Local lore says DJ Shan Ottley, a lesbian DJ in Seattle, was fired for playing the Seattle-originated queer country band Lavender Country's infamous single, "Cryin' These Cocksucking Tears," on her radio station when it was released. Ottley hoped the song would bring attention to the gay liberation movement, but the lyrics were too much for the time.
"I'm fighting for when there won't be no straight men because you all have a common disease," sings singer-songwriter and guitarist Patrick Haggerty on the track. "You may need a wife sir, but I won't spend my life sir, crying these cocksucking tears," the song later warbles. It's a funny, infectious, and rebellious tune—even more rebellious when you consider the year it was released: 1973.
"We made the album for gay people who were coming out and trying to come out. That's who we were trying to reach," Haggerty told Pitchfork in an interview during the 2014 rerelease of the band's self-titled album, Lavender Country, which contains "Cryin' These Cocksucking Tears."
"'Cocksucking Tears is both the boon and the bane of Lavender Country," Haggerty told Pitchfork. "That's what everybody remembers and that's what everybody refers to, but it really wasn't necessarily our intent. That was the song that got my lesbian friend [Ottley] kicked off the radio in 1974 for playing it… I want everybody to appreciate Lavender Country for what it really is, not just because it has a song called 'Cocksucking Tears' in it. And that's happening! Finally."
Now, well over 40 years after the album's original release, Haggerty has become a sort of icon. The (self-described) "psychedelic outlaw cowboy" Orville Peck, a fresh Sub Pop signee who is never seen performing without a fringed mask, recently credited Lavender Country as an influence in an interview with Billboard:
Peck points to Lavender Country, the band credited with creating the first-ever gay country album back in 1973. While the group’s music received little-to-no attention at the time, thanks in part to its open embrace of homosexual identity, Lavender Country achieved cult status. “I heard that album when I was 19," he says. "I thought it was so fascinating because it was such a classic country sound, but the subject matter was so subversive for what country music was."
Lavender Country's influence isn't obvious in Peck's music—they have very different sounds, although they both fit into the country genre (Peck somewhat controversially)—but today I was mulling over Peck's song "Dead of Night," the opening track on his newly released album, Pony, and noticed a possible hat-tip.
From my preview of Peck published earlier this week, "Country for Cocksuckers":
When Peck sings, "See! See the boys as they walk on by!" in memorable album opener "Dead of Night," it's hard not to picture a brokenhearted country singer watching a herd of hot cowboys saunter down a dusty road. Peck continues, "It's enough to make a young man...," before cheekily cutting off the line. This restraint is at odds with his emotional belting. He sings the line one more time: "It's enough to make a young man...," then trails off again. Enough to make a young man WHAT? Cry? Get a boner? Tell us, Orville!
But he doesn't. The track ends without an answer, like Zorro vanishing in the night.
The word, I think, is obviously "cry," and I've started wondering if Peck's cut-off is an allusion to "Cryin' These Cocksucking Tears." The cut-off articulates a key difference in the gay cowboys' approaches: where Lavender Country is an unabashed, prideful howl, Peck is a moodier, restrained romance. Both represent their times well. Of course, it doesn't matter if the cheeky negative space in Peck's lyrics is meant to allude to Lavender Country's iconic single—and it probably isn't; it's probably a reference to, like, The Rolling Stones—but it's a cute thought. I'd love to see the two of them on the same bill, in direct conversation with each other. (I'd also love to see Peck play at a larger venue than Barboza! He sold out that venue almost immediately.)
Check out Peck's "Dead of Night," below, and see you at his show.