Any Major Glam
Glam rock ruled the British charts for a few short years, roughly from 1972-75. At its peak, in 1973, two exponents of the genre battled it out for the Christmas #1 spot with seasonal singles; Slade’s “Merry X-Mas Everybody” topped the charts; Wizzard’s superior “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” stalled at #4.
Glam acts like Slade, T.Rex and Sweet influenced other musicians, in music or in style. The New Romantics might have cited Roxy Music and David Bowie — the arty wing of Glam to Slade’s pub anthems — as primary influences, but for many it was T. Rex’s Marc Bolan who defined the essential pop star.
Before too long any number of pop acts got in on the act, and lines blurred. Even Elton John, hitherto a sensitive singer-songwriter, dabbled in glam.
Glam can mean different things to different people (and to Americans, it might mean 1980s rock). The purists will bristle at some inclusions in the compilation; others might ask where The Rubettes or even the Bay City Rollers are. At its essence glam is as much attitude as the four-to-the-floor rock whose production values served as an enculturation of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound.
Glam rock served a cultural function by challenging prevailing mores. It made mainstream what was unthinkable in early 1970s Britain (or elsewhere): men with make-up and girly hair in outlandish shiny outfits — and a leather-clad woman who kicked serious ass — who were not identifiably gay.
One would hesitate, though, to describe Noddy Holder as a social revolutionary. Above all, glam was fun, not rebellion. The music was joyous, not angry. It was an antidote to the gravity of Led Zep’s worthy heavy rock and the endless instrumental doodling of the burgeoning prog rock movement. Like their album rock contemporaries, the glam rockers tended to have long hair, but, by Jove, The Sweet were much more fun. And it is still much greater fun today, which is why I’m more likely to play “The Ballroom Blitz” or any of Slade’s dyslexic titles than anything by boring old Led Zepellin or, have mercy, Emerson Lake and bloody Palmer.
As you peruse the 20 tracks — of course it’s 20; all compilations in the 1970s had 20 songs — you will note some omissions. Most of these come down to subjective preference; one I excluded on purpose. I don’t think Gary Glitter needs to be written out of Glam history for being a despicable man; after all, we keep Churchill in World War II history even though he was a ghastly character. And Glitter produced one of my absolute favourite glam anthems (“I Love You Love Me”), but to listen to him means to think of his crimes. I prefer not to.
So here are 20 glam anthems, covering the years from 1971 to 1975. As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R (even with the bonus track), and includes home made-up covers. PW in comments.
1. The Sweet – Teenage Rampage (1974, UK #2)
2. Suzi Quatro – Can The Can (1973, #1)
3. Mud – Dyna-mite (1973, #4)
4. Slade – Gudbuy T’Jane (1972, #2)
5. Pilot – Magic (1974, #11)
6. Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel – Come Up And See Me (1975, #1)
7. Cozy Powell – Na Na Na (1974, #10)
8. Roxy Music – Do The Strand (1973)
9. David Bowie – Rebel Rebel (1974, #5)
10. T. Rex – Jeepster (1971, #2)
11. Jet – My River (1975)
12. Chris Spedding – Motor Bikin’ (1975, #14)
13. Arrows – I Love Rock ‘n Roll (1975)
14. Wizzard – Angel Fingers (A Teen Ballad) (1973, #1)
15. David Essex – Gonna Make You A Star-old (1974, #1)
16. The Glitter Band – Angel Face (1974, #4)
17. Elton John – Pinball Wizard (1974, #7 in ’76)
18. Mott The Hoople – All The Way From Memphis (1973, #10)
19. Geordie – All Because Of You (1973, #6)
20. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band – Hammer Song (1972)
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