Tag Archives: Glam Rock

The Jean Genius

If you’re a Bowie fan you probably have a selection of his albums, tapes, cd’s and downloads in your music collection…. hit-after-hit stretching across six decades from 1969’s Space Oddity to 2016’s Blackstar.

For a few years though, until his WOW moment on TOTP in 1972, as implausible as it sounds, Bowie was on course to be a one-hit-wonder…. just like Thunderclap Newman with ‘Something in the Air’ or Norman Greenbaum with ‘Spirit in the Sky’

Then along came Ziggy Stardust and the rest as they say is history.
Bowie went on to become arguably the most influential artist of the 70s….. continually reinventing his sound and persona and influencing the tastes of a generation along the way.

As an example of the latter, on October 1974 David Live was released, it was a decent album showcasing Bowie’s transition from Glam to Soul with a great version of Eddie Floyd’s ‘Knock on Wood‘, but what captured my attention as much as the music was the DB suit DB wore on the cover.

Up until this point Bowie’s wardrobe had consisted of elaborate Japanese jumpsuits, kimonos and leotards.

Distinctive, perhaps, but not the kind of thing you could buy in Krazy House and wear to Shuffles on a dreich Saturday night in Glasgow!


A cool, smart suit on the other hand was something we could relate to, so on our next pay-day, a few of us went up to Glasgow to Jackson the tailors on Union St to order our own made to measure* version of the double-breasted tin-flute Bowie sported on the record sleeve.
*Mark Arbuckle covered the made to measure process brilliantly in this piece.
https://onceuponatimeinthe70s.com/2021/04/21/customers-incontinence-and-conga-lines/

After a few weeks the suits were ready and when we went up the town that Saturday night we all felt pretty ‘gallus’ in our high-waisted, loose-fitting trousers, and shorter-length, double breasted jackets, as did half the male population of Glasgow, who all had the same idea!

I was pretty much hooked from the minute I saw Bowie perform Starman on TOTP in 72 and stayed a fan all the way through his career.
I loved his 70s personas and in particular the Thin White Duke period which frustratingly he never talked about much… owing to the fact that he had absolutely no recall of recording the Station to Station album!

In fact he was so bonkers and strung out during this period (75-76) that he reportedly kept his own urine in a fridge.
This in part was due to a falling out with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page….. Bowie became paranoid that Page (well known for dabbling in the occult) would engage some form of black-magic against him if he got hold of his bodily fluids.

Based in LA and weighing in at a meagre 7 stone, his diet at the time consisted of milk, peppers and heaps of Colombian marching powder.
It’s well documented that Bowie fled this life of excess to regain health and sanity in Europe, specifically Berlin, and by the release of Heroes in 1977 he was in a much better place, both physically and mentally

Bowie 75
Bowie 77

I actually came into The Starman’s orbit very briefly in 1983.

I was working at Levis and we were developing a campaign to promote our 501 Jeans, which at the time, we couldn’t give away in the UK, in fact the only European country who sold them in any volume was Sweden.

UK retailers didn’t want to stock them as they were more expensive than our regular jeans and they reasoned that consumers didn’t like the American fit (low waist, straight leg).

Nonetheless, our chiefs in San Francisco had planned a global strategy around the 501, it was the original jean, which was the main point of difference for the brand in the US, where Levis was coming under threat from designer brands like Calvin Klein…. so we had no choice but to try and make it work.

I was part of a team tasked with coming up with innovative ideas to support the 501 campaign in Europe and as a first step we came up with the simple, but not so innovative idea of getting contemporary icons to wear 501’s the way James Dean & Brando used to, back in the day.

It was a classic ‘seeding’ strategy which more or less consisted of giving product away…. to opinion leaders (musicians, actors, sportsmen, models, etc), in order to get the product seen on the right people.

It’s a concept that can work pretty well if all the planets align.
As an example…

In early 1983 we sent some Levis denim jackets to an up and coming band coming out of Dublin called U2, Bono cut the sleeves off his jacket and wore it relentlessly.
The band released the albums War and Under a Blood Red Sky in 83 and it became U2’s big breakout year, Bono was everywhere… wearing his self-customised, sleeveless Levis jacket

To show how this filters down…
I met Charlie Nicholas in the Holiday Inn Glasgow around this time as we had a mutual friend, as soon as Charlie heard I worked for Levis he asked me if I could get him a Levis denim jacket “to cut the sleeves off… just like Bono”.

Within months, retailers started selling out of our denim jackets, sales tripled and we eventually had to increase our jacket production and develop our own sleeveless version.

