Friday, March 20, 2015

Discuss: Glam


Edo Bosnar said...

Glam was pretty much on it's way out by the time I was becoming attuned to music and pop culture in general (i.e. at the age of about 6 or 7). However, I do remember a few songs by Sweet were really popular about then and I really like them (and still do, for that matter). Later, when I was a teen, I became a big fan of both David Bowie and T-rex.

I think the whole glam movement or fad or whatever you want to call it was pretty fascinating - it certainly produced some cool music. And even if the outrageous outfits, hairstyles, make-up and footwear (oh man, those platform boots!) are often cringeworthy in retrospect, I think the glam style - besides being picked up by some of the contemporary disco divas - also had varying degrees of influence on the punk scene, the '80s hair metal bands and the Goths. And, of course, the gap between glam and hair metal was adeptly and lucratively bridged by Kiss...

Humanbelly said...

Heh- hot on the heels of "Nope, I just don't get it. . . " (*snort*).

Say, does anyone out there remember that David Bowie's pre-Glam celebrity hook was dressing and performing in really eye-catching women's clothing? The guy was so thin and long-legged that he could carry it off in a way that almost no one could (I say in retrospect-- at the time I couldn't wrap my adolescent brain around the presumed wrong-ness of the conceit). In an interview, his wife at the time talked about how much work she put into getting him to look and move just right in what he was wearing.
But Glam/Glitter just never was a big factor for me. As often as not, it seemed to be an over-emphasis on affected style (which, yes, yes, I know was rather the whole artistic point) that got in the way of the musical substance. The fact that I've often had a fondness for Bowie, Queen, and Sweet is rather in spite of the Glam element instead of owing to it.

Still-- love me some Rocky Horror Picture Show. . .

Sheesh-- the T-Rex clip, there? I'm stunned to see that even into the early 70's, British television was still insisting on having these acts lip-synch on set. I seem to recall that there was some inane union regulation that insisted on this in the 60's-- but even this late? "Vocals" being sung in positions that the mic can't possibly pick up, NO cords at all on the electric instruments (!), and the bass player is often not playing at all. . . just doing some weird gestures w/ his left hand. Man, I would hate this if I were performing--!


Doug said...

HB -

Keep in mind, Dick Clark always had acts lip synch on American Bandstand. Clips from the Ed Sullivan Show are a wonderful contrast, however, as to the best of my knowledge acts on his show performed live.

Shoot, even parts of the Motown 25 celebration, particularly Michael Jackson's famed rendition of Billy Jean, were canned. But was that a Dick Clark-produced special? May have been...


Humanbelly said...

Oh, I know, I know-- that was always a HUGE weakness for American Bandstand, IMO. I'm guessing Dick Clark was hypersensitive to controlling the product he put out, and it endured as his SOP long after it should have been let go. Of course a lot of pop acts in AmBdStd's later years may not have had the live-performance chops of earlier artists.


Anonymous said...

HB, lip-synching on British TV lasted way beyond the '70s - the most important music show on TV was 'Top Of The Pops' and lip-synching was the norm all through the '80s. I don't see what was wrong with it anyway as "live" performances could be utterly dreadful - I remember watching the Eurythmics on Top Of The Pops singing a truly ghastly version of a song that I quite liked, TV exposure would normally help a song but that one went DOWN the chart after that awful live performance. And in 1988 Whitney Houston sang 'Didn't We Always Have It All' live at the Nelson Mandela 70th birthday concert in London - that song is one of my Whitney favourites but her live version that day was horrible beyond description (in my opinion ) so give me lip-synching any day, at least you get the song as it is on the record.

Unknown said...

Glam was just so much fun (well to a 12 year old at least) but in reality most of the bands just performed bubble gum pop songs (Mudd, Alvin Stardust, Sweet, Gary Glitter etc) that wouldn't have sounded too out of place in the 60s. Of course you can probably see snatches of glam long before the early 70s via the Velvet Underground and a few other US bands However, (imho) it wasn't really until Bowie arrived with "Starman" on "Top of the Pops" in the UK that it really took off before then it was really a teenage pop fad but Bowie took Glam and pop music to another dimension with his LPs ( Bolan was of course the singles king of glam that got the ball rolling for the likes of Bowie) attracting a more mature audience and of course moving on to others things pretty quickly after a few years. I always thought it funny seeing the effects of Glam on others bands like the Hollies, Marmalade etc (mostly in their appearances rather than music) - Did many UK bands make it in the US during the glam phase (apart from Bowie) I don't think Slade did that well

david_b said...

