The Music Bin Inside the Men's Music Bin
by Marjorie Ingall

Village Music is a much-adored record store in Mill Valley, CA. Elvis Costello, in the liner notes to Kojak Variety, said it "may be the greatest record collecting store in the world." It has a huge blues collection, unusual vinyl of all genres, and many big old rock star fans who make pilgrimages to it. Since 1968, it's been owned by John Goddard, a cranky middle-aged man who has watched his town change from a shaggy hippie den to a land of sport-utility vehicles and imported cheeses. About 15 years ago, lady customers began agitating for a women's music section. He created one, because the customer is always right, but he also added a Men's Music section.

What is Men's Music?
Well, women's music is by women, about women, for women, right? So men's music is by men, about men. It's mostly either extremely blatantly gay guys or female impersonators. Actually, it started out being all female impersonators, but they're getting so hard to find, because they're very collectible and I never had more than two or three records in the bin. So I've expanded it to include music by gay males about gay males.

Who are some artists we might find in the section?
Let's see, Larry Paulette[1], Tom Wilson[2], Christine Jorgenson[3], T.C. Jones[4], Jim Bailey[5], The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, The New York City Gay Men's Chorus, a straight gospel group called Sixteen Singing Men [the album is called He Touched Me, but the He is probably Jesus].

Do you seek out men's music, or do you just stumble across these albums?
No, if I see a guy in a dress, I'll put him in there, but I don't try to expand the section or anything. Just if I come across something. There are never more than a dozen albums in there. We just try to be as offensive as possible. I'm looking at What Makes a Man a Man right now. The guy on the cover looks like Lily Tomlin. Maybe it is Lily Tomlin.

When I heard "men's music," I thought it would be like recordings of poems by Robert Bly or manly affirmations by Sam Keen, or little songs about passing the truth stick and beating the drum of manhood.
I haven't seen anything like that, but oh, sure, something like that would be in here, definitely. Or if there were a Soldier of Fortune album, I'd put that in. Anything manly.

Where'd the idea for a men's music bin start from?
I'm not very P.C., and there was a point in my life when I got tired of women getting their own section. It's not just folk or rock, it has to be their own section. I got tired. This is a totalitarian store! So I started the men's music section. Gay women don't seem to appreciate it much. Some of them don't have much of a sense of humor. Not all of them, but a lot don't.

To me, music is not about men and it's not about women. Gender should not make any difference. People shouldn't buy music because it's "women's music." They should listen to what they like; it should be about the music itself. Holly Near is a creative, talented songwriter and singer, but she's compartmentalized and that's done damage to her career. She's not a "women's musician," she's a musician. Chris Williamson[6] is the same way—being pigeonholed hasn't helped the women's movement or her career. So if I can stick a little pin in this balloon it's great.

What do the pissed-off customers say?
Mostly "do you really think this is funny?" And I have to say "yes." No one has threatened to bomb the store or ticket me or anything. Guys tend to think it's funnier than women do.

Do you feel damned if you do, damned if you don't? Some women would be upset if there were no women's music section, while others get upset because they feel women are ghettoized in a women's music section.
I've had five times as many women as upset that there wasn't a music section as those who are mad because there is one. That's why I eventually had to start one. But I was damned if I was going to have a women's music section without a men's section, so I started them contemporaneously.

I get a little tired of activists in all shapes and forms. If you can't laugh at yourself, what can you laugh at? Nothing's fun now. Maybe I'll start a "Clean and Sober" bin. Put in Stevie Ray Vaughn, Bonnie Raitt. Of course, those people are mostly my customers, so maybe not. I don't know how funny Bonnie will find that.

Would cheesy bachelor pad music go in the men's music section? Or Leonard Nimoy?
No. I have another section called "Sometimes A Cover's Enough" for non-specific, strange, out-of-this-world albums, like with rats crawling on people or naked ladies or elderly singers.

If you were to create a tour of men's music all-stars, a Lilith Fair of men's music, if you will, who'd be on it?
Uh, I don't know. I'll have to think about that.

Notes:

[1]What Makes A Man A Man, 1977, featuring "One Hundred Ways to Lose a Man," Our Day Will Come," and "Rubber Duckie."

[2]Gay Name Game, 1979, featuring "The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name," "My Leviticus," "You Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine" "Momma's Boy" "Save Our Children/Recruiters' Fight Song" and "Lesbian Seagull."[see 2a]

[2a]Also sung by Mr. Van Driesen in the Beavis & Butt-head movie! And by Engelbert Humperdinck on the soundtrack!

[3] The transsexual pioneer cut an album called There'll Be Some Changes Made.

[4] Himself -- At the Crescendo on the Sunset Strip, a late 50s or early 60s album featuring impressions of Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn and Tallulah Bankhead.

[5] Jim Bailey, 1972, tributes to Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand.

[6]the Outloud! Encyclopedia of Gay and Lesbian Recordings's Glama Timeline says Williamson's 1974 album, The Changer and the Changed, is the best-selling women's music album of all time, at 150,000 copies]