My tastes were changing. I was thirteen years old and all ‘growed up’.
However, the 1971 kid in me still found it tough being weaned off the bubblegum and sugary Pop hits of the day.
The previous year, we’d been on our first overseas family holiday. Spain, it was, and wherever we went, whenever we went, bloody ’Candida‘ by Tony Orlando and Dawn, was being given big licks.
Breakfast in the hotel dining room: “Oh, Candida, We could make it together.” Lunchtime by the pool: “The further from here, girl, the better, Where the air is fresh and clean.” Evening by the beach-side bratwurst bar: ” Hmm, Candida, Just take my hand and I’ll lead ya. I promise life will be sweeter, And it said so in my dreams.“
Back home in UK, The Mixtures and ‘The Pushbike Song’ had been popular enough to reach number two in the January charts of 1971.
Probably more so in those days before digital photos, when you returned from holiday, you craved anything that gave that instant hit of warm, glowing memories.
Scent and music best serve this purpose, I find. In the absence, though, of Yankee Candles emitting the heady, mixed aroma of sun-cream, paella and bleeding Watney’s Red Barrel, my parents opted for an LP that contained both these songs,
Chuffed to bits, they proudly told me I could play it (carefully) on the new radioogram.
My excitement, however, didn’t last long when it very quickly became apparent that the songs were not performed by the original artists Still, money was tight, and it was better than nothing at all.
A few months later, and buoyed by their ‘new cool,’ my folks bought another of those trendy compilations, principally for the T. Rex track ‘Get it On.’ Of course there was no fooling me this time. Once bitten and all that. Also, the song ‘Coco,’ was on the LP, and I had the proper, 7″ single by The Sweet. I could spot the difference.
The rest of 1971 music passed me by without leaving much of an impression. I do still have ‘Bannerman‘ by Blue Mink in my collection, but that’s about it.
The following year though, shaped my music of choice – pretty much for life.
On a family weekend trip to Blackpool, I remember buying what would be only my third album. (The second was ‘Slade Alive‘ by Slade.)
That album was ‘Love It To Death,’ by Alice Cooper. I have no idea as to how I knew of the band. I think perhaps I was flicking through the record box and the rebellious, now fourteen-year-old in me had decided to exact retribution for my mother’s uncomplimentary remarks about T. Rex.
You think Marc Bolan is ‘dirty’ and ‘weird,’ do you? Get a load of this dude and his cronies!
(I unfortunately now own only a CD copy. I sold the vinyl to a second hand record store in Stirling not long after being married when we had no cash.)
A few months later, Alice Cooper arrived in the UK for a series of shows. His reputation preceded him and of course the very conservative press of the time were all over it. I was desperate to go to the Glasgow show. It would be my first gig. But there was zero chance of that happening.
Determined my mind would not be corrupted by some deviant from the other side of the Atlantic, my folks properly ‘grounded’ me on the evening of 10th November 1972, to prevent me sneaking off to the show with a couple of pals who did have tickets. It was for my own good, of course.
One of my mates though, somehow managed to smuggle a tape recorder into the venue and so I was at least able to hear a very muffled version of the show.
My first gig would have to wait.
Part #4: HEAVY ROTATION
It wouldn’t be too long a wait before my first gig – only another four months or so, in March 1973. But in the meantime, my Alice Cooper LP ‘Love it to Death‘ was being played to death in my bedroom.
It whetted my appetite for more ‘heavy rock.’ In late 1972, however, gaining access to such music was not easy. You either had to know somebody who had bought an album and lent it you, or you took a punt and bought blind (or perhaps that should be ‘deaf.’)
Some shops though, like Lewis’s in Glasgow had ‘listening booths,’ where you’d be allowed to listen to one or two tracks from an album in the hope that you’d eventually buy.
(Latterly, the dingy wee Virgin Records shop at the end of Argyle Street, then Listen, in Cambridge Street, Glasgow offered the use of headphones to listen to music. The down side though, was that only one person at a time could listen – we used to pile about six mates into the listening booth along the road in Lewis’s.)
