QMH Script, March 2008
Special Interviews with Horse and Alicia Bridges
Scooter Lee - I Love the Nightlife (1995)
Ah, yes, I love the nightlife. This is JD Doyle with Queer Music Heritage, and I won't be surprised if you don't recognize that version of the disco hit. It was done country by Scooter Lee, and while I don't know if she's gay, I thought it would be a nice way to get your attention and let you know that later in the show I'll bring you an interview with Alicia Bridges, the artist who made that song a classic.
But first up is an artist from Scotland I much admire. She's Horse McDonald and just goes by Horse, and she has been described as an artist "who wouldn't have been out of place on the Stax or Motown labels in their heyday." You'll see why. She recently released her eighth full-length album since 1990, and I love it. It's called "Red Haired Girl." On my January show I named it one of the best of 2007. And I've been a fan of hers since 2000 when I was asked to help interview her when she appeared on Jimmy Carper's After Hours show. So I was very ready for her new album, and before I share my interview with her I want to give you just a taste of one of the new songs. This one is called "Catch My Fall"
Horse - Catch My Fall (2007)
I started the interview by asking her to tell us a little about her long career.
How little do you want because I could be here all night? I signed my first publishing deal in 1986-87, with EMI, and signed my first record deal in 1987, but the first album didn't come out till 1990. And I've toured with numerous people like Tina Turner, BB King, Aztec Camera. I've opened for probably one of my favorites was Burt Bacharach, because as a songwriter I greatly admire him, so that was a real career high. I've done a lot of touring with the band Horse, when I began, and lately threw bands together or players together, as I need them. I started off wanting to write and record when I was quite small, and I've been very lucky to do that for quite some time now. I've had two major deals. The first one, as I said, was with EMI, and the second one was with MCA Universal.
How has your music changed over the years?
I suppose the listener would be the best person to ask about that. When you sign a deal and you're quite naïve, you tend to do as you're told. But you're also trying to work amongst other players, and with the band there was myself and Angela (McAlinden), the other songwriter, but there was another two, three other musicians, so the chemistry of that is affected by the different musicians, and trying to balance everyone's wishes, wants and needs. And as times wore on I particularly write and work on my own mostly with a couple of key musicians that I use, and I would say that the music is a little less rock, and a little more eclectic now, and that is me, a bit more me allowing myself to be myself. And I tend to try to work with the song first, and that hopefully means that the song will end up on the right vehicle. And I guess I think I've got more control over the years, and I hope a lot more emotive.
Which song gets the most audience reaction?
There are a few of my songs which get fantastic response, and again "Careful" is one of them. "God's Home Movie" from the second album, and as I say, "Hindsight" is one. And from the new album, "Fade Away" and "Catch My Fall" get great reactions. I would say "Careful" has become my "My Way," my Frank Sinatra's "My Way." Very recently I lost my mum, and I lost my dad and it's been a very difficult time, and "Careful," a song I never attached to me for any particular reason has now very much become attached because I sang it to my mum before she died and it's almost like it's come around the full circle. So I suppose "Careful" is synonymous with me now more than it ever was.
Horse - Careful (1990)
That was "Careful," from the first album by Horse, "The Same Sky," released in 1990.
Of what song that you've written are you the most proud?
I think, I think I've always thought of my songs as babies, and you give birth to your latest song and it's very precious, and you don't want people getting a hold of it and changing it, etc. We, myself and Angela, used to speak about our songs as when you went in with a producer you would go in with say a black-haired baby and come out with a red-haired baby. And so I think the songs I'm most proud of are what I would call classic Horse songs, "Careful," being one, and "God's Home Movie" and songs from my latest selection in the last say three or four years, songs like "Hindsight It's a Wonderful Thing" and maybe "Can't Break My Heart," songs which are quite emotive and quite powerful. I think "Hindsight" is to me one of my standard songs I'm very proud of. Postumosly after it was written I did a tour and showcase and ended up in New York and it was after 911 and a lot of people that I spoke to were very moved when they heard the song. And, I wasn't one of those people who went out and wrote a song specifically (about 911) but "Hindsight" seemed to be a song that was about that moment in time.
Horse - Hindsight It's a Wonderful Thing (2001)
Are any of your songs lyrically gay?
I tend to think of the songs as for everyone and for anyone to listen and interpret as they will. I've had letters over the years saying how important the music has been to them so, and people who were specifically gay and felt that they had no one to look at or have in front of them as an example of what it's like to be gay and it's a bit of an honor when people look at you and they have something to hold on to. And I've kind of felt that a lot of the time I didn't, so I'm pleased to say that I'm here for everybody. I don't think that there's anything that's specifically lyrically gay. It will be if you want it to be.
