song, it was either the "Macho Man" album or the "YMCA" album, called "My Roommate"? [Yeah] Do you remember that song? [sings] "My roommate, my roommate"...that's pretty gay. It talks about how he wears my clothes and I go to look in my closet and to find my favorite shirt and my roommate has it on, that's probably one of the gayest ones.

Village People - My Roommate (1978)

Also "I Am What I Am" is pretty gay.

Yes, oh it certainly is...oh, you know what? from the "Macho Man" album when we sing "Macho Man" and then segway the first half of the album goes right into "I Am What I Am" is might say it's gay, but what it says, it doesn't have to be gay, it's just, it's just a liberation anthem. It says "I am what I am, and what I am what I am, and what I'll be." But there's another one, too, that we do in [the movie] "Can't Stop the Music" called "Liberation" [Right] and you listen to those lyrics and that, and even in the movie, when we're singing that...I mean we do it as a bunch the Marx Brothers, like goofing up and messing up, and making the mic stands fall over, but you listen to what we're singing, we're talking about the time for liberation is now. And that's what we sing about, and people would...that song really even the way it's done, it's almost done like a Germanic dong dong, very strong, strong...[Anthemic] Anthemic, yes, it's anthemic and it's very much a...maybe that's a gay one. It's's about liberation, and we were singing about that way back in 1978, 79, didn't get the credit for it.

Village People - Liberation (1980)

Can't Stop the Music pic

Well, this has been a treat, it will be a wonderful interview, editing will be a challenge

Yeah, but you know you can do it, make a cut where I take a breath

You don't take many breaths, Randy

No, I don't, I've got great lung power. I never smoked, so I've got great lungs.

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.

I'm kind of digging into the philosophy of the gay part of disco music, cause a lot of people generalize and say disco music is gay music, well, no, not really. And I always ask, I get on a soap box and say, well, you know, hardly any of the artists were gay and even less of the songs dealt with our lives, so why is it gay music? There more gay folk singers, why isn't that gay music?

Exactly, or even rock and roll. Maybe you can come up with an answer why people call it gay music.

Well, it's popular in the gay clubs, and that's what's identified with our culture more than anything else.

Well, you know what, I think it's music of a time that was really about freedom and liberation, where we as...people who had either been in high school or junior high in the 60's when people were espousing the free love and the whole Woodstock era, those theories, when the breaking away from the binds of the 50's were really happening. In the 70's people really started to come of age, mature enough, old enough, legal, over 21 years old, and we were actually living out those philosophies. So I think this music came along at a time and sort of spoke of freedom, spoke of liberation, spoke certainly of personal and sexual liberation, and that was probably what was associated with gay people more than anything else

I think there's a bit of trend-setting, too, first to spot a Grace Jones or whomever

Gay people. The gay culture in the 70s was feeling unteathered and liberated, so I guess that's the deep reason that disco music is so associated with gay people. And certainly there were a lot of people who were gay that were involved with creating that music, but not as many as straight people, because there are always more straight people than there are gay people. But it was a wonderful time, don't you agree? [Yes, yes, I loved it] I did, too, I mean there will never be another time like it, and people who didn't live through it [Cant' understand] can't understand it, but they all wish they'd been there. It's indescribable, you can't really describe it, it's like, you can't really say how it was.

It was the first wave of freedom.

Well, you know what, it was liberating, that's for sure, and I know my experience was not everybody's experience, but I certainly had the most incredible, wonderful time that I think that a human being could have.

There was a lot more of that interview that I could not fit into this show. Actually, that was only about a third of it, and the rest is I think very interesting. You can hear it all on my website at 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.

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)

That's enough 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.

Contempt in your eyes
As I turn to kiss his lips
Broken I lie
All my feelings denied
Blood on your fist
Can you tell me why?

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…

You Are My World     To Love Somebody

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 loved Dan Hartman. He was the most big-hearted, marvelous, marvelous man, and a great artist. "Instant Replay" was the soundtrack to gay disco life at a certain point, a certain important point in my life. And I think I first heard it in New York, where disco was first breaking out, before it was cool to like dance music, when it was still disco sucks and all the rest of it. And it was such a life-affirming, upbeat song, and I bought the 12 inch version of it, and everything, and all the sleeve notes were hand-written by Dan on the back. And, after my "Still Loving You" came out I got a letter out of the blue, handwritten, saying that "the time has come for me to say how much I like your "Still Loving You" album" and just giving some words of praise and enjoyment about it, and it's signed, Dan Hartman. And I rushed to my copy of "Instant Replay" to compare the handwriting, and it was the same handwriting, it was the same Dan Hartman.

And so next time he came over to London, we met, and he came round and met my partner, Susie, at the time, and got on really well with her, and him and his partner Richard and me and Suze would just sort of go out and have meals and stuff together. And we became good friends. We wrote a few songs together, including "Tomboy," which was my tribute to Suze, and, it was great, because he liked, he liked "Still Loving You" for its gay content, its gay, not content, its gay sensibility, that even if the songs weren't specific with pronouns here and there, they were pretty much songs about one gay love affair, running through that. And he picked up on that and enjoyed it. And so it was really nice to write with him, and for him not to have any kind of problem with the fact that I was living with a woman now, and that, it was neither here nor there to him, we were kindred spirits with the same sensibility. We both loved men, we both had similar experiences in growing up, and he'd done all that extraordinary music and production.

I saw him working on the Tina Turner album that he was later to produce. He did James Brown's "Living In America," gave James Brown his comeback, he did the same for Tina Turner, and he had a demo set up in London, and showed us, and went there and he just sang a perfect facsimile of Tina Turner's voice to the backing tracks, so that it was demoed for her, so she could hear how she would sound on it. And he was perfect, he could do a complete mimic of Tina Turner, he was marvelous. And he said, "that should please the bitch." And then, "of course, I won't say that when I meet her, it'll be, yes, Miss Turner, no, Miss Turner." He was such a funny man, so full of life, and with a huge, big heart.

And then, we didn't hear from him for a little bit, and suddenly I got a phone call from Holly Johnson, from Frankie Goes to Hollywood, to say, Dan was dead. And it just broke my heart, just broke my heart. Missing him. And he hadn't told anyone that he was ill. He couldn't even accept it himself. He didn't take treatment for it because he didn't want to acknowledge that he was ill. And his good friends and mine, Vickie Wickham and Nona Hendryx, finally filled me in on what had happened and the whole story, and it was just tragic, just a big tragedy. And he wouldn't let his friends help him towards the end. He was very private at the same time as being very open and warmhearted. I think he did keep a fortress around him.

His songs "Instant Replay" and "Relight My Fire" are two get-out-of-my-way-I must-dance-now songs.

They are. I would heartily agree with that.

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 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)

Instant Replay