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DS Original Material: Top Nine Queer Songs for Straight Old Punks

Hello everyone. This is my first feature for Dying Scene. So, to break things in gently I thought I’d do a simple listicle. A Top Ten type thing. They’re easy, right? I can just do a list of links to some stuff that I’m into right now and try to link it with some sort […]

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Hello everyone. This is my first feature for Dying Scene. So, to break things in gently I thought I’d do a simple listicle. A Top Ten type thing. They’re easy, right? I can just do a list of links to some stuff that I’m into right now and try to link it with some sort of loose theme? That’s playing on Easy Mode. Yeah. Let’s go.

Except… fuck… this is a punk site and I made it through the initial gatekeeping process for contributors by pretending I got the site editors’ jokes about Pennywise, I’m really out of the loop about most punk bands and music that’s around right now. Are Pennywise even a right-now thing? I mean… I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them play at a festival when I was so wasted I was ordering slushies from the ice-cream van and then taking them to the bar and asking them to add vodka. Fuck. Now I want a vodka slushie again.

Anyway – point being, I’m an old straight dude that’s into punk rock but also kinda out of touch. But maybe I can write something for other guys like that about some aspect of music that I love as a sort of highly subjective one-oh-one, instead of some bullshit about best songs for drinking vodka slushies to (The answer is Jaya the Cat, by the way).

As I’ve mentioned, I’m a straight dude, but I feel a lot more at home in queer spaces than most straight ones. A sports bar is *not* my idea of a good time. I actively avoid places where there’s sports playing on TV screens. The homoeroticism of most male contact sports notwithstanding, I’m far happier in a gay bar or fetish club than any standard social third-space that men normally gravitate towards. I live in Britain where we don’t really have the titty-bar or lap-dance club scene that there seems to be in the USA, which American friends talk about as if normal, but the thought of a place like that horrifies me. However – I’ve been quite comfortable in places where puppies are led about on leashes by bears and the only answer to any question about how many genders there are is ‘infinite’. 

And one point to make – most old straight punks can relate to the idea of sitting in their bedroom, listening to music on your own, and feeling misunderstood. Now, just imagine what it’s like to have parents, or a school, or a general social or home situation that’s actively hostile to something that’s at the core of who you are, and who you love, and not *just* your questionable choices of t-shirt. 

Buuuut… how and why do I – or any straight old dude – relate to that? Or show that we’re cool and not a tourist or potential threat in queer spaces?

Music.

The answer is always music.

I’m not about to attempt some sort of overview of queer music, as that’ll take far longer than I’ve got the attention span for, and it’s not really for me, as the aforementioned old straight dude, to do.

But here’s *something* for you. Some places to start. Some feet in the door.

And you’re gonna realise you probably already know more than you think you do.

9.  Laura Jane Grace – “SuperNatural Possession” 

You maybe are aware of Against Me! already. Laura Jane Grace is the singer in Against Me! and I coulda chosen one of their songs as an example of modern queercore, but “SuperNatural Possession” is a fucking tune and I love it juuuuuuuuust a tiny bit more than “True Trans Soul Rebel.” So that’s why it gets in there as an example of fairly contemporary queer music that’s got an international profile. 

8. Tuffragettes – “Tuffragettes Against Terfs

This is a track that’s at the other end of the scale of awareness levels. The Tuffragettes are a band I saw when drunk at a festival, in that way I discover most of the new bands I end up liking, and they reeked of queer violexcellence. I think the band nearly broke up during their second song, as they fought on stage, but decided they couldn’t recruit another bass player in time for the final chorus, so had to make up and keep playing. I felt all protective of them in a way they’d hate, because they were like angry tiger cubs. We must defend bands like Tuffragettes at all cost. But, uh, in a way that doesn’t piss them off. As they bite and scratch. 

7. The Menstrual Cramps – “Body Politics” 

I’m gonna say this is more of the same as the Tuffragettes, but that’s in no way intended to be an insult. Or even accurate. They’re coming from the same place except not at all. Young. Queer. Pissed off. I also saw them when drunk and loved them. It might even have been at the same event. Fuck. I can’t remember. Listen to them. Love them. 

6. Sharon Needles – “666” 

Drag. Leather. Spikes. Electro beats. Satanism. Fetish clubs. Boa Constrictors. Hearses for taxis. Licking bloody knives. Now, *this* is what it feels like when I go for a night out with some of my friends. Or at least, it’s what the filtered memories are like anyway. This is exactly what I mean when I’m talking about the kinds of queer spaces I feel right at home in. There is just so much here that crosses over with who I am that the gender and sexuality aspects are minor. Maybe that’s the same for you?