Well, she may have been thinking there was nothing lyrically gay on the new album, but I did find a track of her's that touches on a relationship between two women. From the 2001 album "Hindsight It's a Wonderful Thing" here's just a bit of the song "Dear Sophie"
Horse - Dear Sophie (2001)
I know this next song is considered one of her classics, so I definitely wanted to ask Horse about the song "God's Home Movie," a song she co-wrote with Angela McAlinden.
"God's Home Movie" was probably one of my best songs, and "God's Home Movie" was written with Angela McAlinden. I remember writing the melody, cause I tend to write the melodies, or I did tend to write the melodies with that partnership. And I remember exactly where I was sitting. I remember the time of day. It was one of those magical moments where the song, or the melody rather, just came to me, like some magical moment. The next part of the process was handling the precious melody over to Angela for her to do lyrics. And the lyrics are probably some of the most beautiful words that she's written. I think that the whole theme of the song is of someone that you love very much being able to dip in to God's library or treasure of snippets of peoples lives, and being able to choose moments from that person's life. And that's the whole sort of theme of the song. I think it's a beautiful idea. And therefore "God's Home Movie" is the simplicity of the melody and the simplicity of the lyrics just makes it was just a magical, magical song. It is one of the most popular songs that I still do, and it was the title of the second album. It's just one of the most popular song that we've ever done, and I'm very proud of that song.
Horse - God's Home Movie (1993)
something I'd like to see
is Really hard to find photos of Angela McAlinden...
That was the title track from her 1993 album, "God's Home Movie." Time to get back to the latest album, and the song "This Time"
"This Time" is a track which I wrote with Angela again you've chosen tracks that I wrote with Angela McAlinden. I like the darkness of it, but also I like the groove. I think lyrically again it's a gem. It's a good Angela McAlinden lyric. It's got very dark lyric as well. It's pretty much about wanting something to work because in the past things have not worked out, as in again, relationships. You'll try anything, any superstition. You'll try everything to try to get this relationship to work this time. But again when I perform I feel like it's an angry song, so I certainly give it that. But it's one of those where you can almost imagine somebody speaking through gritted teeth, so I tend to kind of sing it in a snarling way, and when we get to the adlib section at the end where I do literally adlib then, I can really go to town with that.
Horse - This Time (2007)
And while it's a tough call, I think my favorite track from the new album is "Can't Break My Heart." Can you please tell us about it?
"Can't Break My Heart," I think is one of my favorite, favorite songs that I've ever been involved with writing. "Can't Break My Heart" melodically is desperately sad, and the lyric that again Angela McAlinden wrote, is extremely poignant, a very angry lyric as well. And the sadness in the lyric and the melody a lot of people relate to and I did a show I'm showing off now I did a show at the Albert Hall, and I performed to a full house, a big Stonewall concert actually, and I performed "Can't Break My Heart" with a quartet, just voice and quartet and people in the front there were a couple of people in the front row sobbing, so I knew I'd had a successful performance. But also the song in particular had really moved people. Myself, I mean my own situation; I mean the song is not from last week. The song is a good seven or eight years old. Things have happened in my life in the last seven or eight years make the song very personal to me as well. So when I do perform it therefore I really do put a lot of my own emotion into it. I think when you're writing songs I think that you don't always take the literal meaning of a song. And "Can't Break My Heart," the literal meaning of "Can't Break My Heart" is somebody having an affair or really done something pretty, pretty bad. And the singer, or the teller of the story wanting that person out. And when you sing the song you don't always pick up every single word, but you get that "Can't Break My Heart" comes across that really just literally slaps you in the face, and the strings are really beautiful as well, so it's a great combination of emotion and passion.
Horse - Can't Break My Heart (2007)
Again, that was Horse from her new album "Red Haired Girl" and you can find out more about her at www.randan.org. That's www r-a-n-d-a-n org
Many of us love the movie "The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert." There's recently been a stage musical produced of it, and the soundtrack has the cast doing this song.
Cast of "Priscilla Queen of the Desert - The Musical" - I Love the Nightlife (2006)
Coming up, my special interview with Alicia Bridges. But 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. Again, that's at www.queermusicheritage.com, Also, for more very queer programming, please listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Friday night/Saturday morning from 1 to 4 am, on KPFT, it's Queer Radio, with attitude.
