Ronstadt Round-Up

Linda Ronstadt, as much as Janis Joplin, paved the way for females who rock – not that Aretha didn’t pave the way too but soul is very different genre. In my collection I have as mp3 Stone Poneys – Evergreen Vol.2 (1967), Different Drum (Michael Nesmith) Stone Poneys III (1968), art folk. Solo: Silk Purse(1970) country, Linda Ronstadt (1972)   country rock – I Fall To Pieces;  Don’t Cry Now (1974) Desperado – producer Peter Asher; Heart Like a Wheel (1974) Asher You’re No Good; Prisoner in Disguise (1975) Tracks Of My Tears; Hasten Down The Wind (1976) ‘That’ll Be The Day’; Living in the USA (1978): Alison; Mad Love (1980)

The early Stone Poneys are adventurous, the sound is interesting & the material is smart. The band resented that she wanted to the call the shots & so it broke up. I love Hobo on III. Her solo career started off a little unsure as she explored country, country-rock & her voice in incredible but often the material & production reined her in – she did work with studio musicians who became the Eagles. 

But when Peter Asher took over the production her career soared. With songwriters like JD Southern, Jackson Brown, Laura Nyro, The McGarrigle Sisters & even Elvis Costello – she was amazing. I particularly loved ‘I drove past your house lates last night just to see if you were there’ Perhaps the bursty song about stalking & romantic obsessions I can think of. Her work with Nelson Riddle bored me – the songs were too tidy for me. Her Spanish language work is sublime but also was too smooth for me.

I added some other prime female vocalists to the mp3 CD. Smith: A Group Called Smith (1969) lead singer Gayle McCormick sings the shit out of Baby, It’s You. The group fell apart, she did a few solo lps but never really hit the charts again. Here too is Grace Slick’a Dreams (1980) – an unexceptional lp by one of the most exceptional pop voices ever.

The first Pretenders: The Pretenders (1979): with Tattooed Love Boys. This is a stunning lp of powerful raw songs & Chrissie is amazing, as she is on every Pretenders lp. What can one say about Marianne Faithful? Here is Broken English (1979), a remorselessly angry lp with eviscerating songs that quickly reestablished her as a major voice not merely some quiet nostalgia act. 20th Century Blues (1996) is a fine set of ‘cabaret’ & rock with songs by Brecht etc. 

Finally – a couple of more ‘modern’ singers: Grace Jones: Nightclubbing (1981): featuring Walking In The Rain – this was Grace’s step out of disco into alternative. Iconic songs, great engineering & a classic. After the end of the electrodance group Yaz, Alison Moyet launched her solo career with  Alf (1984) a set of sometimes over-dramatic songs that clearly opened the door for Adele. I love this lp.

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George Michael Way

Along with George Michael’s Faith & Older on this mp3 collection is : Hutch (Leslie Hutchinson): The Ultimate Collection – Grenada-born singer and musician was one of the biggest cabaret stars in the world during the 1920s and 1930 – a friend and lover of Cole Porter; Love Is A Drag: For Adult Listeners (Lover Man);  Elton John: Blue Moves (Sorry Seems); Flash & The Pan: (Walking In The Rain); Rexy Spice; Arsenal. A cd that spans  generations, styles, continents & levels of queerness. 

I was not a Wham! fan. They are a great pop group but too pop for me. Michael’s life, to me, is more compelling than his music not that his music is of no interest. His lyrics took one a more ‘spiritual’ turn as his career progressed. It was cool to have this out gay equivalent to Justin Timberlake, though Michael was more creative in the long run. I enjoy these albums & I am sad that fame killed him.

I heard about Hutch (Leslie Hutchinson) from a BBC series about British Black History. The host visited spots, neighbourhoods were noted but forgotten black people had lived or performed. I was intrigued by Hutch’s sexual reputation which, as the time, only enhanced his reputation. The Ultimate is a fun, sound quality  is decent, his voice pleasant & the songs are the best of the period by the likes of Cole Porter (with whom Hutch had an affair). Good music by someone seemly forgotten about in gay/bi history.

‘Love Is A Drag’ is a fun, fine 60’s collection of nightclub/show tune torch/love songs about men sung by a man. I came across an article about this lp being reissued & downloaded it from iTunes. The songs are given ‘ordinary’ direct performances – no mocking or sexualizing – at the time this was sold in the backs of magazines & was considered very out there. Another fine piece of queer history.

Elton John’s navigation of being out has been a benchmark, role model for decades now. Blue Moves a great double that I enjoy & it’s hard not to listen to his pre-out catalogue for signs – but he was merely the singer not the lyricist. An example of the universality of human emotions – love is love regardless of gender or sexuality. 

