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1985 MUSIC
Windy City Times 30th anniversary issue
by Matt Simonette, Windy City Times, except where otherwise noted

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There was some queer energy in the music charts in 1985, which featured, among others, George Michael—then part of Wham!—and the Material Girl herself, who was riding high after the 1984 release of her album Like a Virgin. Michael was still a long way from coming out of the closet—at the time he was dating Brooke Shields. This was also the year of "We Are the World" and Live Aid. According to Billboard, the top-10 songs of 1985 were:

1. Wham!: "Careless Whisper"

2. Madonna: "Like a Virgin"

3. Wham!: "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go"

4. Foreigner: "I Want to Know What Love Is"

5. Chaka Khan: "I Feel For You"

6. Daryl Hall and John Oates: "Out of Touch"

7. Tears for Fears: "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"

8. Dire Straits: "Money for Nothing"

9. Madonna: "Crazy for You"

10. a-ha: "Take on Me"

Women's Music

Just what is "Women's Music" in the herstorical sense? In the 1970s, a new kind of music launched, and Chicago was on the forefront of music by and for women—with some later artists crossing over into the mainstream ( Tracy Chapman and Melissa Etheridge among them ). But those early 1970s pioneers, including Linda's Shear's Chicago rock band Family of Women, were breaking much new musical ground.

All of the legends of women's music—Cris Williamson, Holly Near, Meg Christian, Linda Tillery, the Washington Sisters, Ferron, Teresa Trull, Barbara Higbie, Margie Adam, Kay Gardner and dozens more—toured through Chicago, especially stopping at Mountain Moving Coffeehouse for Womyn and Children, which ran from the 1970s to the 2000s. Chicago had its own home-grown contributors to the women's music circuit, including Paula Walowitz, Ginni Clemmons, Jorjet Harper and Toni Armstrong Jr. and the band Surrender Dorothy.

As Harper wrote in the book Out and Proud in Chicago: "Publications on the subject also began to emerge. Musica, a small newsletter from Oregon edited by Indy Allen, appeared in 1974, and the same year, Paid My Dues, a more ambitious effort edited by Dorothy Dean, started in Milwaukee. In 1977, six Chicago women, including Toni Armstrong Jr., took over publication of Paid My Dues and kept it going until 1980. In November 1984, a new national publication originated in Chicago, called HOT WIRE: The Journal of Women's Music and Culture. Started by Armstrong, Michele Gautreaux, Ann Morris and Yvonne Zipter, it quickly became the national voice of the burgeoning women's music movement and a wide-ranging chronicle of lesbian feminist culture. After its first year, Armstrong took the helm as publisher and managing editor, with a large crew of dedicated lesbian volunteers. A total of 30 issues of HOT WIRE were published, three times yearly, from 1984 to 1994."

— Tracy Baim

Chorus and Band Movement

Chicago's first gay choral group, Windy City Gay Chorus, premiered Dec. 16, 1979, during the first Chicago Gay Pride Band concert, "Don We Now..." at Stages Music Hall.

The chorus was formed by Jerry Carlson, Gordon Chiola, Matt Wycislak and Don Heering, who had all been members of the band. Although WCGC's first director, Richard Garrin, would conduct the group until 1995, that first performance of 37 singers was conducted by Carlson, who later became conductor of the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles.

Three years after its founding, the WCGC had 72 members, and its campy offshoot, the Windy City Slickers, had 17. It was the first gay chorus to enter the Great American Choral Festival, where it won first-place awards. On Feb. 14, 1982, WCGC sang at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center as part of a memorable joint concert with the New York City Gay Men's Chorus.

Chicago's lesbian chorus, Artemis Singers, is the first feminist chorus in the nation. The group's initial meeting took place in June 1979. Joel Carothers ( who died a few weeks ago ) was inspired by her work in the Gay Pride Band—she was among those at that first meeting. By December 1980 Artemis was formally introduced at the "Don We Now ... II" concert, with Susan Schleef conducting.

In 1986 Artemis hosted the Third National Women's Choral Festival in Chicago, which included women's choruses from Minneapolis, Kansas City, Lansing, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Madison. Always smaller than the gay men's choirs, Artemis has nevertheless survived and continues to perform at lesbian, LGBT and women's events 35 years after its founding. In early 2008, current and former members joined together to honor longtime Artemis member Michaeline Chvatal, who had died of cancer at age 60.

The first gathering of gay and lesbian choruses was Come Out and Sing Together ( COAST ) in 1982, out of which grew today's international organization Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses ( GALA ). At the gathering, held in New York City at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, Chicago was represented by 15 members of Artemis and a group of about 40 men, mostly members of WCGC. Among all the men's and mixed choruses, Artemis was the only lesbian chorus to perform, and the other groups were so supportive that Artemis received a standing ovation even before they began to sing.

The event also proved important for the Chicago men's group, as this core group of singers—including Kip Snyder, Phil Steward, Danny Kopelson and a number of others—returned to Chicago to found the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus ( CGMC ) in 1983 with an initial roster of 80 singers. CGMC leaned toward more popular, less classical music than WCGC. Because of its origins at COAST, the CGMC became the opening chorus at all GALA concerts. Kip Snyder directed the group for 15 years, with Patrick Sinozich as accompanist; Sinozich later directed CGMC for more than a decade.

— Jorjet Harper, adapted from the book Out and Proud in Chicago.


1985 was a huge year for Madonna. Her second studio album, Like a Virgin, was released in late '84, so this was the year hits such as Like a Virgin and Material Girl were climbing the charts. She promoted the album with her phenomenally successful Virgin Tour concerts ( which were opened by the Beastie Boys ) and married Sean Penn as well.

Madonna also began her rather dodgy relationship with the mainstream movie industry that year, appearing in a brief cameo in Vision Quest and in a supporting role in Desperately Seeking Susan. Penthouse and Playboy magazines both published nude photos of her, taken when she was younger and in need of money, but she was unapologetic.

In 1990, Madonna told the BBC that her ballet teacher, a gay man, mentored her in her younger years, by encouraging her to perform and taking her to gay bars and dance clubs.

Money For Nothing

Money for Nothing, a single from British band Dire Straits' album Brothers in Arms, raised some eyebrows with some of its lyrics, especially the line, "that little faggot with the earring and the makeup."

Lead vocalist Mark Knopfler maintained that the lyrics were from the point of view of a fictional character, an appliance store salesman who is envious of the rock stars performing on the TVs that he sells. He told Rolling Stone, "I'm still in two minds as to whether it's a good idea to write songs that aren't in the first person, to take on other characters."

In 2011, the unedited song was banned on Canadian radio, as regulators said that the slur was unacceptable, even when considered in a different context. But that ban was eventually lifted, and individual stations were allowed to use their own discretion as to whether or not "Money for Nothing" could be played.

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