Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Flowers
"Razors in My Apple"

Sorry, sorry, sorry!

I know I posted a song by this band just last week, but, well, I've not been able to think of any other Halloween-releated songs by LGBT folk and/or bands!


This litle ditty was from their second 7" EP, and was one of the first of their songs to feature actual percussion . . . of a sort. Mr. Anus played two cookie tins with contact mics taped to them. As with the other Happy Flowers song I posted, it was improvised live in the studio with no overdubbing or mixing afterward.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dead Fingers Talk
"Nobody Loves You When You're Old and Gay"

I'd been aware of this band for many years when I read Naked Lunch in 1991. One of the many things that jumped out at me was all the band names and song titles therein.

There it was, near the top of page 199 of my copy: "Only dead fingers talk in braille. . . ."

Seven or eight years later, my friend Aaron was thinning his record collection a bit while I was visiting. He offered me his copy of Storm the Reality Studios, and I excitedly took it. From what I'd read, they were one of the few punk/new wave bands that sang about gay life in the mid/late-1970s (the only other one I know of was the Tom Robinson Band, and DFT were far better, in my opinion). Other than that, I knew nothing about them. As it turned out, the album is fantastic!

Like many other bands of the mid/late-70s punk era, their formation pre-dated 1976 by quite a stretch. The core of the band started playing together in the band Bone in 1969! This probably accounts for the obvious Lou Reed and David Bowie influences, as opposed to, say, Iggy and the Stooges and/or the MC5.

Though lead singer/primary songwriter Bobo Phoenix wrote and sang about gay life, guitarist Jeff Parsons says in the liner notes to the (absolutely essential) 2000 CD reissue:

None of the band were gay, but there was a sense of relating to those who were out of society's norm. It was powerful, and in those days still quite shocking subject and we felt we tapped into something in the minds of our audience who could relate to that.

Bobo was not interviewed for the liner notes, however, so there's no way of knowing for certain if Parsons is correct.

About the aforementioned reissue: It adds both sides of the non-LP "This Crazy World" single, plus another six previously unreleased tunes. Had I made a "favorite reissues" list in 2000, it probably would've been at the top.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Honor Role
"Swing It / Interlude"

Honor Role
(Homestead Records, 1989)

Longer write-up to come . . .

In the meantime, amazing guitarist Pen Rollings came out sometime in the 90s or 00s. When Merge Records released a compilation CD of all Honor Role's releases, this song was the only one omitted, not counting the songs from the split cassette they released with Graven Image in the early 80s, Your Skull Is My Bowl.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Phil Dooley and his Orchestra
"Can't Do without His Love"

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Phil Dooley and his Orchestra
Can't Do without His Love
10" single
(Victor, 1932)

In his liner notes to the fun and frisky collection Can't Help Lovin' That Man, (very) openly gay critic Michael Musto wrote:

Listen to this compilation and listen hard honey, because you won't believe your ears. It's not just that it's a bunch of old 20s and 30s love songs directed irrevocably at men; it's that they also happen to be sung by men. The result is a sexually titillating aural felt that staggers the queer imagination.

And why did these musical Don Juans choose to sing such homoerotic odes? Because they felt "that way" with such burning urgency that they just couldn't wait to put their emotions on shellac 78s? No, dear. Because back then, song publishers had such a stranglehold on the popular music industry that you didn't dare tamper with a song lyric—even if you were a guy singing a tune written for a gal. Change the words and they'd cut off your dingaling, and then you could go back to the original words with no problem.

Here's the thing, though: in this instance, the singer wrote the darn song!, so it's not like he was crooning someone else's lascivious lyrics. On top of that, his vocal is quite campy and outrageous, two big hallmarks of gay entertainment. Of course, it's possible that he wrote it for a female singer, but I've not been able to find any evidence that it was ever recorded by anyone else!

I've not been able to turn up much about Phil Dooley other than he wrote and sang this paen to his man. It was originally released under his own name, as you can in the above pic, but was later issued 1n 1977 on a compilation LP on RCA/Bluebird of material by Joe Haymes & His Orchestra. Dooley appears to have been given proper credit there, but when Can't Help Lovin' That Man was released, Haymes somehow became the primary artiste. The Victor release number in the liner notes, 24060, however, matches the image above.

This is another case of me cheating, by the way. I ripped the song from the aforementioned compilation CD. Google turned up precisely one instance of an image for the record, itself: a 10", shellac, 78 rpm disc. That image came from a 2007 eBay auction, where the record sold for $325! Unfortunately, the picture was just the label, so I got super creative and found a full image of another Victor 78 of similar vintage, then pasted the label over the top. I think it looks pretty good.

Important Note for Vegetarian and Vegan Listeners: Shellac is made from the dried excretions of female lac bugs, so do not eat 78s, no matter how tempting they may be!

