Essential Series - 2017 Glam Rock Vol 1

ExplorerExplorer England
edited November 2020 in Essential Series

ARTICLE: The Essential Series - Glam Rock (Volume 1), by Explorer
YEAR: 2017


Glam Rock was a relatively short lived phenomenon and was largely a very British affair at that, although a couple of Americans do make this particular list. It's also fair to say that it was a mainly singles driven movement, but that's not to say that the Glam acts didn't know how to make a good album, far from it.

Glam also had its sub genres too, with the artier bands on one hand and others taking the 'Bricklayers in Drag' approach and also some bands straddling both stools. There are some omissions of course, Roxy Music for one, and I can hear our very own Eric protesting from here!

Glam was seen by many as shallow, superficial and somewhat throwaway, as opposed to the seriousness of the Prog world, but in my universe there was plenty of room for everyone, and with my weekly dose of Top Of The Pops to feed on, I was like the proverbial Pig in S#*t!

The Albums

T Rex - 1971 Electric Warrior
Arguably the first Glam rock album and with Marc Bolan, also the first Glam Superstar. Electric Warrior ditched a lot of Bolan's late 60's hippy ideals but mixed what was left over with the heavily stylised posturing of the likes of 'Get It On' and 'Jeepster' which made up what was effectively the Glam formula.Later albums would continue in a similar vein. Bolan's star shone so very brightly for just a short time but he was quickly usurped by his old running mate Bowie, but boy did he leave his mark.

David Bowie - 1972 The Rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
The definitive Glam album. For most Boys (and Girls) in 1972 and watching Bowie drape his arm so provocatively over the shoulder of guitarist Mick Ronson and point at the TV screen was what my generation was calling out for. He spoke to me and millions like me back then and Ziggy encapsulated that period so perfectly. Bowie was someone who answered so many questions that the mainstream were afraid to ask and made people like me look at the world in a completely different way. Wham bam, thank you mam.

Mott The Hoople - 1973 Mott the Hoople
Given a lifeline in '72 by David Bowie who gave the band THE Glam anthem in 'All The Young Dudes'. Follow up album 'Mott' saw Ian Hunter grab the reins with both hands and produce an album that displayed power, energy and a subtly that has rarely been bettered. Mott were seen as precursors to punk by some but I'm not sure about that. There was directness and an unsettling malevolence in a lot of their work which made Mott the Hoople so damn attractive to me back then. Essential listening.

Suzi Quatro - 1973 S/T
Boy, did I have a crush on Ms Quatro! Suzi was someone who was a true pioneer for women in rock and should by rights be in the RARHOF already, shame on those charlatans! Clad in leather and with her oversized bass slung low, what was not to get hot under the collar about! The UK version of this album strangely omitted 'Can The Can' but there was enough here on her debut to more than keep me interested, taking her cues from 50's Rock 'n' Roll as well as some stonking originals and a sprinkling of Chinn/Chapman magic, this album was pure manna from heaven.

Gary Glitter - 1973 Touch Me
A controversial choice for so many reasons, but this is about the music right? GG hit upon a formula with producer Mike Leander which with its two drummer approach, football terrace like hand claps coupled with infectious sing along choruses, was a real throwback to the naivety that was the Rock 'n' roll of the late 50's, but this time it was all trussed up like a turkey in bacofoil at Christmas. The hit singles are inevitably the highlights here but tracks such as 'Sidewalk Sinner' and 'Come On, Come In, Get On', were equally as satisfying. The videos do make for a somewhat uncomfortable watch today but back then GG was without doubt Glam's great pantomime dame.

Cockney Rebel - 1973 The Human Menagerie
Steve Harley's vision of Glam came straight out of the smokey nightclubs and dark cabaret of 1930's Berlin channelled through the folk club circuit of early 70's London, which makes for a strange but compelling mix. Huge orchestral arrangements flesh out Harley's ideas to maximum effect. The best examples being the quite extraordinary baroque like 'Sebastian' and the 10 minute epic album closer 'Death Trip'. Chart success was to follow with the likes of 'Judy Teen' and the ubiquitous' Make Me Smile (Come up and see me) but this album remains Harley's most complete work.

