All the Young Dudes: A Glam Rock Retrospective, Part 1, 1972-1973
Click below on the streaming service of your choice to listen to the playlist as your read along.
Rock n’ roll started in the late 1950s and grew through the 1960s, forming the basis of what we now refer to as classic rock. Male dominated, macho, and straightforward in its presentation, the focus was on the music, musicianship, and aside from breaking away from the suits and ties of past musical generations, hadn’t moved much beyond the jeans and t-shirt look with maybe a few beads. R&B acts liked to do it up with flashy outfits, and the longer hair on men ventured toward a less conservative look, but overall the rock industry was pretty staid. As the 1970s arrived the liberal strains in western societies made their way into music and the rock industry was broken open in both sound and look. This is an examination of glam music, the most vibrant and important of the ensuing era of change in the rock world.
The modern rock era started in the late 1970s and most of the content of Ceremony focuses on artists from that genre. I will soon get into exactly what I mean by ‘modern rock’ and how it started and grew (though I often refer to the trends and progenitors within Ceremony’s profiles), but to cover its start it’s important to understand its foundation, what came before it. Rarely do new trends and movements start from nothing, there are always evolutionary factors and catalysts that bring about changes that, once fully evident, seem sudden in their arrival. In order to understand where modern rock came from you have to look at glam rock and all that it did to the music world during its original heyday.
This playlist will make it evident that glam rock artists had much in common with each other musically but also explored a great variety of styles. Glam didn’t just launch modern rock but had huge influences on subsequent waves of heavy metal, rock, pop music and disco. It won’t always be obvious why some songs and artists are included and how they influenced modern rock, but I’ve chosen to cover the glam era rather extensively by including the lesser known acts as well as the big ones. Therefore this is such a long playlist – over 5 hours! – that I’ve split it into two posts. Whether you listen to it start to finish (which would be wonderful, since I’ve really been digging it as I’ve built and written this playlist, having been exposed to a lot of music and stories I didn’t know before) or skim it and pull from it what you like, either way it’s a great list to hear glam in all its facets.
The Playlist - Part 1
Donovan - Changes
T. Rex - Bang A Gong (Get It On)
T. Rex - Telegram Sam
Gary Glitter - Rock n' Roll (Part 1)
David Bowie - Soul Love
Roxy Music - Ladytron
Blackfoot Sue - Standing in the Road
Mott the Hoople - All the Young Dudes
Wizzard - Ball Park Incident
Lou Reed - Satellite of Love
Hello - C'mon
Magic Tramps - Magic in The Moonlight
Silverhead - Long Legged Lisa
The Sweet - Block Buster!
Sparks - Girl from Germany
Iggy and The Stooges - Raw Power
Slade - Cum on Feel the Noize
Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar Babies
Roxy Music - Do the Strand
David Bowie - The Jean Genie
Gary Glitter - Do You Wanna Touch Me? (Oh Yeah!)
Alvin Stardust - My Coo Ca Choo
T. Rex - 20th Century Boy
Jobriath - Take Me I'm Yours
Queen - Keep Yourself Alive
Elton John - Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting
Mott the Hoople - All the Way from Memphis
New York Dolls - Personality Crisis
David Essex - Rock On
The Sweet - The Ballroom Blitz
Bryan Ferry - A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
Suzi Quatro - Glycerine Queen
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - The Faith Healer
Geordie - Hope You Like It
Silverhead - Hello New York
Glam was one of the most dominant strains of rock over the early 1970s in the UK, with limited success in Europe, Australia, and Canada. While many artists and songs are among the best known and most revered rock songs of all time, outside their context it might not always be obvious that they were glam (though in video form it’s usually hard to miss). Many major acts of that period dabbled in glam and therefore, while not considered glam artists from a career perspective, certainly contributed to the genre’s style, sound, exposure, and growth.
Glam was best known for its look. ‘Glam’ was short for glamour, so the identification of the genre was based more on the fashion and look than the music, which is why we’ll hear different sounds within this playlist. It was a mix of androgyny, flashy and often outlandish clothing and costumes, make-up, and big and often highly styled and coloured hair. It was also referred to as glitter rock. While some artists could be sexually ambivalent in their look and behaviour, many still maintained a very masculine posture despite long hair, make-up, and silk or satin and often revealing outfits.
Glam was also male dominated, and while a few women participated in it, the overriding male perspective was a driving factor in the sound and style. I suppose women done up in make-up and flashy outfits was the norm, so maybe glam was male by necessity, though musically that was less true. Glam music was muscular, guitar-driven, and usually featured a solid rhythm foundation with solid basslines and thick, often lively drumming. Harmonies and falsetto vocals were common, and while solos could be found throughout, most of the music was a full band sound with all the instruments working into the sound. Keyboards were not uncommon but not generally a central component. The songs very often drew from the pop sounds of the 1950s and early 1960s and as a result many songs were short and pop sounding. It also evolved out of the psychedelic rock and early heavy rock sounds of the late ‘60s. Thus, sometimes glam tunes were lengthened and some musical exploration occurred. In that regard glam butted against the borders of progressive (prog) rock and there were several crossover bands. And while R&B and blues styles underwrote most of the music, the heavier sound distanced glam from those origins and set itself apart from artists of the same period that were working more purely in those styles but in contemporary forms.
Finally, there was a connection between the music and the look, as drama and creative presentation were all part of the genre and that ran through its appearance and sound. Glam was part of a societal awakening in the 1970s that had started in the ‘60s and took hold in the new decade in the forms of women’s liberation, the sexual revolution, and a focus on individuality and freedom. Glam challenged sexual mores and gender conventions and its confrontational posture often translated into a trashy and irreverent flaunting of the outlandish and unconventional in order to challenge what was considered the normal and expected. It was natural that it would adapt cabaret and theatrical styles and meld those influences into the rock sound, which almost demanded the camp and showy costumes to match the music. So the significance of glam derives both from its look and its sound, a detail that should not be lost and will be made clear through this examination. Perhaps because of this the YouTube playlist is the best way to take in this profile, where by necessity and for its fun I have heavily skewed to live performances to show the acts in all their glam glory. Your choice, of course, but let’s get into it.
