The Rocky Horror Picture Show hardly was rock and roll’s first foray into blurred gender roles, nor was it the last. Since the dawn of rock in the mid-Fifties gender confusion has been a common topic. Here are a few songs where he was a she or vice versa or who really knows.
“Long Tall Sally,” Little Richard: Way back in 1956 at the birth of rock and roll, Little Richard was whooping about bald-headed Sally in the alley, giving Uncle John what he needs. Was Sally really Sal? Who knows, maybe she was just a really tall bald lady who somehow also could be described as “long.”
“I’m A Boy,” The Who: Ten years later in 1966 Pete Townshend wrote this perky yet horribly disturbing single about a boy forced by his abusive mother to dress like a girl.
“Get Back,” The Beatles: What? The Beatles? Listen to the second verse of this 1969 cut that you’ve heard a million times but never listened to:
“Lola,” The Kinks: One year later The Kinks wrote the soundtrack to The Danny Bonaduce Story. Or The Eddie Murphy Story. Or The…
“Walk On the Wild Side,” Lou Reed: In 1972 Lou Reed introduced us to Holly from Miami F-L-A.
“Rebel Rebel,” David Bowie: By 1974 glam rock was in full swing. No wonder so many mothers were in a whirl.
“Androgynous,” The Replacements: From 1985’s Let It Be. Eighties androgyny was a much different flavor than the Seventies version; in fact, things got really weird. There was the “manly” androgyny of Motley Crue, Hanoi Rocks and the rest of the hair metal bands and the “unmanly’ androgyny of the new wavers. Regardless, the ‘Mats weren’t in either camp so go figure.
“Dude Looks Like A Lady,” Aerosmith: Steven Tyler’s 1987 ode to his reflection.
“As Girls Go,” Suzanne Vega: From 1992’s 99.9 F. Very cool album.
“Laid,” James: One year later in 1993 Manchester’s James asked us to “Dress me up in women’s clothes / Mess around with gender roles /Line my eyes and call me pretty.”
And as for the new millennium? Well, Rocky Horror is tame enough for Glee and Justin Bieber is assumed to be male, so I guess the tradition continues.