British ’70s powerpop band Handbag were loudly LGBTQ+, repped by the same label as Ozzy Osbourne and Electric Light Orchestra, and rising just as punk culture rose around the country. So why have we never heard of them?
Paul Southwell, Dave Jenkins, and Alan Jordan came together to form a specifically queer band in Gay Liberation Front-era Britain where even the majority of queer-friendly acts were straight. The band began to gain local notoriety playing various GLF events and live music pubs, making a name off their provocative displays.
“We would dress outrageously,” Southwell tells The Guardian. “We’d kiss each other on stage and simulate sex – whatever a song warranted.”
The band was picked up by David Arden and signed to his father’s Jet Records label, with some regarding them as the first openly gay band signed to a major label. Though Arden allegedly championed their queer image at first, telling Beat Instrumental Magazine he was “sure gay rock [would] be the next big thing,” it’s likely that image that ended up getting their album shelved.
The band recorded a full album in 1975, meant to be titled Whore’s Handbag. The record, featuring songs like “Closet Queen”, “Leather Boys”, and cruisy anthem “42nd East Street”, had no reservations about its explicitly homosexual subject matter. However, soon after they finished recording, Handbag was unceremoniously dropped from Jet, with the finished work not seeing publication until now, 47 years later.
The album was recently unearthed and uploaded online in full, alternatively titled The Jet Sessions 1975.
Rock out with your frock out to “Closet Queen”: