From Issue 3.4 - May 1997

Music from a Bygone Era

By Gayle Rubin

The Catacombs on 21st Street was San Francisco's major fistfucking club from 1975, when it was opened by Steve McEachern until 1981, when it closed following Steve's sudden death from a heart attack. Steve's surviving lover Fred reopened the Catacombs on Shotwell Street, where it enjoyed another run from 1982-1984.

My first encounter with the "music of the baths," or music programmed to enhance S/M or fistfucking, was at the 21st Street Catacombs, where Steve and friends put together a series of brilliant tapes. The party tapes relied primarily on disco and electronic space music, although there were also rock, soul, funk, and other genres. Upbeat and driving songs dominated the prime time party soundtrack, while slow, spacey stuff came on in the early hours of the morning. The following annotated list is drawn from memory, fragmentary documentation, and records obtained when Fred sold some of Steve's personal effects.

There were other Catacombs songs I remember well but do not know the names or the artists. One featured a male vocalist who sang, "you need a strong love...a man's love." Another spoke of needing to be "changing jobs" after staying out at too many all-night parties. If anyone knows of these or recalls other songs from the Catacombs, please contact me in care of Cuir Underground.

Gayle Rubin has been chronicling the history of the local leather community for nearly two decades.

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© 1997, Cuir Underground

Last updated: 31 May 1997