The other avenue we explored was official sponsorship… ‘let’s get the coolest rock stars and bands to wear and promote Levis by sponsoring their tours’.
Everyone does this now but it was a new concept back then.

This was trickier than you’d think… some people in the room actually thought it would be a good idea to approach the gods of double-denim, Status Quo and there were a couple of Gary Numan fans in there as well… however to most of us it was clear we needed someone with gravitas, credibility and a wide appeal.

After some debate and research we discovered that Bowie was scheduled to tour (Serious Moonlight tour) in support of his new album – Let’s Dance, so he became the prime candidate.

To be honest we weren’t very optimistic that he’d go for it but he liked the brand and a few zero’s on a cheque later… the mighty DB was on board.

The concept worked so well that we repeated it over the next few years with tours and one-off events, but the tipping point for the brand in Europe came when we launched the famous 501 Laundrette ad with Nick Kamen in 1985, which also propelled ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ to number one in the charts.

Ironically, the same retailers who claimed they couldn’t sell 501’s in 1983 were now begging for as much stock as they could get their hands on….

Bruce Springsteen and the E street band – Wembley 4th July 1985

Sting’s first solo tour 1985

Ultravox’s Lament tour 1984

Of course, guys like Bowie and The Boss were never going to do meet and greets no matter how much money they were paid, but Sting and the Ultravox guys were contracted to come and meet customers and prize winners after the gigs, which they mostly did although Sting’s face was usually tripping him, unlike Midge Ure who was always accommodating.

My brief Bowie moment came when he popped into our London office, he looked incredibly healthy and was extremely friendly and charming, he happily signed a few bits and pieces for some of us including a tour programme and the Let’s Dance album sleeve (pics of both below ) and before we knew it he was whisked away.

In truth, I struggled a bit with the 90’s Bowie, particularly the Tin Machine period but I got back on board in the noughties…. a return to form, spring-boarded by his stellar Glastonbury performance in 2000 when he decided to give the people what they wanted…. a set-list made up of his best songs.

Although I’d been a big fan in the 70s I had never seen Bowie live and the first time I saw him perform was when we took some customers to see his Serious Moonlight gig at Murrayfield in Edinburgh in June 83.

The next time I saw him perform live was the most memorable.
It was at the Hammersmith Odeon in October 2002, his first return to that venue since the shock July 1974 retirement announcement when he ‘broke up the band’ live on stage…. to their complete bemusement.

“Not only is it the last show of the tour, but it’s the last show that we’ll ever do. Thank you.”

It helped that we had fantastic tickets for that show, centre stage, six rows from the front.
I’ve no idea how long Bowie performed for but it must have been close to 3 hours… he played 33 songs starting with Life on Mars, finishing with Ziggy Stardust and included a song he’d only ever played live once before… the majestic Bewlay Brothers from Hunky Dory.

I also saw Bowie the following year at Wembley arena on his last live date in London.
He seemed so fit and healthy at 56 but six months later whilst still on the same gruelling ‘Reality’ tour he had a heart attack on stage in Hamburg and that proved to be his last ever gig.

He released an album in 2013, The Last Day, which raised hopes that he was fit and well but it all went quiet again, and then out of nowhere a new album – Blackstar dropped 3 years later on his 69th birthday, this was the encouraging news we’d all been waiting for… maybe we would even see him play live again?

He died two days after its release on the 10th of January.

There was much outpouring of grief when the news broke, he meant so much to so many people and it’s probably the only celebrity that I’ve ever felt sustained grief over.
I had grown up with Bowie from age 13, my kids had grown up listening to him, he’d been a fixture in my life for 45 years, and suddenly he wasn’t there any more.

But even in the end Bowie did the most Bowie thing ever, bowing out on his own terms with an innovative, out-of-the-blue, jazz-based album that nobody knew anything about until the day of its release.

If you listen to the lyrics it’s an album made by a man who wasn’t ready to leave us but knew he wasn’t going to be with us for long.
To this day I still find it hard to listen to that album…….

‘Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried’
“I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar”

All hail the Starman…..

My top 12 Bowie songs change all the time, this weeks selection is….

children of the revolution

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, March 2021

As sub-genre’s go ‘Glam Rock’ has got to be one of the most influential, but for the most part people are usually pretty sniffy about it and it rarely gets the respect it’s due.

Ask people what their favourite 70s music was and they’ll probably say Rock, Disco, Punk, or Reggae but they’ll very rarely say Glam Rock, preferring to say Bowie or Roxy or T-Rex.

