The pink hit parade: Sing if you're glad to be gay
The man behind the gay anthem 'So Macho' is now a Pentecostal minister - and he is using his royalties from the hit song to support firefighters accused of homophobia. Terry Kirby goes west to examine a musical genre, while Richard Smith of 'Gay Times' assesses the songs you can't get out of your head
Wednesday 01 November 2006
I Will Survive
Performed by Gloria Gaynor, written by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris, reached No 1 in 1979
Intentional or adopted? Intended for the dance-around-the-handbag brigade, but an instant hit with gay men.
The story of the song: Released as a B-side in 1978, "I Will Survive" became a hit after DJs began flipping the record over. The song made Gaynor's career and remains a karaoke night staple.
"I know I will stay alive
I've got all my life to live
I've got all my love to give
and I'll survive
I will survive (hey-hey)"
Richard Smith's verdict: The most powerful expression of the sentiment most often found in gay anthems: "Yet another man has left me, but somehow I shall carry on."
Can't Get You Out Of My Head
Performed by Kylie Minogue, written by Cathy Dennis and Rob Davis, reached No 1 in 2001
Intended or adopted? Neither really, since Kylie had been a gay icon for years.
The story of the song: Influenced by the German futurists Kraftwerk and the disco diva Donna Summer, CGYOOMH remains the biggest hit of Kylie's career. Accompanied by a great video, it reminded a glum post- 9/11 world of better times.
"I just can't get you out of my head
Boy, your lovin' is all I think about
I just can't get you out of my head
Boy, it's more than I dare to think about"
Richard Smith's verdict: As insistent and impossible to ignore as a sexual urge, as intoxicating as desire.
Village People, written by Jacques Morali, Henri Belolo and Victor Willis. Released in 1979; Pet Shop Boys' cover reached No 2 in UK in 1993
Intended or adopted: Definitely intended.
The story of the song: The VPs were a manufactured group of male stereotypes, named after Greenwich Village in New York, a strongly gay area, designed to showcase the disco songs of the French songwriting duo Morali and Belolo. "Go West" - a hymn to San Francisco as the spiritual home of the gay movement - was less successful than their other hits, " YMCA", "In the Navy" and "Macho Man". The Pet Shops Boys originally performed their version at an Aids benefit at a nightclub in Manchester, later recording it as a single. It became their biggest hit.
"(Go West) Life is peaceful there
(Go West) In the open air
(Go West) Where the skies are blue
(Go West) This is what we're gonna do"
Richard Smith's verdict: The Veeps' advice to lonely gay boys in Seventies America? Move to San Francisco. Twenty years on, and post-Aids, PSB transformed it into a lament for a lost world.
It's Raining Men
Performed by The Weather Girls, written by Paul Jabara and Paul Shaffer. Reached No 1 in 1982. Covered by Geri Halliwell in 2001, reaching No 1
Intentional or adopted: Intentional, more or less.
The story of the song: Written deliberately with the disco glitterball in its sights, the song was turned down by Donna Summer, Grace Jones and Diana Ross, before being picked up by the Weather Girls, which accorded them one-hit wonder status. A camp/gay classic almost immediately, it was a smart choice for Geri Halliwell in 2001, when it gave her the biggest hit of her career, largely based on its use in the film version of Bridget Jones's Diary. A rare crossover from gay to hetero.
It's raining men, Hallelujah
It's raining men, Amen
I'm gonna go out, I'm gonna let myself get
Absolutely soaking wet
Richard Smith's verdict: Giorgio Moroder's protégé Paul Jabara's gloriously over-the-top exposé of the overlap between Gay Disco and hen parties.
Performed by Sinitta, written by George Hargreaves. No 2 in 1986
Intentional gay anthem or adopted hetero hit? Adopted, immediately.
The story of the song: Hargreaves, a former songwriter and pop manager, who also wrote for Yazz and 5Star, is now the Rev George Hargreaves, a Pentecostal minister in Hackney, in east London, and founder of the Scottish Christian Party. He has promised £50,000 to a group of Glasgow firemen who are being disciplined for refusing to hand out leaflets at a Gay Pride march. "So Macho", which still earns him some £10,000 a month, was written at the height of the Eighties boom in cheesy pop.
He's got to be
He's got to be big and strong enough
to turn me on
He's got to have, big blue eyes
Be able to satisfy
He's got to be big and strong enough
to turn me on"
Richard Smith's verdict: If you listen hard, it's not so much so macho, as rather homophobic ("I don't want no seven stone weakling nor a boy who thinks he's a girl...") and distinctly masochistic ("I'm tired of taking the lead, I want a man who will dominate me...").
Over the Rainbow
Performed by Judy Garland, written by Ey Harburg. From the film The Wizard Of Oz, released 1938 and Oscar winner for best original song
Intentional or adopted? Adopted, as Garland's personal tragedies mounted.
The story of the song: Simple but effective, with lyrics epitomising the hopes and dreams of a young girl, it became an instant classic, regularly topping lists of all-time favourites.
"Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly, Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can't I?
