Glad to be Gay – Tom Robinson Band

The British gay anthem.

Originally written by Tom Robinson for the London Gay Pride parade in 1976, Glad to Be Gay has become a LGBT anthem in the UK. The song was a sharp critique of the British hostile stance towards homosexuality. Note that at the time, in England, same-sex relations had been legal for only nine years, with the enactment of the Sexual Offences Act in 1967, which decriminalized homosexual acts performed in the private sphere between men over 21 years.

The song had a good reception and, within a week of its release, reached the 18th place on the UK Singles Chart. Despite its popularity, BBC Radio 1 refused to broadcast it on its Top 40 Chart Show due to the controversial theme.

Glad to Be Gay was inspired by the unique style of the punk rock band Sex Pistols and was written to the tune of Sara by Bob Dylan. “But I realised I couldn’t rip off Dylan, so I wrote new music, added the chorus and gave it that more upbeat swing”, said Robinson in an interview. He later formed the Tom Robinson Band with three other musicians, who together released the song as part of the album Rising Free, in 1978.

The lyrics of Glad to Be Gay are made of four main verses, each one addressing a different issue affecting the homosexual population in Britain back then. The first, condemns the police for raiding gay clubs without no justifiable cause – “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.

The second verse makes reference to the hypocrisy and repression of Gay News for obscenity, when nothing happened to porn magazines like Playboy or The Sun, which published nude pictures of women. Additionally, it pointed out the misrepresentation of gay individuals in the media, particularly in conservative newspapers like the Sunday Express – “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 find excuses to call it obscene.

The third verse, highlights the blatant homophobia experienced by homosexual people and its damaging effects – “I had a friend who was gentle and short/ He was lonely one evening and went for a walk/ Queer-bashers caught him and kicked in his teeth/ He was only hospitalized for a week.”

Lastly, the fourth verse is, simultaneously, a demonstration of dissatisfaction towards the contentment of gay people when much had to be improved, and a call for action and solidarity –So 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.”

Lyrics:

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 and knocking them down
Resisting arrest as they’re kicked on the ground
Searching their houses and 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
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 find excuses to call it obscene
Read how disgusting we are in the press
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
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
Queer-bashers caught him and kicked in his teeth
He was only hospitalised for a week

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 that way

So 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 and 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 that way

Categories
Sounds from the Bucket
Silvie Vale

Passionate about LGBT issues and human rights, Silvie Vale has recently graduated in Development and International Relations from Aalborg University, Denmark. She is specialized in Global Gender Studies and is particularly interested in creating awareness about matters of social justice. She loves travelling, researching and learning new things.
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