7. Dahli – “Cvrsed Images” 

Okay, Dahli might need a little bit of context. Dahli won Dragula, also known as The Greatest Reality TV Show Of All Time. But also, in a past incarnation, was half of an emo/crunkcore (okay, I don’t even know wtf crunkcore is, but anyway) band who were kinda a thing for a while, but whose other member was a sexual abuser and who also prevented Dahli from getting the HIV medication he needed to, you know, stay alive. Fuck that guy. He belongs in prison. I’m not even gonna name him. But Dahli survived it and has become a wonderful independent artist and performer who embodies a kind of queer culture that’s the alternative to even the alternative. Go look up Dahli and Dragula and The Boulet Brothers, as I’m not gonna do any sort of big intro to them right here, but they’ve probably got way more in common with a Dying Scene reader than they have with RuPaul. 


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Okay, now I’m gonna help you out a little. One straight old guy to another – and let’s face it, statistically that’s who you are, reading this site. Apologies if not. And a fuck yeah to you if you’re not just another one of those old straight guys too. We will defend your right to be here and in punk spaces.

However – talking of spaces, I’ve mentioned feeling happier in queer spaces than most straight ones. But – what if some queer person calls you out and questions if you’re a poseur and does the equivalent of pointing at your t-shirt and asking you to ‘name three songs’ by the band that on it?

Fuck people that do that, by the way. They’re arseholes. But anyway…

Let’s change the hypothetical situation then. Let’s, instead, say you’re in a queer space with a jukebox, and you’ve been asked to put in some coins and select some tracks that aren’t gonna mark you out as a clueless infiator, and which *may* get you some nods of approval.

If you went for Kylie or Gaga or generic Disco, then you *might* be okay. But let’s do a bit better, so here we go, your Cliff Notes, and the next tracks in my Top Nine Queer Songs for Straight Punks:


8. Divine – “Walk Like A Man” 

Almost too obvious. But still the right way to go. Divine is naaaaaaaasty but also a total fucking icon. And. Punk. As. Fuck. Don’t even try to argue with me that Divine isn’t punk rock as you will lose and I got a few thousand words why that I’m not gonna type here and am saving until you come for me.

9. Crucified – “Army of Lovers” 

Now this is something that might not be expected from an old straight punk but, despite the boobage on show in the video, is gay as hell. It’s so not gonna be expected of you to put this one on the jukebox, but it’s a total power move to do so. 

10. Robyn – “With Every Heartbeat

And here’s one for the ladies. Robyn’s ‘Call Your Girlfriend’ is basically the lesbian national anthem. But I like this one better, which is why I’m suggesting it instead as it’s close enough. And despite not being rock, it rocks, and does something to your brain to make it release shitloads of serotonin or dopamine, like a thousand Grindr or Tinder matches suddenly pinging into your phone at once. There’s something about it that hooks into our mental wiring to make us feel good. That stuff is something that the ravers have understood for a while, which punks sniffing glue behind the bike sheds didn’t really get, but don’t diss it. Just enjoy the happies and take note that if you’re in a queer space where there’s more girl-looking people than muscle bears, you’ll be safe putting Robyn on the jukebox. And if there are muscle bears about, they’ll probably be into it anyway. 

23. Cyndi Lauper – “True Colours”  

Talking of releasing brain chemicals that make you feel good, this’ll do it too. Maybe you’ll cry as well, as it’s just so lovely. And Cyndi is punk as fuck. Hard to believe maybe, but it was one of her songs that was cited in the list of degenerate filth that led to the need for the ‘Parental Advisory’ label on records. 

Aren’t you reassured that children are protected from Cyndi Lauper songs by a sticker? Oh yeah, the people that campaigned for that shit sure had their priorities right, didn’t they?

I won’t hear for a fucking parsecond that Cyndi is anything but sweet and pure and also to be defended at all costs. In terms of her quiet activism and support for vulnerable people, she’s really up there with Dolly. If they come for Dolly or Cyndi, we fight hard, yeah? 

vi. Bronski Beat – “Smalltown Boy

Alright, moving away from the Jukebox recommendations, and going back to that bit in the intro about feelings of alienation and being misunderstood, this is the distilled essence of that sentiment poured into a sweet gay kid’s search for a place. In the original video, the moment where the dad pushes whatever little cash he’s got in his pocket into the hand of his kid, and then declining his offered handshake, is heartbreaking.

