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Of Disco Queens, Dancing Kings and the Forbidden Love of Beguiling Princes …

Of Disco Queens, Dancing Kings
and the Forbidden Love of Beguiling Princes …

Cover Art for one of my most prized disco albums - Madleen Kane's Cheri circa 1979

Cover Art for one of my most prized disco albums – Madleen Kane’s Cheri circa 1979

 

^ To Get What I Am Talking About PLAY THIS While You Read The Story Below ^

In these potentially darker days ahead … let’s have some fun, okay? It’s time to dance.

It’s very Summer of 1979 for me when I hear this album, but I’ll try to convey it in a way that I don’t think you’ve ever experienced before. And I’ll tell you why Madleen Kane’s album of that year meant so much to me.

Madleen Kane wasn’t the best singer in the world. She was no Streisand, that’s for sure. But then again, who is? Olivia Newton-John was making waves vocally, too.  Madleen was a super-model who turned to music and found a niche for herself in the heady last days of the Disco era.

I’ve always been one of those queer boys who has been immersed in music from an early age. Any kind of music, really. My mother made sure of that. I heard it all. Classical (especially Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin, Schubert), Country (Freddy Fender, Loretta Lynn, John Denver, and Lynn Anderson), but mostly I was immersed in Broadway, Disco and R&B. I found a particular fondness for ANY music that told stories. Concept albums of the 70s and early 80s were king with me. Disco albums, oddly enough, had them in droves. In my world they took me places that my young queer boy heart needed to go.

I danced.
Sweet Jesus on the mountain top, did I fucking dance.

During summer vacations, where the morning heat was already a blistering 89 degrees at six AM, I’d make my way from the coolness of my full sized water bed (yeah, you read that one right) to the music room to sing and dance for hours … often eight or nine of them STRAIGHT. Non-stop. I didn’t go outside to play with other kids — what the fuck did they have to contribute to my world? I’d go into our sauna of a music room, close the swinging door dad had up as measly protection from my disco onslaught, and slap on the headphones from early morning. Within an hour I was up on my feet, playing the music out of the speakers (a little softly at first – until the 9 o’clock hour hit, then all bets were off) and started dancing up a storm.

  • I was a headliner in Vegas.
  • I was a boy soprano whose voice hadn’t cracked yet … so I could keep up with those women singers just fine.
  • I wailed and sang like a banshee in heat.
  • I knocked the paint off the fucking walls with my dancing.
  • I had the best and sexiest dance troupe working with me – the best costumers, the best stylists, the best producers and orchestrators.

And it was all imaginary – in that near stifling music room of my parent’s house – sealed off from the rest of the world that didn’t understand how to connect with a gay boy.

When I discovered Madleen Kane’s classic Cheri I was beyond elated. It played on the only disco radio station we had in San Diego – K105 FM.

That album was a gayboy’s dream. The first song on the track was Forbidden Love. I knew what she was singing about. The collection of songs on the first side of the album are all tied to one another. They are of longing for that love that you can’t have. This album played through the headphones and speakers so many times that year (and for many years to come) that I know every subtle nuance in the orchestrations. And the arrangements mattered. The strings, horns and were beyond the trash you found on AM radio of the day. Kane’s words were a bold expression of how love should triumph over all. The gentle piano chords during Cheri coming out of the first musical break after the chorus had special choreography all on their own. That subtle chord progression explained the risk queers had in seeking love. I had it all planned out.

Hey, I was fourteen. As a lonely gayboy I needed this shit in the worst way. All of my straight friends were pairing up, I had no one. I had me my disco queens and those women put those words before me. I dreamt of Dancing Kings and wanted to make out with sexy young Princes. These women sang about things that I dare not even say to myself. Forbidden Love became my anthem. It’s the song I carry with me to this day.

My fifteenth birthday was right around the corner. Along with another candle on my cake and my voice finally cracking, I descended along into the last sweltering days of my summer vacation of 1979 and my freshman year of high school. Dark days of HIV/AIDS were ahead for me a few years down the road. But in that moment, I didn’t know. I just wanted to escape, dance and proclaim to a world of my own making how much these words of forbidden love and secret love affairs meant. Everything to me at that point in my life was secretive.