Maybe Glam Rock gets a bad rep because for every Roxy Music or T-Rex there was a Chicory Tip or a Kenny.



Maybe it’s because six-inch platform boots, glittery capes, satin loons and feather boas don’t wear quite so well several decades later.

The genesis of Glam Rock is credited to Marc Bolan and his appearance on Top of the Pops (TOTP) in March 1971 with his new single – ‘Hot Love’.

Ex-hippy Marc, bopped along with teardrops of silver glitter under his eyes, gold satin pants, a catchy chorus, and kicked the whole thing off as the unofficial Prince of Glam Rock, with lyrics aimed at his target audience….

Ah she’s my woman of gold
And she’s not very old a Ha Ha

Girls loved him, guys accepted him and parents were a bit confused by him, which as we all know now is the perfect cocktail for pop stardom.

On the back of T-Rex’s impactful TOTP appearance Hot Love went straight to number one and stayed there for 6 weeks.

Get it on (Bang a gong), came hot on its heels, and also made the number one spot its own, ditto the album Electric Warrior and with a sell out tour playing to legions of adoring fans, there was no stopping T-Rex.

‘Jeepster’ was the next release, and the second single I ever bought after ‘Maggie May’.
I remember being particularly impressed with the B side, ‘Life’s a Gas’, and naively thinking that all B sides must be great as Rod’s ‘Reason to Believe’ wasn’t too shabby either.

Frustratingly for T-Rex fans Jeepster would remain at number 2 for six weeks – kept off the top spot firstly by new Glam sensations Slade, and then by of all people – Benny Hill, probably the antithesis of Glam Rock, who reached the coveted Xmas number one spot in 1971, ahead of T-Rex.  

Looking back now it’s quite funny to picture the Bolan devotees huddled around their radios on consecutive Sunday’s, counting down the top 20 and waiting to lip-synch Jeepster’s dreamy lyrics, as it reached the top spot….

You slide so good
With bones so fair
You’ve got the universe
Reclining in your hair

Only to find the slightly less dreamy lyrics of that weeks actual number one, the un-glamest song ever – ‘Ernie the Fastest Milkman in the West’ with the chirpy west country droll of Benny Hill, assaulting their eardrums.

Now Ernie loved a widow, a lady known as Sue,
She lived all alone in Liddley Lane at number 22.
They said she was too good for him, she was haughty, proud and chic,
But Ernie got his cocoa there three times every week

SORRY I COULDN’T RESIST….

When Benny Hill was finally ousted from the number one spot it wasn’t by T-Rex it was by the New Seekers with, ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing’.

It was Glam Rocks first bloody nose – being beaten to the number one spot by upstarts like Slade was one thing but to be kept off the top spot by a roly-poly comedian with a comedy song and then by a TV jingle for coca-cola was an affront to the T Rex acolytes.

Despite this setback, in the space of 12 short months Marc Bolan had become the poster boy (quite literally) of Glam Rock, he was front and centre of every teen mag and plastered on the bedroom walls of most teenage girls, and quite a few boys as well.


Bolan’s success had been meteoric and he quickly became the Pied Piper of the Glam movement, inspiring others to follow with varying degrees of success

There were those artists who jumped on the bandwagon and did it well:

Slade were the perfect example, prior to donning top-hats, satin and glitter they were wearing doc martins and braces as a skinhead band, but Bolan had shown them there was another way, and the lads from Wolverhampton went on to carve out a great career using Glam Rock as their platform.

Similarly, The Sweet, changed lanes, initially a bubble-gum pop band covering Archies songs with aspirations to be the new Monkees, they updated their line-up, beefed up their sound and found a commercial niche within Glam Rock.

Other artists who carved out successful Glam Rock careers in this category include Suzi Quatro, Gary Glitter and Wizzard.

Then there were the hustlers – the bands/artists who flirted with Glam Rock to gain a foothold before using their talents to carve sustainable careers.

David Bowie
Roxy Music
Elton John
New York Dolls

Sparks
Alice Cooper
Mott the Hoople
Lou Reed

And finally there were those artists who jumped on the bandwagon and had their 15 minutes of fame before disappearing off into the sunset.

Bands like – Kenny, Chicory Tip, Racey, Geordie and Hello

The Glam Rock movement probably peaked in 1973, but just as acts like Wizzard and The Sweet were topping the charts, T-Rex’s star was beginning to wane and their last big hit was 20th Century Boy.

The chart below offer a snapshot of the top 20 from May 1973 and as you’ll see, Glam Rock was riding high with 4 of the top 10 singles coming from Glam acts.


