QMH, February 2009
Swinger - Military Ditty/Give Us Our Own (1994)
JD Doyle and this is Queer Voices on KPFT, and this segment is called
Queer Music Heritage.
Last November on QMH I did a show called "Lesbians on Cassette," and had a lot of fun doing it, as it gave me a chance to showcase music you seldom get a chance to hear. So I'm calling this month's show "Gay Guys on Cassette." And it will be Part 1, with the second part continued on my March show. I'm using the same criteria: an artist's recording could only have been released on cassette tape, not on vinyl or CD, or reissued on CD. So this puts us mostly in the 1980s and 90s, with releases exclusively by independent artists. These are the ones who generally sold their tapes at live performances, in coffee houses, or the few gay & lesbian bookstores, because that was really the only means they had of getting their music out there. They had no label backing, and tapes were also cheaper to produce, and some were even homemade, or made as demos. Remember, this was way before the internet became the main means to distribute music, and unlike old vinyl or CDs, there does not seem to be any market for old tapes. Dealers just do not want to fool with them. You rarely see them on eBay, for example, so this is a disappearing part of our culture.
I've culled through the approximately 250 music tapes by gay men in my collection, and did lots of research, trying to determine if the recording also came out in another format. Like for example, if a tape was later reissued on CD, well, it's not eligible. And this is not a perfect science, my research materials and the internet only go so far, but I think I was fairly accurate in keeping what you'll hear to my guidelines.
Also, like on most of my shows, you'll notice that I'm attracted to songs where the lyrics are blatantly gay or lesbian. One way I explain this is that I think I was about 30 before I ever heard a song that really spoke to me as a gay person, a song where the pronouns were correct for me and the subject matter actually addressed my gay life. So, in my own way, I'm getting this music out there, music that back then, never had a chance of being played on the radio.
By the way the music you've been hearing under this introduction, of course comes from a cassette, from 1992 by Ted Fox, from his tape "One of Us" and the song, the only instrumental on the album, is called "Songs for the Quilt." But I quite like many other songs on his tape, so here's one called "Tell Me Why."
Ted Fox - Tell Me Why (1992)
Ted Fox from 1992, with "Tell Me Why," from his very political album "One of Us."
And always political were the duo Romanovsky & Phillips. I can't say enough to get across my respect for the musical contributions they gave us, especially at a time when almost no one else was doing so to the same extent. When they were recording together, from 1983 and for the next ten years they released six full length albums of material that gave us, and others, a look at our culture, questioning homophobia, and sharing the humor and trials of our lives. In a way, they recorded the soundtrack of our lives. I did a very in-depth feature on them on my May of 2003 show, and one of the songs I played then is one they would probably I rather not play. It was from a live show recorded at The Valencia Rose, a wonderful San Francisco venue, and the recording quality is admittedly not studio quality, but hey, it's history and a good song.
They called their 1983 cassette tape "In the Outfield," because, gee, isn't that where most gay men, when they played baseball, ended up? That was certainly my situation, when I was forced to play. The song, one of three from that tape that did not show up on later releases, is called "Tell the Children."
Romanovsky & Phillips - Tell the Children (1983)
Romanovsky & Phillips almost exclusively recorded their own material, but on their second album, "Trouble in Paradise," they did a cover version of a wonderful song called "Must've Been Drunk," by Minneapolis folksinger Larry Havluck. I've got the tape the original song came from, Larry's 1985 release, called "Bi Now, Gay Later," and "bi" was spelled B-I. In fact, I can't resist sharing two songs from that tape, so here are "Must've Been Drunk," and one talking about being arrested while cruising in a park, with the interesting title of "Porklips Now."
Havluck - Must've Been Drunk (1985)
"Must've Been Drunk" and "Porklips Now" by Larry Havluck. Up next is another double play, by an artist I consider one of our very best. Since 1990 Mark Weigle has released an incredible catalog of excellent work, songs that cut to the heart of our lives, well crafted and well sung. He's an artist not afraid of braving new subject matter, of touching on parts of our culture no one else approaches, and he does it all so well. I highly recommend you pick up all six of the CDs he's released since 1998. But you won't find his very first release, a tape called "One Good Reason," issued in 1990. One of the songs from it is called "Other Houses," which showed up on his second CD as a duet with Sonia, of Disappear Fear. But here is the original solo version, followed by the song "Leave the Light Alone."
Weigle - Other Houses (1990)
Two tracks from "One Good Reason," the 1990 album by Mark Weigle.
And this is a good time to invite you to check out my website. If you visit it while you're listening you can see the playlist and follow along, while looking at photos of the artists and recordings. I've always considered our music history as a visual as well as an audio experience. And this is another one of my shows where I had much too much great material for just one hour, so you can find a much longer version of this show on my site. Again, that's at www.queermusicheritage.com, Also, for more very queer programming, please listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Saturday night/Sunday morning from 1 to 4 am, on KPFT, it's Queer Radio, with attitude.
