It’s almost as if Orville Peck or Lil Nas X invented lgbtq pop but the history stretches back to Johnny Ray, all the’s changed is it is easier to be out. The road for Orville was paved by rockers like Tom Robinson. Tom Robinson Band’s ‘Power In The Darkness’ (1978) was released the year I moved to Toronto. I also have Two (1979) & his solo: North by Northwest (1982) – on a pair of mp3 cd’s. Tom was an openly gay rocker in the Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson vein. Politically charged & musically dynamic & unequivocally resolute in his stance.
Songs about queer bashing, the complex search for acceptance & love. One – Glad To Be Gay became almost the Queer Nation’s international anthem with its sing-along, music hall chorus. I say almost as he never had the diva appeal of Ross’s I’m Coming Out.
I was thrilled at the time & for the most part the music has stood the test of time. I remember one reviewer saying something to the effect: ‘Robinson’s new album is excellent except his gay lyric is distracting’ I’ve ever read a review of any ‘straight’ perform like Springsteen of Sting in which it was said ‘his heterosexual lyrics are distracting.’ Robinson is still around & after his band broke up he moved into a more folksy direction.
Paving the way for Robinson was Jobriath, who died at 32 in1983. In this collection I have Pidgeon (1969), Jobriath (1973), Creatures of the Street (1974) & As The River Flows (2014) – a compilation of unrelated tracks. I’d read a review way back when I was living in Cape Breton but finding it was impossible. So when I finally had high speed I did a search for some of his recordings.
He was also openly gay from the get go. His voice reminds me of Mick Jagger. The first lp is a rock, by 73 he starts becomes a mix of Bowie & Reed. The music is a touch of music-hall, rock & the lyrics are bitchy. Creatures is a clear influence on Bowie’s Aladdin Sane. As often happens his label wasn’t happy with his direction & held back much of his later work well after his death. This is a biofilm that needs to be made.
A group that was influenced by both Robinson & Jobriath is Bronski Beat: Age of Consent (1984) which rode the wave of electronic dance music by the likes of Duran Duran, Pet Shop Boys. The many mixes of Small Town Boy packed dance floors around the world – who knew a song about queer bashing was danceable? The album is good with an eclectic mix of songs. Summerville’s falsetto is sweet & his uses it well on his solo lp ‘Suddenly Last Summer (2009)’ on songs like People Are Strange!
I balanced the queer content with some other performers who also packed dance floors: Canada’s own Mitsou: El Mundo (1988) – Mon Cowboy was inescapable for sometime partially thanks to CanCon rules combined with great videos. Elton Motello brought an art punk energy to both Victim of Time (1978) & Pop Art (1980). Jet Boy Jet Girl let us pogo under disco balls. Then there was Cory Hart: First Offense (1983) Sunglasses at Night is a CanCon classic & his boyish good looks worked their way into many a jack-off fantasy.
Finally, rounding out the Robinson cds are Eddie & The Hot Rods: Teenage Depression. (1976) – high energy, punk attack that has smart pop hooks & an angst that was universal. This is a re-release with dozens of bonus tracks. Their ‘Kids Are Alright’ is dynamic & angry & does The Who proud.