By 1973 Bowie was the one carrying the torch for Glam Rock as well as influencing others like Lou Reed and Mott the Hoople to follow in his footsteps. We were soon to find out however that Bowie was the master of reinvention and it wan’t long before he had moved on from Glam and was recording a soul album – Young Americans.

BOWIE, RONSON & HUNTER REUNION

Glam Rock at it’s best was a series of well-crafted, well-produced, 3-4 minute pop songs with a bit of theatre, that didn’t pretend to be anything else. It was commercial, accessible and catchy.
(see Glam Rock playlist below)

In terms of Glam Rock’s legacy, we all know how far reaching Bowie’s influence has been and you only need to listen to the first two Oasis albums to hear T-Rex & Slade riffs aplenty.
Bands as diverse as The Sex Pistols and Chic have also credited Roxy Music’s influence on their careers and acts like Alice Cooper, Sparks and Elton John are still going strong today.

Bolan’s activity waned heading into the mid seventies which was understandable given his prolific output and he found domestic bliss to replace the mayhem.
He was on the comeback trail by 1977 and hosted a TV pop show called imaginatively – ‘Marc’, inviting his old buddy David Bowie to perform Heroes in the final episode.

With a successful TV show a newly released album and a planned tour, things were looking up for Marc when he was involved in a fatal car accident at the tender age of 29.

In terms of Glam Rock fashion, I need to declare that it wasn’t very accessible for the majority of us who didn’t have connections with avant garde designers like Bowie, Ferry or Glitter or who wanted to look like scarecrows on acid like Roy Wood.
Platform shoes and broken ankles were probably as Glam as it got for most of us guys.

YOU COULDN’T BUY THIS IN KRAZY HOUSE!

When it came around, Punk was a lot easier all you needed was a pair of scissors and some safety pins.

I’m probably a tad defensive about Glam Rock because the period it represents, 1971-74 holds a lot of great memories and correlates with my peer groups formative years – a period when we started to have a bit of freedom and a social life.

‘Glam-Rock’ anthems like Get It On, Jean Genie, Virginia Plane and This Town Aint Big Enough for Both of Us, made up the soundtrack to much of that youth, and when I hear those songs today they bring back memories of Teen Discos, and gatherings at friends houses when T-Rex devotees like Elaine Neal (nee Currie) would turn up with her copy of Electric Warrior place the needle on the vinyl – first track, side one, Mambo Sun……

Beneath the bebop moon
I want to croon with you

Beneath the mambo sun
I got to be the one with you

teenybopper.

(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – February 2021)

 The Summer of Love in 1967 may have swept America coast to coast, but not in our house. Flower Power didn’t wash with Dad, who got uptight just thinking about the louche morals of “those goddamn hippies”. He held Mick Jagger personally responsible for the breakdown in American society, along with Elvis Presley and his snake hips.

As men landed on the moon, Vietnam raged and the assassination of Martin Luther King rocked the nation, Mum and Dad decided to up-sticks from our all-American life and seek a better one in Jolly Olde England. Without so much as a by-your-leave they boarded a plane with me, aged ten, and my two teenage brothers.  We touched down in Birmingham, West Midlands in the autumn of 1970, for our new life as Brummies.

1970s Birmingham was an exciting place to be a teenager, especially having lived in rural Virginia, where the most exciting thing that happened was the time a bull escaped from a farmer’s field and charged up State Street.

       I discovered Glam Rock and boys at the local church Youth Club disco in 1974, wearing a tank top with flares and strawberry flavoured lip gloss.  The lads sported Oxford Bags and feather cuts as they hovered in nervous groups around the edge of the hall, before summoning the courage to sidle up to me and my group of friends: Becky, Shaz and Julie.

 Teetering on our rubber wedged platforms, we giggled wildly and closed rank in a tightly formed pack around our suede tasselled handbags; dancing in unison to ‘Tiger Feet’ and ‘Jean Jeanie’ as we feigned indifference to these “spotty oiks” and the invitation to have a shag – whatever that was.   Arm-in-arm, we stomped across the dancefloor together to the serving hatch, where the vicar was on hand to serve us with four packets of cheese and onion and bottles of Vimto. We went en mass to the toilets to apply more lippy and talk about the boys, “He never!” “He DID!” The music stopped abruptly at 9pm when the cleaning lights beamed down like search lights (as indeed they were); but not before the lads tried their luck once more with a last dance (I say this loosely) which involved various lewd moves to the chorus of ‘Hi-ho, Silver Lining’. Good job the vicar didn’t notice.