I have a healthy appreciation for good stage acts.., regardless of transgenderism, whatever you call it. Certainly KISS racheted it 'up to 11' on the success meter, but they were a good band.

Mind you, I'm not into Metal or most of this stuff, but I know what I like.

Played 'Ziggy Stardust' quite a bit in college, but replays a short few years back tells me it hasn't kept my interest well.

All in all, the visual aspect is the creamy topping, but I expect quality presentation and an interesting lyrics/theme.

Queen to me was tops....

Anonymous said...

Doh !! Whitney sang 'Didn't We ALMOST Have It All' not 'Always Have it All'.

J.A. Morris said...

I like some glam, especially Bowie's Man Who Sold The World album. To my ears, it's better than the better known Ziggy & Hunky Dory.

And Suzi Quatro never got much love over here (except for Happy Days) but she released some fun "glam" songs.

Sweet recorded some damn catchy songs, 'Fox On The Run' is a tune that crawls into your brain and builds a timeshare(even if the lyrics are shite):

Slade's greatest hits are still pretty good fun foot-stompers.

Humanbelly\ said...

Ha-- well, Colin, we'll just have to agree to represent polar-opposite opinions on the lip-synch score, I believe. As a staunch live-performer myself, I don't think I can ever view it as anything other than a cheat, I'm afraid. Mind you, I do get that a live performance is going to have a different sound from a polished studio recording. . . but. . . most bands/singers were performing live for years before they cut a record. If they're prepared, it simply shouldn't be an issue. (It does boggle my mind how many artists seem to have trouble singing our National Anthem at sporting events, though. There's been a bit of a nice trend to turn those duties over to assorted members of the armed services performing ensembles--) (But that's REALLY heading down Tangent Road, eh?)


Anonymous said...

Paul, I had a book which listed the Billboard U.S. Hot 100 from the '50s to the '80s and UK glam acts did very poorly chart-wise in America. Bowie had a U.S. #1 with 'Fame' and the Bay City Rollers made #1 with 'Saturday Night' (which was never released in the UK) but I think that was the high point of British glam in the U.S. chart. Actually, I'm not sure if the Bay City Rollers count as glam. I also know that T.Rex's 'Get It On' was a Top 10 hit but any more than that I can't remember :)

Martinex1 said...

I missed the curve a bit on glam. I heard the music but somehow missed the visuals until much later. Always been a Bowie fan; lots of good music there. I liked Roxy Music (I think they are considered glam). Ultravox? Some of my younger friends followed Adam Ant. To me the lines were very blurred.

Edo Bosnar said...

Ha! The Bay City Rollers. I don't think they count as glam, but man, did I love them from ages 5-7.
J.A., Sweet had a lot of catchy tunes. My personal favorite of theirs has always been Burn on the Flame.

And HB, as I recall, Bowie's penchant for dressing in stylish women's clothing lasted well into and even slightly after the glam years. I remember he appeared on SNL in the late '70s, and wore a very tasteful woman's business suit for one of his numbers.

Martinex1 said...

Didn't the Bay City Rollers have a short lived Saturday morning show here? I seem to remember it coming on late in the morning; it was kind of a Monkees like thing. Is Brian Eno glam? Todd Rundgren?

Karen said...

I thought Sweet's Desolation Boulevard was pretty brilliant, but is that considered post-glam?

I love Hunky Dory, more than Ziggy even. A lot of great, quiet stuff on that one, like the Bewlay Brothers. Bowie was constantly re-inventing himself long before Madonna -or perhaps more accurately, he was finding new characters to play.

Has anyone seen the film Velvet Goldmine? I know it is probably 15 years old or so. It was based somewhat on Bowie, heavily fictionalized. Had Christian Bale in it. One of the few films I can think of that was focused on the glam rock era.

Edo Bosnar said...

Martinex, there was indeed a Bay City Rollers show on Saturday mornings. It was a Sid and Marty Krofft production. It came too late for me - I remember watching bits of it and cringing, because by that time my Rollers phase had passed.

Humanbelly said...

I guess w/ the Bay City Rollers, if you ticked off a list of Glam Rock traits, they technically fall under that heading. . . but geesh. . . really? Again. . . "Things I just don't get--"

Couldn't stand 'em when they were indeed popular here in the states. They always struck me as a Most Likely to Guest Star On PATRIDGE FAMILY-type group. Maybe for an edgy "Glam Rock" episode, say. Danny in platform shoes; Keith in a purple Ziggy wig. . .


Martinex1 said...

