Various Artists : Strong Love – Songs Of Gay Liberation 1972-1981
By the late '60s, popular music had become synonymous with the progressive causes of the day: the crusades against American involvement in Vietnam, desecration of pristine wilderness, women’s liberation and the idyllic quest for a libertarian personal and social existence.
Notwithstanding the presence of (male) gay protagonists in the radical fringe of popular music – including Danny Fields, David Geffen and Jan Wenner – the cause of gay liberation remains a largely overlooked stream of the broader protest-music canon.
Released on Guy Blackman’s always impressive Chapter Music, Strong Love – Songs of Gay Liberation 1972-1981 compiles 15 songs composed and released in the aftermath of the infamous Stonewall riots in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1969. The music featured mirrors the evolution of the so-called ‘mainstream’, from the Let It Be-era Beatles warmth of Everyone Involved’s A Gay Song, the Laurel Canyon hippie-folk of Charlie Murphy’s Gay Spirit to the proto soul-funk of Blackberri’s It’s Okay. Smokey’s Strong Love lays the groundwork for '80s new wave, Robert Campbell’s Dreamboy is rich with the tight-waisted flares and slip-on white shoes aesthetic of late '70s LA torch-rock, Bueno Vista’s Hot Magazine struts with homoerotic attitude, while Chris Robison, Big Strong Man in My Life is the Big Star track never written by the late Chris Bell.
The discourse is proud, and arguably provocative in its blunt honesty – when Lavender Country recorded the fucked-up country Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears, or Scrumbly and Martin the Pete-and-Dud piano bar ditty Hots For A Hustler, you assume neither band had pretensions of crossing over immediately into the pop charts for a shot at serious commercial success.
Like so much of the political-musical canon, it’s arguable that the songs contained on Strong Love preached to the converted; indeed, the fact that notionally logical developments such as gay marriage remain mired in bigotry and ignorance suggests that the progressive rhetoric fell on too many deaf ears. Strong Love is inevitably and inextricably linked with its political cause; it’s also a collection of protest songs worthy of the ‘classic’ moniker.
BY PATRICK EMERY
Best Track: Big Strong Man in My Life
If You Like This, You'll Like These: CROSBY, STILLS AND NASH, PARLIAMENT/FUNKADELIC, MARVIN GAYE (no pun intended) and any decent '70s music
In A Word: Proud