March 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

As part of Jeremy Deller’s residency at the Hayward, the Turner prize-winning artist invited music journalist, Alexis Petridis, pop scholar Jon Savage and Manic Street Preachers’ bassist Nicky Wire to talk about the way in which gay culture has influenced the development of mainstream pop and rock.

The title of the talk, All Rock and Roll is Homosexual, refers to a t-shirt slogan used by the Manic Street Preachers around the time of the release of their debut album, Generation Terrorists. It seems incredible now to think that this was a t-shirt sold at Bon Jovi gigs when the Manics supported them, but nonetheless appropriate when you think about Bon Jovi’s image back in the 80’s and 90’s – a painfully heterosexual band who enjoyed parading around on stage in tight trousers and obscenely big hair. That’s the beauty of the statement though- all rock and roll is homosexual- even if you’re blissfully unaware of it.

The Manics have always been a band who have always embraced queer culture- from wearing their mum’s blouses on Top of the Pops to the sexy posturing in their video for You Love Us. Much of the talk focused on the use of homosexuality, or more accurately, homoeroticism to provoke a reaction- something the name Nicky Wire is almost synonymous with.

It was thoroughly interesting to listen to three people who have such a long and rich experience in the world of pop talk about a subject they obviously felt a great fondness for. Peppered with anecdotes (a favourite of my including Savage describing a member of a certain 80’s pop duo as a “rancid old queen.” An insult I shall be adopting forthwith.), the speakers were more focused on how popular music was once an arena to push the boundaries of performance through sexuality, as opposed to an exploration of gender politics, although they did touch on how rock music was a way of displaying and appreciating male beauty and fragility.

Deller drew the evening to a close by showing part of a video filmed in 1984 entitled “The Height of Goth”. Shot at a Yorkshire club called Xclusiv, the section we saw showed clubbers dancing, or rather, performing to Bowie’s Life on Mars? A wonderful illustration of how music gives us an opportunity to dabble in something flamboyant.


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