Queer Music Of The 1970s

Today’s Pride playlist focuses on music from the 1970s. After making it I noticed it was light on the ladies. More women will turn up as this series goes on. Here’s what you’ll hear on today’s playlist:

“Lola” – The Kinks

“I know what I am and I’m glad I’m a man and so is Lola.” You can interpret this line as meaning that I’m glad I’m a man and Lola is also glad that I’m a man, though if you consider the earlier line “I’m not dumb, but I can’t understand why she walked like a woman but talked like a man” you’ll realize that Lola is also a man. A man who made the top ten in 1970 and makes her presence known to this day.

“Rocket Man (I Think It’s Gonna be A Long, Long Time)” – Elton John

Of course this playlist needs some Elton John. I recall reading an essay about “Rocket Man” some years ago where the author posits this song’s lyrics are about a gay man. A man who is leaving his wife and children to live his life though loneliness that will surround him, at least initially. A man who is “not the man they think I am back home.” And then there’s the phallic imagery of a rocket. That’s part of this writer’s essay. Lyricist Bernie Taupin has never acknowledged this theory, as far as I know.

“John I’m Only Dancing” – David Bowie

In the traditional song “Frankie and Johnny,” a young woman named Frankie sees her boyfriend dancing with another woman and shoots him. As Johnny falls to the floor, he tells Frankie he loves her and was telling this other woman about her. “John I’m Only Dancing” flips the script. John sees his boyfriend dancing with a woman, and the boyfriend explains that it’s just dancing he’s doing with the woman. Pretty rad for 1973.

“Walk on the Wild Side” – Lou Reed

Speaking of David Bowie, he co-produced Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” a song that opens with a verse about Holly Woodlawn, who hitchhiked across the United States and by the time she arrived at her destination, “he was a she.” Somehow, this tale of “outsiders” became Reed’s only pop hit. I love the song, though I don’t know how Candy Darling was able to utter the title phrase with her mouth full.

“I’maman” – Jobriath

Jobriath was the first openly gay man signed to a major record label (Elektra).

“Jimmy’s Got a Little Bit of Bitch in Him” – Funkadelic

That’s one way to put it.

“I Got The” – Labi Siffre

Eminem’s first hit was “My Name Is,” the single version of which included lyrics one may consider to be homophobic. The music bed was built around a sample from Labi Siffre’s “I Got The.” Pity Eminem didn’t know beforehand that Siffre is an openly gay man who refused to approve the sample use until Eminem changed the lyrics for the album version. Said Siffre “Dissing the victims of bigotry – women as bitches, homosexuals as faggots – is lazy writing. Diss the bigots, not their victims.”

“Get Dancin’” – Disco Tex & the Sex-O-Lettes

Joseph Montanez Jr. became openly gay Sir Monti Rock III, who adopted the camp persona of Disco Tex, and with openly gay Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons producer Bob Crewe came up with “Get Dancin’,” to the best of my knowledge the only top ten hit with the lyric “My chiffon is wet.”

“Killer Queen” – Queen

Killer Queen. Queen. Freddie Mercury.

“At Seventeen” – Janis Ian

Janis Ian came out as a lesbian in 1993.

“A.C.D.C.” – Sweet

She’s got girls. She’s got men.

“Ain’t Nobody Straight in L.A.” – The Miracles

Not true. I’ve met three straight people since I moved to L.A. in 2003.

“Sweet Transvestite” – Tim Curry

Sometimes I’m amazed by certain movie characters that catch on in the mainstream in a big way. Tim Curry’s Frank N. Furter is one of them, though it took a few years from the 1975 release of The Rocky Horror Picture Show for it to happen.

“53rd & 3rd” – Ramones

The corner in a then gayish neighborhood where a Viet Nam War vet is trying to turn a trick.

“All the Time” – Barry Manilow

Barry Manilow publicly came out as gay in 2017.

“I Go To Rio” – Peter Allen

Peter Allen, Liza Minnelli’s first husband, was in a relationship with a male model from 1974 to 1984, when the model passed away from an AIDS-related illness. Allen passed away from an AIDS-related illness eight years later.

“The Killing of Georgie” – Rod Stewart

In which a gay man dies from a gay bashing on 53rd & 3rd. Not your typical top 40 fare in 1977, and yet.

“Jet Boy, Jet Girl” – Elton Motello

Sung from the persona of a 15 year-old boy who likes to kiss, get head from, and wishes to penetrate another boy, this song surprisingly didn’t make the top 40. Or top 100.

“Fuck Off” – Wayne County & The Electric Chairs

Considered to be rock music’s first openly transgender singer, Jayne County wrote and sang this song that to me is THE anthem of LGBTQI+ people.

“I Was Born This Way” – Carl Bean

Openly gay Carl Bean had a hit on the disco chart in 1978 with this song about being openly gay.

“Glad To be Gay” – Tom Robinson Band

Rad.

“I Love the Nightlife (Disco ‘Round)” – Alicia Bridges

Alicia Bridges came out as a lesbian in 1998.

