Essential New Music: Smokey’s “How Far Will You Go: The S&M Recordings 1973-’81”

Smokey

Smokey’s story is as ridiculous as it is inspiring. It involves two music-loving L.A. transplants who showcased their same-sex pride throughout the ’70s with indie releases and a residency at Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco. There they were backed by a live band featuring future Quiet Riot/Ozzy Osbourne members, the then-14-year-old duo of Kelly Garni and Randy Rhodes. John “Smokey” Condon and E.J. Emmons’ lo-fi, honky-tonk disco/funky cabaret mélange was shunned by the industry, so the “gay Steely Dan” issued a series of singles on its own S&M imprint, which is presented here in its rainbow-flag-waving entirety.

The stylistic range is surprisingly broad and definitely campy, and while these particular songs about drag queens, leather daddies and water sports may be de rigueur on today’s Pride Parade floats, turn your mind back to 1973. Something like the “I wanna be your toilet/I need to feel your piss running down my throat” refrain of “Piss Slave” makes it easy to imagine the Village People being considered saints in comparison.

—Kevin Stewart-Panko