I’d Rather Fight Than Swish
6:27 min • Camp Records • August, 1964
Walter Beck reviews
In the early 1960s, there was a record label in California called Camp Records. They released a series of ten singles and two LPs, all of which were queer novelty songs recorded under pseudonyms. These obscure records were an important part of early American queer pop culture, being risqué by the standards of the time.
B. Bubba recorded one of these singles, a two part rock ‘n’ roll parody called ‘I’d Rather Fight than Swish’/’I’d Rather Swish than Fight’. The first part of the parody features a tough sounding motorcycle rider, in the in cocky tone of a rock ‘n’ roll juvenile delinquent. He sings around about his love for leather and steel and his fetish of beat up of gay guys who get in his way. But as the first song comes to an end, our motorcycle hood speaks about his tools being in his purse,
Sure sweetie, it’s in my purse,
The one with the beads on it –
‘I’d Rather Swish than Fight’ continues the story of our motorcycle hood, the other character in his story being a stereotypical feminine gay man. The hood listens to the guy and about how he’d rather walk around as he is instead of fighting over it. And despite the hood’s threats to the guy, he ends up accepting his inner gayness. As the gay guy says,
Don’t you know,
That open toed boots are passé with leather jackets –
The music isn’t half bad; it’s a set-up of early rock ‘n’ roll, featuring a strong drumming rhythm, a dirty guitar riff, and a growling saxophone sound, backed with an vocal chorus. I can’t really comment on the individual musicians, since they’re not credited on the single, but it’s pretty good early rock ‘n’ roll, created to add to the comedy of the songs.
The lyrics were considered raunchy for the time and even today, they would probably be considered offensive, given that they satirize violence and the hero of the song is a stereotypical effeminate pansy character. But it’s an important part of American queer history, these songs were the first to speak about queer culture and the first time to make fun of it in an inside joke sort of way. These records were pressed to make closeted gay folks laugh a bit and take the edge off their constant stress. And if you’re not afraid of being a little politically incorrect, this single and others on the label are still pretty funny.
Camp Records disappeared after their string of singles and LPs. Their musicians and singers were never credited for their work and the label remains an obscurity in American queer culture. But thankfully, since the label has fallen into the public domain, there are websites out there that have resurrected these dirty little treasures for new generations to discover their musical and comedic roots. Dig up these weird and funny little records sometime, you’ll be glad you did.