Script for July 2001, QMH:
Tonight's show has some special treats, and I can't wait to get started with them. First up is an artist I got to hear at the Houston Pride Festival in June, and I think she stole the show, she owned that audience here's Suede singing "Built For Comfort"
Suede - built for comfort (2001)
That song is from Suede's new CD called "On The Day We Met". I interviewed her at the Festival and asked her to describe her music.
ah I always have a hard time trying to figure out how to categorize my music. I think especially ah recently it falls most easily into a pop jazz style of music ah like a jazz standards with a pop feel, it's listenable jazz blues influence, does that give you an idea, it's not folk, it's not country
Suede's first album was called "Easily Suede" and came out in 1988, she picked a song from that album when I asked her of what song that she's recorded is she the most proud.
oh my, how could I possible choose
between my babies! Most proud? I really don't know how I would answer
that. There are tunes like "for the ones who aren't here"
that was written by john calvi, which is on my first CD ah that I'm
just really proud to have put out there in the world.
suede - for the ones who aren't here (1988)
That was called "for the ones who aren't here". Suede, which gay & lesbian artists do you admire?
every single one of them, every single one, anybody who's done it, anybody who's come before, anybody who's out there just starting out now, it's a courageous move to step into the music industry period, but to step into the music industry as an out performer is still extremely courageous, and the folks who inspired me at the beginning of my career were people like Margie Adam, Cris Williamson, Theresa Trull, Romanovsky & Phillips, Tom Ammiano, the Flirtations, and I'm not saying that because I was in the group, ah, yeah I especially have respect for the folks who started out doing this long before it was even as safe as it was today to be an out performer, they built incredible bridges for us and tore down some pretty massive walls and created a space for all of us to be safe in now. and it's ironic because many of us have kind of a hard time now getting crowds to come into the door now unless they already know us, because people can line up for days for Melissa etheridge and the indigo girls and k.d. lang and but I'll tell you I swear if those doors weren't opened by people like Cris Williamson and Romanovsky and that group then I wonder if k.d. and Melissa and the indigo girls would be safe enough to be out
In 1996 she joined one of my favorite gay singing groups, the Flirtations. Suede, how did you end up in the Flirtations?
they asked me (laughs) I'd say no? no (laughs) they were doing about they had about a ten show tour that they needed somebody to come in as a sub for one of their members who was involved in another group and had some other shows booked and they asked me to come in and do those ten shows as a sub, and ah it clicked, it worked really well. For a long long time Michael Callen and I had talked about "you know, you guys are so inclusive, you're so about going right across the board and getting everybody involved, it's time you guys have a woman in the group" and he said "I agree completely" so it took us a while to get there but ah we finally did
do you have a favorite Flirtations story?
oh my, there are a lot of Flirtations stories, too. Well, we were on tour out west and I very quickly became the driver for the group once I joined and we decided it was a night of a new moon so there was no moon in the sky and we were out in the desert and we decided to drive way out into the middle of the desert and see the stars and just feel the air and so we did that and it was incredible and on the way back we got a flat tire out in the middle of the desert, no lights, you know, we were like we know there are coyotes waiting for a midnight snack for us so we get out of the car, first of all I stop the car and say yep we've got a flat and jon who is sitting in the back just went, "oh, suede, this isn't going to take long, is it?" I say "no, honey, you sit there and look pretty, I'll take care of it" so we got out, and actually Jon did get out of the car and took the video camera and so we changed the tire in the middle of the desert to the little light on the video camera, but we did it, by golly
From the Flirtations album called "Three" here is the song that Suede tells me has become her signature song, "Sister (Miss Celie's Blues)"
Suede - sister (miss celie's blues) (1996)
Suede QMH ID
Up next is Alix Dobkin doing kind of a sing-a-long with the song "if it wasn't for the women" from her 1992 album "Love & Politics"
Alix Dobkin - if it wasn't for the women (1992)
The next part of the show will be about Margie Adam. When you talk about the women's music movement, you have to talk about the women known as The Big Four: Cris Williamson, Meg Christian, Holly Near and Margie Adam. Their pioneering work with Olivia Records got it all started. The biggest album by far on that label was Cris Williamson's "The Changer and the Changed" from 1975, and in 1991 Olivia Records produced a video about that record and the early history of women's music, and it contains some rare music clips. From a 1975 concert here is a little bit of the only recording I know of where all of the Big Four sing together on a song. The song is Meg Christian's "Hello, hooray," which was the first song on the first album on the Olivia label, from Meg's album called "I Know, You Know." Taking turns each singing a line are Meg, Cris, Margie, and Holly.