Flash & The Pan’s Walking In The Rain with the lyric ‘Feeling like a woman/looking like a man’ highlights a great power pop album of songs. Grace Jones does a good take on this song but I prefer this original. Rounding out this trip though queer music history is the contemporary Rexy Spice – a Toronto folk/punk/protest rocker. His ‘Arsenal’ is a great look at what non-mainstream (i.e. Adam Lambert) queer music can be – funny, energetic & thoughtful. A modern day Cole Porter worth hearing. Highly recommended.

Balcony

There was this noise on the balcony. A heavy shifting of weight, like a body falling, dropping, as if someone falling had reached out and caught the edge of the balcony and stopped their fall & heaved themselves over the rail and into the folded lawn chairs I had no where else to keep in the winter. I wanted them near at hand in case I ever had company. Wishful thinking, I know, but it says to be prepared for the best.

I turned down the TV. I could heard the wind. A rustling of something, not leaves too late in the year for them. Tentatively I went to the window and looked. Half expecting it to be one of those fright movie moments when a distorted face would be peering back at me of some sort of alien entity that tumbled from a UFO to my balcony. 

I saw nothing. As my eyes became accustomed to the dark I could make out a clump of something green plastic. Was that fucking a garbage bag? Had someone tossed their trash over their balcony & the wind blown it onto mine.

The living room light didn’t illuminate the corner it was in. I got my flashlight and went out for a closer look. The wind was as cold as a January wind would be. I should have put on my gloves. It wasn’t a bag but a bundle-like a sheaf of papers or old towels. The wind making it move like it was alive. Like something alive was wrapped in it. 

I reached down to it. I heard a small moan. Pulled my hand back.

What the fuck!

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Carless Grace Jones

This mp3 collection ranges from the forties to the eighties starting with Dorothy Carless. This is how I sometimes find music: I wanted a version of Whispering Grass – one of the Ink Spots big hits – by someone else. I did a search & it popped on up a best of collection of Carless’s work. A Big Band singer with a pleasant voice she’s easy listening.

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More best of with a Dusty Springfield set: an amazing voice. These are all from her British days & there are sweet covers of things like Tupleo Honey as well as the hits. Another British, yet American, is Ketty Lester who had a Brit hit with Love Letters: I heard this in a documentary about the Beatles Fan Club & was happy to find a sizeable hits collection by Ketty – lots of covers & sweetly moody.backcouch02

Boys Town Gang: a Tumblr post of a video for their song Cruisin’ the Streets brought this collection to me – an early disco song about queer cruising – the music is slick faceless fun you can dance to – like queer sex 🙂backcouch03

Gloria Lynne – another one I found in my look for Whispering Grass – & a fine version it is – a mid 60’s soul singer working with a string orchestra. Not at all like Yvonne Fair: The Bitch is Back – another Tumblr find, the cover was posted on an LP blog; the title was enough for me & I found another lost treasure – sharp social sexual commentary with a funky disco-soul setting. woodchair

The Bobbettes: this is a massive set of 50+ track by this girl group from the late 50’s early 60’s – they start do wop & shift to a more r’n’b sound. Have Mercy Baby was their biggest hit. They clearly paved the way for the Supremes. The cd ends with Grace Jones: Warm Leatherette – one of the classic German disco (or is it disco) recordings. She is in peak form here. I love the music arc this cd takes from 40’s to 80’s as it covers so many styles and eras, from the obscure to the less obscure.

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grandmother

grandmother my mother her mother my father his mother

a trickle of memory but none too too strong

never knew my dad’s parents they had died when he was a child. I don’t even know how.

Met my mother’s mother – grandmother – several times. A little woman who lived to nearly 90 in the Welsh town of Merthyr Tydfil. I once saw Merthyr on the Antiques Road show but what they showed of the town & surroundings didn’t bring back any memories of the place or my Gran.

She lived in a house with my Aunt Nelly who for some reason I called Aunt Neddles.

My mom & I visited two summers for a month while I was a boy about 10 or 11. She came from a big family. I had over 10 aunts and uncles to meet. One Aunt lived up the street and others were scattered around Britain. One Aunt in London we stayed with for a week.

My Gran lived in a row house – the end house – grey/brown stucco. She had a big garden, roses in front and vegetables in the back.

I remember tea time the clearest – bacon & tomato sandwiches thick with gooey mayonnaise. Crumbly little cookies, orange squash, lace curtains in a dark dining room.

Grandfather – my mother’s father – someone I never met who died of his hard life. A coal miner and heavy drinker – that’s all I know of him. Don’t even know his name – nor my grandmother’s for that matter – strangers that I have very vague images of – his from a photo – baggy work pants, shirt, suspenders, cloth cap, toothless smile. The light not quite on his face. Or perhaps the darkness of memory.