Some day I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me, Where troubles melt like lemondrops, Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me"
Richard Smith's verdict: Harburg's song longing for a socialist future gave voice to gay male aspirations before liberation even appeared in their dictionary.
Don't Stop Me Now
Performed by Queen, written by Freddy Mercury, reached No 9 in 1979
Intended or adopted? Intended.
The story of the song: The only overtly gay song Queen ever recorded.
"Don't stop me now, I'm having such a good time
I'm having a ball
Don't stop me now
If you wanna have a good time, just give me a call"
Richard Smith's verdict: All male and female. Just like Freddie.
Performed by ABBA, written by Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Stig Andersson, reached No 1 in 1976
Intentional or adopted?: A classic straight pop disco song, now beloved by the gay community.
The story of the song: "Dancing Queen" was one of a string of massive 1970s hits for Abba, who produced the most carefully constructed and universally appealing pop music since Phil Spector. But, underneath what appeared to be a defiantly heterosexual and conventional set-up - two sets of partners, all good looking - gays identified with a strong streak of Nordic fatalism. It became a party favourite everywhere.
"You are the Dancing Queen, young and sweet, only seventeen, Dancing Queen, feel the beat from the tambourine,
You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life, See that girl, watch that scene, diggin' the Dancing Queen"
Richard Smith's verdict: The jury's still out on whether the use of the Q-word was a sign of the fabber four's naivety, or knowingness.
Boys Keep Swinging
Performed by David Bowie; written by Bowie. Reached No 7 in 1979
Intentional or adopted: Adopted, although that might not have been his intention.
The story of the song: A homage to the camp rock of Queen and his own earlier Ziggy Stardust era, BKS satirised machismo but in the process was ambivalent in its sexuality, like much of Bowie's work. It featured a slightly rougher-edged Bowie, acknowledging the harder, post-punk era.
When you're a boy
You can buy a home of your own
When you're a boy
Learn to drive and everything
You'll get your share
When you're a boy
Richard Smith's verdict: Eno and Bowie's tribute to - or send up - of the
Village People. Dame David's most perverse moment since his Ziggy days.
Take Your Momma
By The Scissor Sisters, written by Jake Shears and Babydaddy, reached No 17 in 2004
Intended or adopted: Absolutely intended.
The story of the song: The Scissor Sisters, named after a lesbian sex position, are both three-fifths unashamedly gay and totally dedicated to the camp/glitter/disco music of the 1970's and 80's which gave rise to so many gay anthems. Take Your Momma typically echoes the music of Elton John, the Bee Gees, and Chic in joyous fashion while dealing with a real issue for the gay community.
Gonna take your mama out all night
Yeah we'll show her what it's all about
We'll get her jacked up on some cheap champagne
We'll let the good times all roll out
And if the music ain't good, well it's just too bad
We're gonna sing along no matter what
Richard Smith's verdict: Once upon a time gay men agonised about coming out to their families. Now, Jake Shears suggests, it is a cause for celebration.
And 10 more we all love...
I Am What I Am
From La Cage Aux Folles
Richard Smith's verdict: Harvey ("Torch Song Trilogy") Fierstein's plea for self-acceptance and a statement of a defiance. A drag act staple.
So Many Men, So Little Time
Richard Smith's verdict: Ian Levine, the high priest of Hi-NRG, saw this shame-free celebration of gay promiscuity on a T-shirt in a New York bar. Miquel (pronounced Michael) is Sinitta's mum, incidentally.
I'm Coming Out
Richard Smith's verdict: Chic took a newly coined phrase and fashioned it into a huge hit. Miss Ross apparently wasn't let in on the joke.
Richard Smith's verdict: An unapologetic celebration of cruising. Or, as George put it when ambushed on Hampstead Heath recently: "Fuck off! This is my culture!"
Richard Smith's verdict: Disco's greatest male diva finds himself - and someone else - on the dance floor.
From 'West Side Story'
Richard Smith's verdict: Stephen Sondheim updates "Over The Rainbow",cleverly utilising the missing word from its title.
Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?
Richard Smith's verdict: A very good account of why straight men make very bad lovers. Especially when they are your drummer.
Richard Smith's verdict: A song that stole from gay club culture, but gave us something just as good back. Madonna's career in a nutshell.
As Long As He Needs Me
Richard Smith's verdict: La Bassey belts out Lionel Bart's biggest ballad.
Gimme, Gimme, Gimme
Richard Smith's verdict: The straightest-looking band, Abba strike gay gold yet again.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Al Pacino on suffering from depression: 'It can last and it's terrifying'
- 2 Half of young women unable to ‘locate vagina’ and 65% find it difficult to say the word
- 3 Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
Jessica Chastain demands Scarlett Johansson-fronted Marvel superhero movie
Downton Abbey series 5 start date revealed: ITV drama to return in late September
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
How to read Will Self: Unlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
New Netflix releases: Films and TV shows coming in September 2014
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ashya King: 'Cruel NHS has not given us the treatment we need', says father of five-year-old with brain tumour who fled to Spain