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The following repertoire lists are the result of an Arts Council England “Developing Your Creative Practice” project carried out by Craig White. The main work of the project was to do a deep-dive on 6 genres for potential QSB repertoire ideas, exploring neglected or absent artistic voices, and surveying the historical or socio-musical contexts of these works.

80s English Pop Music

It could have been that British punk detonated a sartorial bomb that brought into question what was and wasn’t acceptable to wear across usual gender lines.  Or the lingering influence of the 70’s glam rock phenomenon. But the 80s – especially the early years – introduced the public to a queer aesthetic that was nothing short of a mainstream revolution in expected norms. And yet by the end of the decade (and for at least the next two decades), visible queerness retreated almost entirely from pop music. 

Visage “Fade to Grey” (1980)
Hazel O’Connor “Will You?” (1980)
Pete Shelley “Homosapien” (1981)
Adam & The Ants “Prince Charming” (1981)
Eurythmics “”Who’s That Girl?” (1983)
Marilyn “Calling Your Name” (1983)
Culture Club “Karma Chameleon” (1983)
Frankie Goes To Hollywood “Relax” (1984)
Soft Cell “Tainted Love” (1981)
Queen “I Want to Break Free” (1984)
Siouxsie And The Banshees “Dear Prudence” (1984)
Bronski Beat “Smalltown Boy” (1984)
Dead or Alive – “You Spin Me Round” (1994)
The Smiths “How Soon Is Now?” (1985)
Communards “Don’t Leave Me This Way” (1986)
Erasure “Chains of Love” (1988)


Blues & Early R&B

Following “emancipation”, the decline of plantations and their like meant the end of strictly enforced relationship norms between black folk. Emerging at the same time, the Blues uniquely charted new and developing domestic and sexual politics (whilst also keeping a necessarily cautious eye on the wider social issues of poverty and oppression). Although anachronistic to use the term queer in this period, the experiences of queer black men and women – the “sissy man” and  “mannish woman” –  are persistent tropes in Blues and early R&B. Queer artists, especially female singers and male pianist, seem to have been commonplace.

Alberta Hunter “Downhearted Blues” (1922)
Guildford Payne “Peachtree Man Blues” (1923)
Bessie Smith “Tain’t Nobody Business If I Do (1923)
Porter Grainger “In Harlem’s Araby” (1924)
Lucille Bogan “Women Don’t Need No Men” (1927)
Ma Rainey “Prove It On Me Blues” (1928)
Waymon “Sloppy” Henry “Say I Do It” (1928)
Gladys Bentley “Wild Geese Blues” (1929)
Rufus & Ben Quillian “It’s Dirty But Good” (1930)
George Hannah “Freakish Man Blues” (1930)
Ethel Waters “Stormy Weather” (1933)
Kokomo Arnold “Sissy Man Blues” (1934)
Bessie Jackson “BD Woman” (1935)
Harlem Hamfats “Garbage Man (The Call of the Freaks)” (1936)
Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Shout, Sister, Shout! (1942)
Little Richard “Tutti Frutti” (1955)

Torch Song

Torch songs are usually the preserve of female popular singers, whose minor-key stories of heartbreak come close to the ernest nature of a grand opera aria.  Indeed, such songs usually require a singer of technical accomplishment to carry off the musical intensity. It’s perhaps no surprise some of the most famous singers of torch song are referred to as “divas” (a word which can at once confer admiration and misogyny). Whilst the singer is usually female, the writer is often a man or team of writers, and the torch song (certainly the early ones) provides a rich musical seam for covers, meaning multiple recording of the same song exist with none having any exclusive claim to be “the original” version.   

Judy Garland “The Man That Got Away” (1945)
Billie Holiday “In My Solitude” (1946)
Julie London “Cry Me a River” (1955)
Liza Minnelli “Maybe This Time” (1964)
Ella Fitzgerald “Every Time We Say Goodbye” (1965)
Barbra Streisand “My Man” (1965)
Dusty Springfield “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” (1966)
Dolly Parton “I Will Always Love You” (1974)
Alison Moyet “All Cried Out” (1984) 
Sinead O’Connor “Nothing Compares 2 You” (1990)
Cher “Love Hurts” (1991)
k.d.lang “Constant Craving” (1992)
Mariah Carey “Without You” (1993)
Amy Winehouse “Back to Black” (2006)


Over several years in the early 70s disco crystalised from psychedelic funk, cinematic soul and electronic elements from Europe to become simultaneously ubiquitous and countercultural. Its huge commercial success eventually made it cheap  in the eyes of music aficionados, and its central role in an emerging club culture – especially the hedonistic gay scene – made it a target for US conservatives (Disco Demolition Night).  Arguably, no other genre of pop music is so tightly-bound up with the Western gay male experiences. 

Donna Summer “I Feel Love” (1976)
Grace Jones “I Need A Man” (1977)

Paul Jabara “Last Dance (1978)
Dinosaur (Arthur Russel) “Kiss Me Again” (1978)
Sylvester “Dance Disco Heat” (1978)
Sister Sledge “We Are Family” (1979)
Sylvester “You Make Me Feel Mighty Real” (1979)
Diana Ross “I’m Coming Out” (1980)
Patrick Cowley “Menergy” (1981)
Weather Girls “It’s Raining Men” (1982)
Sylvester “Do You Wanna Funk” (1982)
Paul Parker “Right On Target” (1982)
Miquel Brown “So Man Men, So Little Time” (1983)
Hazel Dean “Searchin” (1983)
Gloria Gaynor “I Am What I Am” (1983)
Katie Kissoon “I Need A Man In My Life” (1984)