Each Monday night I have a standing date with a couple of buddies to meet at our neighborhood dive bar and discuss the weekend’s debauchery over stiff cocktails. While the local watering hole where we convene caters mainly to a clientele of a certain age, the bartenders are known for their generous pours and the jukebox is loaded with just about every song ever recorded. We go there, throw back a few stiff ones and reminisce while listening to the favorite hits of our collective hey days. It’s become our weekly communion. However, during our most recent outing a
gentleman jerk invaded our home turf, tried to impress the cute bartender by flashing a wad of bills then parading over to the jukebox in which he stuffed enough cash to play an hour’s worth of “music.” Fair enough, we don’t own place, but we were soon confronted with 60 loooong minutes of dirges ranging from Grateful Dead stoner anthems to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds funereal compositions. Everyone knows you don’t play these songs in a gay bar, right? I wouldn’t wish this aural assault on my worst enemy. Well, maybe I would, now that I think about it. Regardless, my pals and I started thinking about songs that are sure to change the energy level in the most somber of taverns and undoubtedly impress that hot young-ish daddy you’ve been cruising so without further ado…
Here are some of the songs from yesteryear guaranteed to get the joint jumpin’ and singing along. You’re welcome.
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Diana Ross, “It’s My House”
Sure, you could also select “It’s My Turn,” “The Boss” or “Upside Down,” — just please avoid the over-played “I’m Coming Out,” it’s for amateurs — but this lesser-known yet equally compelling 1979 slow jam, which has been sampled by the likes of Snoop Dog and Eddie Murphy, is more likely to impress hardcore fans of the supreme Miss Ross.
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Barbra Streisand, “The Main Event/Fight”
Extra! Extra! Gay men really do love Barbra. The legendary entertainer’s theme to her popular 1979 rom-com provided her first foray into disco. Later that year she had another mega-hit in the genre with her equally-enduring duet with Donna Summer on “No More Tears (Enough is Enough).”
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Blondie, “Call Me”
The propulsive theme from Richard Gere’s American Gigolo provided a massive number one hit for Blondie and Euro-disco genius Giorgio Moroder in 198o. Get ready to be covered in kisses, baby.
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Queen feat. David Bowie, “Under Pressure”
Let’s say you have only a buck to spare and can’t decide between Freddie Mercury and David Bowie, this 1981 hit featuring intertwining vocals between the two will solve your dilemma. The bass line is so irresistible it even gave cheesy rapper Vanilla Ice a chart-topper in 1989 when he sampled it on “Ice Ice Baby.”
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Rick James, “Super Freak”
There are so many reasons to play this 1981 funk classic: that seductive hook (“She’s a very freaky girl”), backup vocals from the Temptations, you can count on watching the most staid bar patron unleash his inner bad boy by the time the chorus begins, but mostly you should choose this one because he’s Rick James, bitch.
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Olivia Newton-John, “Twist of Fate”
It’s impossible to go wrong with the beloved Aussie entertainer. Trust, gays of a certain age still worship her and this bouncy hit theme song from her ill-fated (sorry) 1983 rom-com Two of a Kind with John Travolta will definitely cause the most lethargic bar habitué to perk up.
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Culture Club, “Church of the Poison Mind”
The lyrics of this 1983 single don’t make much sense, but who cares? This rousing pop masterpiece features fiery backup vocals by the long-missing Helen Terry and just might be the finest moment from Boy George and company.
Eurythmics, “Love is a Stranger”
Annie Lennox’s distinctive powerhouse vocals provide the perfect complement to the catchy synth-pop of this exquisite track, which was released in 1983 as a follow-up to Eurythmics’ number one “Sweet Dreams.”
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Chaka Kahn, “I Feel For You”
The R&B legend’s dynamic 1984 recording of an early Prince composition added the introductory rap by Melle Mel, which started with the stuttering repetition of Khan’s name and offered a killer harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder.
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Fine Young Cannibals, “Suspicious Minds”
This 1985 cover of the Elvis Presley hit helped put the Brit-soul band on the radar plus there’s the bonus of the unmistakable and incomparable Jimmy Somerville singing behind Roland Gift’s expressive lead vocals.
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Salt-N-Pepa, “Push It”
This joyous, libidinous hip-hop jam from 1986 is 100 percent guaranteed to get any party started. It gets extra props for coming from three ladies, many years before Missy Elliott and Lil’ Kim chartered these same lusty waters. Play it and work up a sweat.
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The Communards, “Don’t Leave Me This Way”
Jimmy Somerville’s angelic falsetto gives this 1986 cover the edge over disco diva Thelma Houston’s version of the classic first recorded by soul band Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes.
Echo and the Bunnymen, “Bring on the Dancing Horses”
The Pretty in Pink soundtrack is still the greatest of all time — don’t even try to argue otherwise. This is probably the most ethereal, haunting song on it and continues to speak to our inner sullen teen selves nearly 30 years later.
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Lisa Stansfield, “All Around the World”
Whatever happened to Lisa Stansfield? She seemed poised for gay icon-dom in 1990 but soon went M.I.A. Along with her other gem “This Is the Right Time,” Stansfield’s hushed spoken word intro and sweeping orchestral arrangement make this sound as fresh as it did a quarter century ago.
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Hole, “Celebrity Skin”
Courtney Love was once taken very seriously as a kick-ass rock star and this 1998 ode to the under-belly of fame and fortune is one of her most blistering anthems.