Changes \ Donovan (1970) – The focus of this playlist is the main glam era of 1972 to 1976. But as much as modern rock didn’t arrive out of nowhere, neither did glam, so we’ll start with a couple of pre-cursors to the main era. Glam eventually took on a global reach of influence, but its start and central locale was always the UK. Donovan was a Scottish singer that had been one of the dominant artists of the UK ‘60s rock scene with hits like “Sunshine Superman,” “Mellow Yellow,” and “The Hurdy Gurdy Man.” In 1970 he parted with his producer, Mickie Most, and returned to the UK after having lived in the US. He formed a new band, Open Road, and recorded an album of the same name that explored different musical styles. “Changes” had a catchy, pop-rock vibe that moved away from the psychedelic strains of his recent work. The lyrics encouraged optimism in the face of the many challenges in the world at the time and set up the political themes for the album.
While the Open Road album marked a change for Donovan and hinted at the glam musical style to follow, he would go on to explore glam music more fully in his 1973 album, Cosmic Wheels, which unfortunately is hard to find on streaming services. Many a glam and modern rock act would cite Donovan as an influence, especially during the 1990s retro-rock wave. In 1990, the Butthole Surfers would cover “The Hurdy Gurdy Man” and the Happy Mondays included a song, “Donovan,” on their album Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches, a track that doesn’t explicitly suggest a relation to the singer, but it did include a reference to a classic glam song (to be heard further on in this playlist), “Come up and see me make me smile.”
Bang A Gong (Get It On) (1971); Telegram Sam (1972) \ T. Rex – T. Rex was the biggest and most identifiable act of the glam era and will receive more attention on this playlist than any other. It started in 1967 as the psychedelic folk-rock duo of Marc Bolan and Steve Porter (later Steve Peregrin Took) under the name Tyrannosaurus Rex. After a switch from Took to Mickey Finn, the new duo shifted to a heavier, electric sound on the fifth album, 1970’s T. Rex, which also saw them adopt the shortened form of their name for the first time. As they toured for that album they expanded to a four-piece. The new, larger, more powerful and accessible sound drew more fans to the band and their profile grew as the single “Hot Love” delivered their first #1 single, though Bolan’s increasingly sexualized lyrics and appearance alienated his former psychedelic audience. In March 1971, T. Rex appeared on the show Top of the Pops and Bolan had glitter applied under his eyes. This performance is considered the first moment of glitter rock and the birth of glam.
The following album released in the fall of 1971, Electric Warrior, completed the conversion from psychedelic folk-rockers and helped establish the new sound that would be associated with glam. The single, “Get It On” brought them a second #1 single and their first top ten hit in the US, where it needed to be renamed, “Bang A Gong (Get It On)” to differentiate it from another song at the time titled “Get It On.” It was a fantastic song that captured the power-pop vibe combined with a psychedelic rock sound and with a distinct, falsetto-tinged chorus. This song would be revived in popularity in 1985 when it was covered by supergroup Power Station, who had a top ten hit with it in the US. Electric Warrior also included another great glam rock song, “Jeepster,” that would also get a new wave cover by Altered Images as a B-side to their 1981 single, “Happy Birthday.”
In July the following year T. Rex released its next album, The Slider, and the first single was, “Telegram Sam.” Modern rock fans will know this well from the 1980 cover by Bauhaus. The song, featuring a memorable guitar riff, was another #1 hit for T. Rex and continued their run as one of the most popular acts of the era while also expanding the audience and influence of their showy appearance and psychedelic, power-pop form of rock.
Rock n’ Roll (Part 1) \ Gary Glitter (1972) – Paul Gadd was a singer that performed under the name Paul Raven in the ‘60s but had failed to score a hit despite being produced by The Beatles’ George Martin. In 1971, seeing the rising interest in glam, he dove into the style and gave himself a name to match, Gary Glitter. In 1972 he worked a 15-minute psych-rock jam into two, three-minute parts and scored himself a hit single, with Part 1 on side A and Part 2 on side B. “Rock n’ Roll” reached #2 in the UK and the top ten in countries around the world. Part 2 has been adopted as a rallying, party song in frat houses and sports stadiums around the world thanks to its psychedelic groove and sing-a-long chorus.
Soul Love \ David Bowie (1972) – Perhaps few did as much for glam as David Bowie. By 1971 his career was growing but his androgynous look, as seen on the covers of his 1970 and 1971 albums, The Man Who Sold The World and Hunky Dory, was setting him outside the core audience of his folk-rock style. Further at play was a new band he’d formed for those albums with Mick Ronson on guitar and Mick Woodmansey on drums, who embraced Bowie’s avant garde look and wore costumes on stage. In that regard Bowie was one of the first to develop the glam look. In the mix also was Tony Visconti, who had produced two of Bowie’s albums, played some bass for him, but was also the producer for all of T. Rex’s albums. He was out of the picture with Bowie by the time of Hunky Dory, but undoubtedly some of his influenced helped Bowie in his transition to the glam sound. The connection between Bowie and T. Rex ran deeper as Marc Bolan had also worked as a session guitarist for Bowie. In 1971 Bolan was enjoying far more success than Bowie, spurring a light rivalry.
Assisted by the creative input from his wife, Angela, and drawing inspiration from enigmatic artists like Iggy Pop of The Stooges and Lou Reed of Velvet Underground, Bowie developed a new look to match his new sound, which with the help of his band was shifting away from the folk side of his recent albums into a harder edged, modern psych-rock sound. In February 1972 he debuted Ziggy Stardust, which was a concept show that included him as the titular character with his band, The Spiders from Mars.
