[ gay part starts at the 2:25 mark ]
The Tornados were the first UK act to hit #1 in the United States, in 1962 with their smash hit “Telstar.” But I care about them for one of their 45 rpm records released late in their career, in 1966. The story starts with Joe Meek. He was a legendary UK record producer from the early 60's. His innovative style and distinctive production techniques brought him much fame at the time, starting with his smash hit "Telstar." He had an unusual approach to recording, but it worked well. In just a few years he worked on 245 singles, of which 45 were top fifty hits in the UK.
The dark side of Joe Meek's life is also famous, for his depression, and repressed homosexuality, which remember, was still illegal in the UK until 1967. All this on top of financial and career troubles let to his committing murder and then suicide in February of 1967, at age 37. But a year before he released that Tornados record I’m telling you about. Presumably, that group wasn't gay, but on the last 45 he produced for them, in 1966, he perhaps gained some satisfaction by exposing a reality long suppressed. On the flip side of their record, named "Is That a Ship I Hear," he placed what sounded like a throwaway song, called "Do You Come Here Often?" It's an innocuous sounding instrumental and most people, had they even bothered to turn the record over, would have stopped listening well before the point of interest I'm telling you about. At about 2:25 mark into the song, he inserted this bit of conversation apparently intended to sound like it came from a London gay club, with two obviously bitchy queens.
“Do you come here often?”
“Only when the pirate ships go off air.”
“Me too.” (giggles)
“Well, I see pajama styled shirts are in, then.”
“Well, pajamas are OUT, as far as I'm concerned anyway.”
“Well, I know of a few people who do.”
“Yes, you would.”
“WOW! These two, coming now. What do you think?”
“Mmmmmm. Mine's all right, but I don't like the look of yours.”
(A sniffy pause)
“Well, I must be off.”
“Yes, you're not looking so good.”
“Cheerio. I'll see you down the 'Dilly.”
“Not if I see you first, you won't.”
What Was he thinking? Still, this was a milestone, inserting a bit of then-gay life onto vinyl, and on a major label yet.
A couple explanations, the “pirate ships” were radio stations that operated off the coast of England. They began in the early 60’s to circumvent the record companies' control of popular music broadcasting in the United Kingdom and the BBC's radio broadcasting monopoly. And “see you down the ‘Dilly” likely referred to the Piccadilly area of London, the center of much gay life there.