Once upon a time, I used to be really in to making mix CDs. It kind of followed from my love of making mix tapes, and then when file sharing showed up and literally the entirety of recorded music was at our fingertips for a very brief period of time, I was in heaven. Now with the rise of Spotify playlists, I rarely burn CDs any longer – the big exception being a CD that I burn every Christmas for my friends and family of all my favorite songs of the year.
But in the early 2000s, burning mix CDs is just what I did. And while I was pretty firmly in the closet at that time, what with being recently married and a new dad, that didn’t keep me from channeling my inner gay. One of the things I loved doing was listening to stereotypically gay music, or artists with a big gay following. It was something that I kind of did naturally throughout my life without even realizing it. My Madonna fandom starting at the age of 13 being a prime example. How was I to know that if you male and a fan, there were good odds you were also a homosexual? The same thing happened when I started listening to Streisand – no idea that she was idolized by gay men of a certain age. After I realized what I had been doing, I started owning it, even if I wasn’t ready to own being gay yet.
It was in this frame of mind that I made my first gay mix CD, affectionately (and obliquely) titled “Dan’s Over The Rainbow Mix.” It even had this cheesy cover art that I made from stuff I found on the web.
Now, it could be argued that not all of these songs are strictly gay classics. Sure the gay divas are well represented by Madonna, Barbra, Judy, Bette, Donna, and Diana. But I’m not sure how “Lovesick Blues” made the list, other than Dolly being a gay icon. I hadn’t heard ” Where Love Lives” in probably 15 years and was glad to discover that Spotify had the same version that I put on this disc. Perhaps a better title for this is “Dan’s In The Closet Mix” or “Dan Ventures Musically Out of the Closet Mix.”
At about the same time that I made this CD, I discovered the CD series Gay Classics. There are 13 discs in the series, and while you’d think that with a name like that, you’d find a lot of songs by classic divas and other gay artists, it’s mostly a collection of second rate late 70s/early 80s disco songs by artists that aren’t super famous. Still, since I was determined to get a full gay music education, I downloaded a lot of these albums, or at least what I could, from free sites on the internet. There was one song that I downloaded that I loved – “Let The Night Take The Blame” by 501s. Yeah, I had never heard of it before either, but it sure is catchy.
The bad part was that I had downloaded an incomplete file, and the 8 minute song cut off around the 5 minute mark. Unable to find it anywhere else for download (you still can’t download this version anywhere that I can see), I vowed that if I ever saw the CD somewhere, I would buy it.
As luck would have it, I was in Chicago in probably 2003 and went to a now defunct record store called Borderline Music which was right in the heart of Boystown. And they had the CD I was looking for – sporting a pretty nice cover if I do say so myself.
I picked that up right then and there and listened to “Let The Night Take The Blame” while I was stuck in rush hour Chicago traffic on the way back to the hotel with my 4 year old daughter sleeping in her car seat in the back seat.
I used to really worry that my music taste would lead people to discover the truth about my orientation. And for a while, I embraced the idea that I was the straight man who loved gay music. Clearly, I was just fooling myself because I’ve never been straight. Now that I hold being gay a lot more loosely than I used to, I think that it’s obvious to everyone and that my Madonna fandom just amplifies the signal. That’s when I realize that a lot of straight people are just terribly clueless when it comes to that kind of thing. When you couple it with the fact that people don’t really think me as much as I think about me, well, no one’s paying enough attention to notice. And if they do, I just don’t give a shit. I’m gay. So what.
No matter what happens, I’ll always have my gay music.