This next song is very sweet. It was written by Rob Costin and recorded by Grant King. In the early 90s they were both very active in the organization Outmusic, in New York City, and Rob released a six-song cassette of he and four other artists. Grant did his song called "James and Me."
King - James and Me (1993)
You'll want to check out Grant King's other releases, CD's called "Let Love Out" and "Bodies of Water." And following Grant King was Patrick Arena, who was also featured on the Rob Costin tape. That was the 1993 version of his song "Plastic Man." He's re-recorded it and it now can be found on the Woobie Bear Music compilation "G CD Global Volume 1," from 2007.
I mentioned that Grant King's recording of "James and Me" came from a tape released by Rob Costin, but it also shows up, not on CD, but on two other sources, a rare 1993 tape by Grant himself called "Entitled to Bloom," and also on a live concert tape from 1996 called "Chosen Family." That's a wonderful tape with Grant performing with Dan Martin and Robin Burdulis. Dan, with his partner Michael Biello were the original founders of Outmusic. That "Chosen Family" tape is the only place you'll find Dan Martin's very amusing version of "One Boy." And I'll let you hear his introduction of it.
Dan Martin - One Boy (1996)
Dan Martin, from the 1996 tape "Chosen Family." Another act I've been very pleased to see several times in person is the duo called Y'All. James Dean Jaybird and Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer were for about 12 years a very entertaining country folk comedy act. They released seven full-length CDs, but I have a couple of their tape-only releases. And one of them gives you not only a taste of their music but also of their trademark comedy style, with a long rambling monologue by Jaybird. Their first tape, from 1993, was called "An Evening of Stories & Songs" and they subtitled their name with the description "white trash country gospel." The first song from that tape is called "Country Family," and from there I'll go to their tape from 2000 called "Live & Liver" or, knowing them, it could have been called "Live & Liver," you could never tell with them. You'll hear Jaybird talk about earthworms before they finish up with the song "Nana's Famous Chicken 'n Dumplins." Here's Y'All.
- Country Family (1993)
This next artist is not really known as a singer, but he's very well known as a writer, having his songs covered by folks like Art Garfunkel, Liza Minnelli, Patti Lupone, Nancy LaMott, Michael Feinstein, Michael Callen, Judy Collins, and on and on. And he's recently been writing for Broadway, with the musicals "A Catered Affair" and "It's Only Life." And he's also served as musical director for Holly Near. He's John Bucchino and from his 1985 tape "On the Arrow" is my favorite song by him, "It Feels Like Home."
John Bucchino - It Feels Like Home (1985)
I'm down to the last song. This went way too fast, and I want to thank you all for listening, and taking this journey into the world of "Gay Guys on Cassette." Long time listeners know that when I'm compiling these shows I have no willpower, and just can't resist really trying to do the subject justice. So, Part 2 of "Gay Guys on Cassette" will be continued on my March show, and by the time I get finished with both shows there'll be an additional three hours only available online.
That's where I get a chance to play the songs that have language the FCC just won't allow on broadcast radio. So you can find that at www.queermusicheritage.com. And, as always if you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write me. This is JD Doyle for Queer Voices on KPFT in Houston.
Closing the show is a song from a very political album. In fact in the liner notes it says it's dedicated to empty closets everywhere, and the artist used the stage name Christian Left. Get it? I think that's a wonderful name. His real name is Stuart Boardman and he called his tape "Left at the Light," and it was released in 1994 with the help of the Lavender Road Metropolitan Community Church, in Santa Cruz, California. I had lots to pick from on it, but settled on one called "The National Anthem And Then Some". Here is Christian Left.
Christian Left - The National Anthem And Then Some (1994)
Christian Left - When I Grow Up (I Want To Be a Lesbian) (1994)
This is JD Doyle, and you're back with Part 2 of "Gay Guys on Cassette," my special Queer Music Heritage show on releases by gay artists that were not on vinyl or CD. I ended Part 1 with Christian Left, and that's how I began this part, and his song "When I Grow Up (I Want To Be a Lesbian).
Last July on QMH I did an extensive interview with Elliot Pilshaw. In 1982 he and Lorin Sklamberg released a tape called "Bending the Rules." I featured three songs from the tape on that show, and am pleased now to share with you two more, starting with one called "Wise Command."
Pilshaw & Lorin Sklamberg - Wise Command (1982)
On the over five hours of this special, spread over two months, that's the oldest recording, from 1982. And you got to hear Lorin Sklamberg do lead vocals on that second track, one he wrote called "Nu-Town Saloon." Before I move on I want to give you a sidebar to tell you about Lorin Sklamberg's music career, which has been extensive. He's appeared on over 50 albums, and is noted as a member of The Klezmatics. The music is called Klezmer and is a genre a little hard to describe, as it's Jewish music with influences from just about all over. The Klezmatics have released nine albums over the last 20 years and have won numerous awards.
