Words: Simon Button
Were the Village People the campest pop group ever?
Whatever their respective sexualities, the line-up of cop, sailor, construction worker, leather boy, cowboy and Indian stood for fun, frivolity, macho posturing and the sort of fetishistic role-playing that was common to the Greenwich Village gay scene during the late-70s when they first burst on the disco scene.
And oh what camp music they made! Their biggest worldwide hit ‘Y.M.C.A.’ was an invitation to “hang out with all the boys” and ‘In The Navy’ was another ode to men-only camaraderie.
They sang about Fire Island and Key West and San Francisco, hot cops and firefighters, macho and action men, phone sex, cruising and liking things ‘Sleazy’.
And although their 1978 single 'I Am What I Am' may have flopped, Randy Jones aka the cowboy declared it a gay liberation anthem - which was pretty bold some 41 years ago.
All these songs and more are featured on Village People Gold, a three-CD compilation that makes for a great gay stocking filler. This is disco music as its most upbeat, with one earworm after another and some fab remixes.
The same can be said for Boney M Gold - which starts with ‘Daddy Cool’ and ends with ‘Jingle Bells’, taking in the camptastic likes of ‘Ma Baker’ and ‘Rivers Of Babylon’ and ‘Hooray! Hooray! It’s A Holi-Holiday’ and ‘Brown Girl In The Ring’ en route.
Five Star’s entry in the Gold series is even better. The Pearson clan really were Romford’s answer to the Jacksons - no, seriously!
Name me another homegrown pop-soul combo with such classics as ‘System Addict’, ‘Rain Or Shine’, ‘Find The Time’ and ‘Stay Out Of My Life’ on their CV? Or a more infectious remix than Shep Pettibone’s reworking of ‘The Slightest Touch’?
The M People three-discer is a bit thin by comparison. There are some true thrillers here, such as early grooves ‘How Can I Love You More?’ and ‘Colour My Life’ and Heather Small and co’s move into poppier territory with the hard-to-resist likes of ‘One Night In Heaven’ and ‘Moving On Up’.
But there’s a bit too much filler, with their cover of the Doobie Brothers’ ‘What A Fool Believes’ being a particular low-point and a few too many album tracks that only serve to show they were a much better singles band.
Rating: Village People, Boney M, Five Star: 5/5
M People: 3/5
The Gold series CDs are out now on Crimson