Various artists: From the Closet to the Charts - Queer Noises 1961-1978

Various artists
From the Closet to the Charts: Queer Noises 1961-1978

This "gay pop" retrospective presents a complicated whole. Curator (and notable critic) Jon Savage has compiled a 24-song history that includes artists both out and closeted, as well as androgynes challenging heteronormative pop. The collection gleams with drag-gy snark (Jose), taut punk (the Ramones), pre-Brokeback cowboys (Curt Boetticher), and guilt-ridden valentines (Michael Cohen). It features only one biological woman, Polly Perkins, a choice perhaps suggesting licensing difficulties, but also the double-Other challenge of being queer and female.

Many of the tracks are chuckleworthy, especially "These Boots," where bitch/butch duo Teddy and Darryl give the Nancy Sinatra song an S&M tweak. The same goes for the Brothers Butch's "Kay Why?," a ditty's worth of double entendres, lisped harmony, and more camp than a pack of Oscar Mayer weenies. Laugh away—it's funny—but listen for the anger, ache, and self-hatred mixed with the kitsch. The Tornados' jaunty "Do You Come Here Often?" was released in 1966; in 1967, producer Joe Meek died in a murder-suicide.

The comp gels well, not because of track-to-track segues (they rarely work), but because of the importance of telling stories suppressed or forgotten. The collection ends with Sylvester's glittertastic "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)," widely considered the first out-and-proud international hit. It wraps up a brief but rich history and serves as a sad reminder that your best bet for a love song with openly male pronouns is still from 1978.