Some rock bands, however, like Free, Deep Purple and the excellent Atomic Rooster had been given airtime on the UK’s prime time popular music show, Top of the Pops in late 1971 / early 1972 and although a bit late to the party (again) I started to search out music from such artists .
1972 also saw the blossoming of Glam Rock in the UK. Arguably started by Marc Bolan in mid 1971, the Glam movement was well and truly on the march through 1972.
At school, though as a thirteen / fourteen year old lad, it was not de rigueur, to show your true Glam self. Stars like Bolan and Bay City Rollers were for the girls. Boys had to be into what was perceived to be ‘harder’ rock. As mentioned in an earlier post, I got terrible stick for admitting I liked The Sweet. Little did those ‘macho’ pals of mine appreciate that most Glam bands could rock-out some pretty heavy riffs too.
My first rock album however, was one of those blind / deaf purchases I referred to earlier. I had read of this band Uriah Heep in Sounds paper / magazine, and around mid-1972, sent away for their debut album, ‘…very ‘eavy… very ‘umble.’ This immediately took over from the Alice Cooper LP that had hogged the turntable for so many months.
I still play this album a lot, and for me, the late David Byron was one of the best vocalists in rock music.
From a kid who was totally unaware of The Beatles just a few years earlier, I was now completely immersed in music. I couldn’t play a note, of course – I was far too lazy to learn despite my parents’ best efforts. And singing? There was more chance of me holding the World Heavyweight Boxing title than me holding a note.
1972 had been a year of musical enlightenment for me. It had started with me pestering my folks to buy me a shirt similar to one I’d seen Kenney Jones wear while playing drums for Rod Stewart on Top of the Pops. I wanted to look ‘cool’ at my school disco.
We never found one, of course, and I had to settle for a turquoise, paisley pattern shirt and matching kipper tie, with lilac needle-cord trousers.
It ended with me wearing that very same outfit to a disco in London (I was part of a representative Glasgow Boy Scouts group visiting the city) where I ‘got off’ a girl from a local Guides troop.
I made her laugh, apparently.
I now know why.
Isn’t Life strange, though? The song that kicked off 1972 for me, and remains possibly my all-time favourite single, is ‘Stay With Me,’ by The Faces.
… and the song that brought the year to a close, reminding me of that disco in London, is – ‘Angel‘ by Rod Stewart and The Faces.
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
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.
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.
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
(Post by Alan Fairley, of Edinburgh – February 2021)
There can’t be too many people who have set out planning to attend a T Rex concert only to have ended up at a Mott the Hoople gig but that particular quantum leap was one which I experienced as 1971 drew to a close, and one which, in musical terms, proved to be a seminal moment in my life.
Both myself and my long term school friend James Meldrum had recently scaled (metaphorically) the stifling walls of Bearsden Academy to embark on our respective career choices. James had headed off to Portsmouth to join the Royal Navy while I merely made the 15 minute walk over Pendicle Road to start my job in the less exotic environment of Bank of Scotland’s Bearsden Cross branch.
James and I had bonded over the years due to our communal interest in football and music and it was around this time that the latter was, within our respective psyches, beginning to vie for attention with the former. As James’ first shore leave approached, he called me and suggested getting tickets for the T Rex gig at Greens Playhouse which was coinciding with his period of leave. I dutifully hopped on to the No13 bus from Maxwell Avenue to Renfrew Street and legged it along Sauchiehall Street before heading to the oasis-like ticket desk which lurked in the dark corners of House of Clydesdale only to be told that T Rex was completely sold out. Deflated, but determined to avoid a wasted journey, I asked the salesgirl what other shows were on around that time. She handed me a list and three words jumped off the page – Mott. The. Hoople.
I didn’t know much about them. I’d read in the Melody Maker that they did a great live show and I’d seen them once on Top of the Pops performing their spectacularly unsuccessful debut single Midnight Lady. I duly purchased the tickets and recall vividly the seat numbers -D7 and D8. Four rows from the front, the nearest I’d ever been to the gargantuan Playhouse stage.
