October 18, 2011
The Scissor Sisters couldn’t have picked a more appropriate time to sashay onto the scene. It was 2004, and the country was experiencing fits of crazy homophobia thanks to the gay marriage debate and Republicans like Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman (who was gay, unbeknownst to himself at the time, uh-huh) and Karl Rove, who ushered their candidate, George W. Bush, into the White House for another four years in part by putting gay marriage on the ballot in 11 states and allowing those citizens to vote their dumb prejudices and then pull the lever for Dubya for good measure.
The Sisters’ first album, released that same magical year, had the following to say in response to this madness: “Yeah, well, we’re still gay, so fuck all y’all.” They were a sexy, glitzy, skin-tight, gay-as-hell pop band whose members—with names like Baby Daddy, Ana Matronic, and Paddy Boom—didn’t give a crap about making middle America accept their lifestyle and who couldn’t care less about the institution of marriage. They were too busy shaking that ass.
The standout track on the album was “Take Your Mama,” a shuffling, swaggering gem of a song in the mold of ’70s Elton John, a hymn to hedonism with its own family values message at its core. It’s a fantasy about the best coming out party a young country boy prone to wearing overalls, a handkerchief around his neck, and nothing else could ever wish to have. (Click the below photo to watch lead singer Jake Shears do his gay-ass overalls dance in a new window.)
Yes, in a perfect world, all us gay dudes–especially those of us from the South who love our mamas more–would be able to have our weird gay friends take our mothers out for a good time, get her a little bit wasted, and break the news to her while she’s getting down to some Weather Girls or “Beers, Steers, and Queers,” or whatever. (Yes, she’s probably figured it out by this point, but mamas still have to be told.) She would drink, she would snort, she would sniff, she would inhale deeply. By the end of the night, she would know that, even though her “best son” was a big ole queer and was probably irredeemably damned, at least the hell he would be spending eternity in would be hella sexxy. And maybe that’s important to him!
Of course, like in many great pop songs, the story is a complete pipe dream. (Ha ha, pipe dream.) Most of us would tell our mothers the truth about ourselves in drearily lit and uncomfortably quiet living rooms, accidentally on the way to church, or, worse, while wrapped in a bedsheet after being caught jerking it to a copy of International Male; not in a club, under a mirror ball, after sniffing poppers and passing the bottle to our best trannie friend Pygmalion. Typically, there is no glamour in the coming out conversation. Which is why this song is so magical. It lets us choose a different adventure and allow ourselves a different ending from the one reality gave us. At the end of its four minutes we are strolling home together with our mothers in the early morning, wrapping her up in our purple leather jacket and not complaining when she throws up on it a little bit. Because she’s had a large night, and those electric lycra pants she’s wearing now are not the pants she left the house in. (Good lord, mama, what exactly did you do at that club?)
It turns out that the Scissor Sisters were indeed too gay for America in 2004. They were barely a blip on the US pop charts that year, and instead focused on Europe, where everyone is gay and 100% of the voting public wanted to make it with Jake Shears. They weren’t any more palatable to America in 2006, upon the release of their second album Ta-Dah. And with the their third, the uber-gay Night Work, which came out in June 2010, they had obviously decided, “you know what, screw all these American hicks, let’s go back to the continent and spend all our Euros before they’re worthless.”
So, though they should be, Scissor Sisters still aren’t the big arena pop stars in the U.S. that they are in the rest of the world. But they are probably the Republican National Committee’s favorite band.