Inspired by the season and the December 19 birthdays of Earth Wind & Fire’s Maurice White, Lady Sovereign, Phil Ochs, KajaGooGoo’s Limahl, Walter Murphy and Lenny White.
“What the hell is this, Giorgio?”
That is what Donna Summer asked Giorgio Moroder, the producer who brought her to international fame with the track “Love to Love You Baby,” upon hearing a song Moroder intended for her 1977 album I Remember Yesterday. The album’s concept was to combine modern sounds with sounds reminiscent of past musical eras. The title track opens the album with a 1920s feel, which is followed by a fifties throwback and a sixties throwback. The song that perplexed Donna was intended to signify the future.
The synthesizer-based futuristic track was the b-side of the album’s first single, a ballad entitled “Can’t We Just Sit Down (And Talk It Over).” Releasing a ballad as the first single for the Disco Queen’s new album was a strange move. The song failed to make the pop charts, though it did the top twenty of the r&b chart, Summer’s first single to do so since “Love to Love You Baby.”
In some foreign markets, the synth track was the single’s A-side. It made noise, ultimately topping the charts in the U.K., the Netherlands, France, Australia, Italy, Belgium, and Austria. It reached #3 in Germany, where David Bowie was recording with produce Brian Eno. Bowie remembered Eno running into the studio with a copy of the song. Eno played it for Bowie, who recalled him saying “’This is it, look no further. This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next fifteen years.’ Which was more or less right.”
In the U.S. this B-side became the A-side, and reached #6 on the pop chart. Rolling Stone magazine included the track, entitled “I Feel Love,” on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time.
Today, Giorgio Moroder, who has four Grammy Awards and three Academy Awards to his credit, turns 75 years old. He has a new album, Déjà Vu, featuring guest vocalists such as Britney Spears (on a cover of Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner”), Kylie Minogue, Sia, Kelis, and Charli XCX, due to be released this June. Here are twenty career highlights.
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Young Chris Hamill was not popular at school. Expelled for disrupting class, the teen boy transferred to a new school, where the kids pointed out his effeminacy. Always the last one picked in sports, Hamill’s confidence level dropped. Discovering he was gay didn’t help. Unhappy at school, he became a loner, escaping into his music.
After leaving school Hamill pursued acting. He landed a few roles, but music was where his passion truly lied. Hamill reinvented himself. He rearranged the letters of his last name and became Limahl, the cutieface pop singer. He was recruited by a band named Art Nouveau. With Limahl on board, the group changed their name to KajaGooGoo.
While working as a waiter at London’s Embassy Club, Limahl met Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran. He gave Rhodes the group’s demo tape. Rhodes took it to his record label, EMI, who signed them.
In January 1983, EMI released the group’s Rhodes-produced debut single, “Too Shy.” It went to #1 in the UK and reached #5 in the US. At this time, Limahl kept his sexual orientation secret. “I wasn’t embarrassed about being gay, but my role as Limahl, my pop star role, had to be more enigmatic. I didn’t want to start talking about gay sex and gays in 1983 when most of our following was teenage girls.”
While “Too Shy” was on the US charts, the band completed a successful tour playing to 40,000 people in Finland. The following day, Limahl was fired from the group by its other members. About Limahl, KajaGooGoo guitarist Steve Askew said “His lifestyle is so different from ours. We’re very normal people whereas Limahl likes the bright lights.” Limahl, shocked by his dismissal, felt he was let go for being too cute and turning the group into a pop band solely for teens.
Following his sacking from KajaGooGoo, Limahl had a solo hit in 1985 with the theme from the film The NeverEnding Story. That song will kick off the dance playlist for today, Limahl’s 56th birthday.
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Today is the 27th of June. Only three more days of Gay Pride month and then I can go back to my self-loathing. Phew!
New York has their big Pride celebration this weekend. While I enjoy Pride here in West Hollywood, it’s nothing compared to the revelry in my former home of Manhattan.
The Los Angeles Pride parade here in WeHo goes for around two miles and lasts a couple of hours. If memory serves, New York’s parade is five or so miles long and lasts for around 168 hours. WeHo’s parade consists of a handful of politicians, floats for clubs I never heard of, some folks who are legends in their own minds, and a lot of lesbians on motorcycles. NYC’s parade consists of many political groups, many religious organizations, important social clubs such as Lesbians for Patsy Cline and Queens Against Brunch, and a hell of a lot of lesbians on motorcycles.
The list of Grand Marshals of NYC’s parade over the past ten years includes Dustin Lance Black, screenwriter of the Academy Award-wining film Milk; Lt. Dan Choi, a member of the US Army who served in Iraq, came out a gay, and challenged the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy; Dan Savage, creator of the It Gets Better Project, designed to dissuade LGBT youth from suicide as the answer to school bullying; Edie Windsor, the plaintiff in the United States v Windsor Supreme Court case which led to part of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act being struck down as unconstitutional, paving the way for the legalization of same-sex nuptials; Cleve Jones, the LGBT and AIDS activist who, among other things, conceived of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in 1983; Constance McMillen, the high school student who sued her school in Mississippi when they refused to allow her to bring her girlfriend to the school prom; and Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard, whose murder for being gay led to expanded hate crimes legislation to cover sexual orientation.
The list of LA’s Grand Marshals over the past ten years includes Paris Hilton, who is very wealthy and said “Gay guys are the horniest people in the world. Most of them probably have AIDS … I would be so scared if I was a gay guy … you’ll like die of AIDS;” Sharon Osbourne, who is very wealthy; Chelsea Handler, the television personality who dated 50 Cent, the grammatically-challenged former superstar who tweeted “If you a man and your over 25 and you don’t eat pussy just kill your self damn it. The world will be a better place. Lol;” and Demi Lovato, who had a gay grandfather. In 2007 we found an actual gay to be our Grand Marshall – John Amaechi, the first openly-gay former professional basketball player. In 2011 we found another one – Johnny Weir, the celebrated figure skater who smashed all the macho stereotypes of that profession. To be fair, I know how difficult it is to select the appropriate person to be our Grand Marshal. It’s not easy to find an openly gay person in Los Angeles; that’s why I’m still single.
As the organizers of LA’s Pride Parade begin their search for next year’s Grand Marshal (may I suggest Vladimir Putin?), lock the doors, lower the blinds, fire up the smoke machine and put on your heels, because we’re gonna have a kiki. Dive, turn, werk.