Before Hedwig was a twinkle in John Cameron Mitchell’s eye, (or he in his mother’s eye, for that matter!) there was Jayne County. A brash and bawdy transsexual rocker who got her start performing in John Vaccaro’s Theater of The Ridiculous, a savage, avant-garde, glitter-dipped collective of drag performers and other misfits. A roll in Andy Warhol’s Pork led to a trip to London where Ms. County, along co-star Cherry Vanilla and photographer Leee Black Childers crossed paths with a young David Bowie and ultimately helped him with his Ziggy Stardust makeover. From the London stage to Max’s Kansas City, Jayne County, known as Wayne County before transitioning as a woman, performed in bands Queen Elizabeth and as Wayne County and The Backstreet Boys (Wonder if Lou Pearlman was a Wayne County fan?) before fronting The Electric Chairs in 1977.
In this clip from the German music show Rockpalast, Wayne County & The Electric Chairs give us a epic performance with their cover of The Strangeloves’ breezy garage number, “Nighttime”. Ms. County commands the stage and makes the song her own rebellious call to arms. Sample lyric: The world is full of crud, it’s enough to make you cry, ya might as well live, one day you’re gonna die! Elliot Michaels’ lead guitar is just glorious. Bassist Val Haller and drummer J.J. Johnson are tight with their pulsating jungle rhythm and Henri Padovani’s chainsaw rhythm guitar drives it all home!
Speaking of The Strangeloves, I had no idea that these guys were actually the songwriting trio of Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gottehrer. They wrote the hit single “My Boyfriend’s Back” for girl group The Angels, as well as others for Dion and Pat Boone. When the British Invasion changed the music scene in the mid-60s, the trio decided to cash in on the phenomena and formed The Strangeloves. The guys wore loud matching outfits and became Miles, Niles, and Giles Strange. They also pretended to be Australians when they couldn’t quit nail an English accent. The Strangeloves wrote “Nighttime” in 1966 and it reached #30 on the Billboard charts but scored their biggest hit in 1965 with “I Want Candy”.
“Why Was Transgender Punk Icon Jayne County Banned From Facebook?” 23 Apr. 2014, Dangerous Minds.net, web.
McNeil, Legs. McCain, Gillian. Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History Of Punk, 20th Anniversary Edition, 2016, Grove Press
Morris, Shaun. Stage/Screen – Pork, Jayne County – Man Enough To Be A Woman, Jayne County.com, 1996-2017, web.
Wayne County & The Electric Chairs, Westfalenhalle Dortmund, Rockpalast Archiv, 21, Feb. 2016, web.
“The Strangeloves Biography”; The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze; oldies.com, 2017, web.