Rock ‘N’ Roll Pride: Or Why Blasting Ministry’s Psalm 69 is a Better Fix than a Club Jukebox Blaring Madonna
Walter Beck asks why articles about the queer music scene often focus solely on the officially sanctioned slick-pop.
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“Is there anybody out there?…” – Pink Floyd
I got into an argument with another journalist recently when I called bullshit on an article he wrote about music and the LGBT community. There was a distinct lack of rock ‘n’ roll on his list (alright, I’ll give him credit, he did mention The Beatles). I was sort of irked by it. No Pansy Division, no Judas Priest, no Queen. If you’re going to write about music and the gay community, you have to at least give Queen a passing mention. But nope, it was mainly that slicked up, auto-tuned pop which is apparently the officially sanctioned soundtrack for us.
Maybe it’s just the way I grew up and the way I lived, but I’ve never believed that our soundtrack was merely pop music. I grew up under the influence of my older brother, who’s gay, and he introduced me to the fringes of rock ‘n’ roll – bands like GWAR, Green Jellÿ, White Zombie, and the Revolting Cocks. To be queer meant you should be a little rock ‘n’ roll. I mean, look at Dr. Frank-N-Furter, one of the most rock ‘n’ roll villains to ever grace the b-flick screen and queer as hell.
It went beyond just my brother. As I started college and really came into my own in terms of my sexuality, the people I hung around with were also rock ‘n’ rollers; at Vincennes University, one of my roommates, Hawkeye, had a love for Flogging Molly, Napalm Death, and Lordi. His boyfriend Garry “Penguin Steele” became a huge Iron Maiden fan. When I went on to Indiana State University and became one of the leading street activists in the local gay community, my cohorts were rock ‘n’ rollers. Kristian was a punk rocker who worshipped the Ramones’ album Rocket to Russia and expressed his desire to fuck Chris Freeman from Pansy Division. Micah was a Irish boy who cranked Dropkick Murphys to fire himself up before demonstrations. Hell, the night before the infamous Westboro Baptist Church demonstration in Terre Haute, we stayed up most of the night making picket signs and getting ready. You think we were blasting Lady Gaga? Fuck no! We were getting ready to face the craziest bastards on the religious fringe to 100db of MC5’s Kick Out the Jams.
Speaking of Terre Haute, that’s where I got my lessons in what a young queer college kid was supposed to be. You may have already read the story of me getting turned down at a demonstration because of my grungy appearance. Well it goes beyond that, there was a bar there we all used to hang out at called ZimMarss. It was the only gay bar in the city; so, needless to say, I and my group of radical queers were regular fixtures there. We used to piss off most of the guys in the bar when we’d go up to the jukebox. Usually it would be playing an endless stream of slicked-up pop, but then we’d go up, drop a five spot in and start playing Metallica, Manowar, Iron Maiden, and White Zombie. That was when we’d start getting these dirty fucking looks from a bar full of college pretty boys and drag queens. Not everybody minded though. Keisha, the barkeep, usually didn’t mind, but she had a tendency to play Marilyn Manson anyway.
So why is it this way? Why has slicked-up pop music become our officially sanctioned soundtrack? I think its two reasons and only one of them pisses me off. The first reason is that it is part of our history, particularly in America. Our forbearers in the post-Stonewall decadence of the 1970s found solace in the discos, where slicked-up music just sort of went with the territory. It was as essential as poppers and tight trousers. I can’t be pissed at our history; it was a different time and place.
The second reason is our accepting of the stereotype that society has laid upon us, “If you wanna be accepted by us, we expect you to act a certain way”. Claiming pop icons as our queer idols is safe. Sure, Lady Gaga may have worn a meat suit and Madonna has sold pictures of her vagina to every bookstore in America, but it’s still relatively safe. The music is easy to swallow, the lyrics aren’t offensive. I mean, the only people who are shocked by the antics of pop stars are uptight preachers and they’re gonna be offended anyway.
So I’m calling my brothers and sisters to their stereos! Friends, queers, allies, lend me your headphones. Rock ‘n’ roll has a proud queer history, going back to Little Richard in the ‘50s, through black metal icon Gaahl from Gorgoroth. It was created as a music of rebellion, to shock the system and create revolution one song at a time, under our mighty Rainbow flag, we can harness that spirit of rebellion and revolution as we march forward towards our final mountain peaks of justice and equality.
Trust me, there’s plenty of room, as critic Jerry Wheeler said, “there are many like us”.
Soon I discovered that this rock thing was true ,
Jerry Lee Lewis was the devil,
Jesus was an architect previous to his career as a prophet .
All of a sudden, I found myself in love with the world,
So there was only one thing that I could do,
Was ding a ding dang my dang a long ling long.
– Ministry ‘Jesus Built My Hotrod’