Beatles - Boys (1963)
Yes, what a bundle of joy, and, well, it sure sounded like Ringo Starr was talking about boys in that track from the Beatles first album, from 1963. But we know it was just a cover version of the Shirelles song, and there was no queer subtext intended. This is JD Doyle for Queer Music Heritage and for the next hour of course I am bringing you queer subtext, and lots of it. The show for this month is called "Straight Artists, Queer Songs: The 60's," and I'll be playing for you songs with gay or lesbian references from the last decade before Stonewall. But let's let Ringo finish his song.
And there'll be more by the Beatles in a little while, but before we get to the songs with actual gay references I can't resist sharing one more with unintentional ones, and I'm always amused when I hear it. It's from 1960 and in those years Westerns were all the rage on television, and the names mentioned in the song are all TV characters. Here's Brenda Lee complaining that "My Baby Likes Western Guys."
Brenda Lee - My Baby Likes Western Guys (1960)
Well, she may have had a point after all, but here's one that doesn't beat around the bush.
Hermione Baddeley - I Changed My Sex (1961)
I love that one. It was from the 1961 album, "A Taste of Hermione Baddeley," and she was a British actress with a long list of movie credits, but you may know her more from her TV roles in "Maude" and "Bewitched."
two more songs from the pre-Beatle 60's and one is a bit homophobic
and the other fairly neutral. In 1961 Jimmy Dean had a huge hit with
the song "Big John," and it was a song very ripe for novelty
cover versions, especially gay ones.
Casey Anderson - Sweet Sydney (1962)
Now I've never known quite what to think of this next song. It's written and sung by Barbara Lynn. She's a Louisiana artist best known for a wonderful top 40 hit from 1962 called "You'll Lose A Good Thing." But on this 45 from that same year she's singing about two women, "Dina & Patrina.
Barbara Lynn - Dina & Patrina (1962)
"Dina & Patrina" by Barbara Lynn. The next few artists on the show all have a central theme of sorts. They were all British and the common denominator was that they all had gay managers, producers or writers. These behind the scenes forces included Brian Epstein for the Beatles, Andrew Oldham for the Rolling Stones, Kit Lambert for the Who, Robert Stigwood for Cream and the Bee Gees, Jonathan King for Genesis, and Simon Napier-Bell for the Yardbirds, Mark Bolan and Wham, and many others.
And the list really started with Joe Meek. He was a pioneering and innovative producer, known for his unusual approach to recording, and it worked well. In just a few years he worked on 245 singles, of which 45 were top fifty hits in the UK. His first smash hit was "Telstar," by the Tornados, which was also the first song by a UK act to hit #1 in the United States, in 1962.
The dark side of Joe Meek's life is also famous, for his depression, and repressed homosexuality, which remember, was still illegal in the UK until 1967. All this on top of financial and career troubles let to his committing murder and then suicide in February of 1967, at age 37. I could do several hours on Joe Meek's music, but I've picked just three songs. And the first one is kind of amazing, and it's by the Tornados, four years after their big hit, and pretty much at the end of their career.
That group wasn't gay, but on the last 45 he produced for them, in 1966, he perhaps gained some satisfaction by exposing a reality long suppressed. On the flip side of their record, named "Is That a Ship I Hear," he placed what sounded like a throwaway song, called "Do You Come Here Often?" It's an innocuous sounding instrumental and most people, had they even bothered to turn the record over, would have stopped listening well before the point of interest I'm telling you about. At about 2 minutes and 15 seconds into the song, he inserted this bit of conversation apparently intended to sound like it came from a London gay club, with two obviously bitchy queens.
Tornados - Do You Come Here Often (1966)
Remember this was 1966, and that indulgence by producer Joe Meek was in a way an amazing achievement. It was the first record on a UK major label, Columbia, to give us a look at gay life, with all the campiness sometimes present. I'm following that song with one not from the sixties, but it's relevant because it is about Joe Meek, done by another very successful, and gay, UK producer, Jonathan King. From 2007 it's called "He Stood In The Bath & Stamped On The Floor."
