The scene that emerged around Eric’s, the legendary punk club, is perhaps one of the most important in Liverpool’s musical history, and definitely the most ground breaking. Hosting the likes of Echo & The Bunnymen, Joy Division and Crass, the club ushered in a new breed of musicians who experimented and broke boundaries like never before. These boundaries were not just pushed in the field of music but in art, fashion, politics and the perception of gender and sexuality. Perhaps one of its biggest outliers is the late, great Pete Burns. Having dropped out of school aged just 14 – after he was expelled for having dyed red hair and big hoop earrings – the teenager found solace in the city’s underground music scene, first in record shop, Probe before later finding Eric’s. Having grown up on the androgyny of Bowie, Burns found himself breaking societal norms and embracing both gender fluidity and progressive queer attitudes.
Liverpool’s burgeoning LGBTQ+ community may have been well established for years but the momentum of the late 70s and early 80s saw it rise into the limelight with Burns’ band, Dead or Alive, and local contemporaries Frankie Goes To Hollywood appearing on national TV on Top of the Pops. An ignition point, Liverpool has since become home to one of the country’s hottest LGBTQ+ communities, with a vibrant gay club scene (we’re looking at you, Sonic Yootha). In fringe and mainstream establishments around the city, sexuality and gender are constantly explored and reimagined through a variety of exhibitions, gigs and theatre pieces.
In celebration of Liverpool’s LGBTQ+ community past and present, Edge Hill University will host SPIN ME ROUND, a round-table discussion which takes its name from Burns’ chart-topping track. QUEEN ZEE, panellist and leader of contemporary DIY neu-punk outfit Queen Zee and the Sasstones, believes the panel is overdue: “I think it’s about time Liverpool’s queer culture was acknowledged! Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Pete Burns and the rest of the scene around them aren’t just important locally or nationally, but internationally. To be asked to represent that is incredibly humbling. Pete [Burns] has been a huge influence and icon not just to the band, but to myself personally. Wirral is painfully average at times and it can feel like nothing’s going on, with the absence of a real music scene, and no gigs, drag shows or good nightclubs, without heading over the water. So, for there to be such a ‘colourful’ character from my home town always gave me the hope that I could do something similar, and that you didn’t have to ‘fit in’; you could be different, stand out and go against the grain.”
Queen Zee will be joined by Jayne Casey, a close friend of Burns’, singer with the visionary Big In Japan, as well as Roger Hill, who began his professional career at the Everyman in the 80s and has since become a director as well as the custodian of the nation’s longest-running alternative music radio show on BBC Radio Merseyside. Chaired by Dr Dick Witts, former lead singer of 80s band The Passage, who now heads up the Music, Sound, Enterprise programme at Edge Hill University, the cross-generational panel will discuss Liverpool’s queer scene, its past, present and what might come in the future. The audience will have the opportunity to make their voices heard as well and join in conversations about the progressive journey of LGBTQ+ music, from the blockades and bashings, to the parades and accolades.
You Spin Me Right Round takes place at Tim Peaks Diner on Saturday 27th May.