Now I very much doubt that I have many listeners who are not familiar with the huge disco hit from 1978, "I Love the Nightlife." I'm very pleased to share with you an interview with the artist who recorded, and co-wrote that song, Alicia Bridges, and you'll see that the interview got off on the right foot, right away.
Well, I was telling a friend of mine, "I don't believe it, tonight I'm interviewing Alicia Bridges," and she was very impressed.
Well, all right. I want to tell you that before you ever got in touch with us, I have visited your website many times. [Well, great] and found a lot of really interesting stuff there, and had a lot of fun with it. In fact, I've got you saved in my favorites folders. [Good to hear] I knew who you were. [Okay, that's always nice]
Tell me about your career prior to "I Love the Nightlife"
Well, first of all I was on the stage at five years old, tap dancing, that's my mother putting me there, and it was fun, I liked it, so I was on the stage at five years old, that doesn't count. But I sang all over North Carolina, and also the moment I'm probably proudest of is working with Zachery Ridge, which was composed of several guys from Knoxville, Tennessee, and our drummer from Charlotte, North Carolina. And we were playing lots of cover versions of the Janis Joplin music, which was a lot of fun, the Rolling Stones, Led Zepellin, Uriah Heap, Grand Funk Railroad, and all of those types of things. And it was really an excellent band, and that was probably the most fun.
I did a lot of songwriting along the way and I did a lot of work on and off playing my guitar and singing without bands. So when I found Bill Lowery though Gary Walker Gary Walker was a friend of a friend and was in Tennessee situated at a recording company there Gary when I met him took me to Bill Lowery and Bill was very interested vocally and then in the writing I was doing as well. And that's when I began to write these songs that you're hearing now. So at that point in time in the mid-70s there all I did was write songs. He subsidized that with artist advances so that I could focus completely on songwriting and would not have to be out in the club singing cover versions and being tired and coming home and "oh, I don't know if I want to write a song or not." I was actually writing songs every day. It was a concentrated effort and a beautiful time, Bill actually supporting me until we got the record out.
Above, Susan Hutcheson and Bill Lowery
Can you tell me about the writing of "I Love The Nightlife" itself?
Yeah, we were in that songwriting Susan Hutcheson and I were in that songwriting concentrated effort to write, to write, to write and we were writing anything was considered for an idea. It didn't matter. Bill supported artistic freedom, artistic freedom, and "just write it all, girl, write it all," he'd say, in that deep voice. And so we did and so we were writing about everything and so one day I said, "let's write a song that has the word disco," and we did. It was kind of a lark in a way. It was funny, kind of a lark. And the as the song was, we wanted to make up with this person in the second verse, but Bill didn't like that idea. He said, "no, don't make up with this joker, go have a good time all by yourself, come back and give me a re-write on that second verse, or last verse." And so we did, and that's how the song stands now, and it was his idea to have that second verse and I think that "make a man out of you" may even have been he encouraged that line. [That was my favorite line in the song, "maybe that will make, uhh! a man out of you]. Thank you, I kind of like that too. I've always been a smart aleck.
The song being such a huge hit must have been overwhelming, can you kind of tell us about that?
Well, you know it was in a way, in a big way, because what Bill would say to me Bill Lowery, publishing mogul of the southeast, gosh, I love that man, he would say "we're going to put this record out, now, Alicia, and don't worry if it's not a hit, don't worry, because if it's not a hit, we'll just make another record, and we'll just keep making another record until something is a hit, so don't worry." And so really I was more prepared for the song to be a flop than to be a hit and when it was a hit, and then I had done some television and I couldn't go to the grocery store without being recognized, and people would come up behind me and grab me and say "I know who you are" and those things were kind of strange, so yeah, it was overwhelming, and it was overwhelming to do the all of the interviews and traveling and those things, but it was a lot of fun, too.
How many different versions or mixes of "I Love The Nightlife" are there?
[laughs] I've lost count, maybe around 20 or so that I know of off the top.
From your first album the song "Body Heat" also charted, can you tell me about that one?
"Body Heat" I knew a guy one time who was a doctor in Atlanta, in the Atlanta area, and he had to have people around him all the time, all the time. He gave me the idea. He probably doesn't even know that he was the inspiration for that song, that he could not survive along in isolation, he had to have the body heat.
Alicia Bridges - Body Heat (1978)
Unfortunately there's so much ground to cover with Alicia that I won't be able to play full versions of the songs, but that one was "Body Heat" from 1978.
Your follow up album in 1979 was called "Play It As It Lays." That got a bit of attention, too, didn't it?
It did, it did get some attention, of course not like the other ones. I've really got to say that the record company was probably not interested at that point in helping promote that record. Record companies are squirrelly.