My Gran smiling, small round body, comfy floral print dress and bib apron. She’s wiping her hands on the apron with that ‘don’t take my picture wearing this’ look. She’s at the front gate, or maybe the back. There’s vines behind her and a sliver of the cobblestone street in the fore front of the picture.

money

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Donna Summer Time

As I did in June 2014 this June I’m looking at the ‘queer’ music in my collection starting with this major icon: Donna Summer. One mp3 collection includes her: Love 2 Love, Seasons of Love, another has the hits collection On The Radio. Plus I have the stand alone Fairy Tale High.

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the shelf buried under garbage

The beat of her music was the music of my coming out – that & the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. My friends on the east coast were blues/folk/celtic musicians & so disco was hated, derided and dismissed. So I didn’t own much of this at that time, not until I moved to TO did I add much expect for Fairy Tale High.

I bought this in Sydney & loved it. For me this is one of her best albums & also a state of the art disco & concept lp. Songs like Faster & Faster to Nowhere capture a culture moment as deeply & painfully as anything I can think of by Springsteen, Reed, or any other of those ‘deeper’ writers. Plus you could really dance to it.

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my street roots

Her follow up Bad Girls which included Hot Girls (a great tune), was bloated & boring by comparison. She contributed to the lyric and music writing of her records too. The earlier Love 2 Love, Seasons of Love, are sweet, a bit bloated as well but the Four Season of Love hold some nice memories for me. On The Radio is a good time capsule of the best of her.

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boundary issues

Also in the mp3 collection are some other queer icons: Samantha  Fox: Touch Me – a Brit who never really made it big here.. Grace Jones’ Island Life is loaded with after hour club vibe. The Pointer Sisters: Break Out with I’m So Excited still excites. Aretha Franklin: Who’s Zooming Who? can get me doing it for myself. Martha Wash: The Collection: her voice sprawls nearly nameless across so many hits & remixes from Marky Mark to Black Box. And finally Cher: Believe – so what if autotune drives some of the cuts on this, Believe is a triumph of dance music & a career that won’t stop still she dies. Let’s face it honey some of these gals owe their careers to their gay fan base.

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‘small planet’

As I pass ‘small planet’ I see the ‘FOR RENT’ sign in the middle of the window. It is a bit lopsided, the tape on one corner weakening in the summer heat. The sign has been there for a few months now.

A short time ago ‘small planet’ had been a struggling little cafe. Simple sandwiches, decent coffee and a personable owner had made it an oasis of sorts in a stretch of unwelcoming taverns and pizza take-outs. A nice place to stop on a Saturday afternoon for lunch and a quick peruse through the second hand CD’s along the back wall.

My first visit had been several months ago when trekking along this strip looking for exactly what ‘small planet’ offered. The owner Theodora was happy to see someone and we struck a quick rapport.

She spoke easily about her boyfriend, money problems, running a little cafe, plans for the future, music. She’s quick to remember what spices I preferred. She’s an oregano woman while I’m a rosemary man. It’s almost like dropping in on a cousin’s deli.

In her mid-twenties she’s stands about 5”5’, with short dark hair that flips up along the back of her neck. She has the strong nose and deep set eyes many Greek women have.

The food was good, she prepared it herself, waited tables herself, washed dishes herself, worked a second job to keep ‘small planet’ in orbit till she’d established a large enough patron base for it to support itself.

Little lamps appeared on the tables. They had odd, tiny shades that her boyfriend had hand painted. Egyptian eyes, water signs, Chinese characters and other bringers of luck. A Lilith Fair poster arrived followed by a dozen dream catchers in the window. All for sale.

She was doing the things I could see myself doing. Theodora was operating the cafe I always wanted to open myself. A place where I could sit behind a counter, share coffee and music with people who dropped in, people who would of course become my friends, my supporters.

I liked her spirit and drive. I tried to drop in every other week  often bringing in friends for lunch or late afternoon coffee. Rarely did we have to compete with other patrons for attention or service.

Winter came, I walked less and stuck to some cafes closer to my home. I found myself avoiding the ‘small planet’ side of street out of guilt. A few times I waved at Theodora as she stood, arms crossed in the window of the empty cafe.

Then one day ‘FOR RENT.’ A week later empty of tables and chairs expect for a lamp shade in the middle of the floor. The Egyptian eye unblinking.

I walk by in the knowledge that I couldn’t have kept this little business going, seeing in my own life how my good luck charms brought little more than decoration.

I wonder if Theodora saw ‘small planet’ as a failure or as experience for the next step, for the next ‘small planet’ she would attempt. I wonder what I would risk for that next step.

Last year’s queer music blogs:

June 2 Billy Strayhorn http://wp.me/p1RtxU-L0

June 9 ‘Hangin’ On The Telephone’ http://wp.me/p1RtxU-Ll

June 16 Tea Room Tramps http://wp.me/p1RtxU-Mg

June 23 Ned Rorem http://wp.me/p1RtxU-Mx

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bondage to shelf

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