Glam Rock

The glitz of the seventies

The era of glitz (the yin yang of the bohemian flower child). Some would call it the sell out, but times had changed and power rock combined with quick melody created overnight lords of the manor. In order to substantiate an era, we have to start with a given point, and what could be more ironic than the birth of glam signifying a lost status. Our time starts in space with a man trying to find his way back to earth ("Space Oddity"), released in 1969 by David Bowie. There is no doubt that while Bowie forged the platform for the birth of glam, his wife Angie gave the world a hair style, and Ziggy Stardust and the spiders from Mars changed the face of rock forever.  Although an intellectual rewind could well and truly be challenged by the fact that the formation of The Move in 1966 by Roy Wood was the birthing seed to glam rock.  To capitalise on this fact it would be safer to label Roy Wood's latter combo Wizard as a more thoroughbred glam rock entity.  One of the shortfalls of glam rock was the inability to perform at live concerts and media took full advantage of pretty faces that cut overnight tunes for the record moguls, the Osmonds / Bay City Rollers / Partridge Family, the list is endless. 

Yet amidst the colourful fur and shiny space suits, glam did bring forth block-busting talent. Slade in particular gave unlimited energy to their fans at live concerts and an example of supreme glam splendour can be found in their first number one hit, October 1971, "Coz I luv you" (written in a half an hour). Slade was formed out of the flower power siblings of the band The N'betweens and proceeded to become UK's hottest live attraction with 23 top 30 hits. Let us also pay respect to a glam rock entity called The Sweet, originally known as The Sweet Shop in 1968 but moved shop in 1969. The motley clan from Scotland powered into the charts in the early seventies and were one of the few Glam Rock bands to make it in the USA.

In one sense confusion ruled supreme in the world of glam, and one had to be extremely discerning when opting for quality in the space of quantity. The fake tinsel of Gary Glitter or the quick step vibe of Mud could quite easily draw you into a fantasy orgasm that is quickly vomited out in the morning light. Marc Bolan of Tyrannosaurus Rex had left the flower children of Rarn, and entered the boogie glam with a re-vamped T-Rex. Obviously taking Chuck Berry's acclaimed statement "I can only play three cords, and I play them really well", to heart, Marc Bolan climbed the charts with some rather impressive boogie melody, which ended abruptly due to a fatal car crash.

Sophistication gave glam a fashionable intellectualism which could be found in the genius of Roxy Music headed by Brian Ferry / Manzanera / Mackay and keyboard wizard Eno. Most likely the most diverse and masterful contribution to glam rock. This could only be rivalled by Bill Nelson and his Scottish combo, Be-Bop Deluxe. Formed in 1972, styled after David Bowie's science fiction rock effort and suitably retired in 1979. Even soul took its hand at glam when Caribbean / Brit inter racial band Hot Chocolate formed in 1970 spotted the charts in the seventies with the help of Mickey Most. Tribute must be given to Errol Brown and Tony Wilson who wrote most of their hits and although commercial, captured the glam era respectively from 1972 to 1977. 

To the north further genius had arrived from Glasgow with the likes of David Paton, Stewart Tosh. Billy Lyall and Ian Bairmson namely Pilot, who were later to find fame with the Alan Parsons project. Underrated as song writers and wrongly manifested as another Bay City Rollers, Pilot were a class act, powering into the charts with "Magic" / "January" and "Just a smile". Providing backup to another great glam band Sparks, various members moved on such as Stewart Tosh joining 10CC. Success stories were far and few between, but one particular individual, a truck driver landed the part of Jesus in the musical "God spell" and later the leading role in "That'll be the day", David Essex ! A brilliant glam rock release, "Rock on", written by David in tribute to fifties rock, was turned down as the film sound track. Thanks to Jeff Wayne, it peaked at number three only to be overtaken by his second number one, "Hold me close", in 1975.

Glam would not have had superstar status if ex-journalist Steve Harley hadn't come to the forefront with his band Cockney Rebel. Influenced by Roxy Music and Bowie, Harley went on to launch an array of hits namely "Make me smile (come up and see me)" and the masterful, "Sebastian" which was given strength by the keyboard wizardry of Duncan Mackay later to join 10CC. The million dollar question is defined by discerning the division between power rock and glam. Do we separate the diverse 10CC and the glitzy Queen from these shiny spacemen that walked a while in the seventies, or is the melting pot a source of inspiration for the new romanticist eighties ? The question that will hover eternally is : Was it glam or scam ? Yet in the electronic nineties we nod with approval to Elmer Gentry's "Why did you do it" by Stretch or "Howzat" by Sherbet. The velvet goldmine stands eroded and mined out, but the gems are still displayed through the ages.

Recommended glam rock
Cosmic dancer T Rex
Star man David Bowie
Ballroom blitz The Sweet
Coz I luv you Slade
Shambala Three dog night
Magic Pilot
Sebastian Steve Harley
Love is the drug Roxy Music
Baby's on fire Brian Eno
Shiloh Noone, Blues and Variation, Fine Music Radio, Wednesday 10 pm