Lou Reed - 1973 Transformer
Produced and arranged by Glam Rock messiahs David Bowie and Mick Ronson who at that point in time were on a real creative roll. This album saw ex Velvet Underground man Reed fully embrace the Glam ethos but with him coming at it from a New York/Warhol point of view, which gave 'Transformer' a provocative, sassy edge which was perfectly displayed in the wonderfully explicit and downright rude 'Walk On The Wild Side', and the languid' Satellite Of Love'. I wasn't quite sure what was going on with this album to be truthful, but I bloody well knew I wanted in. And we ALL know 'Perfect Day' right? And if anyone is in doubt about the genius of Mick Ronson, well just listen to the arrangements on this baby. This album was the perfect amalgamation of US and UK Glam sensibilities.

Slade - 1974 Old, New, Borrowed And Blue
In terms of singles sales Slade were not only the biggest Glam act, but also the most successful British group of the 1970's based on sales of singles, yes they were that big back then! Coming out on the back of the incredible success of 'Merry Xmas Everybody' this album saw them really come into their own as songwriters with not only the big power ballad 'Everyday' and the infectious 'My Friend Stan', but it also contained gems such as 'When The lights Are Out', which Cheap Trick later covered in fine style, and the country flavoured 'How Can It Be'. This is Glam at its foot stompin' best.

Queen - 1974 Queen II
An album famously referred to by one (misguided) UK scribe as 'The dregs of Glam Rock', but this album set Queen on the road to superstardom. Complete with its flash and thunder fire, as well as nods to the world of C. S Lewis, Fairies, Misty Castles and Ogres, Queen would never again sound so potent and heavy. My love for this album knows no bounds and stands alone as the greatest album of all time (IMHO), and I would gladly put it in any essential list be it Hard Rock, Prog or Pomp.

Sweet - 1974 Desolation Boulevard
Sweet by this time, although still tied to the Chinn/Chapman hit making machine were starting to branch out on their own starting earlier in the year with the outstanding and hard hitting 'Sweet Fanny Adams'.

'Desolation Boulevard' saw the band really blossom into gifted songwriters. It also contains their finest ever moment in 'The Sixteen's' which was a real coming of age epic as well as the impeccable 'Fox On The Run', and boy could these guys really play. Mick Tucker had to be one of the most underrated drummers ever, and vocally they could (very nearly) match Queen in the harmonies department, but it's on the deeper cuts that the album rocks such as 'Medusa' and 'Breakdown'. (Note), the US version of this album differs greatly from the UK one in that the US version is more of a compilation/greatest hits than a standalone record.

In Summary

I could quite easily have chosen a greatest hits album for each act, and as I stated earlier this was essentially a movement powered by the 7 single, but I wanted to delve a little deeper.

I've tried to cover all bases within the genre, but have mostly stuck with the 'big boys' of the movement for this first volume. Glam was a much maligned art form, and for me at the age of 13 in 1972 Glam rock was a real call to arms, and sod the critics I knew better. I'm a dude dad.

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    DaveTDaveT Buenos Aires, Argentina
    All these Essential Series are a great source of entertainment and informative reading.

    The albums included in the Glam Rock Essential have become part of our collective unconscious over time, such is their impact.
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    Cool - nice piece Malc
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    All of the other Essential Series articles previously written will be added back to the site sometime next week.
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    richardbrichardb Poole, Dorset
    edited November 2020
    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this Malcolm - a real trip down memory lane. Evenings watching Sweet, Mud, Suzi Quatro etc on 'Top of the pops' formed my earliest experience of listening to music. A bit of trivia here, where I grew up is steeped in rock n roll history. Ian Gillan and Freddie Mercury grew up not far from where I used to live, plus Brian May and I are alumni of the same school.
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    This is a top notch read. Thoroughly enjoyed it! Well done mate!
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    I might do a Volume 2, which would more than likely include some of Glam’s lesser know acts.
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