Johnny Are You Queer?

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"Johnny Are You Queer?"
Johnny Are You Queer single cover.jpg
1981 single recording through Bomp! Records
Single by Josie Cotton
from the album Convertible Music
B-side"(Let's Do) The Black-Out"
Released1981, Bomp! Records
1982, Elektra Records
GenreNew wave[1]
LabelBomp! Records
Elektra Records (reissue)
Songwriter(s)Bobby and Larson Paine
Producer(s)Bobby and Larson Paine

"Johnny Are You Queer?" (also stylized as "Johnny, Are You Queer?") is a 1980s pop song credited to the writing team of Bobby and Larson Paine.[2][3] The song was originally by Fear[4][5], later performed live by the Go-Go's, and eventually recorded by Josie Cotton, who released the song as a single in 1981 and 1982, and as part of her 1982 album Convertible Music.[3][6][7] The song was also featured on the Valley Girl soundtrack (1983).


The song's lyrics are written from the perspective of a young woman that is questioning her relationship with the titular "Johnny". He had approached the unnamed woman and asked her on a date, only for him to spend most of his time with his friends and with various men that she believes are homosexual. Because of this and Johnny's apparent ambivalence towards her, she questions Johnny's sexuality, asking him if he's ultimately "queer".[8]

Music video[edit]

A music video for "Johnny Are You Queer?" was produced in the 1980s. The video shows Cotton and Johnny sitting on a park bench where she makes romantic advances, much to Johnny's discomfort.[9]


The song was the subject of controversy upon its release.[10] Cotton was accused by multiple conservative groups as promoting homosexuality and one network claimed that "there was no Josie Cotton and that she was actually a gay man who was trying to convert unsuspecting straight men into a homosexual lifestyle."[11] The Village Voice and The Advocate were both highly critical of "Johnny, Are You Queer?"; The Village Voice criticized the work in an article entitled "Josie, Are You A Bitch?"[11]

Years later AllMusic reviewed the song and noted that "In retrospect, the song sounds rather tame, and throughout, the joke is on the petulant girl, not Johnny: "he's not interested in her that way, so clearly he must not like girls" is (deliberately) a laughably arrogant premise."[12]

Cotton has stated that since the song's release she has been contacted by several people who thanked her for the song, as it helped them come to terms with their own homosexuality.[13]


In 1982, the song reached position 38 on the Billboard Club Play Singles chart[8] and number 8 on the Canadian charts.[14]

Covers and media uses[edit]

The song was featured on the soundtrack of the 1983 film Valley Girl and is performed in the film by Cotton, along with several other songs.[15] The Los Angeles-based punk rock band Fear recorded a demo version with early, different lyrics that made no reference to the eventual title character, Johnny. The demo was eventually leaked as "Fetch Me One More Beer" on the bootleg albums Living With Fear (1991) and Paradise Studio Demo 1978 (2009). A live version by The Go-Go's was later released on their compilation Return To The Valley Of The Go-Go's (1994). The rap group Elephant performed a remix for "Johnny, Are You Queer?"[16] and the band Glass Candy remixed the song with The Shangri-Las’ "Give Him a Great Big Kiss".[8] Johnny Are You Queer is heard in 2006 film, Jackass Number Two.


  1. ^ "Josie Cotton | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-11-03.
  2. ^ "Johnny Are You Queer?". The Rake and Herald. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  3. ^ a b "JOSIE COTTON: THE STORY OF '80S NEW-WAVE HIT "JOHNNY, ARE YOU QUEER?"". Magnet Magazine. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  4. ^ ""Josie Cotton: The Story Of '80s New-Wave Hit "Johnny, Are You Queer?"". Magnet.
  5. ^ """Johnny, Are You Queer?": Cover Songs Uncovered"". The Pop Culture Experiment.
  6. ^ Kozak, Roman (1983). Cotton Picks a Hit With 'Queer' Choice of Tunes. Billboard. p. 57. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  7. ^ GREENBLATT, LEAH. "VH1's 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the '80s: Do You Agree?". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  8. ^ a b c Eddy, Chuck. "Katy Perry's Campy, Gay-Baiting Polka-Dot Pop Was First Cooed By '80s New Waver Josie Cotton". Spin. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  9. ^ Rosen, Zack. ""Johnny, Are You Queer?" Josie Cotton Says "Yes.": The New Gay Interview". The New Gay. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  10. ^ Cateforis, Theo. The Rock History Reader. Routledge. pp. 181, 188. ISBN 0415892120. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  11. ^ a b FITZHARRIS, DUSTIN. "Catching Up With Josie Cotton". Out. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  12. ^ Mason, Stewart. "Johnny, Are You Queer? (review)". AllMusic. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  13. ^ "he Queer Story of Johnny and Josie". Punk Globe. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  14. ^ "RPM Weekly Top 50 Singles". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  15. ^ Osborne, Jerry (December 2, 1990). "`Valley Girl' music battle was awesome". Chicago Sun-Times (subscription required). Archived from the original on March 13, 2016. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  16. ^ "Elephant". Chicago GoPride. Retrieved 16 May 2015.