"The Straight Men Who Made America's First Gay Record"
February 18, 2017 11:49 AM   Subscribe

Like a magic mirror held up to America's heteronormative postwar culture, its music reflected a dignified, and seductive, vision of gay life. Just below the album's title read the teaser: "For adult listeners only—sultry stylings by a most unusual vocalist."
55 years ago Lace Records released "Love Is a Drag", where a male vocalist sang standards written for female singers. The people behind it were a mystery until one of them contacted J. D. Doyle of Queer Music Heritage in 2012 and was interviewed (transcript, mp3). YouTube has a few tracks: 1, 2, 3, 4. Doyle put the LP in context in an interview with Color Magazine.
posted by Kattullus (17 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
OK so the important thing is did they commit The Worst Crime In Music, i.e. genderswapping the pronouns to make the covers heterosexual? See Joss Stone changing Fell In Love With A Girl to Fell In Love With A Boy, etc
posted by ominous_paws at 12:08 PM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Most of the songs keep the genders as written (e.g. Lover Man) but "She's Funny That Way" becomes "He's Funny That Way" on the record.
posted by Kattullus at 12:21 PM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

It appears to be available via iTunes with a 2016 (re)release listed.
posted by dreamling at 12:25 PM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Worst Crime In Music

I'm fairly certain that's whichever tune John Lewis is using to sell shit at Christmas.
posted by mushhushshu at 12:32 PM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh! This was a damned cult Object I heard about from time to time but would always forget the name of when I sat down to google. Thanks Kattllus!
posted by The Whelk at 12:48 PM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

I am so excited for this.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:04 PM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

From the image in the Collector's Weekly article...Ads for Camp Records’ singles as seen in Vagabond No. 7, 1965:


Amidst the sounds of motorcycles, chains, and wails of YEAH, YEAH, YEAH comes a song pertinent to today's world! Wilder, madder, gayer than a Beatles hairdo! A hi-fi 45 r.p.m. record from Camp Records. Sequel to THE QUEEN IS IN THE CLOSET

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:14 PM on February 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Here we go...

I'd Rather Fight Than Swish
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:20 PM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

It always warms the cockles to hear about straight allies from earlier generations. The producers' story is really neat! Reminds me of my own grandmothers, who were pretty accepting.
posted by gusandrews at 2:17 PM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

And we have a straight line from there to PWR BTTM!
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 4:14 PM on February 18, 2017

So you're saying SNL was only 31 years late?
posted by ckape at 4:15 PM on February 18, 2017

Wonderful post! Thank you!
posted by great_radio at 6:08 PM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

OMG I've always loved "The Boy Next Door," but it never made me gutpunch ugly-cry before. This is such an amazing find.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:31 PM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Love the Liberace story; they put it on while he was in the room for a photoshoot, didn't say anything, and then as he was leaving Liberace just walked over to the turntable, took the record and walked out. Perfectly captures that era.

The link at Collectors Weekly to Doyle's Camp Records page is fascinating, too, including all of that queer mystery label's releases for our listening enjoyment. Thanks for this, Kattalus.
posted by mediareport at 4:45 AM on February 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

becoming the first major release to feature a male singer crooning love songs about other men

Well, yes and no. I'd refer the interested to Can't Help Lovin' That Man (Amazon streaming link), a release on Columbia Legacy's Art Deco line that compiles songs sung by men in the '30s wherein the pronoun gender isn't changed. So, the title track, "The Man I Love," "I Got Rhythm" and other standards (and not-quite-standards) are all sung to men, by men.

The original 78s were issued on well-known labels, such as Columbia, OKeh and Brunswick, so these weren't under-the-counter specials that required a password to obtain, either.

Great post. Thanks.
posted by the sobsister at 8:23 AM on February 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

This is a tiny bit askew from the subject of the FPP, but I feel is related.

I remember back in the early 90s going to Sisters And Brothers bookstore in Albuquerque (RIP 😔) and purchasing the album In Hi-Fi! by drag artist Pussy Tourette, and it was an album of songs being sung in a female persona by a very obviously male singer. It became a minor rage amongst the circle of bears I was moving within at the time, and there were tales being told about them putting it on at the gym (!) and other guys there wondering WTF but kind of getting into it.

Her big hit (for small values of $BIGHIT) was French Bitch. [PARENTAL ADVISORY LABEL]
posted by hippybear at 4:07 AM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

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