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Camp Records was a record label based out of California in the 1960s that specialized in producing anonymous gay-themed novelty records and singles, mostly sold out of the backs of beefcake magazines.
Camp Records' releases typically consisted of parodies of existing songs or musical styles, primarily revised folk melodies with the lyrics rewritten to reflect a camp sensibility. The arrangements were usually simple, consisting of spare instrumentation and multiple-voice harmonies, but ranged in style from cocktail piano bar to Latin exotica.
The songs themselves comically portrayed the world of the American homosexual subculture, often relying on broad stereotypes, gay slang, and saucy double entendres for their comic effect. As an example, their single "Li'l Liza Mike" rewrote the lyrics to the popular musical standard "Li'l Liza Jane" to tell of a man's befuddlement at the behavior of his butch lesbian girlfriend. The song was credited to "Byrd E. Bath & the Gay Blades."
Another release, "I'd Rather Fight Than Swish," was written in the rollicking style of early rock and roll, and featured a swaggering, Elvis Presley-style lead singer. The song's lyrics told of a macho outlaw biker's desires to physically assault effeminate gay men, but as the song progresses it makes clear that the biker himself is a closeted homosexual. However, it could be argued that his closeting was because gay culture excluded working class, masculine men at the time. The song's title is a play on the Tareyton cigarette ad slogan Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch!, introduced in 1963; the record was available in 1964.
Their single "Stanley the Manly Transvestite" was credited to a singer named "Rodney Dangerfield", but it is unlikely that the song was performed by the popular comic, Rodney Dangerfield, and was instead simply a coincidental choice of a stage name.
Camp Records released two full-length LPs: The first, "The Queen Is in the Closet" consisted of ten songs in the style of the above-mentioned singles. The second was called "Mad About the Boy." This was an unusual experiment, consisting of a number of mainstream popular jazz torch songs in which women sing of their romantic feelings toward men. The Camp Records release simply rerecorded these songs with male vocalists without changing the song's use of gender, resulting in love songs sung by men to men.
As Camp Records' releases all date back to the early 60s, and none were released with a copyright notice, all the recordings have now passed into the public domain.
- Queer Music Heritage has posted the complete recordings of Camp Records available as MP3s, as well as the company's cover art.