“Johnny Are You Queer?” (also stylized as “Johnny, Are You Queer?“) is a 1980s song credited to the writing team of Bobby and Larson Paine. The song was first 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. The song was featured on the Valley Girl soundtrack (1983).
The song’s music was based on “Fetch Me One More Beer” by the Los Angeles-based punk rock band Fear, written by the band’s guitarist Philo Cramer and John Clancy. Bobby and Larson Paine, who were managing the Go-Go’s, reworked the song with new lyrics and gave it to them, but after a falling out forbade them from playing it and gave it to Josie Cotton. In several interviews, Cotton has suggested that the song’s title was lifted from lyrics in the Fear song, though she has also stated that Fear’s version went “You’re a fuckin’ queer.”
When Fear found out a variation of their song had become popular, they met with the Paines to discuss the publishing rights and together decided that the rights would go to the winner of a coin toss, which the Paines won.
The song’s lyrics are written from the perspective of a young woman who 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 she believes are homosexual. Because of this and Johnny’s apparent ambivalence toward her, she questions Johnny’s sexuality, asking him if he is ultimately queer.
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.
The song was the subject of controversy upon its release. Cotton was accused by multiple conservative groups of 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.” The Village Voice and The Advocate were both highly critical of “Johnny, Are You Queer?”; The Village Voice criticized the work in an article titled “Josie, Are You a Bitch?”
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.”
Cotton has stated that since the song’s release she has been contacted by several people who thanked her for the song because it helped them come to terms with their own homosexuality.