ROCK Sex wants everybody to come.
Previously we explored the themes of "I'm A Man" and "I'm A Woman". That's a couple of colors, and now let's get into the rest of the spectrum.
Rock'n'Roll is all about dancing your way out of your constrictions. From the beginning it laughed at 'Either/Or' deadends like race, status, and age. It also cocked a snook at gender and sexuality barriers, too.
What better avatar of androgony than the ever fabulous Little Richard, from whom Jimi Hendrix, Prince, and Rupaul all descend?
LITTLE RICHARD -"Lucille" (1957)
While the sensual abandon and preening glamour of Elvis Presley unnerved the squares, imagine how they must have felt about the legions of young Rockabilly women who belted it out just as strong. Alis Lesley went beyond mimicking his name to wearing his clothes, doing his moves, and styling her hair in a pompadour with spitcurls for sideburns!:
ALIS LESLEY -"Heartbreak Harry" (1957)
It's always been common for singers to keep the lyrics of a song the same without changing the gender context, such as Ella Fitgerald covering "Lady, Be Good". The Beatles' version of The Shirelles' "Boys" is one of those. But for an act who had already rattled the androgony limits with their haircuts, this song must have had a special import to certain fans:
THE BEATLES -"Boys" (live, 1964)
As proven out by the subtext of this song by Ray Davies, working out his kinks:
THE KINKS -"David Watts" (1967)
Singapore's Rita Chao was probably just reproducing the Tommy James hit song "Hanky Panky" phonetically, but it takes on a deeper dimension nonetheless when she sings it.
I made this video to illustrate the history of women in love throughout the centuries:
RITA CHAO & The Quests/ NANCY SIT -"Hanky Panky" (1967)
Maybe the only label that's interesting is in the collar. Syd Barrett says grin and bear it.
PINK FLOYD -"Arnold Layne" (1967)
You are who you say you are.
THE TAGES -"She Is A Man" (1967)
By the late '60s, with long hair, free love, liberation movements, and tribal bonding, a more open attitude about gender, sensuality, and orientation came out. Previously Paul McCartney had made an unintended crossdressing implication by mis-singing the lyrics to "Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da". This time he does it on purpose:
THE BEATLES -"Get Back" (1969)
Enter Ray Davies again with one of the most loaded moments in Rock lyric history;
"Then I looked at her, and she at me...":
THE KINKS -"Lola" (1970)
Lou Reed hung out in Andy Warhol's Factory scene with those who put the free in freak. Here's his transversive travelogue:
LOU REED -"Walk On the Wild Side" (1972)
Why choose between being The Rolling Stones and The Shangri-La's when you can have it all?
THE NEW YORK DOLLS -"Personality Crisis" (1973)
For those gandering at the spruce gooses, here's a gander goosing it up herself. (Who writes this stuff? Oh, heh heh, it's me.) From Suzi Quatro we get Joan Jett and The Runaways, Gaye Advert of The Adverts, and myriad more riot grrls:
SUZI QUATRO -"Glycerine Queen" (rec. 1973)
John Lennon opined that Glam Rock was "Rock'n'Roll in lipstick". Here's the almighty Alien Androgyne to declare the rouged rebellion:
DAVID BOWIE -"Rebel Rebel" (1974)
"He could lick 'em by smiling/
He could leave 'em to hang..."
BRETT SMILEY -"VaVaVa Voom" (1974)
Time for education by reading the physical graffiti...
MEG CHRISTIAN -"Ode To A Gym Teacher" (1974)
From Motown to GoGoTown...
THE MIRACLES -"Ain't Nobody Straight In L.A." (1975)
Parliament/ Funkadelic was as Glam as anyone, with their platforms, make-up, and flash costumes:
FUNKADELIC -"Jimmy's Got a Little Bit Of Bitch In Him" (1975)
The all-female Funk collective known as Isis was led by Carol McDonald, who wrote openly about her lady loves in her songs. Evidently Glam guys could get away with the genderbender thing while women couldn't, which is why few people have ever heard of this great and neglected band:
ISIS -"Bobbie And Maria" (1975)
This movie was a disastrous flop when it came out, but forged a hardcore fandom that would have astounding influence on the next decade:
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW: "Sweet Transvestite" (1975)
Let's tryst again with Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys, and David Bowie in a blender.
