New Internationalist

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

December 2006

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.

This column was published in the December 2006 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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This article was originally published in issue 396

New Internationalist Magazine issue 396
Issue 396

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