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TRB Demo

Unreleased demo recorded with the unsigned Tom Robinson Band, mid 1977

[Lyrics new to this version are marked in bold]

The British police are the best in the world
I don’t believe one of these stories I’ve heard
‘Bout them raiding our pubs for no reason at all
Lining the customers up by the wall
Picking out people, knocking them down
Resisting arrest as they’re kicked on the ground
Searching their houses, calling them queer
I don’t believe that sort of thing happens here

Sing if you’re glad to be gay
Sing if you’re happy that way

Pictures of naked young women are fun
In Titbits and Playboy, page three of The Sun
There’s no nudes in Gay News our one magazine
But they still found excuses to call it obscene

Read how disgusting we are in the press
The Telegraph, People and Sunday Express
Molesters of children, corruptors of youth
It’s there in the paper it must be the truth

Sing if you’re glad to be gay
Sing if you’re happy that way

Don’t try to kid us that if you’re discreet
You’re perfectly safe as you walk down the street
You don’t have to mince or make bitchy remarks
To get beaten unconscious and left in the dark
I had a friend who was gentle and short
He was lonely one evening and went for a walk
Queerbashers caught him, kicked in his teeth
He was only hospitalised for a week

So try and sing if you’re glad to be gay
Sing if you’re happy that way

And sit back and watch as they close all our clubs
Arrest us for meeting and raid all our pubs
Make sure your boyfriend’s at least 21
So only your friends and your brothers get done
Lie to your workmates, lie to your folks
Put down the queens, tell anti-queer jokes
Gay Lib’s ridiculous, join their laughter
‘The buggers are legal now, what more are they after?’

Sing if you’re glad to be gay
Sing if you’re happy that way

Sing if you’re glad to be gay
Sing if you’re happy this way

Download MP3

There are several subtle edits of stress within the lyric, changing ‘and’ to a comma (‘picking out people, knocking them down’ etc) that give the deeds mentioned more of a punchy impact.

Explanatory notes:

“There’s no nudes in Gay News our last magazine
But they still find excuses to call it obscene”

Gay News started in 1972, uniting the resources of the Gay Liberation Front and the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. It’s circulation rose to around 20,000 copies.

It gave itself a mandate of not merely reporting but of providing a forum for discussion and of pushing the boundaries. It flouted the law by having personal contact ads (in early editions this section was always headlined ‘Love knoweth no laws’), it was prosecuted for obscenity for showing two men kissing on the cover. Its editor, Denis Lemon, was convicted of obstruction for taking photos documenting police hassle outside a London gay pub. It wouldn’t be his last time in court.

Twice in 1974 the paper was prosecuted. Although acquitted, the judge refused to grant legal costs. The state had found a way of effectively fining a shoestring-budget magazine.

Then came Mary Whitehouse, uptight Christian busybody and enemy of a free press. She sued Gay News over the publication of an erotic poem set at the crucifixion, The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name by James Kirkup.

Rather like the Jello Biafra’s prosecution for obscenity in America a decade later, you know the plaintiffs hated other targets more, but they needed someone small enough to be beaten, someone who couldn’t afford kickass lawyers.

Whitehouse dusted off a law unused for fifty years, the offence of ‘blasphemous libel’, that is to say, libelling God. It was an obscure common law that only got specific from an 1838 ruling that it was to protect the ‘tenets and beliefs of the Church of England’.

The idea that a fantasised erotic poem in a few thousand copies of a magazine could be a threat to an omnipotent deity would be risible if it didn’t have the weight of the establishment behind its absurd venomous bigotry.

On 11 July 1977 the court found them guilty. Denis Lemon was given a nine month suspended jail sentence and a £500 fine. Gay News itself was fined £1,000, but had to pay around £9,000 in court costs.

Expressing their outrage, socialist newspapers reprinted the poem. They were not prosecuted. Lemon and Gay News appealed against the decision, but the Law Lords upheld the convictions.

It was the last successful prosecution under the law. The offence of blasphemy was repealed under the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, coming into effect on 8 July of that year.

Talking to Tom:

The Peter Wells verse is cut out.

Yes. It was just too long for TRB. Constantly, those songs were road-tested, and you just found that if it was five verses long you lost their attention, if you made it four then you kicked it home, the ball went into the goal and that was it. So 2468 Motorway changed and shifted, went from a country song into a stomping rock song.

With Glad To Be Gay you found what the optimum length was, and the optimum curve for the dynamic of taking it down for the quiet third verse and then the stompstompstomp of the fourth verse, double chorus and home. Make it an extra verse longer and they’re ‘oh alright, you’re fuckin gay, get on with it’.

Why do the lyrics mention Titbits? Wasn’t it was a gossip rag, a sort of forerunner of Hello and OK, rather than a source of pictures of naked young women?

You’re absolutely correct. Having zero knowledge of – or interest in – either celebrity gossip or hetero softporn, I had simply seen the cover of Titbits in a newsagents once and guessed wrong.

As soon we started properly gigging and the song became better known the error was pointed out and I changed it to Penthouse. If there’s an anachronism in the recorded live versions its simply because of a lapse of memory in the heat of the moment and accidentally singing the old lyric.

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