Listen up, possums: LGBT themes in popular music did not start with YMCA and end with Katy Perry kissing a girl and liking it. So in honor of Sean Penn’s Oscar win for his portrayal of Harvey Milk, this “Commie, homo-loving” writer proudly presents three retro gay gems from the vault.
First up is Elton Motello‘s 1977 punk treasure “Jet Boy Jet Girl,” written from the point of view of a gay teenager who is essentially the flip side of Katy Perry’s ‘experiment’ – after a brief fling with him, his lover returns to girls. I suspect it doesn’t get a lot of airplay in the United States, since in 1989, Florida station WIOD was fined $10,000 by the FCC for playing it. But it was in regular rotation in the UK and Canada, and has been covered by bands including The Damned.
Next up is a dance hit by John Water’s favorite actor (or -ress), Divine: “You Think You’re A Man.” Released in 1984, it reached #16 on the UK charts and even landed Divine a spot on Top of the Pops. However, it never charted in the US. (seeing a pattern here?)
Finally, Canada’s Rough Trade were a new-wave band who were, as their name implies, unabashedly sexual. Their song “High School Confidential,” made it into the Canadian Top 20, one of the first explicitly lesbian-themed songs to be a Top 40 hit anywhere in the world. And, oh yeah, this was 1981.
MP3: Elton Motello – Jet Boy Jet Girl
MP3: Divine – You Think You’re A Man
MP3: Rough Trade – High School Confidential