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Queer Noises: From the Closet to the Charts 1961-1978

A long time before the Village People, there was a mass of pop ephemera that was out and loud. *Queer Noises*, a 24 tracker, 15 years in the making, compiled by critic Jon Savage, is an album that locates gay desire at the heart of the pop experience. From the flounce of Byrd E Bath and Rodney Dangerfield’s ‘Florence of Arabia’ (catchline: ‘Get a load of her!’) and Joe Meek’s sly Tornados flipside, ‘Do You Come Here Often?’ to the sophistication of the Kinks’ ‘See My Friend’, *Queer Noises* is the hubbub of gay lives lived mostly on the margins. But the journey of the gay pop song is not a smooth one. B Bubba’s ‘I’d Rather Fight Than Swish’, cut in the early 1960s, predates Stonewall by several years. And though Jobriath’s 1973 ‘I’m A Man’ had an emphatic message, Dead Fingers Talk’s 1978 punk offering ‘Nobody Loves You When You’re Old And Gay’ is off-message for the time. The problem with collecting songs under the criteria that they either are overtly gay or encourage a particular type of reading is that much goes under the radar – and here, it’s the women who lose out. The works of say, Dusty Springfield or francophone Suzy Solidor would fit nicely in this album; lesbians are represented here solely by 1973’s ‘Coochy Coo’ from Polly Perkins, a former children’s TV presenter. By 1978, the battle for visibility had been won: the sexual disco delirium of Sylvester’s ‘You Make Me Feel’ closes the album with an energy that still spins mirror balls.