ELTON MOTELLO -"Jet Boy Jet Girl" (1975)
Funk-Rock shocker Betty Davis was so fierce that sometimes her voice became a gutteral lion's roar that might possess even Linda Blair to twist to attention:
BETTY DAVIS -"Shut Off The Light" (1975)
If Keith Richards had a sister who didn't give the slightest damn about your gender ideas?...
PATTI SMITH -"Pumping (In My Heart)" (1978)
The Rolling Stones had dressed in drag on the cover of their 1966 single, "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby (Standing In the Shadows)". A lot of artists would make a career from that revelatory moment. Here's the future Jayne County of Georgia being man enough to be a woman:
WAYNE COUNTY And The ELectric Chairs -"Man Enough To Be A Woman" (1978)
They say this video killed Queen's career in America. Maybe just with people who have no sense of humor:
QUEEN -"I Want To Break Free" (1981)
'What's the buzz, cock?' We're all human, pass it on...
PETE SHELLEY -"Homo Sapian" (1981)
Here's Boy George with this soulful Lover's Rock classic:
CULTURE CLUB -"Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?" (1982)
Bowie's daughter tears the roof off the sucker:
GRACE JONES -"Demolition Man" (1981)
Bowie's other daughter opens up heaven wider:
EURYTHMICS -"Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This" (1983)
If Rita Chao had sung Tommy James' "Hanky Panky" in innocence, then JOAN JETT knew exactly what she was saying with his "Crimson and Clover":
JOAN JETT -"Crimson and Clover" (1983)
This retooling of Prince's song makes an already enticing ménage à trois even more evocative:
CRISTINA -"When You Were Mine" (1984)
Let's look for the purple banana.
PRINCE -"If I Were Your Girlfriend" (1987)
"Jackie couldn't decide if he was a girl/
Or if she was a boy"
DUKES OF STRATOSPHEAR -"Have You Seen Jackie?" (1987)
There's a pleasing symmetry to having a threesome for three days...
JANE'S ADDICTION -"Three Days" (1990)
"Everybody loves you when you're Bi!" Maybe Bi means Hello!
LIVING COLOUR -"Bi" (1993)
Who's your Mama now?
TRIBE 8 -"Femme Bitch Top" (1995)
Out and upward, the march toward Queercore begins:
PANSY DIVISION -"I Really Wanted You" (1994)
TEAM DRESCH -"Fagetarian and Dyke" (1995)
Bowie strobes through this like alternating current:
BLUR -"Girls And Boys" (1994)
If Bill Wither's original was charged with paranoia, Meshell ramps up the sexual intrigue:
MESHELL NDEGEOCELLO -"Who Is He and What Is He To You?" (1996)
This quill comes from birds of a feather.
QUEEN PEN, w/ Meshell Ndegeocello -"Girlfriend" (1997)
It's not the length, it's how you use it.
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH: "Angry Inch" (2001)
Glam, bam, thank you, man.
GARBAGE -"Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go)" (2004)
Prince's daughter says, "Come on, baby, let's go!"
PEACHES -"I U She" (2004)
"I don't need your boys school of etiquette/ I don't need to be something I'm not/ This is who I am so take me as I come".
Go scout out their records:
BOYSKOUT -"School of Etiquette" (2007)
Turn on, tune in, come out!
LESBIANS ON ECSTASY -"Sedition" (2007)
It's true. We ahould all have a lotta love.
LEZ ZEPPELIN -"Whole Lotta Love" (2015)
'Where the wild things are'? Everybody you know.
© Tym Stevens
-The Real History of Rock and Soul!: A Music Player Checklist
-"I'm A Man"
-"I'm A Woman"