Ziggy is one of the most famous characters in rock history and for good reason. The full adoption of a clothing, hair and make-up style for the band set-up around aliens created a new brand of rock music that blended the borders between rock concert and theatre. Ziggy’s androgyny further bended the expectations of a rock star. What mattered most though, was that the album that came out in June of 1972, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, was incredible. Mixing Bowie’s great R&B and soul melodies, light folk accents, and the hard rock guitar from Ronson, made for an exciting and irresistible mix. “Soul Love” revealed these elements in their glory, as just one example of the many stellar tracks on the album, not the least of which were the title track and “Suffragette City,” oddly of which neither were singles from the album, which instead were “Starman” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide.” However, the album was a complete work and not singles driven, a dynamic not uncommon in glam rock.
Ladytron \ Roxy Music (1972) – Along with T. Rex and Bowie we arrive at another leading act of the glam era and another hugely influential act on the modern rock genre. It was formed by singer Bryan Ferry in 1970 and included a line-up that would become, in retrospect, an all-star act that included Brian Eno on keyboards, Andy Mackay on sax, Phil Manzanera on guitar, and Paul Thompson on drums. Their self-titled debut in 1972 defied description, earning a generic categorization as art rock. Their look wasn’t as outrageous as most other glam acts but rather exhibited a more sophisticated look with Ferry usually wearing suits and slicked back hair (though Eno could display some showier styles). They still shocked, however, with their typically sexually charged album covers. The debut album’s cover was a bit milder, with a ‘50s style shot of model Kari-Ann Muller.
Produced by Peter Sinfield of prog rock act, King Crimson, the album was experimental and creative for a rock record. It didn’t include singles, with “Virginia Plain” being released separately (though included in the US and later releases of the LP), but did include many excellent and soon to be legendary glam tracks, “Ladytron,” “If There Is Something,” and “2HB.” Their creative playing and intoxicating mixes, especially with Eno’s keyboard elements and Mackay’s sultry sax accents (or oboe flourishes, of all things), combined with Ferry’s rich and smooth vocals made the album a classic. It would take time though to reach that status, so at the time it just cracked the top 10 in the UK and put Roxy Music on the map.
Standing in the Road \ Blackfoot Sue (1972) – The rise in glam naturally brought about a wave of new bands. Blackfoot Sue was a British quartet formed by twin brothers, David and Tom Farmer. “Standing in the Road” was to be their only hit, reaching #4 in the UK in 1972 prior to the release of their first album, Nothing to Hide, in 1973. Their sound was consistent with glam while their look was more of the classic rock vein of jeans and long hair.
All the Young Dudes \ Mott the Hoople (1972) – David Bowie’s influence wasn’t just through his own music, but through his extracurricular writing and producing. The first instance of that was writing a song and producing an album for Mott the Hoople, a rock band that featured Ian Hunter on vocals and piano and Mick Ralphs on guitar (who would help form the band, Bad Company, in 1973). The band had been around since 1966 and was waning, on the precipice of a break-up. Bowie was a fan and first offered them the song, “Suffragette City,” which they refused (what were they thinking?). They did accept “All the Young Dudes” and it became their signature hit, released in July of 1972 and reaching #3 in the UK and the top 40 in the US. With Bowie producing and his guitarist Mick Ronson also contributing, Mott the Hoople adopted the richer glam sound and dressed up their look to became one of the acts most identified with glam.
Ball Park Incident \ Wizzard (1972) – This band was an example of the crossover elements between glam and prog rock. Roy Wood had been the driving force behind a popular British rock band in the 1960s, The Move. In 1970 he and two fellow members of The Move, Jeff Lynne and Bev Bevan, formed Electric Light Orchestra. Wood would only stay with ELO through their first, self-titled album in 1971 (though he would contribute to two songs on the follow-up album), which was a success driven by the single, “10538 Overture.”
Wood left ELO due to differences with Jeff Lynne, who would take a forceful and creative hand to ELO and to huge success over the next decade. Wood took ELO band members Hugh McDowell (cello) and Bill Hunt (keyboards and French horn) into his new band, Wizzard. Roy would wear warpaint and costumes and the band’s performances would include mimes and various dancers to create a distinctive glam show. The music eschewed the complicated and classical structures of ELO and opted for a more straight-ahead rock sound, scoring their first hit with “Ball Park Incident,” released late in ’72 and popular in early ’73. They would follow that with two #1 singles in 1973, “See My Baby Jive” and “Angel Fingers (A Teen Ballad)” and a holiday hit, “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday.” They wouldn’t equal that success thereafter and, unable to maintain the costs of their large line-up and a propensity to smash their equipment during performances, broke up in 1975.
Satellite of Love \ Lou Reed (1972) – Bowie was also busy in ’72 helping former Velvet Underground singer and guitarist, Lou Reed. The singer had released his first solo album in the summer of ’72 but it didn’t do very well. He recorded his next album with David Bowie and Mick Ronson as producers (Ronson also arranged the strings) and landed one of the top albums of the era, Transformer, released in November 1972. Always experimental and coming out of the outrageous and sexually complicated scene of Andy Warhol’s Factory, a hot bed of the ‘60s New York art scene, Reed was a natural fit for glam and became one of the first and most notable Americans to embrace the genre.
Transformer is best known for the iconic songs, “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Perfect Day,” but also included “Satellite of Love,” the LP’s second single and a #1 single in the US. A subtler song for glam, it still mixed a full sound and Reed’s usually distinctive vocals and phrasing. It was a rare glam success in the US, perhaps helped by Reed’s subtler look.
C’mon \ Hello (1972) – Started in 1969 by Bob Bradbury, the band evolved as a backing act for singer Caroline Hall before going on their own. The line-up included Jeff Allen, brother of Chris Cross, the future bassist of new wave synth band, Ultravox. “C’mon” was one of two singles released in 1972 that failed to click with audiences, but their outfits and sound put them in the glam scene. They would have success later, so we’ll get back to them further on.
Magic in the Moonlight \ Magic Tramps (1972 – not released until 2005) – According to their website, Magic Tramps was formed in Hollywood in the late ‘60s as an “experimental, instrumental, underground theatrical rock band” called Messiah. Formed by Sesu Coleman on drums, Lary Chaplan on violin, and Young Blood on guitar, the band was an improvisational, instrumental act. Through Andy Warhol contacts in the film industry, the band brought Factory member Eric Emerson on board in 1969. Eric had appeared in Warhol films like Chelsea Girls, Heat, and Lonesome Cowboy and brought the Warholian avant garde and androgynous style to the band, now branded as The Magic Tramps.
