August 2004
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This month's show features a very special interview with UK queer rocker Tom Robinson

Playlist:       airdate August 23, 2004
Polly Perkins - Falling in Love Again (1964)
Julian & Sandy - Fave Homes & Bona Gardens (1965)
Lee Sutton - Bona Eke (1971)
Morrissey - Piccadilly Palare (1990)
Tom Robinson songs:
Glad To Be Gay
2-4-6-8 Motorway
Gay Switchboard Jingle (1978)
War Baby (1984)
More Lives Than One (1984)
Blood Brother (1990)
Good To Be Gay (1975)
Mad About The Boy (1982)
Never Gonna Fall In Love Again (1988)
Glad To Be Gay (2004)

Read the script for the show...

Polari

In the 50s and 60s in England there was a secret gay language, a slang language called Polari. In those days gay men used it as a form of protection and secrecy. Outsiders would not be able to tell what you were talking about, and it also had a humorous and campy element. It was derived from a variety of sources, such as Italian words, rhyming slang, and back slang, which was saying a word as if it were spelled backwards. Theatre people and also gay men in the Merchant Marines also contributed various words. There were probably about 500 polari terms, and they included words for types of people, occupations, body parts, clothing, sexual acts, and they were ideal for gossip. Paul Baker has written two wonderful books about Polari, and you can visit these sites for more information.

Polari - British Gay Slang
Polari
Hugh Young's Lexicon of Polari
How Bona To Vada Your Eek
Julian & Sandy Tribute Page

UK Female Impersonator/comedian Lee Sutton ("A Near Miss") released several albums in the late 60s and 70s. Her song "Bona Eke" appeared on "Drag For Camp Followers" (1971). Click for more on Lee Sutton.

Lee Sutton "Drag For Camp Followers"

Morrissey

In the 70s Polly Perkins was about the only openly lesbian performer in England and in addition the 1977 album above, also had one (that I wish I had) called "Liberated Lady." One of her anthems was her song "Superdyke" (not sure if it was ever recorded), and she also wrote a book, "Songs For The Liberated Woman." In the early 90s she starred as Trish Valentine on the popular UK soap "Elderado." But my soft spot for her is her pop singles of the early 60s, especially her version of the Marlene Deitrich song "Falling In Love Again." CLICK for more info on Polly Perkins.

In 1965 on the British comedy series "Round The Horne" cast members Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick introduced their very camp characters Julian & Sandy. The public loved their adventures, which are still available in reissued CDs today, and back then they even inspired a book.

The Bona Book of Julian & Sandy

Julian & Sandy

And the ever sexually ambiguous Morrissey paid homage to Polari in his 1990 song "Piccadilly Palare." Yes, there were variations in the spelling of Polari. In the song he talks about being on the meat rack and cruising, and being a "reasonably good buy"...oh, click here for the entire lyrics.

Morrissey

Note: many of the images on this page have other images behind them if you pass your cursor over them

Another album by Julian & Sandy, from 1976...is this gay enough for you?

Tom Robinson has long been a musical hero of mine, dating back to his 1978 anthem "Glad To Be Gay," (which I played on my very first QMH show) and including many, many wonderful songs and albums since. He was one of my dream interviews, and that came true in June when he hosted the Outmusic Awards in New York City. I was able to arrange some time with him, and captured about 70 minutes of wonderful and thoughtful answers, to questions about his music and his struggles with being gay, and then, bisexual. Naturally I cannot fit 70 minutes of talk into this hour show, but for those who want to hear the complete interview, please CLICK on the TRB banner.

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Right, 1978 photo of the Tom Robinson Band. Two reasons that Tom Robinson is one of my queer heroes is for his music and his activism. He's been fighting the good fight for over 25 years. Over the years he's become very active in bisexual activism, and his website (www.tombinson.com), is one of the best "artist sites" I've seen anywhere. It has a terrific reference section on information regarding bisexuality, including links to many other Bi sites.