Jonathan King - He Stood In The Bath & Stamped On The Floor (2007)
And I've got to lead you up to the third Joe Meek song I'm featuring, which has an intriguing back story I only recently found out about. One of Meek's most successful acts was the Honeycombs. Their main claim to fame was the song "Have I The Right," which reached #5 in the U.S, and the gay songwriting duo who gave them that song was Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley. According to Blaikley, and here's the surprise, the song was inspired by the last paragraph of Radclyffe Hall's classic lesbian novel, "The Well of Loneliness," from 1928. And note that by the time of this song, in 1964, there still were very few lesbian novels we would consider positive and accepting.
I'll read you that last paragraph: "God, she gasped, we believe; we have told You we believe We have not denied You, then rise up and defend us. Acknowledge us, oh God, before the whole world. Give us also the right to our existence!"
From Radclyffe Hall in 1928 to The Honeycombs in 1964, "Have I The Right?"
The Honeycombs - Have I The Right? (1964)
I loved that song, and still do. Here's another by the same writers and managers, Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley, but by a different act, called The Herd. One of their songs from 1968, from their album "Paradise Lost," tells a story and was called "Something Strange."
The Herd - Something Strange (1968)
If you've not heard of The Herd, you do know its most famous member, Peter Frampton. I'm still into the theme of gay producers and for The Who, that was Kit Lambert. They had a song in 1966 that might be seen as an early precursor for their 1969 rock opera, "Tommy," and this one, called "I'm a Boy," had gender issues.
The Who - I'm a Boy (1966)
From the Who I'm going to the Rolling Stones, and although this song was written as a demo, by Andrew Oldham and Keith Richards, for others to record, this track was released. Recorded in 1965 and appearing on their "Metamorphosis" album in 1975, here's the very fun "I'd Much Rather Be With The Boys."
Rolling Stones - I'd Much Rather Be With The Boys (1965)
See why I couldn't resist it? For you trivia freaks, that song was recorded several times, with no hits, but an interesting version was by Donna Lynn, in 1965, though she would much rather be with the girls.
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. 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 midnight to 4 am, on KPFT; it's Queer Radio, with attitude.
I can't leave my gay managers section without coming back to the Beatles, and their manager, Brian Epstein, was probably the most famous of them all, often referred to at the time as "The Fifth Beatle." His homosexuality was an open secret among his friends and business associates. I've read that the song "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away," written by Lennon & McCartney, was inspired by Lennon's observations of Brian Epstein. That song, appearing on the Beatles album "Help!" in 1965, was more known at the time as done by the UK group called The Silkie, and their version reached #10 in the States.
- You've Got To Hide Your Love Away (1965)
She Is A Man (1967)
Yes, "Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?" We're back in the U.S. now, but not without gender confusion, as told by The Barbarians, in 1965.
I'm slipping in a stereotypically homophobic novelty record, called "Strangers in the Night," by Teddy & Darrel. It's from their 1966 album, "These Are the Hits, You Silly Savages."
Darrel - Strangers in the Night (1966)
And that was a strange sort of spoken word song narrated by Burt Topper. The track is called "The Gay Teenager" and it appeared on a soundtrack from 1967 from a very obscure movie called "Teenage Rebellion."
Next up, the Byrds, and David Crosby wrote this song for their 1967 album but due to a lot of issues between he and the other members, it was not released until twenty years later, although Jefferson Airplane recorded their version in 1968. Here's The Byrds' original. It's called "Triad."
The Byrds - Triad (1967)
And he spends the next two verses trying to talk someone into a three-way relationship. I hate cutting that song short but I'm trying to fit in as much as possible into this segment. You'll also just hear parts of the next two obscure songs. The first is by an act calling themselves "United States of America" and their song "The American Way of Love." Lots going on in this song.
States of America - The American Way of Love (1968)