The gig itself was amazing. We didn’t know any of the songs but they all sounded great, the fans rushed the stage toward the end and the cops were called in as the management clearly feared a riot. No Neanderthal Rock Steady stewards in these days as Glasgow’s finest restored order – but only after the band had completed no less than three encores.
From then on, Mott became my favourite band and I saw them again a few months later at the Kelvin Hall. By this time I had acquired my first proper girlfriend, Marion, who I had met at the Christmas dance in Bearsden Burgh Hall (no disco thankfully, just a couple of great live bands one of which featured recently departed Marmalade guitarist Hughie Nicholson).
Pretty, intelligent, sensible and a lover of classical music, Marion, a former Hillhead H.S. pupil was the polar opposite of me and it was probably a serious error of judgement on my part by taking her along to the Kelvin Hall show. Our contrasting reactions to the entertainment on offer merely accentuated the vast cultural chasm which existed between us and it was no real surprise when she gave me the Spanish Archer not long afterwards.
I addressed the disappointment of being issued with the Red Card from Marion by immersing myself further in music, forsaking the questionable delights of following Partick Thistle by spending my Saturday afternoons browsing through, and usually purchasing, albums from the city centre record shops such as Listen, Bruce’s and 23rd Precinct. I also became a regular patron of Greens Playhouse, checking out any acts I thought would be worth listening to and I scoured the music papers diligently every week to check when my favourite band would again be touring.
Thankfully their next visit to Glasgow coincided with James’ shore leave and this time we had front row tickets – a first for us both. The fourth Mott gig I attended occurred after Greens had morphed into the Apollo following a major aesthetic overhaul, something which had also happened to the band itself. Gone were the five working class lads from Hereford, a quintet to whom their fan base could easily identify. Instead there was glitter, peroxide, suits and platform boots as the long waited Bowie-influenced chart success of All the Young Dudes had propelled the band into the Glam Rock genre.
(Speaking of genre propulsion, the support act on that occasion was a relatively unknown outfit called Queen who, at the end of the tour, released their debut single Seven Seas of Rye. To quote Charlie Nicholas, ‘the rest is geography.’)
Mott split up shortly after that gig, around the time that I moved to Edinburgh and met the girl of my dreams, rapidly finding myself struck by the triple whammy of marriage, mortgage and children resulting in my obsession with music soon giving way to the new responsibilities which altered my outlook on life.
Mott’s lead singer Ian Hunter toured extensively thereafter but I was in my 40s by the time I saw him on stage again. The venue was for the gig was…er…’The Venue’, an imaginatively named building tucked away in a cobbled street within the dark confines of Edinburgh’s Old Town. After the show I hung around, along with a few other ageing fans, at the stage door hoping for a glimpse of, or even a chat with, the man himself.
A burly roadie then appeared and announced that Ian wouldn’t be seeing anyone.
My subsequent anger, fuelled by the casual dismissiveness of my own loyalty, exploded as I responded with-
‘Tell him if it wasn’t for us, he’d be working in a f***ing factory’.
I only realised the misguided nature of my knee jerk reaction when this behemoth of a roadie advanced angrily in my direction but the situation was resolved when Hunter quickly appeared, shaking hands and signing autographs for his small band of admirers.
I saw him in concert maybe a dozen times, in three different countries, after that, the two most memorable being when I was reunited with my old pal James (after a gap of almost 40 years) at Londons’ Shepherds Bush Empire and another in the picturesque enclave of San Juan Capistrano, California, the last gig I attended with my wife Pamela, who passed away three months later.
The subsequent Mott the Hoople reunion shows came and went amidst much hype. I attended the London and Glasgow events but by then they had become akin to a tribute band and I realised that the magic of 1971 had gone forever.
The band, and its members, provided me with some great memories over a period of almost 50 years —-and all because T Rex had been sold out.