Remember, this was back in the 80s, in Britain, when the government tried to ban any discussion of homosexuality in schools and the prime minister wanted to eradicate it ‘except as an abstract concept’ and attacked people who suggested that anyone ‘had a right to be gay’. Yeah, really. That’s the background of this song, and the link between this and punk was how it used stripped back, simple instrumentation – even though it was electronic not guitar-based – to make political art. Heartbreaking, and thank fuck we’ve moved on somewhat from people writing songs about feeling like this.

42. Soft Cell – “Sex Dwarf

However – at the same time, there were some people who decided not to give a fuck and just lean right into being unaccepted and unacceptable. I’m gonna try and link to the original video for this, which tends to get taken down when it’s posted on youtube, for its general DGAF wrongness. I fucking love it and again, it’s punk rock because the cheap and simple Boss DR-55 beat and one-finger synth was as accessible as three-chords on a Squier.

69. Judas Priest – “Breaking the Law

This is the sound of a guy that’s mastered a genre that’s not ready for him to come out yet, giving us a million clues about his sexuality. 

Again, a reminder that this is queer songs for old straight punks, not queer punk songs. Unlike some of his peers (Ozzy, I’m looking at you) Rob Halford’s voice and performances have stayed wonderful, and it’s lovely to see how accepted and comfortable being a gay metal god – THE metal god – he is nowadays.

Okay – a slight digression to make a point. In Rob Halford’s superb autobiography, he mentions his last meeting with Lemmy, just before Lemmy’s death, when he clearly wasn’t feeling good at all but was pushing on with touring regardless.

Now, once again, I’m not gonna give much of an argument as to why Lemmy is punk as fuck. He was in The Damned for a while, and no one’s gonna argue they’re not punk, so any other arguments are unnecessary.

Anyway… Rob mentions that he saw Lemmy waiting at an airport and went to have a chat with him. But he found Lemmy uncharacteristically subdued and not doing good at all. So Rob just sat with him and held his hand and kept him company.

Point being – if you’re a fucking metal god but your friend isn’t doing well and doesn’t want to talk, you can still just sit and hold their hand, even if there’s nothing else you can do.

And even if you’re a maelstrom of hard-living hetero-hellsangelhero-rocknfuckingroll legendary badassery like Lemmy, and your gay friend offers to hold your hand in public, you can set an example to literally the rest of the world that isn’t Lemmy, by just holding his hand and hanging out, to show you love and appreciate the support.

That shit made me tear up almost as much as Cyndi singing “True Colours,” or the Iron Giant saying ‘Sooooooperman’ or Robocop telling the old dude his name’s Murphy.

Holding your gay friend’s hand in public – punk as fuck. But shouldn’t be. It should be nothing notable at all. 

8. Kiss – “I was Made for Loving You” 

This is the sound of a guy that’s mastered a genre that’s not ready for him to come out yet, giving us a million clues about his sexuality.

9. Buzzcocks – “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’tve)

I told you you already knew more than you thought you did.

Oh? So what did you think this song was about? 

Falling in love with someone you shouldn’t? Sure, it’s perhaps a statement that can apply to all sorts of situations, but again, this was Britain in the seventies, not ten years since the laws against homosexual acts were repealed. For context, that’s less time than from now back to when the Avengers movie came out, or the Batman movie with Bane, or Teenage Bottlerocket’s Freak Out!. People in general were still not okay with gay stuff. Pete Shelley, of Buzzcocks, wasn’t gay. But he did fall in love with a man. And he felt he shouldn’t have. Or was made to feel that way anyhow. Punk rock was his was of turning that feeling into art. “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’tve)” is one of the seminal punk tracks. And it’s about being queer. Which, yeah, brings me right back to the point I was making originally about just how closely linked punk and queerness have always been, and how, although you should still be as respectful as fuck (and this is kinda what that’s about – giving you some notes on that) you’re already more of an ally than you even thought you were, if you’ve internalised this song and sympathise with the dude singing it.

So there you go. I lied about it being nine tracks. I lost count along the way. Whatever. But I hope this helps. However – ignore the fuck outta me if anyone that’s not just an old straight dude tells you I’ve got something wrong here. I’m fine with that. 



NOTE:

Progress Pride Flag

Created in 2018 by nonbinary artist Daniel Quasar, the Progress Pride flag is based on the iconic 1978 rainbow flag. With stripes of black and brown to represent marginalized LGBTIQ+ people of color as well as the triad of blue, pink and white from the trans flag, the design is meant to represent diversity and inclusion.

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