Celluloid Sounds

By Walters, Barry | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), October 28, 1997 | Go to article overview

Celluloid Sounds


Walters, Barry, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


With the rise of gay films and (surprise!) believable gay characters in Hollywood, the number of gay movie sound tracks--both new and newly reissued--has also boomed. The summer's big sound track to the smash hit My Best Friend's Wedding (Work/Sony) features Ani DiFranco reworking the Dusty Springfield classic `Wishin' and Hopin'." In & Out's newly released sound track (Motown) includes Diana Ross's version of the Gloria Gaynor chestnut "I Will Survive," while the soon-to-be-released Boogie Nights sound track (Capitol) features a wide array of disco classics.

The marriage of movies and pop music has meant big business for both Hollywood and the record industry. Sound tracks are a multiplatinum institution, but often the goals of the media and the public are at cross-purposes. In most cases pop sound tracks are more concerned with retailing than evoking a filmgoer's cinematic memories. More often than not much of the music these records offer is only marginally in the movie, if at all.

Gay movies aren't immune to these artless marketing techniques. And the mixed-bag selections on sound tracks such as My Best Friend's Wedding, not to mention The Birdcage and Philadelphia, reflect that intent. The best of them, however, can reflect our sensibilities as they tell our stories. Here are some offerings that are, well, out there:

Although John Waters's camp classic Pink Flamingos is now 25 years old, it's only with the film's anniversary rerelease that it's finally been granted its own sound-track album (Hip-O). Compiled by Waters himself, this collection of "filth music," as he calls it in the credits, gathers sick little numbers from the '50s and early '60s that drip with greasy sexual innuendo and sleazy rock-and-roll swagger. Where else can you get Little Richard's "The Girl Can't Help It," Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers'

"I'm Not a Juvenile Delinquent," and Patti Page's "(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window"?

The sound track to Beautiful Thing (MCA) similarly puts a new slant on old tunes, which, in this case, are all sung by Manna Cass--either solo or with her fellow Mamas and Papas. Nearly half of this virtual of this virtual greatest-hits album doesn't appear in the movie. Yet these wistful love songs and gentle anthems of self-determination (Make Your Own Kind of Music) not only evoke the film's Cass-obsessed character it also capture the bitter sweet budding romance between her two young gay neighbors.

Unless you've seen the lamentably overlooked 1995 film Stonewell, its sound track (Columbia) won't make sense. Made up of girl-group classics that predate the first gay rights riot in 1969, the album includes songs like the Shangri-Las' "Give Him a Great Big Kiss," which is lip-synched in the film by drag queens whose routines comment on the plot like a traditional Greek chorus. …

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