Can you tell me about the title track, "Play It As It Lays"?
"Play It As It Lays" is what I try to do all the time, all the time. You know, honesty means a great deal to me, and always has, and "Play It As It Lays" I like it when people just tell it like it is.
Alicia Bridges - Play It As It Lays (1979)
When in your career did you come out and was that difficult for you?
I'm going to tell you something today, and I don't think I ever told anybody, but I'm going to tell you because this is a special interview, so here's your exclusive. My mother told me when I was 13 years old that she was not going to have a homosexual live in her house. I didn't know what that was. I didn't know what that meant, but she was extremely angry, and she had pegged me as gay. And I didn't know, I grew up in the country and we didn't know what that was. I knew that as far as I always like little girls better than I ever liked little boys, and that always, throughout my whole life, I've always been gay, I guess that's how that is. I didn't know what homosexual meant. And then my mother proceeded to tell everybody that we were related to that her daughter was a queer or a homosexual. And it was hard for me to find any books about this and what it was, too. I tried to go into the library and I guess I was about 13 years old, 12-13 years old. I couldn't find any information, but I knew she was angry.
So, really, it's never been a secret, and I've always been out no matter where I've been, and I guess it was a shock to me one time when someone said to me, "why don't you come out and tell people you're gay?" And I looked at her and said, "Well, everybody knows it, don't they?" And I guess everybody didn't know it. I guess I have always been very open and I didn't know that I needed to make a dramatic statement. All my bands have always known I'm a lesbian. Everybody I've always known have always known this. Because, you know what, I really don't think I could live any other way. It's not always the easy thing to do, but it's the only way I know how because I can't be something else. I am what I am. But anyway I guess I came out in The Advocate back in the 90s but I also I always marched in gay pride parades and had been quite out and open in the 80s publicly but I don't know if caught onto that. I was in the gay pride in Long Beach and also San Francisco and have been doing that for a long time, and I guess I just thought people knew, and maybe they didn't. [So it wasn't really an issue when the big hit happened?] It really wasn't, not with any of my people that I worked with, the Lowery group always knew that I was gay, and accepted it completely.
How did you become associated with the Olivia Records folks and the Second Wave label. This was '84.
Well, it's pretty simple really. Susan Hutcheson said one day "we ought to call, we ought to get somebody to talk to Olivia Records and see if they're interested in this music because it's definitely gay and definitely a lot of it to do with women." And I said I'd never thought about that." She said, "well I think we should call them." And I said, "Susan, you know, do you think you'd get in touch with anybody that will talk to you?" Because record companies have always been in my opinion kind of unreachable. But she did call Olivia Records and she did talk to Judy Dlugacz. And before we knew what was next she wanted to release that record and so she did.
Was that record accepted very well, because it really was a radical change from everything else on their label?
I don't think
you know, it doesn't seem to make any difference where
I am, I usually am the oddball in the room, it's always been like that.
And it's not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, it's just the
way it is. When I was out in California, you know, you would wear your
makeup for your shows, and
David Bowie taught me that
wear your makeup for your shows and you do these things, and I really
think that some of the women that were there looked at me like 'what
is this?' What is this, a gay woman wearing a lot of makeup and costuming?
And you know I hung out with drag queens for years and drag queens are
a lot about putting on a big show, and I'm glad I did. But I think when
I got out to California and some of the lesbians around the company
looked at me like
nobody out there was wearing any makeup. It was
a show, and I think that it's hard some times for people to separate
the person from the show. I don't know. But I really had a great time
with Cris Williamson and Tret Fure. We had fun. Cris Williamson's got
one of the best senses of humor that I've ever run into. She's great.
So, it wasn't everybody but I think I kind of put some of those gals
off a little bit.
Well, do you ever just get fed up? I'll go a little further and tell you that these songs were written at the end of the relationship as partners, as lovers, for me and Susan Hutcheson were breaking up. It was almost over, and a lot of those songs came out of that angst. And I remember when I came to her and said you got to listen to this song, here's what it says "I don't like you any more. You treat me like a wholesale item, and I can't see you anymore." And I said, "What do you got on that, Susan?" And then she wrote the second verse, right in each other's face, and not with anger, but that's how that song was written.
Alicia Bridges - This Girl Don't Care (1984)
From Alicia's "Hocus Pocus" album from 1984, that was a bit of "This Girl Don't Dare."
Some listeners only think of you as a disco artist, how do you react to that?
