About a week ago I was IMing with Bil and I mentioned that I thought "Go West" was one of my favorite pop songs. He called me a music snob, and I love it: the Village People are now retro enough that only music snobs can appreciate them. He's right, too, if you're under 50 know a Village People song outside of "Macho Man," "In the Navy," and "YMCA," you probably did your homework.
Watching these old videos shows just how incredibly gay the Village People were. I mean, this is about as gay as it gets: A leather daddy, a cowboy, and a half-naked femmy Indian dancing in what can only be described as a disco boy band, all while singing odes to gay shower sex, moving to San Francisco in the 70's, and being "macho."
It's enough to make a queer boy nostalgic for a time he never saw: all we have now are some ambiguous singers and a few other straight ones trying to market that ambiguity. Nothing wrong with a lack of clarity when it comes to queerness, of course, but there's nothing wrong with being so gay it punches the audience in the face, all while smiling and moving to the high school lip sync style choreography (here they have flags):
I remember dancing to "YMCA" and singing along in elementary school here in Indiana. Now I wonder if our teacher had any clue what the lyrics were actually about. Yeah, a lot of kids at school did sports at the Y, but I doubt that's one of the "many ways to have a good time" they were talking about.
And the costumes... the costumes! Who's doing those kinds of costumes anymore? Other than the Spice Girls, towards the beginning of their career, everyone wants to be fashionable instead of not-so-subtle characters. They bypassed chic and went for recognizable. They were a mix of elementary school musical and gay icon. And they adapted to the climate as well.
Victor Willis, aka the policeman, was part of the straight minority in the group and also wrote the lyrics to their hit songs. His booming voice is as much a part of these songs as the sexually unambiguous lyrics, and from what I read he lived pretty off royalties after he quit the group in 1980. I don't think I'd love "Macho Man" half as much if Willis didn't shout "big strong mustache" towards the end (about 3:00 mark). Indeed, I now understand the importance of working out one's mustache daily.
Even though the group is still performing with three of its original members today, the hits we know from them were mostly from 1976-1979. After Willis left the group, they produced two more albums, one which didn't have any hits, and the second that had "Sex Over the Phone" on it in 1985. Reagan was now president, movement conservatism was gaining speed, and they were now dancing with women and a new policeman.
So, question of the day: why don't we have any bands as cool as the Village People anymore?