      David Cassidy stole my teenybopper heart when he was in the Partridge Family – but he wasn’t quite disco, was he? When Marc Bolan burst onto Top of the Pops in 1971 – all tight satin trousers, glitter and black eyeliner singing ‘Bang A Gong’ – Becky and I became ‘children of the revolution’ overnight and ditched David Cassidy like a brick outhouse. So fickle is Youth.

The dark church hall helped hide our blushes and the boy’s thin facial hair. Sweat dripped from the walls and trickled down the back of our Lurex jumpers, especially after getting ‘Down, Down’ to the Quo.  One of the lads finally asked Shaz for a dance:

“No ta – yam aroight Bab; yow betta dance with me mayte. I’m a bit sweatay.” He never recovered his poise – or his ‘Coo-ca-choo’

********

My crush on Darryl Smith, with his David Essex bedroom eyes and dimple, went unrequited.  I watched him from afar at the disco, with girls hanging on his every word and lipstick on his big lapels.

Disclaimer! NOT Andrea.

 While space-hopping nonchalantly one afternoon along the central reservation of the dual carriage-way near my house, I spotted Darryl across the road, hanging upside down from the metal railings outside his parent’s newsagent shop.  This was my big chance! I bounced across the road, fell off the space hopper and took a spectacular nose dive. Darryl fell off his railing, helpless with laughter,
“Barmy slag!”

With tears welling, I gathered the shreds of my dignity along with my space hopper and trudged home, vowing to hate boys for ever. Becky came round and we played our precious handful of 45’s on the stereogram, chomping aniseed balls and plotting our revenge: “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet.” 


   ********

Make-up in the ‘70s was gloriously garish.  I smeared on half-moons of iridescent green cream eye shadow and a slick of Mum’s ‘Burnt Sienna’ lipstick before offering to nip to the shops on the off-chance of running into Darryl Smith. Becky sat on the bath and watched with disdain:

“Moi mum says that if we were meant to wear moike-up, we’d be born with it on!”

“That’s rubbish,” I retorted; squeezing a blackhead in the mirror, “My mum doesn’t make a move until she’d plucked and tweezed and slapped half-a-ton of pan-cake foundation on her face – and two coats of lippy.”

My mother once remarked to me after recoiling at Becky’s bushy eyebrows;

“All that girl needs is a good pluck!”

********

As my fifteenth birthday approached, I cajoled Mum and Dad into letting me have a teenage party. At the church disco, Becky and I got up the nerve to invite some of the lads. They turned up with a handful of warm beers shoved in their socks. Dad was on patrol – even sprucing up for the occasion with a clean undershirt and a dab of Brylcreem. My Southern Belle mother retired upstairs in her blue quilted dressing gown, taking the small black and white rented TV and the dog with her. Setting up a couple of Watney’s party barrels in the kitchen to make lemonade shandies, Dad took charge of the bar for the night; shrewdly frisking the boys at the door in his usual, friendly American manner.

“Hey boys – what-cha got there? I’ll just take those and put ’em on the bar. Better take it easy.”

Andrea in 15th Birthday party gear.


Becky and I compiled a playlist of singles with a mix of fast records for dancing and slow ones for snogging: ‘Kung-Foo Fighting’ by Carol Douglas; ‘The Bump’ by Kenny and Minnie Ripperton’s ‘Lovin’ You’.  One record really pissed Dad off: 10cc’s ‘Wall Street Shuffle’. I played it one morning at breakfast, sparking an almighty row as I sang along glibly through my cornflakes:

“Are you waiting for the hour when you can screw me, cause you’re big enough!”

“Andrea – turn that Dadgum trash off!”

“Oh Dad – you’re so square!”

As the party got underway one of the boys turned the overhead light off in the back room, where several teenaged kids groped and snogged on Mum’s precious velvet sofa, behind the door and in the dark recess of the alcove behind the cheese plant.  Dad – sensing ‘trouble’ – stepped lively and flipped the light switch on in a haze of Old Spice.

“Hey kids – kind-a dark in here – can’t see what we’re doin’… puttin’ the lite bub on.”

There were tuts and groans as the lads filed back into the kitchen for one last flat pint before leaving; nobody would ‘pull’ tonight. I was mortified, yet quietly relieved to have reached my fifteenth in-tacto.

Mum came down after it was all over; gliding into the living room in her blue quilted robe. There was no evidence that the ‘lite bub’ had been switched off or that her velvet sofa had been debauched.

(Copyright: Andrea Burn , February 2021)

********

Andrea Grace Burn is an Anglo / American writer, comic, storyteller & broadcaster.

You Tube Channel

Twitter

Instagram