Well, I think that's probably what some people have only ever known about any of the music I've written. They've only known "I Love the Nightlife" and certainly "I Love the Nightlife" has had more acclaim and has been more popular and played over and over than any of the others. And you know that used to bother me. It doesn't bother me as much as it used to. It used to bother me because I felt, what about all these other songs, what about all this other stuff, and what I found out is this. Through time that other people do know those songs and in fact we get correspondence from people who maybe "Diamond In The Rough" is their favorite, or maybe "Broken Women" is their favorite. And so I'm getting correspondence in the mail and online and have through time, through the years that other people have heard those other songs. And I guess I felt that I wanted them all to get their chance to at least for people to know they're out there, whether or not they got on the air or not, you know, somebody knows that I did have some songs.
And for those who think you may have "disappeared" since the big hit, can you bring them up to date on your career?
I can indeed. I have been in the process for several years of putting together a studio for Mary and me. We are very deeply involved in the we're doing it ourselves. And also we did some things with the remixes to spiff up the tracks vocally a little bit, and it's been great to hear them sound like this.
Your latest album is called "Say It, Sister." Can you tell me about it?
"Say It Sister" and all of the songs pretty much speak to truth and to the life experience of those of us who fall in love. It's about the blues. It's about rock and roll. And of course we have "I Love the Nightlife," which is definitely about partying and the disco.
One of the songs on the album that shows the variety on the album is "Broken Woman"
Well, really and truly, from singing in the bars for so many years gay bars and straight bars you come to know the people that come in and frequent the bars. Every once in a while you see a person at that bar night after night after night after night. And they usually have a sad story and they've usually got, I'd say, worse than the blues. But it's about seeing people who where they are suffering so much that they are trying to kill that pain with the booze and that's where the song came from.
Alicia Bridges - Broken Woman (2007)
Tell me about the song "Cheap Affairs"
"Cheap Affairs." I'm a very big fan of film noir, and I once saw Lauren Bacall in a movie where she stood there in front of a piano and she sang a song in a smoky room, bar, smoky bar in the movie. And so "Cheap Affairs" in my mind was written with that vision in my head. In a way it's fantasy but in a way it's not fantasy, because I did have some pretty stupid affairs in my lifetime. I have had some I've done some dumb stuff. And I could say, "could you love a woman like me, after all these cheap affairs, after all these mistakes I've made."
Alicia Bridges - Cheap Affairs (2007)
And believe it or not, I have only, I have always wanted a stable relationship with sharing back and forth all the way around and not affairs. I am a person who is faithful to the bone and I will not be unfaithful, because I treasure what I hold so dear, my partner and my lover.
Is there a song on the album, the latest album of which you're the most proud?
Oh, gosh, that would be hard. If I have to pick a favorite if I have to pick one that's my favorite it would have to be "Diamond in the Rough." "Diamond in the Rough" tells a lot about me personally, and I like the song, and I think it conveys what it's meant to convey. And I think it also speaks to the experiences that others have probably had, especially with being gay and having people talk about you and you know, talk about you behind your back and you've got to be pretty tough to put up with that and I think a lot of us have had to go through that in our gay way of life and I'm not even going to say lifestyle. It's our lives. You've got to be pretty tough to deal with that crap.
Bridges - Diamond in the Rough (2007)
Well, I can't tell you how flattered I am that you wanted to do this interview because I've been a fan of your's too, and you've got some dynamite information on your website. And when Mary told me that you wanted to do the interview, I said "wait a minute, I think I know who that is, wait a minute." And so I went back to your website and there it all was, your beautiful website, but I got really excited, and I am excited to talk with you today because I'm one of your fans. [well, that's really nice to hear]. It's a thrill, it really is, and I've done interviews through the years but I don't think I've ever done one that's meant quite so much to me.
I'm down to the last song, and you can probably guess what it is, but before I get to it I want to thank you all for listening, and I want to especially thank Horse and Alicia Bridges for the wonderful interviews. Alicia's website is www.aliciabridges.com and you can find out more about both artists at my site, 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.
Of course I'm closing the show with "I Love the Nightlife (Disco Round)." Do you have any interesting stories about the phenomenon of that song?
I think the most astounding thing to me is that this song seems to have a life of its own, and it just keeps going and going, and it keeps being accepted and liked by all different kinds of people, and all different kinds of age groups, and it's almost like a wild thing out there, doing its own thing.
Bridges - I Love the Nightlife (Disco Round) (1978)
don't talk about love tonight.
... I got so much to give.
I ... Ohhh I ... I love the nightlife,
don't talk about love tonight.
... I got so much to give.
I ... Ohhh I ... I love the nightlife,
I love the night life,