Edo, thank you for jogging my memory. Now I remember the Bay City Rollers interacted with HR Puffenstuff characters and other Krofft characters and introduced segments etc. Weird.

The Prowler said...

"You know, it's just that people like this... you know... they get all they want so they really don't understand, you know... about a life like Frank's. I mean, when you've loved and lost the way Frank has, then you, uh, you know what life's about."

I've always felt glam's contribution was more to the style of rock than being a style of rock. Setting a style for the performing musician as much or more so than grunge meant wearing flannel. And now for a comment so far off the reservation I'm riding circles around a small outnumbered group of white men: back during the 90s, there was a character on AS THE WORLD TURNS who was supposed to rock and roll bad boy. Long hair, leather jacket and jeans. During one of the episodes he sang a song for the young kids in the basement club there in town and I could feel, as he grabbed his nylon string guitar and croon out his little ditty, that for me, at that moment, was the Day The Music Died. (!!!!)

Since I'm already out here: Did anyone catch the Nightly Show last night? The panel discussed comics and race. I guess they're just trying to catch up with BAB!?!

(Yeah, I believe in the underdog,
Who chases dreams and breaks down walls,
The shy kid who gets the prom queen,
Who’s never been the star of anything.
And those two lovers hitched at city hall,
They’ve got each other, so they’ve got it all,
Call me a dreamer, say I’m a little naive,
Oh, but I believe in the underdog).

Doug said...

There have been almost 150 comments thus far this week at the BAB.

Chatty bunch, eh?

Carry on.


Anonymous said...

Did Rod Stewart count as glam ? If so he'd count as the most successful glam act to cross the Atlantic.

Humanbelly said...

That's a really good question. I wonder if that's more a case of the mainstream embracing some of the trappings and style of Glam-- thereby sort of taking its edge away. . . ?


david_b said...

Colin, don't know about Rod..., I typically think of glam as some form of excessive makeup and outlandish outfits (...besides vomit-inducing loud Scottish plaid.., hello Bay City Rollers..).

I'd say Mick Jagger had his 'glam period' to compete with the likes of Elton, David and ol' Alice circa 1973-75.

Macca did as well at the time to a lesser degree (mercifully..)

SteveDoesComics said...

Re: the lip-synching. Most British music clips from the 1970s come from Top of the Pops. Top of the Pops had two problems as regards live music.

The first was that the Musicians Union insisted that all bands re-record their hits with the BBC Orchestra in order to keep the orchestra in work. So the acts weren't only lip-synching, they weren't even lip-synching to their own record but were doing it to the BBC Orchestra's cover version of their record. As far as I'm aware, only the vocalist was allowed to be on the new version.

The practice reached its nadir when the BBC Orchestra made total mess-ups of trying to play Reggae or Disco which they were pathologically incapable of playing. Acts like ABBA, Wings, the Clash and Kate Bush all famously refused to appear on the show because of it.

Even after the union rule was abolished, the other problem was that, because Top of the Pops played records that were going up the charts and new entries, they had to wait for that week's chart to be announced then book the acts at the last minute and get them in to record in a hurry, ready for broadcast. With eight or nine late bookings to fit into a half hour show, There was no time for soundchecks or to get equipment set up, so it was faster to just have them turn up and lip-synch.

On shows like The Old Grey Whistle Test, which wasn't chart reliant, acts always performed live.

As for Glam, I loved it. It was the big thing when I was first becoming aware of music, and the charts were filled with the likes of the Sweet, T-Rex, Gary Glitter, the Glitter Band, Alvin Stardust, Suzi Quatro, Wizzard, et al. I must confess that, at the time, I was unaware of Bowie. I think I only first heard his music in the mid 70s when the whole Glam era had pretty much died down.

In the UK, the biggest Glam act were Slade who, ironically, had about as much glamour as a gang of bricklayers. Then again, thinking about it, most Glam acts had about as much glamour as a gang of bricklayers. Bolan and Bowie were the only ones I can think of who had actually any kind of air of glamour about them at all. The rest were all clearly people who'd feel very much at home in northern working men's clubs, sandwiched inbetween ventriloquists and impressionists.

Dr. Oyola said...

I think of Glam as having the over the top hair, make-up outfits that bend gender conventions while expressing a world-weariness that would transform into the "No Future" attitude of punk.

I love T-Rex and David Bowie. FOREVER.

Some "glam" acts I think adopted the surface sheen without the proto-nihilist attitude - but that happens in all genres. Kind of like how Billy Idol "looks' punk, but is just really bad pop in disguise. Lord, he is SOOOO terrible.

