Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Five hit songs with gay subtexts we didn't see coming

Hold Tight — Andrews Sisters
This 1939 hit was recorded by the original American female supergroup (sorry to all you who think that phenomenon started with the Supremes—who once traded songs with the Andrews Sisters because Sammy Davis Jr., made them do it, and trust us, you haven't lived until you hear the Supremes sing the Roll Out The Barrel polka.)
     The suggestiveness of the Hold Tight lyrics, it turns out, were well known at the time; several radio stations banned the song, which was called "obscene" by columnist Walter Winchel. Some say the song is a Harlem anthem to cruising the docks for sailors ("seafood"); others say "Hold Tight" was lesbian code in WWII.
     The below recording is a treat. In the 60s, the Andrews Sisters re-recorded some of their greatest hits for DOT records in stereo with terrific arrangements; song after song turned out better than the original Andrews Sisters recordings.

Jaded Lover —  Jerry Jeff Walker.
Walker (real name: Ronald Clyde Crosby) didn't write this (Zen Cowboy Chuck Pyle did) but liner notes quoting Walker about the generalized nature of the song pretty clearly indicate he knew what it really was about — or might have been about; he performed it before country music audiences anyway. The song has no female or male pronouns and the drama queen refrain is barely subterranean at all.
I can see you are an angel, whose wings just won't unfold...
Goodbye you jaded lover, you undercover queen for a day...
Well, keep sittin' on it darlin'...

I Think I Love You — Partridge Family 
This was the biggest surprise to us when we started compiling this short list, as we have heard it a million times without thinking about a queer subtext that was hiding in plain sight. Nothing else better explains the following lyrics by Tony Romeo, who must have been gay himself because the Internet Hive says so and we don't mess with hives.
This morning,
I woke up with this feeling
I didn't know how to deal with,
And so I just decided to myself,
I'd hide it to myself.
And never talk about it.
And didn't I go and shout it
When you walked into the room!
...I think I love you.
So what am I so afraid of?
I'm afraid that I'm not sure of
A love there is no cure for.

Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps — Doris Day
We always thought Doris Day was singing about a man who was just teasing her by jerking the chain — not one who was aiming at greener pastures by trying to escape the yard altogether. Then we read about Ang Lee specifically choosing this song for the alley scene in Brokeback Mountain (no, not Ennis's alley scene, stupid — Jack's) and realized that pop culture was trying to tell us something but we weren't listening. For Pete's sake, Doris Day got a gold record for singing the Gayest Song In The History Of Western Pop Music, Secret Love (presented to her on What's My Line?, trivia addicts), so what was to stop her from trying to repeat the feat? We ARE open to the suggestion that this song (a Spanish-language hit before it was an English one) was really straight but repurposed when sung by a woman — unless she was singing it to another woman. Hmmm. Oh geez, we're getting confused again; let's move on.

You've Got To Hide Your Love Away — The Beatles
    Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know. How could anyone not see this coming when all you need to is read the title, huh? Well, we missed it because it is a Beatles song and the Beatles didn't do gay songs.
     We were still suspicious, even after having been told it was about the Beatles' famously closeted manager, Brian Epstein, who (John Lennon, back when he was pathologically bitchy, mocked Epstein once by deliberately mangling the articulation of Epstein's autobiography A Cellarful of Noise, calling it "A Cellarful of Boys."
     Anyway, ever since we heard that in the Beatles' Anthology film, You've Got To Hide Your Love Away plays in the background during a discussion of Epstein, we became more sympathetic to the notion of a deliberate gay theme in this Lennon-McCartney song actually written by John Lennon.
Here's Eddie Vedder's rendition, just because we're tired of the excerpt from Help!:

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