Meg, Cris, Margie, Holly - hello, hooray (1975)
From the same video, here's Margie talking about an early conversation with Cris Williamson
Margie, Cris & Meg - beautiful soul (1975)
Following Margie's comments, again from 1975, was a rare version of Margie, Chris and Meg singing Margie's song "beautiful soul."
I was recently very honored to get a chance to interview Margie Adam. She's just released her eighth album, called "Avalon," on her own label, Pleiades Records. I figured that she was one of the best people to ask for her definition of women's music.
Women's music is as old as the lullabye, so let's just get that out on the table. And then there is this phenomenon or this movement, called women's music, which kind of exists in a time period, kind of erupted on the scene, if you will, in the early 70s. This had to do with a bunch of us who looked around and did not see ourselves in the music industry, did not see women engineers, did not see women in distribution, did not see women in production, did not see women using drumsticks and playing the bass, did not see women anywhere in the music industry except fronting bands as singers. What we really did in the 70s was to create a total alternative universe where we could maintain control over the means of distribution, production and also control over the music itself. So women's music was originally an impulse of many radical feminists to make music in our own image, rather than through the male gaze. This was extremely revolutionary and made a lot of people upset and very nervous and the fact that I continue to call my music women's music continues to make people nervous.
I next asked Margie how she would describe her musical style to someone who hasn't heard it.
I'm a singer-songwriter who's been as deeply influenced by rachmaninov and ravel as I have been by carole king and burt bacharach and joni mitchell and laura nyro so the music that I write has all those influences. As a singer-songwriter there's a whole bunch of my material that I sing. As a solo pianist composer there's a whole bunch of my music that I play on solo piano. So, "Avalon" is a mixture of those two impulses within me. And then of course you also have to sprinkle in all of this a deep influence that comes to me and comes through me as a result of being organized in the early 70s by the women's liberation movement and by the lesbian feminist community in Los Angeles. So, you got your politics, you got your consciousness, you got your solo piano, you got your jazz pop influences, your folk pop vocal singer songwriter thing happening, with a bit of a dash of scuba diving thrown in, some gardening, some rad-les-fem serious organizing, activist stuff with some deep connection to the earth and a sense of the immediacy of changing the world to make it a safe and precious place for everyone to live in. so all of that's going on in my music, and that's all going on on "Avalon" as well.
Something unique about the album "Avalon" is that it contains a song not written by Margie Adam, it is Carole King's "will you love me tomorrow." This is the first time Margie's recorded a song by someone else, and I asked her the reason behind it.
Of all my influences Carole King is the most significant. And that's because her voice and her album "Tapestry" created a context for me as a young feminist lesbian songwriter to imagine myself not only writing music but also singing it. It was because at the time she put out "Tapestry" it was very very unusual to hear a voice like hers on the radio. The kind of voice that she had, was, and also the kind of voice that Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro had, all three of those songwriters, their voices were considered non-commercial. And when they began to actually perform the music that they had been writing for other people for many years, they created a context for me to imagine myself performing my music as well, And no one was more dramatic in that regard than Carole King. It's been quite a journey where I came to a place where I claim the identity of singer separate from singer songwriter and that's really what it took for me to record Carole King's song. The fact of the matter is that I recorded "will you love me tomorrow" because I could. Cause I could sing it finally and feel totally comfortable in the range that I had chosen to sing and because I felt like I could bring something new to the song as a result of my own experience.
Margie Adam - will you love me tomorrow (2001)
Just excellent, I also asked Margie if there was any special story she would like to share about a particular track on the new album.
I have to say the most spectacular moment in the recording was something quite unexpected. I had decided that "Avalon" was only going to have my voice, piano, bass, drums, and backup vocals. Mary Fettig, the tenor sax player, came in and said, "I have a tenor sax line for 'avalon'" and I said 'No, no, no, no, I've got everything I need for that song, and Kerry Loebel, the executive producer of this beautiful album said, "Marg, why don't you let her just lay down the tenor sax line, and if we decide not to use it, that's fine, if we decide we want to use it, we'll have it." Well, listen to the tenor sax line and what it does to "Avalon" .
Margie Adam - avalon (2001)
I've got one more Margie Adam treat.
At the beginning of this segment I played a little of the song "beautiful
soul," with Margie, Meg Christian & Cris Williamson singing.
Dusty Springfield - beautiful soul (1974)
I can't finish a feature on Margie Adam without mentioning that she was a pioneer in another musical genre. In 1980 she released the solo piano album "Naked Keys." This was just before the the new age/Windham Hill phenomenon, and Margie helped prove that a solo piano album could be a commercial success. Janis Ian has been quoted as saying, "If I could play the piano like Margie Adam, I wouldn't have to bother singing." I bought the "Naked Keys" album when it first came out, so I'm a long-time fan of her playing. In the background from that album is the song "From The Beginning."
