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Gay Punk Pioneers Smokey Get New Reissue

‘How Far Will You Go?,’ featuring cameos by Stooges’ James Williamson and Randy Rhoads, compiles cult rocker’s songs after major labels rejected him for being “too gay”

John Condon

Courtesy of John Condon

John Condon

Smokey, a Seventies Los Angeles punk outfit that had an arsenal of big-time riffs but struggled to score a record contract because their music was deemed “too gay,” will be the subject of the upcoming reissue titled How Far Will You Go?: The S&M Recordings, 1973-81. Led by John “Smokey” Condon and featuring cameos by Stooges guitarist James Williamson and Ozzy Osbourne cohort Randy Rhoads, the new collection features tracks Condon recorded on his own S&M imprint after the major labels rejected him.

Chapter Music will release How Far Will You Go?: The S&M Recordings, 1973-81 on vinyl, CD and digitally on June 23rd. According to the band’s bio, Baltimore transplant Condon met up with the producer EJ Emmons upon arriving in Los Angeles. Emmons recorded the rocker’s first single “Leather” and, using Emmons’ contacts, the single was shopped around to labels. Every label, however, was too nervous about signing Smokey. “We can’t put this out, it’s a fucking gay record, what’s the matter with you,” said one record exec, while adding “it’s really good though.”

Smokey then created his own outlet for his music, S&M Records, on which he released his 1976 single “How Far Will You Go?” with Williamson on guitar.

Along the way, Smokey also spent time in the studio with Rhoads and members of King Crimson, David Bowie’s Tin Machine, the Motels and post-punk unit Suburban Lawns. Smokey eventually gained a cult following, with a teenaged Joan Jett reportedly starting a Smokey fan club before she went on to her own Rock and Roll Hall of Fame greatness.

Emmons remastered the original master tapes for the compilation, which collects Smokey’s S&M recordings, including five self-released singles, a nine-minute disco ode titled “Piss Slave” and two versions of a song called “Million Dollar Babies.”

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