It should go without saying that Steve Albini is made of meat and also should not be eaten.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Happy Flowers
"Jenny Tried to Kiss Me at Recess"

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The . . . um . . . vocalist on this "tune," Mr. Horribly-Charred-Infant, didn't come out 'til a few years after the band split in mid-1990. This track is probably their gayest, in retrospect.

Random facts:

  • All Happy Flowers songs were recorded live in the studio, with no mixing or overdubbing done afterward. In addition, the majority were improvised on the spot.
  • Mr. HCI is playing bass and guitar at the same time on this song. The bass was strapped on over the guitar, which mostly just provided feedback.
  • Mr. Anus is playing the drums. He does like girls.
  • The song is mostly a true story. In reality, however, Jenny never caught and kissed him, and her name was actually Amanda.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

(The) Razz
"You Can Run (But You Can't Hide)"

(The) Razz
You Can Run
7" single
(O'Rourke/Limp, 1979)

Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . yet another band I've already featured in the past.


Truth is, when I posted "Love Is Love" a little over a year ago, it was a toss-up between that song and this one, 'cause I love both. Anyhow, guitarist and co-writer of this tune and long-running solo artiste, Tommy Keene, came out sometime in the last decade, so I felt it appropriate to feature them again for LGBT History Month, and for writing yet another killer tune.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cecil Taylor
"Sperichill on Calling"

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Man, sometimes a bit of good, blasting free jazz is just what I need. Today's man of the . . . um . . . day, Cecil Taylor was outed as gay in 1982 by critic Stanley Crouch, who apparently asserted that Cecil couldn't play piano properly because he is gay. Uhhhh . . . whatever. Cecil is a genius and Stanley is just a critic. Nuf said.

The Players:

Recorded June 3rd, 1978 in SWF-Radio JazzConcert in Kirchzarten/Black Forest/West Germany

NOTA BENE: I've taken the liberty of excising the applause that follows the performance so I could keep the file size under 20MB (my MP3 host's size limit) while keeping the bit-rate as high as possible (112kbps).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pansy Division

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Pansy Division
(self-released, 1991)

Such an inocuous title!

Such naughty lyrics!

Monday, October 10, 2011

"Lexicon Devil"

Germs vocalist/lyricist Darby Crash, name checked in Homosexual by the Angry Samoans, was, in fact, a homosexual. The AngSams credited the song to J. Fallwell, however, so I don't think there was malice intended. Darby was full of charisma, but apparently also full of shame and self-hatred for his sexual orientation. Tragically, this led to self-destructive behavior, drug abuse, and eventually suicide.

Despite there being two versions of Lexicon Devil on the (MIA) The Complete Anthology CD, this is not one of them. I'm not sure if this was the original single version or is exclusive to this release, however (I've never owned the original single). The version on (MIA) The Complete Anthology presented as being from the single has prominent saxophone that, unfortunately, robs the song of a good deal of its sonic power. The version from their lone album, (GI), is much faster and loses the infectious pop appeal of this take. This one is perfect. That's probably why it's my favorite Germs song.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

"Witch Wolf"

The Serpent Is Rising
(Wooden Nickel, 1973)

Man, Cornerstone really ticked me the heck off! Sure, Styx had been going downhill since John Curulewski left (after their fifth album, Equinox), but this was beyond the pale! Not only was there the execrable Babe, there was not a single song that even slightly rocked! I sold it in absolute disgust, then sold all the rest of my Styx albums (I had the first eight). OK, I held on to Equinox for a couple more years; so sue me.

Years later (like, decades), I rebought the first five albums and was able to dig 'em once again. Guitarist James Young, aka JY, had a knack for hard hard rockers, and Witch Wolf from The Serpent Is Rising, their third album, kicks ass quite nicely. Back then, you see, they had yet to devolve from a rock'n'roll band into a crappy Broadway musical about a crappy rock'n'roll band.

So why are they here today, you demand to know? Bassist Chuck Panozzo came out several years back as gay and HIV-positive and, sadly, no longer plays with the band. Then again, Styx've been utter crap since the late '70s, so it's not like he's missing out or anything.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Chris Bell
"You and Your Sister"

Amazon MP3
Chris Bell
I Am the Cosmos
7" single
(Car Records, 1978)

OK, I admit it . . . I cheated on this one. I don't own this single, but I wish I did! I ripped the song from the I Am the Cosmos CD released by Rykodisc in 1992. It came out as I was trying to get over a boy for whom I'd fallen quite hard. In my case, however, his sister didn't say I was "no good;" rather, I felt like she was trying to push us together. I was still struggling with my orientation, and I had no idea what his was; it's been twenty years since then, and I still have no idea (nothing ever happened between us). Regardless, this song really got to me, and it was a long time before I could listen to it without bursting into tears.