The band relocated to New York in 1971 and was one of the first to appear at the club CBGB’s and were a regular act at Max’s Kansas City – two locations central to the birth of modern rock. They were a fixture of the ‘70s New York glam scene and at one point included Chris Stein, the future founder of Blondie. Eventually Emerson would leave the band and it would undergo various line-up changes. It’s not clear when “Magic in the Moonlight” was recorded but is likely from their ’71-’73 period when they were most active and being pursued, opting to decline several record contracts. Their music wasn’t released until 2005.
Long Legged Lisa \ Silverhead (1972) – This band was yet another British act that had a short run, releasing two albums over a three year span. Their style was rawer and less power oriented, resembling more the standard rock of the era. They had a penchant for catchy rockers though, this 1972 eponymous album was a fun listen throughout, and of course had a flair that situated them in the glam category.
Block Buster! \ The Sweet (1973) – The arrival of 1973 saw glam having ascended from a fringe trend to delivering some of the most successful rock acts in the British music scene as well as some international stars, and its growth was exploding as it entered the second full year as an identifiable sub-genre of rock. One of the next big glam acts to arrive and thrive was The Sweet, formed as Sweetshop in 1968 as a light, bubble-gum pop band that a few hits over 1971 and 1972 while gradually moving into a heavier rock sound to underpin their higher pitched vocals and harmonies, now becoming a staple of glam rock.
Working with famed writers Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, the band developed their new sound and success over a series of singles in 1972 and 1973. “Wig-Wam Bam” in late ’72 was a combination of their pop style with a heavier guitar edge and brought them their third UK top ten single (several of their songs had hit #1 in European countries as well as South Africa). “Block Buster!” (often written as “Blockbuster”) in January 1973 was the first to adhere to the solid glam rock sound. It brought them their first UK #1 hit.
Girl from Germany \ Sparks (1973) – So far we’ve only seen one American artist on this playlist, Lou Reed, who was being helped by Brits David Bowie and Mick Ronson. This is a similar story as brothers Russell and Ron Mael were part of the prolific ‘60s rock scene in Los Angeles and formed the band Halfnelson in 1968. They released a self-titled album in 1971 produced by Todd Rundgren, which didn’t do well. They changed their name to Sparks and re-released the album under that name and with new artwork, doing a little better.
The next album in January 1973 was A Woofer in Tweeter’s Clothing, which also wasn’t doing well until the band relocated to London and took up a residency at the Marquee Club. The receptive audience to their glam sound, complete with falsetto vocals, built them a following. So, they were an American band that achieved glam success in England. Though ultimately the album wouldn’t be a charting release the band was on its way to a long and varied career. “Girl from Germany” was released as a single in 1974 after the single on their next album, “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us” (which sounded more prog than glam) reached #2 in the UK, but it would still fail to chart. Personally, I think “Girl from Germany” is a great song and was ahead of its time, featuring a sonic mix of guitar and keyboards that presaged the modern rock sound.
Raw Power \ Iggy and The Stooges (1973) – Next to Bowie this might be the most influential act on this list on the forthcoming modern rock era, and the first bona fide US-based act. The Stooges were formed in 1967 and released two incredible and, eventually, influential albums, The Stooges in 1968 and Fun House in 1970. While their albums and singles didn’t chart well (or at all) their reputation grew as a hard rocking, psychedelic act and for singer Iggy Pop’s provocative performances. Iggy would smear food and blood on his chest, cut himself with glass, strip naked (or at least flash his junk), and hurl himself around the stage and into the audience with reckless abandon. Sliding into an inoperative state individually and as a band due to heroin use, they broke up in 1971.
Pop and David Bowie became friends and with Bowie’s support and encouragement re-formed Pop’s band, now identified as Iggy and The Stooges. The band recorded one more album, Raw Power, in 1973 that was produced by Bowie before breaking up again in 1974. The album moved away from the psychedelic meanderings of the prior LPs and featured a stronger, rawer sound. It is widely considered one of the earliest and most influential recordings that would inspire the punk sound a few years later and the birth of modern rock. Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain would cite Raw Power as his all-time favourite record, one of many artists to cite Iggy and his band as an influence, making Iggy a punk godfather of sorts.
The Stooges appear on some lists as a glam act due to the presence of their final album during the era’s heyday and due to Iggy’s outrageous behaviour on and off stage (he did cross dress at times). The band defied categorization and their style was very bare bones rock n’ roll as opposed to the showiness of glam. Pop was bare bones to the extent that he was often barely dressed on stage, his performances were also very sexual and he would occasionally wear make-up, so from a shock and confrontation perspective, the band was kindred to the glam acts.
Cum on Feel the Noize \ Slade (1973) – Glam had started as a rebellion against the conservative conventions of early ‘70s Britain, but by 1973 the look and sound had asserted itself as a mainstream fascination. Few exemplified this more than Slade, one of the most successful of the glam bands. They were formed in Britain in the early ‘60s and evolved through a few different acts and line-up changes before arriving in 1969 as a band called Ambrose Slade, a name derived from a secretary in their label’s A&R office who had named her handbag ‘Ambrose’ and her shoes ‘Slade.’
After an unsuccessful debut album and singles in 1969 the band shortened their name to The Slade and then just Slade. They had a #16 hit in 1971 with an energetic rocker that invited audience participation, a cover of Little Richard’s “Get Down and Get with It.” They had also shifted their look through a skinhead phase and in 1971 started to adopt a costumed glam style. They then had five consecutive top ten hits through ’71 and ’72, including three #1 singles. By 1973 they were one of the most popular glam acts which propelled their first single of that year, “Cum on Feel the Noize,” to an instant #1 spot, the first band to achieve that since The Beatles in 1969.
