5 Seminal Moments in Queer Punk Rock, Complete With Suggested Playlist

5 Seminal Moments in Queer Punk Rock, Complete With Suggested Playlist

Written by Stephan Horbelt on August 14, 2019
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Billy Hough could teach us all a thing or two about the power and fury of queer punk rock. Knowledgable of all things musical, he’s an East Coast-based musician and artist beloved by Provincetown regulars, as that’s where he spends his summers, treating locals and tourists to his take on classic songwriting multiple nights per week.

Beloved for his “Scream Along With Billy” show, in which he typically covers an entire album — by artists as wide ranging as Fleetwood Mac to Prince to Eminem — from start to finish, he’s bringing a new show, called “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” to the West Coast. Legendary director John Waters referred to Hough’s show as “The bravest thing I’ve seen in 20 years.”

Hornet chats with Billy Hough in advance of two upcoming “Scream Along With Billy” shows — one at L.A.‘s famed Chateau Marmont on Oct. 12, the other at The Rendezvoux in Seattle on Oct. 14 — to nail down five of the most seminal moments in queer punk.

Here are the five most important moments in queer punk rock, per Billy Hough:

5. John Vaccaro, Jack Smith, Andy Warhol, Paul Morrissey (1968)

Listen to “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks, “Lady Godiva’s Operation” by The Velvet Underground

queer punk warhol morrissey

Rock ‘n’ roll, like any real artistic movement, pulls from and influences all the others. It’s easy to trace the influence of, say, Dylan on prose writing, the Sex Pistols on street fashion or The Rolling Stones on filmmaking. But let’s go backwards.

The burgeoning sound of punk was out there in 1968 — The Kinks, The Who, ? and the Mysterians, even “Helter Skelter.” But the look, the attitude and the politics of what would become the “Great American Punk/Art Explosion” were being refined by a group of amazingly brave personalities — Jackie Curtis, Holly Woodlawn, Penny Arcade, Candy Darling — and the decidedly queer auteurs who both recorded this zeitgeist and fueled it.

Check out the theater of John Vaccaro, the film Flaming Creatures by Jack Smith, Paul Morrissey’s films and the Velvet Underground’s experiments financed by Andy Warhol. The New York Dolls, the Stooges and a young David Bowie pull no punches when attributing credit where it’s due. Bowie and Marc Bolan wore their glitter, seduced with their androgyny and copped their attitude, but it was those original personalities and artists who were actually living it.

4. Danny Fields doing anything (1969)

Listen to “Back Door Man” by The Doors, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by The Stooges

queer punk danny fields

Danny Fields has had more to do with this particular chapter of rock ‘n’ roll than Brian Epstein had to do with the Beatles. Rarely, if ever, has one man’s personal taste and instinct so completely dominated such a huge swath of American art.

Fields brought Edie Sedgwick to the table and managed The Doors. He was sent to Detroit to sign the MC5, and he found the Stooges on his own while they were playing a frat party. He signed them on the spot.

He would later manage The Ramones, and to this day he remains the unassuming arbiter of a life’s work of nearly nothing not cool. He’s on this list because he’s integral to all these tales, and he’s also (like myself) a member of the LGBTQ community, though in what particular capacity I wouldn’t presume to claim.

3. Wayne County / Jayne County (1969)

Listen to “Fuck Off” by Wayne County and the Electric Chairs, “When You Rock and Roll with Me” by David Bowie

queer punk jayne county

Before transitioning into Jayne County, Wayne County was first cast by Warhol in Femme Fatale, which also featured a newly discovered Patti Smith. They then wrote “Birth of a Nation,” which is regarded as a pivotal achievement of this era in NYC underground theater. County’s 1972 band Queen Elizabeth set much of the tone for the revolution ahead.

queer punk burroughs smith

queer punk kurt cobain

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