In Which We Are Appropriated

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Let me share my outrage with you, yet again. Our story begins in New Orleans in 1985. Homogay mrpeenee is busy leading a happy, quiet homogay life when his puny attention is snagged by a snappy tune called Smalltown Boy by Bronski Beat.

And what a brilliant song it is. It’s the story of a young gay man thrown out of his home because he’s queer, everything he owns “in a little black bag” after already experiencing ostracism and gay bashing. Even those of us lucky enough to have avoided that extreme when we came out could still identify with the pain and the alienation and the fury in that song. Plus it had a really rockin beat.

The singer, Jimmy Somerville, is a role model, fierce and furious and pissed off and not willing to take any shit. He’s a humpy, short redhead (I’ve always had a weakness for them) and his videos dancing around to his music are very appealing, but the message in his songs was for his gay brothers to demand to live our lives unafraid. FUCK TOLERANCE, I DO NOT WANT TO BE TOLERATED. Oops, sorry, I got carried away.

Anyway. Try to imagine my feelings when Super Agent Fred sent me a video of Smalltown Boy covered by some yahoo, Marcus Layton. I’m not including it here because I don’t want it to get even a single more view. The cover is so unoriginal it might as well have been karaoke. The video itself is a classic of the “My cousin has a camera” with abrupt quick cuts of bland youth rollicking around some parking garage with a boosted grocery cart: urban but not too urban, we don’t want to have to mess with any riff raff. It is stripped of any politics in the original and it includes heterosexual humping just to rub salt in the disco wound.

Did anyone involved in this production ever listen to the original, could they have possibly understood the lyrics? Or did they just hear a song they liked, downloaded the lyrics from Google, and recorded their own stupid Brady Bunch cover.

I worry that some people vaguely think the struggle for gay equality is over, that somehow, the right to marry means that The Gays won and now we all can go back to not worrying. I got news for you. In living memory there was a time when simply being gay was illegal, not merely frowned upon or socially awkward. It was against the law and you could go to jail. Not just in some bum fuck rural outlier, but in London and New York. I worry that young people, young queers, think the fight is now about the right pronouns and including the right colors on the right flag. Our living an out life is not inalienable. A Supreme Court Justice recently included, in a draft decision for the court, the suggestion that attacking gay legal rights would be just peachy keen with him.

The kind of appropriation this cover represents, where the queer context of the song is erased, shows how easy it would be, in small encroaching ways, to shove us back into the good old days closet. Just like women and abortion, I can’t believe we’re still fighting this fight. Oh well. At least we know the words to the song.

Smalltown boys, naked edition:

Love them big boys.

You need to get out of the sun, baby.

Dappled.

It’s the peak of beachy weather. At least it is if you’re not living in San Francisco where it remains chilly.

oh, my dudes, I forgot to mention, on July 25, that it was the 15th anniversary of my little blog. Yay.

This seems to have been the first dick pic I published, from August 25, 2007. Another anniversary.

That first year, when I was much more apparently energetic, I cranked out fifty-four posts in one month.

I’m pretty sure I couldn’t think of 54 words now.

7 responses »

  1. Ah, 1984 – the year of Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, You Spin Me Round by Dead or Alive, It’s Raining Men by the Weather Girls, Where Is My Man? by Eartha Kitt and the faboo Jimmy Somerville and Bronski Beat! Unsurprisingly, amongst all this gayness, it was also the year I came out (in a cloud of pink soot!) – and yes, almost immediately joined the fight for proper gay rights in the UK. Sure, we were no longer illegal, but even at that stage it was unlawful to have gay sex under the age of 21(!). That’s why the Bronskis LP was titled Age of Consent, to highlight the inequality we faced.

    Baby gays these days need to learn their history, and never assume that what has been hard-fought and won today is permanent – it could be just as easily swept away tomorrow… Jx

    PS having just discovered my vocation, 1984 was also a year when I shagged my way through just about any man with a dick and a pulse – I probably could have managed all of your selected mens in an afternoon 🙂

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  2. I was just a young slip of a thing back in 1985, though years later, Jimmy Somerville brushed past me in a ‘book shop’ in Soho as did Paul Heaton in WHSmith. That thing that shall not be named is an abomination, the noise seems to coming from the back of her throat, not nice at all. This generation of highly strung tulips will listen to that song and think it’s original. Sad, it really is.

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  3. I had to look. I regret it. That video looks like an old commercial for The Gap, or maybe a cut-price version of Glee. The singer sounds like she’s got a mouthful of peanut butter and got lost in an echo chamber. Is Super Agent Fred pissed off at you?

    Anyway, a belated happy blogiversary to you Mr. P. (BTW, I can think of at least 54 things I’d like to do with Model #3.)

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  4. I became aquatinted with the Bronsy Beat when I saw “Parting Glances” in Boston in 1986. Did Bronsky turn into The Communards or the other way round? Anyway I love Sommerville’s soulful voice. Hard to imagine that that song has been commandeered by such oblivious people. You are right, leave it beans forget about it.

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