Wednesday, 3 June 2009

266: Fag Rock 1 - Rim Shot

They tried to change the world with their shiny trousers, rouged nipples and space alieny androgynous antics

I’m far from erudite about rock music, so the following is probably even less accurate than my usual guff-spumes.
Anyway, the early/mid 1970s saw the arrival of assorted brands of rock music stigmatised by traditional rock fans as “fag rock”.
“Fag rock” performers tended to dress in extravagant styles, suggestive of drag sometimes, they tended to camp about on stage, and when they weren’t singing the table of contents from “The Best Science Fiction 1972”, they were hinting at sexual ambiguity. If they were feeling particularly brave, they might even claim to be a little bit bisexual.
In England there was “glam rock”. In America there was The New York Dolls. And there was the transatlantic success of David “Laughing Gnome” Bowie and Elton John. And Jobriath for the special bonus points section of this quiz.
Gender-bending had been addressed in songs like The Beatles “Get Back”, The Kinks “Lola”, and the Rolling Stones had dragged up for the cover of “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby”, but those had been one-offs, not the basis for an entire musical catalogue.

These are the comedic responses to this music at the time. In at least half of the cases they’re no more thoughtful than the jokes about The Beatles when they first became popular. I’m sure I could trawl through old copies of NME, Rolling Stone and any number of old rock mags for unenlightened jokes from hacks embittered by the pollution and disgusting emasculation of their pure, manly rock n’ roll. In which vein see this later sketch about The Village People on Saturday Night Live. Although when you look at a band like “Sweet” performing, they’re probably more than halfway to deliberate sexual parody anyway. Since music was another area where homosexuality was making itself expressed, these don’t employ the comic contrast of jokes about gay cowboys or soldiers, but are satirical exaggerations of a current social trend. In at least a couple of instances it’s an attempt by the humorist to one-up the bands in effeminacy and outrage.

An imaginative, if not wholly effective, means of acquainting yourself with this musical period is Todd Hayne’s film “Velvet Goldmine”. Even if you don’t care for the music, there’s the very pretty Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Ewan Macgregor to occupy the eyes. And even Christian Bale, before he decided that a more tight-arsed interpretation of Russell Crowe’s award-winning impression of the delivery of several hundredweight of gravel was the way to go with his career.

“Rim Shot” National Lampoon, October 1972.

A parody of the tendency for rock bands to feature provocative covers on their albums and include ever-more controversial material in their songs. How far can you go? Besides describing the harsher effects of drugs, hymning anal sex, why not analyse pretences to heterosexuality while being blown by another man. Bad taste ahoy! This pastiche is supposedly a long suppressed Rolling Stones album. The lavatory mis-en-scene recalls the “Beggar’s Banquet” cover. Don’t bother trying to figure out who’s supposed to represent whom. (from left to right)Tony Hendra, Michael O’Donoghue, Michael Gross, P.J. O’Rourke, and Sean Kelly

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