Their harder rocking songs and audience-friendly chant vocals not only brought them a big following but launched a legion of harder rocking acts that would lead to the heavy metal and glam metal acts of the 1980s. One of the more popular hard rock hits of the next decade was Quiet Riot’s 1983 cover of “Cum on Feel the Noize”. It reached #5 in the US and helped bring greater attention to Slade in the US where they had never fared well. It helped Slade, still going strong at that point, to achieve their only top twenty charting single ever in the US with “Run Run Away” in 1984.
Billion Dollar Babies \ Alice Cooper (1973) – Alice Cooper was originally a band out of Phoenix, Arizona called Spiders. It was formed in 1964 by high school friends Vince Furnier, Dennis Dunaway, and Glen Buxton. Relocating to Los Angeles in 1967 the band renamed themselves Alice Cooper (origins of that name vary) and expanded to a quintet. They were known for their theatrical and outrageous shows, presenting the idea of Alice as a cross-dressing, woman-killing villain. Furnier fashioned himself in the title role as a version of Bette Davis from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, wearing caked-on, smeared make-up and heavy, black eyeliner. Despite scaring most audiences they were invited to audition for Frank Zappa who signed them to a three album deal. Label mates GTO, an all-female rock act, helped Alice Cooper develop their onstage look by dressing the boys up as Barbie Dolls.
After lacklustre results form their first two albums in 1969 and 1970 the band moved to Michigan, near Furnier’s birthplace of Detroit. Their harder rocking, audacious style found more receptive audiences in the breeding ground for acts like The Stooges and The MC5. Their notoriety was also spreading after Furnier found a chicken that had made its way onto the stage during a 1969 show in Toronto (I’d like to know how that came about), and not knowing much about the animal threw it into the audience thinking it would fly or just flap about, and instead resulted in the audience ripping it apart (or so the story goes). Variations of the story evolved into Furnier decapitating it and drinking its blood. Thus, the concept of ‘shock rock’ was born.
Their next single in 1971, “I’m Eighteen,” helped the band along by reaching #21 in the US charts and pushed the album, Love It to Death, to a #35 placing in the album chart. The follow-up LP, Killer, did better by reaching #21 before the band struck it big with the title track to their fifth album, School’s Out, in 1972. The single went top ten in the US and #1 in the UK. Therefore in 1973, now in the full explosion of glam, it was serendipitous they issued their most complete and engaging album, Billion Dollar Babies. Though none of the singles charted too highly in the US (“No More Mr. Nice Guy” would do the best, reaching #25), the UK audiences embraced them sending three singles to the top ten: “Elected” (#4), “Hello Hooray” (#4), “No More Mr. Nice Guy” (#10). The final single, the title track, would only go to #57 in the US and not chart in the UK. Regardless, the album was great and a hit, going to #1 in both the US and UK – a rare cross-Atlantic glam success.
The outrageous, horror themed shows of the band became famous. They were one of the first to take the theatrical approach to such extremes and the arrival of glam only caught up to what Alice Cooper had been doing since 1968. The band released one more album in 1973, Muscle of Love (you have to shake your head at some of the titles from this era), before disbanding in 1974. In ‘75 Furnier adopted the band’s name as his own, forever more being known as Alice Cooper, under which he continued a long and successful solo career and maintained his signature, macabre look long after glam and shock rock had passed from popular consciousness. However, he and his original band were instrumental in launching a branch of heavy metal that revelled in horror themes and dark imagery.
Do the Strand \ Roxy Music (1973) – Roxy Music followed-up its debut with their second album the following year, For Your Pleasure, with a cover featuring Bryan Ferry’s girlfriend (and briefly, fiancé), model and future singer, Amanda Lear. Again, no singles were issued from the album with “Pyjamarama” put out separately as a single. “Do the Strand” was on the album and released in the US as a single. It was a song that captured their unique brand of energetic blends of rhythm and melody, this time driven by Any Mackay’s sax. The album would improve on the debut, reaching #4 in the UK and getting mild attention in the US. “Pyjamarama” was their second top 10 single in the UK. Modern rock act Psychedelic Furs covers it in their live shows.
The Jean Genie \ David Bowie (1973) – In 1973 Bowie was still going strong with Ziggy Stardust, releasing the follow-up album, Aladdin Sane, ten months later. Aladdin Sane did better, going to #1 in the UK and #17 in the US, making Bowie one of the only UK glam artists to be successful in the US. “The Jean Genie” was the lead single, released in November 1972 with the album coming out in April ’73. It reached #2 in the UK. Glam-era Bowie would be denied a #1 hit despite issuing five top ten singles between ’72 and ’74 (it would take a re-release of “Space Oddity” to do the trick in 1975). “The Jean Genie” had all the trademark glam sonic touchstones – the great guitar riff, the melodic chorus over a hypnotic, powerful rhythm, and Bowie’s dramatic, high pitched vocals and otherworldly persona.
Though Bowie’s next album, the following year’s Diamond Dogs, would see him shift away from the glam look with the retirement of the Ziggy Stardust character, the glam sound still showed up in the song, “Rebel Rebel.” He would of course go on to be one of the biggest rock stars ever, dabbling in about every genre to come along, as I explore in my profile on his career. Though he only fully lived in the glam style for a couple years (his look would always change and have a contemporary flair), he was one of the first and most prolific to embrace it and therefore had a leading role in bringing glam to the mass audiences that embraced it, not to mention the legions of singers and bands that followed his inspiration into the modern rock era. Bowie may very well be the most cited influence among modern rock artists.
Do You Wanna Touch Me? (Oh Yeah!) \ Gary Glitter (1973) – Glitter, the embodiment of glam, returned with his second album, Touch Me, in 1973. It was a sexual innuendo from start to finish from the album’s title through songs like, “Sidewalk Sinner,” “Didn’t I Do It Right,” “Come On, Come In, Get On,” and “Hard On Me.” It was a winning approach as the album reached #2 in the UK and the lead single, “Do You Wanna Touch Me?,” reached the #2 slot. His success with “Rock and Roll” was never to be repeated in the US. However, he wasn’t done yet in the UK as he would enjoy three #1 singles over ’73 and ’74 with “I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am),” “I Love You Love Me Love,” and “Always Yours.”
