Never Heard of 'Em
Never Heard of 'Em: Lavender Country
Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.
(Gay Community Social Services of Seattle)
Here is an example of the kind of e-mail you say "YES" to:
From: Eli Sanders
I have a possible Never Heard of 'Em. I got slipped this record the other day called Lavender Country, which apparently is the first gay country album ever recorded (for real), and was produced here in Seattle in the 1970s, and is now kept in the archives of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Well, gollllleee! Has anyone heard of this? Actually, yes. The Seattle connection—lead singer/founder of Lavender Country, Patrick Haggerty, is a local, and the album was originally paid for and released in 1973 by Gay Community Social Services of Seattle, identified in the liner notes as an organization that provides support to "small homophile organizations"—means that if anyone should've heard of this album, it'd be PNW folks, and Haggerty has played at Pride before. But no one I've talked to has ever heard of Lavender Country, and half of them thought I was joking when I said this week I was covering the first gay country album. So let's correct this error together, shall we?
First: I obviously cannot be a judge of quality here. That is not my purpose or area of expertise. I am here only to respond in darkness and without context to the sounds that emanate from the speakers. And second, regardless of quality, the importance of this album is cemented. A gay country album from 1973? What a badass! Take a look at some of the song titles:
Come Out Singin'
Cryin' These Cocksucking Tears
Back in the Closet Again
Straight White Patterns
That said, I think you have to be in this for the lyrics and the history, not the music. The people I played this for grinned and laughed, and then their expressions turned slightly pained. It's so very '70s (I think endearingly so), and the arrangements are simple and straightforward. Haggerty's voice is very, very high. "He sounds like a country Billy Corgan," a friend offered. (Then I had to google who that is.) I found Lavender Country sweet, and it is crazy fun to listen to the lyrics. Like this: "Your ticklin' beard has got me geared/For a nice long day with you." Or this! "I see you stepping high with your tight blue jeans on/Strutting like a buttoned-down paragon/I reckon you're looking for some neckin', yes I do." Or this... "What would you do if I blew/ A kiss into your hair?/Would your pulses pound if I found/The stains in your underwear?" Really, this is just super-fun to play for your friends. I repeat: 1973. BADASS. Don't let fools music-snob you. It's Pride week!
I give this a "what's next, Magenta Grindcore?" out of 10.