by Troy Williams
On last week’s RadioActive on KRCL I sat down with gay maven and culture connoisseur Matthew Landis to discuss a history of queer pop music. I’ve done shows on queer punk and queer hip hop in the past — but never pop. We discussed the influence of the closet on artists like Liberace, Dusty Springfield and Leslie Gore — and then traveled from glam-rock thru the 80′s to Gaga. Cut between the music sets are also interviews with Dustin Lance Black and Erika Munson from Mormons Building Bridges who are preparing for the Pride Parade.
The nation may disagree on politics and what rights should be enjoyed by which Americans, but damn, we all love some classic Elton John! There is no mystery to why the LGBT movement has shifted the nation so quickly. It’s through the stories that we tell. And what more powerful form to share a story than a three minute song that cuts right to the heart and the soul of all of us.
Matthew’s inspired commentary on the way gay history intersects with pop music is a delight. You will never hear some of these songs the same way ever again.
I also have to laugh a bit — as I was a young devout Mormon boy, I was obsessed with both Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. Of course. I’ve always wondered if my parent’s tolerated my Madonna fetish because on some level they thought, “whew, he IS into girls!” Little did they know.
Though I had several queer albums and 45′s, the very first cd I ever purchased was the Communards, which was fronted by Jimmy Sommerville– absolutely the gayest cd released in 1984! I went on to become an avid Erasure collector — purchasing every remix and special edition import cd single I could find. As a Mormon missionary I broke all the rules by sneaking out to listen to Madonna’s Blonde Ambition London concert as it was being broadcast live on BBC radio. And though my latent orientation was obvious to all — it wasn’t until I discovered the Indigo Girls that I really found the courage to turn inward and begin to embrace my big queer self.
As a gay adult I can look back in time to my own inner queer child — and I have to thank all of these artists who were out there — fighting on behalf of the kid I was and the man I would later become. Pop music has always been calling us to be braver and stand taller.
And also to dance and celebrate how wonderful life can be. Music makes the people come together.
So please take some time and travel back in time with me and Matthew. We play music from Queen, David Bowie, Sylvester, the Village People, Bronski Beat, Erasure, Indigo Girls and much more!
Let’s enjoy the music and the artists that changed the world and inspired a movement. Have a listen:
(RadioActive airs weeknights at 6pm on 90.9 FM, KRCL)