Chris was one third of the legendary Memphis power poppers Big Star. He left after their first album, #1 Record, however. In 1978, he released this solo single then died in a car wreck, which may have been suicide. There's a fair amount of debate over whether or not Bell was definitely gay, but it's seems highly unlikely that he was not, based on what I've read.

The above-mentioned CD of Bell's post-Big Star recordings is well-worth the money, in my opinion. Rhino Handmade released an expanded version last year, but it's quite expensive ($40 for a two-CD set!) and the bonus material is mainly alternate versions of the songs on the album. I've not heard it, however, so take my comment as you may.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Kitchens of Distinction
"The Last Gasp Death Shuffle"

Kitchens of Distinction
The Last Gasp Death Shuffle
7" single
(Gold Rush Records, 1987)

I've featured Kitchens of Distinction before, but neglected to mention (as it was not relevant to that post) that leader Patrick Fitzgerald is openly gay. I remember when we got their debut LP, Love Is Hell, at my college radio station; there were drawings of naked men on the cover! I was only just in the midst of admitting to myself that I might not be straight, and that was more than I was prepared to handle; I never even listened to it.


When their next album, Strange Free World, arrived, however, I did listen, and it took roughly one listen for me to fall in love with it. I often disregard lyrics in music, but Fitzgerald's were far too powerful to miss, and guitarist Julian Swales's, uh, guitar is absolutely enveloping. Today's selection is their debut single, released on the tiny Gold Rush Records imprint. It's rather a bit more post-punk than their later sound, and nowhere near as polished, but it's every bit as insistent.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Antony and the Johnsons
"I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy"

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I first (consciously) heard Antony (Hegarty) sing on Lou Reed's live Animal Serenade album. My mental image was a tall, lithe, black drag queen wearing gold eyeshadow, and fanning herself with a Japanese, folding, hand fan. The visage that greeted me when I opened the copy I later bought of Antony and the Johnsons's second album, I Am a Bird Now, was rather unexpected, to say the least. That's really entirely beside the point, however. Antony has an absolutely amazing voice and has become a powerful trans icon the world over, with good reason.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Judas Priest
"Evil Fantasies"

Judas Priest
Living after Midnight
12" single
(CBS, 1980)

Do Judas Priest need an introduction? It's been a decade or so since lead vocalist Rob Halford came out, and he's still the only major player in the world of heavy metal to do so. Anyhow, today's song is one of their few rarities. It was recorded at the same time as their killer live album Unleashed in the East, but didn't appear on the album or the bonus four-track EP that came with the Japanese pressing or the bonus three-track EP that came with the Dutch version. Halford's voice was shot when the concerts were recorded (he was ill), so he rerecorded his vocals later, hence the long-running joke album title Unleashed in the Studio. You can hear his voice cracking quite badly on the intro to this one. XD

Unleashed in the East is one third of the holy triumvariat of late 1970s live heavy metal albums. The other two are, of course, UFO's Strangers in the Night and Thin Lizzy's Live and Dangerous.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

"Boys in Action"

Amazon MP3

(Capitol, 1976)

October is LGBT History Month, so I've decided to make it an entire theme month! All the songs I post this month will either be by LGBT artists or about LGBT issues. As per usual for Lightning Jukebox, the music will be eclectic; it will not be a month of show tunes, dance music, and lesbians with acoustic guitars. I say that not to denigrate those genres, but because those are the stereotypical ones associated with us, yet we are a varied bunch.

When I was a kid, I was a metalhead. If it wasn't loud 'n' heavy, I wasn't all that interested, usually. Starz was one of my favorite bands then (and still are), and their 1976, eponymous debut album had a very gay sounding song title: Boys in Action. Now, I pretty much knew I was gay by the time I was 11, but I was in deep denial. I also knew the song was really about boys in action with girls (ew!), not other boys. Still, it was a turn-on to 14-year-old me; plus, it was the hardest rocking, fastest song on the album.

It wasn't 'til decades later that I discovered that bassist and song co-writer Peter Sweval was gay. Sadly, he passed away from cancer (i.e., complications due to AIDS) in 1990. There's scant information on the web about this, so my conclusion that he was gay may be wrong. I've read articles that make vague references to his sexuality, however, so it seems unlikely that I'm off the mark.

After he left Starz, Peter was a member of the Canadian band The Skatt Brothers, who were supposed to be the straight answer to the Village People, but who had a gay dance club hit with Walk the Night. I don't know; it sounds pretty gay to me. :-P

Before all this, he was a member of the band Looking Glass, who had a massive hit with Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) back in 1972. I've always loved that song. That's Pete on bass, backing vocals, and beard in the video.