“Muscleboys” – Mumps

Hey – there’s a new compilation of recordings from gay punk band Mumps that just came out. Someone whose blog you’re now reading worked on it. J

“Cherry Poppin’” – Mitch Ryder

With The Detroit Wheels, Mitch Ryder had a handful of hit singles in the 1960s, the most famous of which was his medley of “Devil With a Blue Dress On” and “Good Golly, Miss Molly.” This song about his love of anal sex with other guys is not as well-known.

“Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” – Buzzcocks

Written and sung by Buzzcocks’ bisexual singer and songwriter Pete Shelley.

“Instant Replay” – Dan Hartman

The late Dan Hartman was a gay man who kept his sexual orientation and HIV status secret form the public during his lifetime.

“You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” – Sylvester

On the other end of the spectrum is Sylvester, who was openly gay, outspoken, and refused to conform to the typical straight or gay presentation of one’s self.

“There But for the Grace of God Go I” – Machine

Carlos and Carmen Vidal move far away from the Bronx so they can raise their newborn daughter away from the Blacks, the Jews and the gays. How do you think the daughter turned out?

“Go West” – Village People

Village People’s openly straight lead singer Victor Willis said the lyrics he contributed to this song were not intended to be gay in any way, but as a gay man, it’s hard to not hear the song about two people in love beginning a new life in a place that’s peaceful and near the beach where they can be carefree and happy to not be about going west to California, particular gay mecca San Francisco. I’ll also add that Village People’s “Macho Man,” “In the Navy,” Y.M.C.A.,” “San Francisco,” and “Fire Island” sound kinda gay to me as well.

“Manimal” – The Germs

The Germs’ lead singer Darby Crash went to great lengths to hide the fact that he was gay, so as not to alienate the group’s fans. He took his own life in 1980, aged 22.

The Spotify embed link is still not working, so here is the link: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4sRn5vjsgNdNm80iiSUf0M?si=ae606e31c882414a

Your (Almost) Daily Playlist (6-24-20)

Inspired by Black Music Month, LGBTQ Pride Month, and the June 24 birthdays of Mick Fleetwood, Solange, Tears For Fears’ Curt Smith, The Zombies’ Colin Blunstone, Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark’s Andy McClusky, Ariel Pink, Michele Lee, Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval, Siedah Garrett, Arthur Brown, Phil Harris, and The Notwist’s Markus Acher.

Your (Almost) Daily Playlist (2-20-20)

Inspired by the February 20 birthdays of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, Rihanna, Steely Dan’s Walter Becker, J.Geils, Spirit’s Randy California, Stone Roses’ Ian Brown, Seal, Backstreet Boys’ Brian Littrell, and Lindisfarne’s Alan Hull.

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Bowie_JohnDancing1

David Bowie – “John, I’m Only Dancing”

Bowie_JohnDancing1
“I’m gay and always have been.”
– David Bowie, January 1972, in Melody Maker

In June of 1972, the same month he released The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, named the “Greatest, Gayest Album of All-Time” by Out magazine, David Bowie recorded “John, I’m Only Dancing.” In the song Bowie, as the narrator, tell his boyfriend John not to get jealous just because Bowie is with a girl, for all they are doing is dancing, though he does say that she turns him on.

Released as a single in the UK, “John, I’m Only Dancing” became Bowie’s third hit, following “Space Oddity” and “Starman.” His US label, RCA, declined to release the song until 1976 when they included it on the compilation Changesonebowie. (RCA also issued Bowie’s The Man Who Sold the World album in the US in 1972 with a photo of Bowie on-stage in slacks kicking a leg up as opposed to using the image that graced the UK version of the album, a long-haired Bowie reclining in a dress.)

By 1982 it was well-known that Bowie was not gay. Rolling Stone made that clear with their cover story entitled “David Bowie Straight.” Did he exploit gay sexuality to achieve fame? Yes. Is that a bad thing? Tom Robinson (“Glad to Be Gay”) doesn’t think so. “For gay musicians, Bowie was seismic. To hell with whether he disowned us later.”

Nicholas Pegg, star of Doctor Who and David Bowie expert, suggested that “John, I’m Only Dancing” may not be a gay song after all. Perhaps the narrator was telling John, the boyfriend of the girl with whom the narrator is dancing, that he needn’t worry about his intentions.

In January 1973 Bowie re-recorded “John, I’m Only Dancing” for his Aladdin Sane album, though it did not make that release. This version, referred to as the “sax version,” was issued in the UK as a single in April of that year utilizing the same catalogue number as the earlier single. In the US, the first 1000 copies of Changesonebowie pressed included the sax version.

In 1974 Bowie recorded “John, I’m Only Dancing (Again).” This version retains the chorus of “John, I’m Only Dancing” but the verses use new lyrics and a different melody in which the narrator expresses his joy of dancing.

Today is David Bowie’s 68th birthday. Here are nineteen songs he wrote or co-wrote, plus “Walk on the Wild Side,” which he co-produced. He may not be gay, but as you will hear, a lot of his music is.

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