LGBT+ Music in the 1980s
The start of the new decade saw a music revolution - Disco had apparently died with the Disco Demolition Night in Illinois, Chicago in 1979. Of course, disco never really went away, it just became uncool, a novelty that was sent to the dark depths of the Gay clubs where it was welcomed with open arms. The appetite for 128bpm dance tracks grew and HI-NRG was born, with the likes of Ian Levine and Paul Parker producing tracks with a heavy beat and often a diva-like female vocal. Evelyn Thomas and Miquel Brown were amongst the early stars both breaking into the mainstream charts, but essentially HI-NRG was unique to the increasing number of gay bars.
Punk Rock was replaced by New Wave and New Romantic bands, essentially lads with synthesisers producing electro-pop music. Duran Duran and Ultravox lead the way and many followed and although not 'out' as gay, they had plenty of LGBT+ appeal. The girl bands at the time were more rebellious still, with punk roots and fighting the system - Siouxsie and the Banshees, Hazel O'Connor, The Slits et al, were rockers for women rights and queer pop.
As the decade matured, more LGBT+ artists emerged. The standards, Elton John, Bowie, etc, continued to be successful and John Lennon was outed by his wife Yoko Ono as bisexual after his murder in 1981, and Pete Townshend came out as bisexual much later. In 1981 Soft Cell's version of the Northern Soul classic Tainted Love introduced us to the brilliant Marc Almond, and in 1982 Culture Club caused shockwaves in Conservative Britain with a man in a smock, wig and make-up lead singing - luckily people loved Boy George for his voice and prejudices were beaten with 'Karma Chameleon' becoming the biggest selling UK single in 1983.
However, 1984 changed everything. Openly gay Frankie Goes to Hollywood took 'Relax' to number One and achieved the best-selling track of the year after appearing on TOTP and subsequently getting banned by the BBC after they realised the subject matter of the song. Larger than life drag act Divine appeared on TOTP for the first and last time with her iconic Hi-NRG track 'You Think You're a Man" and Jimmy Sommerville-fronted band Bronski Beat got into the Top 5 with their debut song 'Smalltown Boy' about a young lad coming out and being rejected by his family. The 1980s also allowed us to meet LGBT+ icon Madonna for the first time, while androgyny continued with acts such as Eurythmics with AIDS ally Annie Lennox and the magnificent Grace Jones. Hazell Dean's hit 'Whatever I Do (Wherever I Go)' gave Production team Stock Aitken and Waterman their first Top 5 hit in the UK and they became known as The Hit Factory after pushing Hi-NRG dance tracks overground for the rest of the decade shaping the sound of gay discos and bars the world over.
Meanwhile in America, DJ's in the black gay clubs of Chicago and New York reinvented disco with new technology and samples, creating the 'jacking' sound of house music and garage. By 1988, acid house had taken over the world and rave culture began to emerge in the UK aided by acts such as S'Express and Black Box. The tone was set for the decade ahead, fuelled by hedonistic club nights and extravagant fashion styles...
Go back to the 1970s or forward to the 1990s, or have a look at our classic LGBT+ hits of the decade below...
LGBT+ Hits of the 1980s
Diana Ross - I'm Coming Out
Pete Townsend - Rough Boys
Kelly Marie - Feels Like I'm In Love
Lipps Inc - Funky Town
David Bowie - Fashion
Soft Cell - Tainted Love
Prince - Controversy
Imagination - Body Talk
Culture Club - Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?
Weather Girls - It's Raining Men
Indeep - Last Night A DJ Saved My Life
Toni Basil - Mickey
New Order - Blue Monday
Trans-X - Living On Video
Freeez - IOU
Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)
Queen - I Want To Break Free
Hazell Dean - Whatever I Do (Wherever I Go)
Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Relax
Dead Or Alive - You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)
Bananarama - Venus
Madonna - Into The Groove
Pet Shop Boys - West End Girls
Colonel Abrams - Trapped
The Communards - Don't Leave Me This Way
Cyndi Lauper - True Colours
Farley 'Jackmaster' Funk - Love Can't Turn Around
Grace Jones - Pull Up To The Bumper
Pet Shop Boys - It's A Sin
Belinda Carlisle - Heaven Is A Place On Earth
Mel & Kim - Respectable
Labi Siffre - Something Inside (So Strong)
Erasure - A Little Respect
S'Express - Theme From S'Express
Tracey Chapman - Fast Car
Neneh Cherry - Buffalo Stance
Black Box - Ride On Time
Technotronic - Pump Up The Jam
Paula Abdul - Straight Up
Tina Turner - The Best