And up next is Joe Bracco. Sadly he died of AIDS before he was able to release his only recording. But Paul Phillips, of Romanovsky & Phillips saw to it that the music got out, and the tape "True To Myself" was released in 1992. It's full of delightful songs, like the safe-sex song "Friend In My Pocket," and the one you'll hear after it, which I'm sure has never been played on the radio.
Bracco - Friend In My Pocket (1992)
Again, that was Joe Bracco, and a humorous song called "Window Wacker." In the early 80s I lived in a gay apartment complex and I remember that one of the residents, whose window faced the inner courtyard, used to indulge in that late at night. I was shocked, I say, shocked. Fortunately, he was cute. Seems like the other residents called him Jackoff Bob, or something like that, hey, that was 28 years ago.
And here's something very different. Andrew Mellen released a cassette single in 1990 as an AIDS awareness effort. He called it "RU +"
Mellen - RU + (1990)
That was Andrew Mellen, and in 1997 along came Gay Boy Ric and his parody song "I'm Da Beastie Gay." Gay Boy Ric was the stage name of R. Hunter Garcia, and he was a singer, actor, comedian and writer who appeared frequently on the Howard Stern Show. He produced a documentary against the homophobia of rapper Eminem, and was well known for his website fuckeminem.com. He obviously did not take his singing seriously and even wrote on the liner notes of his 6-song tape "should be played only on very cheap sound equipment." Sadly, Ric passed away in 2004.
A UK artist I want to share with you is Eric Presland. He's a playwright, and also a bit of a gay activist. I've got a tape of a concert he gave in 1984, and he wanted no confusion about the recording's subject matter, as he called the tape "File Under 'Gay'". While the show includes some humorous songs, the two songs I'm sharing with you are making a more serious commentary on the times, and on gay history.
Presland - Invisible People (1984)
Eric Presland, and his songs "Invisible People" and "We Were In There," from 1984. That last song mentioned Stonewall, and it's good to hear that history celebrated somewhere other than in the US. And I've got another example of that. In 1992 Australian Peter Hicks released a tape called "The Man With the Pink Triangle," where the title track dealt with gays in the Holocaust. The album included this track, called "Stonewall '69"
Peter Hicks - Stonewall '69 (1992)
Peter Hicks, and you can hear a nice interview with him on my March 2002 show, which was my Australian Music Special. I've got one more Aussie artist to play for you, and I'm not sure what you'd think of him. The music has a very lounge-y feel to it, full of schmaltz, but it does sound like the audience was having fun. The tape is from 1994 and is called "The Rainbow Collection," starring Hugh Monroe, and he's still doing shows, portraying a variety of male and female characters. But on to this show, and, ta ta, Hugh Monroe, recorded live at the Albury Hotel and Bodyline Sauna, in Sydney. Let the rains begin.
Hugh Monroe - It's Raining Men (1994)
Well, that's not the version of "It's Raining Men" I grew up on. Ready for another change of pace? I bet you are, and I've got just the thing, pagan gay music. No, I'm serious, this next act is very well respected by fans of pagan music. It's a duo called Lunacy, and they recorded two cassettes, in 1990 and 1992, that are excellent, and really, really should be reissued on CD, but that's not happened yet. "Lunacy" was the first release, and the other was called "Hand of Desire." So it's up to me to share with you one of their songs. Lunacy was Greg Johnson and Peter Soderberg, who went by the name Sparky T Rabbit. Many of their songs incorporate chants, and I've picked a lively one, called "God Was a Woman."
Lunacy - God Was a Woman (1992)
Now the pagan theme sort of goes with this next singer. Have you heard of the Radical Faeries? I hope so, as that's an interesting area of our subculture. Let's go to Wikipedia for their description: Radical faeries are a loosely affiliated worldwide network of queer people seeking to "reject hetero-imitation" and redefine gay identity; many are also pagans or members of counterculture movements. The Faeries trace the origin of their movement's name to a "Spiritual Conference for Radical Faeries" called in 1979 by Harry Hay, and others.
One of the outlets of the Radical Faerie movement was the publication RFD, which took it's name from the postal designation Rural Free Delivery, but has morphed into Radical Faerie Digest, and it's still being published, in its 35th year. The magazine has always included poetry submitted by its readers, and in 1986 a singer named Richard Strange, under the name Heartsinger, took some of the works of Ron Lambe and put them to music. The tape is called "Heartsinger Sings Ron Lambe's Songs of Love and Nature." Now, don't look for good singing on these next two tracks. They are poetry put music, and are very short, and they are another part of our history. Here are the song-poems "November With Joe," and "Free."
Heartsinger - November With Joe / Free (1986)
Ready for still another change in direction? Here's an unusual release. Where most dance tracks were released on 12" vinyl or on CD, here's one that only came out only on cassette tape. Wayne Numan released his very sexual song "Love Potion" in 1992. And he's still at it, with a couple new releases this year. This is JD Doyle and I'm closing out Part 2 of Gay Guys on Cassette, with "Love Potion," by Wayne Numan.
Numan - Love Potion (1992)