(Original Headline: "get bent" - from Plan B Magazine, 2006)
Words: Neil Kulkarni
Queer Noises 1961-1978: From The Closet To The Charts (Trikont)
In this age of all-out retro gluttony, when every single tendril of pop can be teased out with a click into its prone entirety, the only way that ol’ construct that is The Compilation can surely work beyond laziness is by thematic dogmatism, by cutting a swathe through the ages and pulling together the diverse with a purpose, with a reason to be together. Queer Noises, Jon Savage’s hugely inspirational, endlessly fascinating collection of forgotten, and unforgettable, transmissions from the gay pop underground works both as musical journey, and as a launchpad for your own reconnaissance. Crucially, it works because it doesn’t try too much – it tries something clear, specific, and always political.
Savage’s engrossing sleeve-notes spell out the score way more eloquently than I ever could, but what he’s collated here is a trip between lacerating camp, butch hostility, subterfuge, pride, comic angst and tragic-theatre – he charts a four-decade journey from terrifying shame (and its concurrent outrageous skewering in queer clubland) through acceptance to a faltering sense of identity with some fascinating and freakin’ brilliant music. Highlights have to be the Good Lord Joe Meek letting The Tornadoes drop ‘Do You Come Here Often’ with a snicker and a shufty, Teddy & Darrel’s Sunset-Strip drag-bitchin’ ‘These Boots’, Carl Boettcher’s skykissing ‘Astral Cowboy’, the Seventies glory of Sylvester and Jobriath & Peter Grudzien’s mindblowing ‘White Trash Hillbilly Trick’.
At every turn, the overtness of the lyrics (even 30 years on) is startling and heartbreaking, especially when you consider that any r’n’b/hip hop act making records as brave as The Miracles ‘Ain’t Nobody Straight In LA’ would be dropped like a bad habit right now – and the palpable sense of relief (both from the parody/grotesqueries of the Sixties past and the navel-gazing of the early Seventies) sweeps you through the Ramones and the awesome Twinkeys into Sylvester’s ‘Mighty Real’ with a real euphoric rush come the end.
Gratifyingly, where such a comp could’ve tediously pointed out the ambiguities and coppings of queer culture that mainstream pop thieves and
thrives on, what it aims for instead is entirely insular, self-sufficient, thrillingly guerrilla, creating an alternative cannon of gay music, frequently ignored, often suppressed, always utterly exciting to hear cos you always sense that this is music that had to battle, fight, not just for its own space but within itself for its own id and identity. Get this, get bent, and then, as Savage says, go straight to www.queermusicheritage.com and pursue your own intrigue as far as it’ll take you.
I await volume two with breath baited.