No, not that T-Rex
Yeah, that T-Rex
This is a post about Glam Rock, the first in occasional series about the history of rock music. Actually, I've started with one of the most difficult facets of Rock history to describe, as Glam is hard to pin down. Sure the style isn't difficult to describe:
Thank you David Bowie, now go re-invent yourself.
But musically, it's somewhat difficult to describe. If you visit Allmusic.com (I do from time to time) you will find this:
Glam rock was fairly simple, crunchy guitar rock put across with outrageous theatricality. Most of the music was unabashedly catchy, with melodies drawn from teenage bubblegum pop and hip-shaking rhythms from early rock & roll. But those innocent-sounding influences were belied by the delivery, which was all campy, glitzy showmanship and sexuality. In fact, one of the main reasons glam never caught on in the U.S. was that glam artists intentionally played around with gender conventions, dressing themselves up in outlandish, androgynous costumes and makeup.
This is basically true, but I think they get something fundamental wrong: that is, Glam Rock was in many ways the first revival Rock music ever. To understand, you have to re-visit 1970 (when Glam started; ended 1975). Rock music had a through-line from 1956- 1970, and then it exploded and went in many different directions. But most of the directions were getting heavy, serious, complicated. You had Heavy Metal, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult and others; you had the increasing complexity of mainstream bands like the Beatles and the Stones, you had the beginnings of Prog Rock, (Genesis, Yes, King Crimson) which aimed to bring classical composition and 30 minute songs (not jams) to rock music, you had overblown bands like Emerson Lake & Palmer (largely forgotten now) with over-blown over-orchestrated and over-full-of-itself music.
Basically, everything had gotten, too serious, too heavy. I believe that this song encapsulates the desire of Glam bands to recapture the simple essence and immediate appeal of earlier rock music (please ignore the especially bad British teeth on display). Anyway, it's easier to listen to than explain, and this playlist should work quite well. To me (at its best) Glam Rock was like a sloppy kiss from a drunk girl you barely know at a party, cheap, a bit tawdry, but a lot of fun.
Set Me Free / Sweet
48 Crash / Suzi Quatro
20th Century Boy / T-Rex
Queen Bitch / David Bowie
All the Way to Memphis / Mott the Hoople
Gudbuy T’Jane / Slade
No You Don’t / Sweet
Virginia Plain / Roxy Music
Blockbuster (bonus track) / Sweet
Metal Guru / T-Rex
Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide / David Bowie
All The Young Dudes / Mott The Hoople
My Friend Stan / Slade
AC-DC / Sweet
Hang On To Yourself / David Bowie
Coz I Luv You / Slade
Life on Mars? / David Bowie
Telegram Sam / T-Rex
Ballrooom Blitz (bonus track) / Sweet
Cum On Feel The Noize / Slade
Cleveland Rocks / Mott the Hoople
Suffragette City / David Bowie
Roxy Music certainly looks the part, and they may have 2 or 3 songs that could be described as "Glam", but they are really much more of an art-rock band than anything else.
Again, the fashion says Glam, but the music says Punk, one of New York's first proto-punk bands, the Dolls.
Sorry this isn't about Friday the 13th, but Rishi bumped this yesterday.
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