Margie Adam - from the beginning (1980, in background)
Margie Adam QMH tag
My next artist is very different from anyone I've ever interviewed. She's come from being a former stripper and adult film performer to her current status as an established and well-respected blues and jazz entertainer. Her name is Candye Kane, and she's recorded 5 albums since 1994, winning much critical acclaim. For example, the House of Blues label recently honored her by including her on their release "30 Essential Women of the Blues," alongside artists like Bessie Smith and Etta James. I started out my interview by asking her name and the name of her new album.
My name is Candye Kane and my new CD is called "The Toughest Girl Alive" it's on the Rounder Bullseye Blues and Jazz label and I'm really excited about it.
How would you describe your musical style to someone who's never heard it?
My style is sort of a mixture of old-timey blues and swing, but its my own quirky brand of burlesque that makes it have its twisted element, and I think that thats what makes it sort of contemporary. I mean Ive heard people call it, like, call my show like a revival meeting in the parking lot of an X-rated bookstore, and I think thats fairly accurate because, you know the show kind of, Im not that good at censoring myself and so I just kind of talk about sexuality issues and body image issues and stuff like that, and not as radical as what youd see in an X-rated bookstore, but probably as controversial.
Please tell us about song, ""I'm the toughest girl alive"
well, I wrote "I'm the toughest girl alive" just from a lifetime of adverse um circumstances I mean I was a teenage welfare mom, and a stripper and porn queen and a bisexual who had a big crush on my gym coach who was a beautiful woman and um and I was always pretty outspoken about all of my beliefs and and so I've had a lot um obstacles thrown in front of me and during my recent gnarly horrifying divorce I was really feeling sorry for myself and I started having to think back on all the things I had been through and how dare I feel sorry for myself when I'd been through all these things, and that's how I wrote "I'm the toughest girl alive". The only thing I regret about "I'm the toughest girl alive" is that it's gender specific, because I really would like it to speak to all people, men and women, I think all of us need positive affirmation and that a song like "the toughest girl alive" could be so powerful if it werent just a girl, so I encourage all the men to be just tough girls when they listen to the song and it will be fine. (laughs)
Candye Kane - I'm the toughest girl alive (2000)
Candye Kane had an album in 1997 called "Diva La Grande" and from it I asked her about the song "I'm in love with a girl"
"I'm in love with a girl" I wrote after I went to Copenhagen I saw a girl there at the bar she was this really beautiful blond and I kept asking her her name and she said, "oh you couldn't pronounce it" she kept telling me "you would not be able to pronounce it" and I like "yes, I would, try me" finally she said her name and it was something like arse arse and I thought maybe she has a frog in her throat or she's you know she's coughing I mean I didn't know what to think but that was her name and and so it inspired the song
Candye Kane - I'm in love with a girl (1997)
That was Candye Kane singing "I'm
in love with a girl" from her album "Diva La Grande".
Well, actually I wrote "hey mister" um it was it was more pointed towards the swing kids, I was playing a lot of shows for the swing explosion, you know, big bad voodoo daddy and brian seltzer orchestra, and we're suddenly getting all kinds of press, you know, cherry poppin daddies bands like that, so there was a big swing explosion and all these kids were coming out to the shows perfectly dressed in their 40s clothes and you know um in their you know vintage cars and they all looked just dressed to the nines and I really love that part of the swing scene but some of them had like a really big attitude particularly some of the guys and um the better dancers had an attitude about their dancing, like they were really great because they could dance so well, and so I wrote the song to poke fun at some of these straight boys cause their girlfriends were really the ones who looked great to me, and so that's why I wrote the song initially, but I think it's a favorite for people, I mean, I am bisexual and I do talk about it openly in my shows and in my music I'm not ashamed of my bisexuality um I think that it's um a myth that bisexuals are just fence sitters waiting to go one way or the other, I think all man kind is basically, and womankind, is basically bisexual and that we just you know have to find the right person to bring out that part of us and, anyway, it's a fun song, and like I always say, you wont find big bad voodoo daddy or the brian seltzer orchestra doing those bisexual swing songs because they wont admit they're bisexual but me it opens up a wide range of opportunity.
Before I play that song I want to thank you all for tuning in to tonight's show, and I especially want to thank Suede, Margie Adam and Candye Kane for the interviews. If you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please email me, and check out my website found, logically enough, at www.queermusicheritage.com . This is JD Doyle for Lesbian & Gay Voices on KPFT in Houston, and I'll be back on the 4th Monday of next month. Now, as promised, here is Candye Kane with "hey mister, she was my baby last night"
Candye Kane - hey, mister, she was my baby last night (2000)