Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Lesbian Power Authority

     One fine day last fall, my partner and I decided (as we often do) to make the rounds of the yard sales that were in progress around the neighborhood.  We happened upon one that was pretty good-sized, and after sniffing around among some various & sundry goods--old tennis racquets, etc.--I found a box of cassette tapes and cds & soon scored a copy of Dark Side of the Moon.  It was one of those yard-sale moments when you say to yourself, "Why not?  I've never owned a copy...it's really cheap...I might want to listen to it someday..."  (Of course, that was months ago & I haven't loaded it into the cd player yet).  As I was browsing among the detritus & wishing there was some vinyl to be had, I struck up a conversation with a woman nearby.  She was sort of plain-looking with a short haircut, maybe in her late fifties or early sixties.  I was telling her how I was always on the lookout for records, and she told me she had a whole bunch back at her house, and would I like to come by and take a look?  I said sure.  (That's just the way we flow down here in the Southland).  Mrs. Frankie Lee didn't have any objections to the idea (bless 'er), so we wrote down the lady's address, and after making our yard-sale purchases, we headed on over to her house.  She was a little reserved but friendly, and as the wife & I started leafing through the stacks of vinyl that she kept bringing into her living room and setting on the coffee table, it slowly dawned on me that we were looking at the record collection of a lesbian.  (I think it was the Holly Near album that tipped me off).  When I came across the above-pictured album, some voice inside of me said, "You must own this record."  I had never heard of it, and couldn't quite believe it existed.  I've subsequently learned the importance of Alix Dobkin in the history of queer music (if I may use the term), and of course I don't mean to slight or ridicule the politics and the feelings that are bound up in the music (I am a friend o' lesbians, after all), but at the same time...it's hard not to be amused by the title, the picture (the singers & musicians looking like a bunch of farmhands--very male, ironically--hard to tell if it's intentional or not), the notes on the back ("There's nothing like living with Lesbians!  It is demanding.  It is thrilling.  It keeps me honest.  Also humble"), etc.  One of the musicians is named Lynx, and there's actually a song called "The Lesbian Power Authority",  which is a pretty awesome title if you ask me.  On the whole, there's something sort of touching about it, redolent as it is of '70s consciousness-raising combined with farm labor and folk music.  Those times are no more, that's for sure, and they'll most likely never come again.  But I'm pretty sure that this record was important to a certain segment of the population at the time.
     According to the album notes, the tune for "Living With Lesbians" was taken from an old Scots ballad called "The Banks of the Nile".  It's actually quite pretty, and I like the way the guitar and fiddle sound.  The lyrics could be stream-of-consciousness (there's a line about admiring a neighbor's equipment...hmm),  but then there's a nice rhyming of  "bulldozer" and "shows 'er".   And the fact that she mentions the season premiere of Rhoda is pretty hilarious.  All in all, there's just something funny & brilliant about the combination of an ancient folk tune and the subject matter.  
     I think Mrs. F.L. & I scored around fifteen albums that day (I passed on the Holly Near), including one by Herbie Mann which pictures him shirtless with his flute slung over his shoulder.  Man, is he one hairy individual!  It's pretty disgusting--I don't think I'd want to share the album cover (or the music) with anyone.  (It's called Push Push, if you want to Google it--sorry, but I can't be responsible).  I'll have to write about some of the other ones in the near future, because there are a few more that are definitely Driftwood material. 

7 comments:

Happy In Bag said...

Nice try. But there's absolutely no way that this is a "real" song, album or artist.

Frankie Lee said...

Are you kidding? I couldn't have made any of that stuff up.

Will Divide said...

Couldn't make this up either. . .

liza said...

It is indeed a real record album. And you're right, it was very important to a certain group of people. Alix Dobkin cut her teeth in the New York City Folk Music Scene of the 1960's. For a while she was a favorite of Bob Dylan's, and played all the clubs on the folk circuit.

I'm glad you appreciated the internal rhymes of bulldozer and he shows her. It's quite brilliant. Alix is a careful and crafty songwriter, a fan of American Musical Comedy as well as the Folk Tradition.

The title "Lesbian Power Authority" came about because there was a proposed Nuclear Power Plant for the region - upstate NY, and Alix and friends were anti nuke activists and it was a play on that theme.

Living With Lesbians was just one of several albums Alix released.

holycownyc said...

You missed out on the Herbie Mann LP; he did some funky stuff in the late 60's thru the mid 70's. Many great musicians were featured on his records: Duane Allman, Sonny Sharrock and Roy Ayers, to name a few.

Frankie Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frankie Lee said...

Be that as it may, I'd still rather listen to Ray Charles' version of "What'd I Say" than Mann's. (He covers "What's Going On" as well, by the way).