Straight Bands, Gay Songs.

One of the features of the pioneering queer zine JDs (published by Toronto scenesters G.B. (Gloria) Jones and Bruce La Bruce) was the homo hit parade. In those days before queercore, there was a shortage of queer bands, and many of the songs on the list were songs about homosexuals by bands that didn't necessarily have homosexual members. After all, it was a common event for straight punks in the mid-80s to be called faggot by the fratboy element, so no wonder homosexual themes were explored.

But the punk rock era was not the first to feature songs about homosexuals.

The Creation were a mid-60s British mod group whose innovation was playing the electric guitar with a violin bow. Among the lesser works available on "How Does It Feel To Feel," the essential CD that collects their recorded works is "Uncle Bert." (268 K wav excerpt) This rather puzzling, nursery-rhyme-like song contains the following lyric:

"Three cheers for an old man coming round
'Tis Uncle Bert with his trousers hanging down
Well I spied him lurking deep on Hampstead Heath
Rumor has it uncle's a tillie"
Hampstead Heath is, of course a notorious London cruising area. It's rather surprising to have it pop up in a rock song from the mid-60s, but the Creation had songs about such esoteric subjects as being a painter.

Funkadelic's "Jimmy's Got A Little Bit Of Bitch In Him" (400 K wav excerpt) from the album "Standing on the Verge of Getting It On" (1974) offers such observations as

Jimmy's got a little bit of she in he
but when he be he see.
Reality can be stiff sometimes
then again it can be flexible
depending on the angle of the dangle
increased by the heat of the meat
and dedicated to the proposition
that not all men are not created equal
so why frown --
yeah -- even the sun go down.
After all, George Clinton is a former hairdresser, so he must have had some dealings with real-life homosexuals.

Joe Tex is one of the neglected greats of soul music. While his biggest hits were with songs on the novelty end of things -- "Skinny Legs and All" and "I Gotcha" (pick up the Rhino compilation of songs up to "I Gotcha") he also had a serious side, with songs with spoken word parts that verged on sermons, offering advice like "Hold on to what you've got," a song urging fidelity in relationships.

Unfortunately, Joe Tex's albums are not available on CD. Mostly the earlier material is represented on the CD compilations now available. To hear his music from the 70s, you have to seek out hard-to-find vinyl LPs. Among these is "Bumps and Bruises" (1977) which includes "Be Cool (Willie is Dancing With a Sissy)." (286 K wav excerpt)

I tried to tell him that wasn't no real girl
Ain't no woman got no muscles like that nowhere in the world
He should have checked it cuz man, that's a drag
But let me hush my mouth because that might be Willie's bag
At this point, Joe Tex had already spent some time as a Nation of Islam minister... seems like an odd topical choice for a song from a member of that usually homophobic religion. On the other hand, it was the height of the disco era, and perhaps when doing a disco song, the topic of homosexuality naturally comes to mind.

Of course there's also stuff like Steppenwolf's instrumental "Fag" -- and what are we to make of Black Sabbath's "Fairies Wear Boots"? Is it perhaps a tribute to fellow Brits The Pink Fairies, who essayed such tunes as "I wish I was a girl" and the DIY anthem "Do It" (later coverd by Henry Rollins.)


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, check out Queer Music Heritage for lots of information about music by and about gay folks.

Larry-bob
larrybob@gmail.com
5/24/97


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