Placeholder Picture

Songs from ‘Coming Out ‐ Ready or Not’

The trailer for ‘Coming Out ‐ Ready or Not’ was cobbled together in Mark’s house in Balham by me and Mark Bunyan, as something to circulate to stimulate interest in the record.

Trailer for the record

Mark provided all the voices in the links, being the versatile chap. (It used to say ‘versatile’ in the Personal Ad columns of Gay News, but I never knew it meant ‘able to do Margaret Thatcher and Edna Everage impersonations’. I might have replied to some if I’d known!).

The recording has all the ‘hand‐knitted’ defects that the circumstances imply, but I thought worth preserving as a historical record.

I forget how many copies we circulated; the record itself sold in the 100s, not 1000s. Look out for a copy of the record online or in junk shops.

Peter Scott‐Presland

Rose Collis ‐ ‘In the Dark’ with Mark Bunyan on the piano

Chris Ransome ‐ ‘Advertisements for Heterosexuality

Joanne Richler ‐ ‘Patriarchal Sparkle & Honesty

Mark Bunyan ‐ ‘Is He One

Toby Kettle ‐ ‘Stranger Song’ with Richard Coles on sax

Tom Robinson ‐ ‘War Baby’ with Mark Ramsden on sax

Carol Uszkurat ‐ ‘What’s It Like to be a Dyke

In her introduction to What’s It Like to Be A Dyke, Carol emphasises her previously married status. This was becoming more of an issue in the early 1980s as more lesbians were fighting for custody of their children, and research was beginning to show that two parents of the same sex might do a better job of rearing children than a mixed-sex couple.

Suddenly we ‐ the LGBT Press, groups like the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, other mixed‐gender groups ‐ were aware of this invisible hinterland of concealed lesbians trapped in marriages for fear of losing custody of their kids.

Rose Collis ‐ ‘Not Just a Phase

‘Not Just a Phase’ by Rose Collis gets its title from something we are always told as Queer kids by our parents and teachers: “You’ll grow out of it”.

But it took on a larger significance eighteen months later, for 1984 Gay Pride. The general community was stumbling along scratching its head over a mysterious new virus, and somehow, we managed to forget that Pride was looming in six weeks’ time. No‐one had prepared anything.

The Gay Youth Movement and London Gay Teenage Group quickly stepped into the breach and decided to rename the event It’s Not Just A Phase Week. This was very affirmative for people recently come out but left the older lags cold. Another of our periodic storms in teacups.

I said the kids had organised it, so the kids had earned the right to call it what they bloody well liked. And they liked to call it after Rose’s song. Maybe!

Chris Ransome ‐ ‘Nancy Boy

‘Nancy Boy’ was controversial at the time for its celebration of femininity in men. Some people were touchy that gay men were seen as ‘lesser’ men, or ‘imitation women’ because of it. Chris, like Tom, was ahead of the game!

Eric Presland ‐ ‘We Were in There

‘We Were In There’ was the first GAY song I wrote in the Spring of 1972, which I think makes it the earliest purely gay and political (as opposed to queer camp) song written in the UK. It predates Alan Wakeman’s A Gay Song, performed by Everyone Involved by a few months.

It was first performed on 22 May 1972 at 3 a.m. in front of some very drunken rugby players. This was the May Ball of St Edmund Hall, a ‘hearty’ college, and I was wearing a very ugly beige frock. The pianist was my then lover Reid Woodhouse, an American who returned to Annapolis, to a distinguished music career and a terrific analysis of post-war US Gay Fiction, Unlimited Embrace.

The music was by Carl Davis, renowned for many a silent film score and TV Theme. I had taken the words to a Magdalen College music scholar and asked him to set them, and he came up with this tune, which later turned out to be lifted from an album called We Were Happy There, a spin‐off from Alan Bennett’s first play 40 Years On. The star, John Gielgud, intoned the linking Lit Bits, and George Fenton, who played one of the schoolboys and went on to be as successful a composer as Davis, wrote the original lyrics.

Having discovered this was plagiarism, I wrote to Davis’ publisher MCA, who said “Don't You Dare!”. Undeterred, I wrote to the composer direct. I wrote (or words to this effect), “Look, you’ve written a beautiful tune for some rather vapid sentimental nostalgic lyrics on a nice album which will be unavailable and forgotten in a few years. I’ve written new words with passion and meaning, for a context of the gay community which will always be relevant and give your music a new life.”

I was an arrogant little bastard, but he wrote back and said, “Of course you can use the tune.” He never asked for royalties and I never offered, but should it ever hit the Top Ten, your 50% is assured, Carl.

The song highlights three moments of LGBT History: the arrest of Oscar Wilde; the Weimar Queer years as the Nazis rise; and the Stonewall Riots as Judy Garland’s body was still warm in the ground.

I’ve always been fascinated with gay history.
Peter Scott-Presland (previously Eric Presland)

Tom Robinson ‐ ‘Glad to Be Gay

‘Glad to be Gay’ is a song that demands to be updated every so often to remain fresh and relevant to the community. I had a hand in a verse or two down the years. Tom’s most recent version, which he played at 2019 Pride in London, includes a verse about non‐binary gender identities; in 1976 at the time of Version One we wouldn’t even have known what that meant.

This version is almost the original. The Peter Wells case was a cause celebre about a ‘martyr’ who turned out to be rather a nasty piece of work. But you never can choose your martyrs.

The only ‘update’ is in Verse Two, with the reference to Gay News, our lost magazine. Gay News, having been the community’s pride and main channel of communication for ten years, was on its last legs at the time of the concert, with the staff locked in an unsuccessful battle to wrest control from an owner bent on flogging it off.

Then Tom says, “Whoops! Sorry Capital Gay”. Capital Gay was started the previous year as a weekly freesheet by two former Gay News journalists, Michael Mason and Graham McKerrow. Though constrained more than Gay News because of lack of space, it carried the torch for honest, sensitive and campaigning journalism, particularly around the AIDS crisis, for the next fifteen years.

The cheers towards the end of the third verse are for all the evening’s performers, who climbed onstage behind Tom to deliver the last choruses.

Back to Top