Gary Glitter has continued in the face of the adversity his decline brought about, a natural result when glam faded from popularity. There was no way a character so identified with a temporal genre like glam could continue to be successful when the genre declined. He overcame bankruptcy in 1977 and again in the ‘90s and went to jail for downloading child pornography in 1999. He released albums in each of the next few decades with the last being in 2001. There have been a variety of singles issued but nothing that equalled his glam zenith, and he has gotten by playing his hits and offering the nostalgia of Gary Glitter, the most illustrative of the glam performers.
My Coo Ca Choo \ Alvin Stardust (1973) – Another defining, emblematic character of the glam era was Alvin Stardust, which was also one of the more curious performers of the genre. Bernard Jewry, like Paul Gadd, had been a mildly successful singer in the ‘60s under the name Shane Fenton. He was recruited by Magnet Record’s co-founder Peter Shelley, who had written and performed under the name Alvin Stardust and released a successful single, “My Coo Ca Choo,” which reached #2 in the UK. However, not wanting to perform as Stardust, Jewry/Fenton took on the persona and, in the same way Gadd had adopted the Glitter name, rejuvenated his career by capitalizing on the glam look but with a more retro look and sound. So the recording of “My Coo Ca Choo” was Peter Shelley as Alvin Stardust, but forever after was adopted by Jewry as Stardust.
The name Alvin Stardust co-opted glam’s most iconic character, Ziggy Stardust, for the name but the character’s retro style was less alien, basing it on early ‘60s rocker Vince Taylor with sideburns and leather outfits. Likewise, Stardust’s music was solidly grounded in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, mixing rockabilly and pop with the modern rock sound and a vocal that crossed Buddy Holly with Elvis to propel the album, The Untouchable, to #4 in the UK. “Jealous Mind” was the next single and went to #1, establishing Alvin Stardust as portrayed by Bernard Jewry.
Stardust’s subsequent albums in ’74 and ’75 did progressively poorer though he resumed recording into the ‘80s, releasing two more LPs in 1981 and 1984, neither of which charted. However, he remained in the popular consciousness with a successful single in ’81, “Pretend,” that reached #4 in the UK. It was issued by legendary label Stiff Records which helped expose it to the new wave and post-punk audiences who were embracing many artists in that genre and that were building their music around updated versions of early ‘60s music styles. He also had two top ten singles in ’84 with “I Feel Like Buddy Holly” and “I Won’t run Away.” Jewry also did some acting on stage over the years and continued performing as a singer into the 2000s, always maintaining the leather-clad look of Alvin Stardust. He passed away in 2014.
20th Century Boy \ T. Rex (1973) – The third entry on this playlist from T. Rex saw them still going strong in ’73 with this non-album single released just after the issuance of their third LP as T. Rex, Tanx. “20th Century Boy” went to #3 to give the band their ninth consecutive top ten single – actually, it was the first of that run to not reach the #1 or #2 spot. The song, however, has had a long life as a favourite glam era choice for covers, having been done many times by various modern and other rock artists over the next forty years.
Tanx saw the broadening of T. Rex’s sound, adding instrumentation and showing a more varied sound than the muscular rock of their prior albums, though “20th Century Boy” remained firmly within their established glam sound. After these releases the band’s line-up starting to see changes as departures were replaced with guests and journeyman players.
Take Me I’m Yours \ Jobriath (1973) – Another rare American glam artist, Jobriath was the stage name for Bruce Campbell, a singer and piano player. One benefit of glam, limited as it was for the time, was the challenge to gender stereotypes and exposure to homosexuality. Campbell was the first openly gay rock performer to be signed to a major label, in which Geffen Records impressively pursued an aggressive promo campaign for Jobriath’s first, self-titled album in 1973. Campbell had performed in the musical Hair in Los Angeles in 1969 and had released an album that year, so the Jobriath LP was not his first; however, it was the first to embrace the glam esthetic and sound.
Despite the promo push, the album and singles didn’t catch on, failing to chart. American audiences remained resistant to glam and, oddly, UK audiences didn’t take to it either despite critical acclaim for the album. A follow-up LP in ’74, Creatures of the Street, which included contributions from Peter Frampton and John Paul Jones, also failed to take hold and nothing further was released by Jobriath. Campbell would succumb to AIDS in 1983, but the Jobriath name and music would remain an influential contributor to later modern rock acts, most notably for The Smith’s lead singer, Morrissey.
Keep Yourself Alive \ Queen (1973) – Enter into the height of the glam era one of the best known and most successful rock acts of all time, led by the irrepressible Freddie Mercury. Originating out of the band Smile, Mercury (as Forrokh ‘Freddie’ Bulsara) joined in ’70 and the band changed their name to Queen, playing a big style of rock that supported their lead singer’s energetic and charismatic personality and outsized, impressive vocal talent. In 1973 they released their self-titled debut. While career-wise Queen is considered more a classic rock and prog rock act, Mercury’s fashion, androgynous style, and the band’s many straight-ahead rock songs also aligned them strongly to the glam genre. “Keep Yourself Alive” was a good example but, as their first single, failed to catch on, though the album would chart at #24 in the UK and #83 in the US giving them a start towards their later, enormous success.
Queen wouldn’t be much of an influence on modern rock, though themselves tried their hand at an electro-pop sound in 1984 with the album, The Works, featuring songs like “Radio Ga Ga” and “I Want to Break Free.” Of course, they also paired with David Bowie for the 1981 single, “Under Pressure,” further associating them to the glam legacy and modern rock sound (though the single itself, fantastic as it was, was not a modern rock tune). As I write this, Queen is enjoying yet another resurgence in popularity thanks to the huge success of the biopic on Mercury and the band, Bohemian Rhapsody, and is planning a tour in 2019 with singer Adam Lambert continuing to fill the departed Freddie’s spot.
