ORIGINS AND INFO
Glam rock, or glitter rock, hit the UK in the early 70s with T-Rex’s Electric Warrior, and despite peaking in 1974-75 has had consistent resurgences since then. Essentially, glam rock is chart topping bubblegum pop mixed with the catchy riffs of early rock – but with theatrics. Think glittery platform heel thigh high boots and lightning bolt make up. Seen as a response to the seriousness of prog-rock, glam rock edges on the childish and silly but shouldn’t be thought of as low-brow music. As influenced by prog rock as it is by 30s Hollywood fashion, the 50s pin up girl and the rise of sci-fi, it is a sub-genre where fashion is inextricably intertwined with the sound. The resulting sartorial androgyny of the commonly male performers can be seen as a cultural reflection of changing ideas of gender. Also, unlike many sub-genres it has maintained an appeal for over 40 years. Current artist Grimes tweeted in 2014:
“woo hoo just finished what could def b a third single for this album, my first attempt at a glam rock style song, feeling queen and bowie”— Clear Butcher (@Grimezsz, December 12, 2014)
Glam rock is in every respect completely and utterly fabulous. I just wish I had the same confidence to wear a bedazzled leather jacket with shiny blue lyrca leggings.
SONG TO EASE YOU IN
KISS – ‘Rock & Roll All Nite”
Dressed To Kill (1975)
Not that you are ever meant to ease in to glam rock, but this track is the closest you will get to that. Forty years of KISS rocking all night and partying every day have mean that you have probably heard this song, but it shows the characteristic glam rock catchy riff and lyrics perfectly. Also, front man Gene Simmons should be revered. In a Rolling Stone article, he commented that “I’m 64 now. Three more tours. Two, if I have a life change of some kind”. If that isn’t a life commitment to rock and roll then I don’t know what is.
PS- Sorry that this song is now stuck in your head.
SONG YOU WILL LOVE
David Bowie – ‘Diamond Dogs’
Rebel Rebel (1974)
After recently saying goodbye to the legend that is David Bowie it seems right to use the song he said goodbye to glam rock with. Originally written for a scrapped Ziggy Stardust musical the opening lyrics “You’ve got your mother in a whirl, She’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl” emphasises the androgynous dress Bowie helped put at the centre of glam rock. The track is also known for its catchy riff, probably what makes it one of Bowie’s most covered songs.
SONG FOR THE FAN
Roxy Music – ‘Virginia Plain’
Roxy Music (1972)
Less well known then KISS and Bowie to many but no less glam, Roxy Music’s Virginia Plain is a simply great glam rock track. Named after a brand of tobacco it manages to perfectly balance childishness with darker rock. This is mainly due to lead guitarist Phil Manazera improvised guitar solo and Andy Mackays’s brilliant honking sax.