 

TRB

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Gig Magazine, 8/78 and Circus Magazine, 8/78

Trouser Press, 10/80 and 6/78

TRB, 1983

Castaway Club CD, Vol. 4, 1997

Above left, from article in Gig Magazine, 8/78; below that, from an article in Trouser Press, 10/80; above right, TRB in 1983; directly above, the cover of the CD "Castaway Club, #4." From 1994 through 2001 Tom issued a series of CDs through his fan club, with many exclusive releases. Volume 8 even contained spoken word prose. As they were not very available commercially I would consider them all collectable today. Below, a collage of many of Tom's releases.

Tom Robinson Record Collage

Quotes from the Interview:

Having enjoyed a period of notoriety as an out gay pop singer in the 70s, shock, horror, he sleeps with men, I then bizaarrely had a further brush with the tabloids, where, shock, horror, man sleeps with woman

David Bowie had an incalculable effect on my life, because for the first time, at school, or among young people, you could be queer and you could be one of the good guys.

For the record I've never claimed to be anything other than gay. And it's only with reluctance that I came to about ten years later say, oh, sod it, you know, if living with a woman makes me bisexual, okay, I'm bisexual.

I'd have to say that my career as a queer musician really started with a suicide attempt

It wasn't until my early twenties, when David Bowie turned up and sang "You Are Not Alone." And suddenly on the bush telegraph you knew what that meant. "Oh You Pretty Things," "John, I'm Only Dancing"…you heard songs suddenly, for the first time, instead of being almost about your life, reflecting an emotional experience that you felt except all the pronouns were wrong, suddenly it was actually about your life, and I resolved to myself that if ever in the future I had an opportunity to do that for somebody else, to pass it on so the idea could spread, then I would do my damnest to do it.

"Britain's Number One Gay In Love With Girl Biker: My Passion for Blond," by Rocker Robinson.

And so I was infuriated by the fact that on the one hand the organizations that should have been campaigning for that were running little low-key discos in town where you could wear a "Glad To Be Gay" badge. Then you'd come out, hide the badge, and not do anything about what was going on in the streets to your brothers and sisters further down the road. So "Glad To Be Gay" was a bitterly ironic attack on the complacency of the gay community at the time, rather than a proclamation that one was glad to be gay.

In many ways one of my favorite gay songs of all the ones that I wrote that had a specifically openly amorously gay theme, I like "Never Gonna Fall In Love Again"

I've never claimed to be straight or to have turned straight, or to have stopped being queer in any sense whatsoever. It's merely an expansion. In addition to my repertoire I had added a further experience. Hey, all my lesbian friends had been telling me for years and years about how fabulous women were, and I found out in this particular instance they were dead right.

I always felt that the music had to come first, because nobody gives a toss what your political opinions are, or what your sexual politics are, if your music's rubbish.

Candid pics I took of Tom during the Outmusic Awards weekend:
Top Row: taken during the interviews at Tom's hotel
Middle Row: from the post-OMAs concert at the Knitting Factory
Bottom Row: Tom brought Adam Phillips from England to help him perform. This shot was at a house concert given by Ed Mannix; Next, a shot of myself with Tom...he held the camera, his arms are longer; and another shot at the concert, with Jay Spears helping out.

Tom Robinson, 6/11/04, photo by JD Doyle

Tom Robinson, 6/13/04, photo by JD Doyle

Tom Robinson & Adam Phillips, 6/11/04, photo by JD Doyle

Tom Robinson, 6/11/04, photo by JD Doyle

Tom Robinson, 6/13/04, photo by JD Doyle

JD Doyle & Tom Robinson

Tom Robinson, 6/11/04, photo by JD Doyle

Tom Robinson & Jay Spears, 6/13/04, photo by JD Doyle

Tom Robinson & Jay Spears, 6/13/04, photo by JD Doyle

  Clippings!
Thanks to eBay I was able to obtain a very nice and large batch of press clippings on TRB, all circa 1977-1981, so of course I'm sharing them. Click to go to that page.