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting \ Elton John (1973) – Another hugely successful, career artist that moved through the glam look and sound during the time was Reginald Dwight – aka Elton John. Though well known as a gay artist today, in 1973, despite his showy personality, he had not come out yet. Perhaps glam helped as he would admit to bisexuality in 1976, which for most artists of the ‘70s would be as far as they could go with sexual identity without risking a backlash. Other artists like Bowie similarly came out as bisexual during that time.
Elton John was a successful artist by 1973, having released four top ten albums in the US (three reached that threshold in the UK), with the most recent, Honky Château, having gone #1 in the US in ’72. He was a hit in an era in which the album had become the focus, so like many others he had less success with singles with only three of his fourteen singles to that point having cracked the top ten in the US or UK (“Your Song” in ’70 and “Rocket Man” and “Crocodile Rock” in ’72). With the 1973 albums Don’t Shoot Me I’m the Piano Player and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and 1974’s Caribou, John’s sound and flamboyant style put him in the glam category. Elton’s piano and R&B style didn’t fit strongly with the glam sound, but songs like “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, with its heavier guitar sound and energy, helped bring his sound in line with his glam look.
All the Way from Memphis \ Mott the Hoople (1973) – The revived rock act now embracing glam continued with its renewed success, despite several line-up changes (notably the departure of Mick Ralphs, who left to form the band Bad Company) and without the participation of Bowie. 1973’s album, Mott, included the singles “Honaloochie Boogie,” which reached #12 in the UK, and “All the Way from Memphis,” which peaked at #10 and was one of the most consummate of glam songs. It also included great songs like, “Whizz Kid,” with classic glam drama, fuzzy guitars, and Ian Hunter’s great voice. The album reached #7 in the UK and #35 in the US, and the follow-up in ’74, The Hoople, reached #11 in the UK and #28 in the US, making the band one of the few glam successes, mild though it was, in the US.
Personality Crisis \ New York Dolls (1973) – Along with The Stooges, we reach another glam band that had the most direct impact on the ensuing rise of punk and the genesis of modern rock. They both embraced the glam appearance and drove the rock sound to a more aggressive, fervent, and rawer sound, paving the way for punk rock to follow. The New York Dolls were another rare American glam band, though their influence in the US resulted in punk originating form there despite the UK’s embrace of glam and eventually, being the primary breeding ground for punk and modern rock.
The band was formed in New York in 1970 by Billy Murcia and Sylvain Sylvain (Sylvain Mizrahi, born in Egypt). It was named after a doll repair shop called New York Doll Hospital, though initially they were just called The Dolls. The pair ran a clothing business and Sylvain worked at a men’s clothing shop, so it was no mistake the band ended up with a defining fashion style. Joined by Johnny Thunders (John Genzale) the trio played together briefly before breaking up. Thunders brought Murcia into his next band in 1971 which included Arthur “Killer” Kane and Rick Rivets. When Thunders wanted to step back from the lead spot, they recruited David Johansen, and soon after Sylvain replaced Rivets and they resumes as The New York Dolls. When Murcia died in 1972 (a misadventure with drugs leading to asphyxiation) while the band was on tour (a prime opportunity as the opening slot for Rod Stewart), the band hired Jerry Nolan. The line-up was then set with Johansen, Thunders, Sylvain, Kane, and Nolan.
The first album was self-titled and released in July 1973. Its lead track was “Personality Crisis” (released as a double A-side single with “Trash”). On the face of it the song came across as a rough, standard rock composition. But as Johansen’s vocals became increasingly unhinged, the song’s pace continued in frenetic fashion, and despite a couple of breaks, the song remained on the verge of collapse as its loose, raw playing barely held together, it became clear this wasn’t much like anything else at the time. Combined with the band’s make-up and platformed look, it was a jarring presentation. The rest of the album continued in its aggressive, rough style, a sound that would become common and comfortable in the punk genre. The sound was too much for mass audiences and the album and single didn’t chart (well, the album just made it into the top 200 in the US), but the ground had been broken for a new approach to rock that departed from all that had come before it.
In 2016, HBO aired what would be the only season of a fairly lousy show called Vinyl, despite it having the likes of Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese behind it. The set-up was the owner of a struggling record label trying to save it by shifting from mainstream rock towards the emerging, rawer, and cutting edge rock of the early ‘70s (all the while falling into a destructive spiral of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll) – a dubious story line from a business perspective but the dream for alternative music fans like me. His decision to pursue a more genuine, less corporate brand of rock came from an epiphany at the end of the first episode, whereupon he came across the New York Dolls performing “Personality Crisis” at the Mercer Arts Center. The energy of the performance, which was pretty well done (I’ll give the show that), culminated in the building’s collapse. The depiction was fiction built on two truths: first, the New York Dolls were one of many acts that led to modern rock that played at the Mercer Arts Center, making it an important venue for underground rock in New York in the mid-70s; and second, the building did collapse in 1973. However, the collapse happened around 5pm and before that evening’s entertainment (which was not going to be The Dolls), and though the building had 300 people in it that afternoon they were evacuated since it was becoming clear something was wrong, though four people still perished when it went down. However, good on the show for highlighting these interesting historical moments, even if embellished into a fictional account for the benefit of the show’s plot.
Rock On \ David Essex (1973) – By 1973 David Cook (Essex was a stage name, perhaps since he was from Essex county in northeast London?) was a singer with a growing list of singles behind him since 1965, none of which had charted. His profile started to grow when he started an acting career, beginning with a theatre run in Godspell in 1971 and then as the lead in a pair of movies, That’ll Be the Day in 1973 and its sequel, Stardust in 1974, which chronicled the rise of a fictional ‘60s rock star. The movies featured many musicians such as Ringo Starr, Billy Fury, Keith Moon, and Dave Edmunds and the soundtracks moved through hit lists of the 1960s into the 1970s, including several songs from each of Essex and Edmunds. The title track for Stardust was a top ten hit following Essex’ breakout success in 1973.