With John Rechy and Gordon Merrick – along with Andrew Holleran, Paul Monette, Armistead Maupin, Larry Kramer and the others in my back pack – all wrapped up in book covers made out of paper bags so no one knew what I was reading, I escaped into stories of men who fell in love with other men – the way I wanted to. Their words, paired with these ladies, collectively, they gave me permission to express myself. These weren’t just some random words or notes on a page, some song that a singer sang – they were my heart, sweat and blood I felt coming back to me, pouring out of each and every track or page in a book. These ladies voices of love, seared into my mind and heart and married up with the salacious and soul searching words of men, authors, I admired that filled my teen years. Together they formed the man I was going to become. They never knew it. That wasn’t the point, really. It’s what I needed. It’s what mattered.

From that earliest time when I begged my grandmother to buy me my very first record – a 45rpm of Diana Ross’ Do You Know Where You’re Going To? (a rather prophetic choice, no?) I knew that music would be a heavy influence in my life. It would connect an often disconnected world for me. In them I could escape into what I couldn’t find for myself in the world I saw around me.

I was too young to get into the clubs in San Diego. Those days were still about four years off for me – underage queer clubs were just starting to pop up.

For the time being, I was just starting to get my groove on. Fashion was starting to become important. How I expressed myself really became important – even when I got slapped down for it (disco wear didn’t go down well in my high school – let’s just leave it at that).

But for now, here are a few of the ladies who gave me that sense of expression, they allowed me to soar, encouraged me to revel in who I was becoming. Never to fear who I was, nor to be ashamed of it. It wasn’t always so easy. Many a night I’d spend listening and dancing to them over and over again, if anything to bolster me up to face another hellish day of high school. By the time I was eighteen I’d had a few summer jobs and my music library had already expanded to well over 300 albums, 12″ disco singles and remixes. It was the beginnings of my DJ days that would dominate my life through the 1980s. So here they are – with the undeniable Queen of them all at the top (samples with BUY LINKS in artist name):

Donna Summer

Donna Summer's Once Upon A TIme - an album that I would love to see on Broadway. It's simply that good.

Donna Summer’s Once Upon A Time – an album that I would love to see on Broadway. It’s simply that good. Truly one of the best concept albums ever produced. Giorgio Moroder and Peter Belotte knew what they had with her. This is their crowning jewel. Far superior to Bad Girls.

Amii Stewart (well beyond her 1978 Knock On Wood hit)

Amii Stewart's Paradise Bird - circa 1979.

Amii Stewart’s Paradise Bird – circa 1979. Unlike anything you’ll ever hear. Given the era, this was futuristic dance music. She always represented to me the “what if we tried this …” – A sheer genius. Jealousy is the track you can’t miss with this effort.

Suzi Lane

Suzi Lane's sexy as fuck "Ooh, La, La" had me on my feet every time it hit my turntable. Circa 1978.

Suzi Lane’s sexy as fuck Ooh, La, La had me on my feet every time it hit my turntable. Minimalistic in its arrangement, but sexy for all the space it has. Producer Moroder at his best. Circa 1978.

Debbie Jacobs

Debbie Jacob's High On Your Love, circa 1979. The lady knew how to groove.

Debbie Jacob’s High On Your Love, circa 1979. The lady knew how to groove. She had my tail-feather going many a night.

Saint Tropez

A marketing ploy to create a group that came straight out of Oui adult magazine. Sex sells, and even though they were women, I was sold.

A marketing ploy to create a group that came straight out of Oui adult magazine. Sex sells, and even though they were women, I was sold. It was just French queer enough that a gayboy like me bought it.

France Joli

France Joli - Come To Me. Such an important song in my young queer boy life that it became my first character's (Elliot Donahey) favorite song about his Quarterback boyfriend (Marco Sforza). This is the song I reference in Angels of Mercy Volume One - Elliot.

France Joli – Come To Me. She was fifteen when she recorded this song. It is such an important song in my young queer boy life that it became my first character’s (Elliot Donahey) favorite song about his Quarterback boyfriend (Marco Sforza). This is the song I reference in Angels of Mercy Volume One – Elliot.

Teena Marie

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Teena Marie’s (Lady T) would nearly replace all of the women singers in my world. This album started my love affair with her. I mourned her untimely passing a few days before Christmas in 2010 at the tender age of 56. A brilliant, radiant light taken far too soon. She sang of multiculturalism before it became a thing. She gave me my pride in my Latinx heritage.

Until next time …

– SA C

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