Queer Noises

queer_noises.jpgBeyond Bowie and Frankie, there’s a whole secret history of gay pop, reports Alexis Petridis

‘Wilder, madder, gayer than a Beatle’s hairdo’

It was the love that dare not sing its name—or was it? Beyond Bowie and Frankie, there’s a whole secret history of gay pop, reports Alexis Petridis

Tuesday July 4, 2006

The year 1966 is known as rock’s annus mirabilis. It was the year the right musicians found the right technology and the right drugs to catapult pop into hitherto unimagined realms of invention and sophistication: the year of the Beatles’ Revolver, the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. But the most astonishing record of 1966 did not emanate from the unbounded imagination of Brian Wilson, or from an Abbey Road studio wreathed in pot smoke. Instead, it was the work of hapless instrumental combo the Tornados.

By 1966, the Tornados’ moment of glory—with 1962 number one Telstar—had long passed; they hadn’t had a hit in three years and every original member had departed. The single they released that year, Is That a Ship I Hear?, was their last. Tucked away on its B-side, the track Do You Come Here Often? attracted no attention, which was probably just as well. A year before the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, the Tornados’ producer, Joe Meek, had taken it upon himself to record and release Britain’s first explicitly gay rock song, apparently undaunted by his own conviction for cottaging in 1963. (more)

Tracklist
01. Jose: At The Black Cat 02:09
02. Rod McKuen: Eros 01:42
03. Mr. Jean Fredericks: Nobody Loves A Fairy When She’s Forty 03:56
04. Byrd E. Bath & Rodney Dangerfield: Florence of Arabia 03:40
05. B.Bubba: I’d Rather Fight Than Swish 03:16
06. The Kinks: See My Friend 02:40
07. The Tornados: Do You Come Here Often? 03:53
08. The Brothers Butch: Kay, Why? 03:13
09. Teddy & Darrel: These Boots 02:22
10. Zebedy: The Man I Love 03:09
11. Curt Boettcher: Astral Cowboy 02:18
12. Harrison Kennedy: Closet Queen 03:43
13. Polly Perkins: Coochy Coo 03:19
14. Michael Cohen: Bitterfeast 03:09
15. Jobriath: I’m A Man 03:30
16. Chris Robison: Lookin’ For A Boy 03:57
17. Peter Grudzien: White Trash Hillbilly Trick 02:56
18. Valentino: I Was Born This Way 03:20
19. The Miracles: Ain’t Nobody Straight In LA 03:43
20. The Ramones: 53rd And 3rd 02:19
21. The Twinkeyz: Aliens In Our Midst 03:17
22. Dead Fingers: Talk Nobody Loves You When You’re Old And Gay 04:30
23. Black Randy & The Metro Squad: Trouble At The Cup 01:53
24. Sylvester: You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) 03:45

Previously on { feuilleton }
Gay book covers

The Absolute Elsewhere

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I’ve had the late RT Gault’s extraordinary web achive linked on my main site for years but thought it was worth giving it another plug here. The title of his site, The Absolute Elsewhere, comes from the equally extraordinary Pauwels and Bergier book, The Morning of the Magicians, a unique concoction of fact, fiction and speculation that runs through alchemy, potential developments in human evolution, Forteana, Arthur Machen and Nazi mysticism, among a host of topics. This was the book that launched a thousand lesser crank volumes in the 1970s and also had a surreptitious influence on works as diverse as Shea and Wilson’s Illuminatus! trilogy and David Bowie’s Hunky Dory album.

Gault described his site thus:

This is a bibliography of visionary, occult, new age, fringe science, strange and even crackpot works published between 1945 and 1988. Added to the mix are some other works which may relate to them, or at least give a sense of the spirit of the times. The main emphasis is upon works produced between 1960 and 1980, as the subtitle suggests.

and it’s his wonderful collection of paperback covers that’s the chief delight here. One can wish for the scans to be slightly higher quality and for the collection to be more extensive but what’s there is well worth a look, if only to see how lurid paperback styles evolve over the course of a couple of decades.

The web is an increasingly valuable repository for people with collections like this. Some of Mr Gault’s other pages seem to have gone offline but his Arthur Machen pages are still there with a nice gallery of rare editions. Other favourite archive sites would include the Violet Books galleries, the Vintage Paperbacks site, and the hilariously silly Gay on the Range, which I’ve mentioned before.

Update: Following Gault’s death the site has been deleted so I’ve updated the links to the Wayback Machine’s archive. There’s also a mirror of the site here.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The book covers archive

Gay book covers

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Gay on the Range (very apt name in the year of Brokeback Mountain) has a great selection of gay paperback covers from the 1950s and 60s. The one above is one of the more psychedelic examples (I was 7 years old in 1969; no one told me it was “the gay year”.) Lots of hysterical art and titles, some of them genre parodies, others delicious examples of steamy prurience that teasingly imply “exposure” of the terrible world of “the gay”. For balance, the Strange Sisters site has a similar collection of lesbian book jackets from the same period.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The gay artists archive
The book covers archive