His musical success started with the single “Rock On,” released in August 1973 between the two films. The sparsely composed song, working off a subtle beat, string interludes, and echoey bass underneath Essex’ catchy and spoken vocal, made for an affecting song. It has become one of the best known and more frequently covered glam songs. “Rock On” reached #3 in the UK and #5 in the US, making it an infrequent glam hit in both places. Another single, “Lamplight” reached the top ten before Essex had his first #1 single, “Gonna Make You A Star,” in 1974. He would have more success over the rest of the decade including a frenzy of fans attracted to his movie-star looks (which, for a glam performer, were never too over-the-top). He continued to record and issue music through to the end of the ‘90s to mild success. “Rock On” is the song that has best identified his career and links him to glam, and is one of the more distinct musical entries from the genre.
The Ballroom Blitz \ The Sweet (1973) – The Sweet continued their huge year 1973 with their third consecutive song to reach the top two spots in the UK chart with “The Ballroom Blitz” hitting #2. They continued to use songs written by Chinn and Chapman. The song wasn’t released in the US until 1975 where it reached #5, making it another rare hit on both sides of the ocean and therefore, like “Rock On,” one of the best known glam songs. The Sweet would have a few more hits over 1974 and 1975 but not sustain their success beyond the glam period but for one exception, a top ten hit in 1978, “Love Is Like Oxygen.” Still, The Sweet is remembered as one of the most prolific of the glam acts.
A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall \ Bryan Ferry (1973) – Roxy Music released two albums in 1973, For Your Pleasure in March and Stranded in November. In between those lead singer Bryan Ferry issued his first solo album, These Foolish Things, to make for a very productive year. While Ferry was one of the lesser glam elements of Roxy Music, his sound was consistent with the genre and his influence on later modern rock acts was substantial, so his solo work deserves mention.
These Foolish Things was entirely comprised of cover songs, allowing Ferry to put a glam sound on many folk and rock standards. The album’s lead track was Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” His version brought a quick pace and glam’s edgy guitar, piano, and solid beat to the song along with his always fantastic vocals. The album reached #5 in the UK and the song reached #10 on the singles chart. The US still hadn’t caught on to Roxy or Ferry yet.
Glycerine Queen \ Suzi Quatro (1973) – Yup, thirty-two songs into this playlist and a full two years into the glam era, and we finally just arrive at the first – and only – female glam lead artist (others will appear but as part of ensembles). She was also another uncommon US glam artist but, as we’ve seen with other Americans, her glam success came after she moved to Britain in 1971. Indeed, she was a rare and pioneering woman in the rock world as I noted in the introduction of my retrospective on women in modern rock. However, despite being a bass player, a writer of her own songs, and a great singer, her early success came largely with thanks from famed producer and label owner, Mickie Most, and, like The Sweet, from the writing/producing team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. Her male-oriented, leather-clad image and backed with a showy male band fit her into glam. Though she’d been recording since a teen, her self-titled album in 1973 at the age of twenty-three was her first solo release.
Her hits came from the Chapman/Chinn songs, with “Can the Can” and “48 Crash” going to #1 in the UK in ’73. “Glycerine Queen” was from the album and a song co-written by Quatro. It was the B-side to a cover release of Elvis’ “All Shook Up” that didn’t chart, one of her only misses early in her career. She was also building solid followings in Australia and Germany, where her songs routinely went to the top ten including several #1s.
The Faith Healer \ The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (1973) – Alex Harvey was a Scottish musician and singer that had developed a career in the early ‘60s with R&B, blues, and soul music with Alex Harvey’s Big Soul Band. He then went solo before working in the orchestra for the London stage production of the musical, Hair. In 1972 he formed The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, which went full-bore into the glam look with costumes and a rock sound that ventured into prog rock and full of theatrical, dramatic flair. The first album was Framed in 1972 followed by Next… in 1973, in which “The Faith Healer” was the third single. Bearing a strong resemblance to future Australian rockers, AC/DC, it was a long song that came off as a long build-up to something big that never entirely arrived. However, the tension throughout held the listener’s attention. It was a unique song for a unique band. They would never achieve much commercial success but developed a loyal following in the UK. Harvey left the band in ’76 but re-joined in ’77. One more album in ’78 was released before Harvey went solo again. He passed away in 1982 from heart failure.
Hope You Like It \ Geordie (1973) – Speaking of AC/DC, we have a band that hailed from Newcastle upon Tyne, where locals were referred to as ‘Geordie,’ that included lead singer Brian Johnson who would go on to replace Bon Scott as AC/DC’s lead singer in 1980. Bon Scott was a fan of Brian Johnson and Geordie, who had a lot of success in Australia with their solid brand of rock. The band had some success with early singles: 1972’s “Don’t Do That” (#32 in the UK), “All Because of You” (#6), “Can You Do It,” and “Electric Lady” (#32) in 1973. “Hope You Like It” was the title track from the debut album. They released three more albums up to 1978 and one more in 1983 without Johnson.
Hello New York \ Silverhead (1973) – Silverhead’s second album was similarly raw and catchy like their 1972 debut. Their sound would influence garage bands and punks in the years to come. Silverhead’s line-up included Michael Des Barres on vocals, later known as an actor on MacGyver, as the writer and co-performer of the song, “Obsession,” that would become a hit for the band Animotion in 1984, and as Robert Palmer’s replacement in 1980s supergroup, Power Station. Silverhead also included Nigel Harrison who went on to join Blondie in 1978, just in time to play on their massive album, Parallel Lines.
By the end of 1973 glam was dominating the UK charts and doing well in some European countries, Australia, and to a lesser degree, Canada. The US remained obstinate to the trend despite a healthy appreciation for various forms of rock music. Whether it was the make-up, costumes, theatricality, or sexuality of glam, it just wasn’t going over in the broader US. For certain, on the coasts and in some urban centres there was some support, but not enough to drive any chart success. While the UK and the US have often gone their own ways in musical preferences, the reaction to glam would have interesting similarities when modern rock came along.
Continue reading along to the playlist in part two.