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.

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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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