If you're interested in gay rock, check out my Queer Music Explosion page and Queer bands on tour.

Gay Rock History

Recently I've been on a quest for early gay rock records.

These recordings are notable for their idealism (that early-70s first blush of gay lib) and lack of irony -- a quality rare today. This is especially true of Everyone Involved, a British folk-rock group whose songs on their 1972 record "Either/Or" on the Arcturus label alternate between songs with choruses of "gay is good" and (no lie) anti-car songs (sample lyric: "a pedestrian is a person...") The actual record is reputed to have been a pressing of 60, with six known to exist. [actually, a thousand copies were pressed, with 60 going to each of 16 participants.] It was said to be recorded by members of a commune, who gave copies away for free. My copy of the recording is a multi-gen tape.

197K WAV sound file from song by Everyone Involved.

Yes, sincerity is apparently a thing of the past, only available through the scratchy grooves of old records, precious in hindsight. Nowdays we have to settle for the Englebert Humperdinck cover version of Tom Wilson's "Lesbian Seagull" on the Beavis and Butthead soundtrack and Frogs records. Not to say there isn't pleasure in music that nudges you with its elbow (and not so subtly), but more sublime are the pleasures of music that invites you to join hands and dance merrily in a circle.

Not to say that musicians of the 1970s were devoid of intentional humor. Chris Robison's 1973 self-released record on Gypsy Frog Records, "Chris Robison and his Many-Hand Band" certainly has a playful sense, with the catchy number "Looking for a Boy Tonight" ("I am not the only one to know your own sex can be fun.") Robison was in Elephant's Memory, the Lower East Side band that backed up John and Yoko. (Robison was in the band during their post-Apple period and appears on the 1974 RCA release "Angels Forever, " not on their self-titled album on Buddah as earlier reported.) His song "(I'm gonna stay with my baby) Tonight" was included on Ronnie Spector's 1980 "punk" album "Siren" (produced by Genya Ravan.) And he was also involved in the New York Dolls and plays on the "Tokyo Dolls Live" record. Robison's second solo record, released in 1974 and also on the Gypsy Frog label is called "Manchild." (the only copy I know of is damaged, though.) Please, if anyone has a copy of the record by his later band Stumblebunny, let me know. [Since this writing, I have laid hands on both recordings, but please feel free to continue to email me.]

299K WAV sound sample from "Looking for a Boy Tonight" by Chris Robison.

Other stuff I've found includes the first record by an openly gay artist on a major label, Steven Grossman's "Caravan Tonight," the Mick Ronson-produced 1978 record by British band Dead Fingers Talk , "Storm the Reality Studios" -- the lead singer was called Bobo Phoenix -- and a 1980 recording by anonymous San Francisco band Sleeze Attack, who uncannily prefigure Pansy Division, and whose record features a puzzlingly indecipherable drawing perhaps representing fisting.

I'm still looking for records by the 1975 German rock band Flying Lesbians [got it!], Robert Campbell's "Living in the Shadow of a Downtown Movie Show," [I've found a copy of Campbell's record and it is fantastic, particularly the song "Dreamboy" -- need more information on him, though!] singles by The Raped [they've been reissued on CD!], any possibly existant recordings by late-70s British band Handbag, and any further recordings of the above-mentioned artists.

Just think: in the twenty-five years from 1972 to now, gay musicians have gone from singing "Gay is Good" (at a time when most of society didn't think so) to singing "The Homosexual is Criminal" (Pedro Muriel and Esther.) But both groups are singing counter-establishment songs -- it's just that who the establishment is has changed over the years. And if Everyone Involved haven't become car-driving guppies, I bet they'd be willing to join in with Vaginal Davis on the chorus of "Closet Case."

If you enjoy reading about songs with gay content, I'd suggest Wayne Studer's book Rock on the Wild Side : Gay Male Images in Popular Music of the Rock Era, published by Leyland Publications. Also see the book Outspoken, interviews by Keith Howes from Gay News for more on Dead Fingers Talk, the Raped, Handbag, and other late 70s British gay bands.

Feb 3, 1997

http://chrisrobison.gemm.com/ is the website for Chris Robison, from which his records can be ordered.

You can listen to the songs from Either/Or at the website of Alan Wakeman, who wrote the lyrics for the album.

Thanks to Richard Dworkin for turning me on to Chris Robison and Steven Grossman, and to Ron Moore for Everyone Involved. Thanks to Xian for the correction on which Elephant's Memory album Chris Robison appears on.

Queer Music Heritage is a radio show and website by JD Doyle that explores the history of gay music. Chris Robison was interviewed on the show in June 2005.

I suppose I need to include the phrase outsider music too.

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