Doug said...

Hating on the snarl, Osvaldo?


Anonymous said...

Bowie's 70s stuff was great...I like it better than his later stuff. I like T-Rex, and Sweet had some good songs.

Do New York Dolls count as glam? Their first (studio) album was great.

Mike Wilson

Edo Bosnar said...

Oh, yeah, it's nice that Suzi Quatro got a few mentions. She did some really cool stuff, and I like her "pre-history" with the Pleasure Seekers as well. It's too bad most people in the US only know her as Leather Tuscadero from Happy Days.

Karen said...

It's kind of hard to discuss glam without talking about the gender bending, isn't it? I mean, my first introduction to Bowie was via some prime time news show which seemed to focus almost entirely on his appearance and stage act, and the "wild look" of his fans. I was pretty young -8? - but I recall being fascinated, just because all the adults seemed revolted!

There were a lot of acts that blurred the lines of masculinity and femininity, and in some ways it seemed a natural progression of the sixties 'free love' ideal. But it was too much for many. I think though that a lot of glam acts were successful with young girls because it made the guys on stage less threatening, sexually; it's the whole "Non-Threatening Teenage Boys" thing that was lampooned on the Simpsons so well. Legolas, anyone?

SteveDoesComics said...

It's interesting, Karen, because in Britain there'd always been a long tradition of male entertainers dressing up as women, going all the way back to Shakespeare, so I don't remember that side of it ever being particularly controversial in the UK. We'd all grown up with drag acts like Danny La Rue and the somewhat nightmarish Old Mother Riley being seen as mainstream entertainment for all the family. In comparison to that, the gender-bending side of Glam seemed quite restrained.

ColinBray said...

Agreed Karen, glam was when musicians who otherwise looked plain at best realised that a bit of makeup and sparkle got them more girls than they ever thought possible.

A lot of glam was musically about rock and roll nostalgia, created in some cases through the prism of knowing art-school irony. In my opinion the most wonderfully crafted example of this combination was the first Roxy Music album.

Many of the glam musicians were in their mid-late 20s when they broke it big. Most had moved through various musical tribes over the previous 10 years from rock and roll to beat groups to blues revivalists to mods to hippies and back again.

As such most of these musicians were opportunists and just grabbed the next wave started by Bowie, Roxy and Bolan. But comments here citing the longer term influence of glam on style, attitudes to masculinity etc are spot on - glam was pretty much the only thing the early punks admitted to being an influence.

Oh, and speaking as an old punk, Bowie changed my life too :)

ColinBray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Karen, on the "free love" aspect, its maybe worth mentioning that Bowie and T-Rex both emerged from the 60s underground scene and the early free festivals.
Seeing as you asked about it, Velvet Goldmine seemed like a bit of a confused mess to me. And I really couldn't take Ewan McGregor seriously as Iggy Pop. Worth a look, but I reckon its one to catch when it turns up on tv rather than seek out.


ColinBray said...

Oh, and incidentally, worth noting that glam style was influenced by American superhero comics. To the extent that in 1971 Bowie had a super short lived band called Hype in which the members would come on stage dressed as super heroes.

And what else was Ziggy Stardust but a rock and roll super hero with Bowie as his off-stage alter-ego?

Anonymous said...

Rod Stewart just kinda looked glam, like the Babys.
I really dug Sweet. The opening to "Fox on the Run" just kills.
Abba was a little glam, at first.

Redartz said...

Listened to Bowie and the Sweet , but at the time I really didn't connect the Glam movement. Yet a few years later, I really got caught up in glam's descendants: Adam and the Ants, Duran Duran, etc...

Unknown said...

Adam Ant and Ultravox (with Midge Ure) were really New Romantic (Ultravox were probably New Wave before that which was the style after punk and Adam Ant was Punk pre his success) - I love Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and Hunky Dory , the latter which seems to be considered Bowie;s best having been voted the 2nd best LP of all time in a recent NME poll . Ahh the Bay City Rollers, Scotlands most successful band,( how sad for my country :)

John Pitt said...

I loved all the glam music, and, as I have come in late, I simply list my top 15 glam acts:-
1. Slade
2. Marc Bolan / T. Rex
3. David Bowie
4. Rod Stewart / Faces
5. Queen
6. Roy Wood / Wizard
7. Suzi Quatro
8. Abba
9. Elton John
10. Alice Cooper
11. Bryan Ferry / Roxy Music
12. The Sweet
13. Gary Glitter ( before we knew he was a peado! ) / Glitter Band
14. Mud
15. Alvin Stardust

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