Friday, July 10, 2015


Sorry, but I find myself some way distant from all-out celebration.

Same-sex marriage, please don't get me wrong, I am all for the equality of opportunity so arising, and the equivalence of status, in law, if not the sanctity of the religious ceremony, for those who seek it, but. There remains a but, primarily a fear, the fear, that the bigots and the blind will use this as ever more rationale to champion their bluster, to bludgeon and bash, to blame the gay for queering their pitch. So the songs I propose remain those of the oppressed. And I hope to a pink garbed God that I am wrong. And that she will forgive me.

My love for erstwhile agit-p(r)op anarcho-punks Chumbawamba is no secret, their support for societal underdogs high on their many and varied agendas. This song, from 1994's 'Anarchy' spells it out starkly, in the style and format of an old English folk song. OK, so the scene described is arguably less common an occurrence these days, the weapons being now much more subtle and refined. But still vital listening, and it still makes me weep. Here's a different arrangement, with the powerful video made by the band:

Perhaps it is no surprise, but, here in the U.K., where same-sex marriage has been mostly* legal for shortly over a year, this has lead to similar "reminders", or rose-tinted warnings from the past, the most direct being the film 'Pride', commemorating the role of Mark Ashton, who formed the LGSM: Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, during the bitterly divisive class warfare of the Miners Strike of 1984/5. (The same Mark Ashton to later die of A.I.D.S., commemorated here by his friend Jimmy Somerville of the Communards.) It's a good film, go see it.

(My asterisk* above denotes that the province of Northern Island, hotbed still of a fermented and fermenting religious hypocrisy, has differed from Scotland and from England & Wales by still disallowing the ceremony, allowing only civil partnerships, and with no plans to change.)

The lyrics of Rod Stewart's 1976 hit, 'The Killing of Georgie' might seem a little clunky nearly 40 years on. But, even with all our modern and civilised ways, especially with all our modern and civilised ways, I wonder. I guess it's up to us. And our children.

Buy Chumbawamba version 1 and version 2
Buy Communards
Buy Rod Stewart
And buy Pride, the film.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Colors of the Rainbow: Pink City Twist

Fabulous Poodles: Pink City Twist

The Colors of the Rainbow theme was specifically chosen to celebrate the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, which determined that the United States Constitution required that a marriage between two people of the same sex be treated the same as a marriage between two people of different sexes. In other words, mandating that same sex marriage be legal throughout the United States. Following the announcement of the decision, the rainbow flag motif has been everywhere. In addition, coincidentally, just the other day, the United States Women’s Soccer team, coached by an openly gay woman, with two proudly gay stars, one of whom is already married (and a few other players who have, at least, hinted at being lesbians) won the Women’s World Cup, and the adulation of men and women of all sexual preferences. While certainly not perfect (anti-discrimination laws still need fixing, and acceptance still isn’t universal, but it will never be considering that there are always going to be small minded people who reject logic and progress), I think that it is fair to say that this is the best time ever to be gay in the United States.

I was ecstatic when the Court issued its decision. It doesn’t directly affect me—I’m a straight man in a “traditional marriage” (whatever that means), and both of my children are currently in heterosexual relationships. But as a human, an American and a lawyer, it was hard for me to understand exactly what the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment meant if it didn’t mean what it said—that no state could “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” I never understood how anyone could read that and think that it was acceptable to allow some people to marry and not others. So, to see that five Justices of the Supreme Court finally realized that this was the case was a beautiful thing. That four Justices couldn’t see it was disappointing, if not surprising, considering the degree of brainwashing (mostly religious based, in my opinion) that our country has tolerated for years against gay people. I can’t think of many days that I was prouder to be an American than on June 26, 2015.

And, as long as this struggle has taken, it is remarkable how quickly things have changed. When I was a kid, the concept of gay rights was never discussed. Even in my liberal home, in a pretty open minded area of the world, it simply wasn’t a topic of conversation. I don’t remember anyone in my high school identifying as gay, and to be fair, I don’t remember any overt anti-gay activity or taunting. Which is not to say this was a good situation—it was simply swept under the rug, presumably out of fear of ostracism, or worse. In fact, it wasn’t until 1980 that the New York Court of Appeals struck down all laws against private consensual homosexual sexual conduct between adults, a decision that had no resonance in my life (the decision warranted only a small story on page B2 of The New York Times). If my memory is wrong, then I hope that my high school friends set me straight (no pun intended). In college, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was aware of the existence of a Gay Alliance, and parties sponsored by gay groups, but again, I have no memory of anyone in my circle of friends identifying as gay. I’m actually surprised at how many of my college friends are gay, and embarrassed that I didn’t know it then, either because I never even considered the possibility or discussed it, or because they were uncomfortable being out in that place at that time.

My children’s generation is completely different, and that shows how things have changed, for the better. From a love that dare not speak its name, to joyous celebrations of pride, attended by everyone and anyone.

To my children, a person’s sexuality is not an issue. They have had friends come out in high school with essentially no difficulties. The high school they attended has a gay-straight alliance. They both went to colleges where there was zero stigma attached to homosexuality—in fact, at my daughter’s college it seemed that gay culture was actually the more dominant (or at least the most vocal).

I know that it is probably a cliché to say that the next generation will look at mine and shake their head at the fact that it took so long to recognize that Obergefell was the only logical conclusion that could be drawn from the Fourteenth Amendment, like my generation has trouble believing that it took until 1954 for the Supreme Court to rule that “separate but equal” treatment of blacks also violated the Constitution. And they will look at the four Obergefell dissenters as troglodytes whose reason was overwhelmed by their prejudices, like the seven Justices in the Dred Scott or Plessy majorities.

So the theme is to write about colors of the rainbow, and despite the fact that the color pink isn’t on the standard ROY G BIV rainbow, there is a long-standing relationship between the color and the gay community. I have to assume that the Nazis chose it as the color for the triangle badge they forced gay prisoners to wear for a reason (no quick answer presented itself through a Google search, and this is a music blog and not a research paper). And like so many slurs, it was later adopted as a symbol of pride. Pink was originally part of the rainbow flag designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978 for San Francisco’s first Gay Freedom Day Parade, but as demand increased, the pink stripe was removed because of the difficulty in obtaining enough fabric.

When I tried to think of a song about the color pink, there were a few that seemed to fit, but none seemed as much fun as this goofy trifle from the pretty much forgotten band The Fabulous Poodles, a band whose first album was produced by the Who’s John Entwistle, who also played bass on it. Although initially a pub-rock act, like many of their contemporaries, they morphed into a new wave band, with poppy songs and zany stage antics. Their first American album, Mirror Stars, was released on pink vinyl and reportedly outsold the debut albums from The Jam and The Clash. They even opened for the prog-rock supergroup UK on some dates in 1978, which would have made for an odd, if strangely entertaining, evening of music.

The sort of title track from their next record, Think Pink, “Pink City Twist” is essentially a surf-rock sounding instrumental track with heavy breathing and the occasional interjection of processed vocals saying “Think Pink.” I know that description doesn’t make you want to listen to the tune, but give it a listen and I guarantee that it will become lodged in your brain, like it has in mine for more than three decades.