Episode #8: Songs of the 70s: The Gay Pride Episode
“Lola” by The Kinks (1970)
“Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed (1972)
“Dancing Queen” by ABBA (1976)
“Don’t Leave Me This Way” by Thelma Houston (1977)
“I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor (1978)
“San Francisco (You’ve Got Me)" by The Village People (1977)
“You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) by Sylvester (1978)
“Last Dance” by Donna Summer (1978)
00:50 Amy offers a very very brief explanation for why Pride month is in June. For more on the riots at the Stonewall Inn in 1969, go to Episode 1.
02:30 “Lola” by The Kinks is an affirmation about the existence of trans people, even if the young man in the Kinks classic declined the invitation to a sexual encounter. “My Lola,” as he said, left an impression on him, even if he said, “No, thanks". It is kind of incredible that such progressive lyrics were even allowed on 70s radio.
05:52 How did “Walk on the Wild Side” get on the radio at all? Candy never lost her head even when she was giving head? Not that we are complaining, because it’s a great song. It’s just a bit shocking that a song that openly references oral sex is on the radio AND a classic rock hit. Amy makes the case that the wild side was not really that wild to Lou Reed, so the title is kind of ironic. These are all characters who are based on real people that Reed thought his fans (and other people) should get to know. He was right.
10:19 How do you do a podcast about Pride without talking about disco? You do not. A lot of gay anthems came out of the discos, although not all of the songs that we think of as gay anthems were considered so at the time. “Dancing Queen” by ABBA is like that. It was and is a great POP song. Maybe it is the perfect pop song. It was not so much a gay anthem in the 70s but it is now, which is fine because it is a song that expresses the joy of dancing… and being a dancing queen.
13:00 << chair dancing to “Dancing Queen” >>
13: 48 Thelma Houston’s “Don’t Leave Me This Way” was the disco gay anthem that “Dancing Queen” was not, which took on even more relevance (sadly) because of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.
15:50 << chair dancing to “Don’t Leave Me This Way” >>
16:00 Anita Bryant was the orange juice lady who also hated gay people. She said she did not but yet referred to gay people as “human garbage.” She managed to get enough people afraid of the mythical predatory gay man that the Human Rights Ordinance repealed in Miami-Dade County Florida in 1977. Here is an enjoyable video of Anita Bryant getting a pie in the face. All of this is a reminder of why Pride matters and while we laugh at Bryant getting a pie in the face, consider how she made adolescents who were questioning their sexuality in the 70s feel. She was a very familiar face who said very hateful things.
20:15 Gloria Gaynor had a whole lot of bad things happen to her that made her a pretty damn good candidate to sing “I Will Survive.” How was this song the B Side to “Substitute?” Thanks goodness for her motivation to promote this song, which has since been selected for preservation by the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress. Like “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” it also became an anthem that spoke to the fear in the AIDS epidemic in the 80s.
24:08 The Village People are more important to the gay community than YMCA. Most of the guys who sang and performed YMCA were not even the original band. The fact that a gay fantasy band would sell a million copies of its debut album (which only had four songs) is pretty incredible. Go to Episode 1 for more about YMCA but for now enjoy “San Francisco (You’ve Got Me),” which is a song about leather, Levis, T-shirts, and well, San Francisco.
27:38 Amy offers her theory that YMCA is important. However, she hesitates about giving it gay anthem status because Casablanca, the record label, was trying to push The Village People back in the closet when YMCA was sweeping the nation.
28:00 No doubt that Sylvester was out and proud. He also was the co-writer for “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real),” which Sylvester didn’t think much about it when he wrote it. He said the song is just how it feels in the disco when you meet the right person. It is a joyous song of freedom and sexuality and dance and it was also selected for preservation by The Library of Congress in 2019.
32:12 Donna Summer was arguably the most important artist to the gay community in the 1970s. She created space for free expression and pride in who you are. Did she really say that gay men got what they deserved with AIDS? Did she really use that old “Adam and Steve” trope? She said she didn’t. Amy believes her. Any song by Donna Summer could be played here because she is that damn important. “MacArthur Park Suite” was a smash in the discos but Amy makes the executive decision to play a song she likes better; “Last Dance.”
38:00 Don’t forget that Gay Pride exists out of necessity, For most of the planet’s existence, queer people have had to hide or assert their right to existence.
SOURCES USED TO CREATE THIS EPISODE
Aletti, Vince. The Disco Files 1973 - 1978. DAP: New York. 2019.
Gamson, Joshua. The Fabulous Sylvester. Holt: New York. 2005
Jonez, Tim. “Why ABBA’s Dancing Queen is the Greatest Pop Song Ever.” The Guardian. September 8, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/sep/08/40-years-abba-dancing-queen-people-just-surrender-to-it
Kisner, Jeremy. “Donna Summer Denies Making Anti-Gay Remarks That Hurt Her Career.” The Advocate. May 17, 2012. https://www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/music/2012/05/17/exclusive-donna-summer-denies-making-antigay-remarks-hurt-her
“The Story Behind YMCA.” Goldmine. June 14, 2016. https://www.goldminemag.com/articles/story-behind-y-m-c
Tosches, Nick. “Transformer.” Rolling Stone. January 4, 1973. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-album-reviews/transformer-89126/