Paul Gadd was born in Banbury, Oxfordshire, on 8 May 1944. He changed his name to Paul Raven and recorded several singles during the 1960s – when he was a regular at the 2i’s and the Safari Club in Swinging London – but without much success.
Deterred, he took up the job of a warm-up man for the pop show Ready, Steady, Go!, and it was here he met songwriter/producer Mike Leander who invited him to front The Mike Leander Orchestra on a UK tour, supporting The Bachelors.
When the tour finished, he formed Paul Raven & The Boston International Showband and headed out to the booming club scene in Germany. Initially booked for a month, he ended up staying, almost permanently, for five years. He also tried his luck as Paul Monday and Rubber Bucket (truly).
Leander and Raven knew they wanted to work together even though all their previous efforts had failed to set the world alight, and in the early 70s, the pair plotted how to launch the newly-named ‘Gary Glitter’ on an unsuspecting public.
With some free studio time available due to a cancellation by David Essex and a song title courtesy of a Melody Maker feature entitled “Rock ‘n’ Roll Parts 1 & 2” the pair recorded the debut Gary Glitter single, Leander playing the instruments and Gary painfully putting down every one of those handclaps.
Gary Glitter was officially born on 3 March 1972 with the release of Rock ‘n’ Roll. 1,500 promo copies were sent out to DJs and journalists but it was the discotheques that got behind the single, and with their support, the song peaked at #2 in July, selling over a million copies in the UK alone.
With demand for TV appearances and a UK-wide tour, The Gary Glitter Rock ‘n’ Roll Spectacular was hastily formed in June, featuring bassist John Springate, guitarist Gerry Shepperd, drummers Pete Phipps and Pete Gill and sax players Harvey Ellison and John Rossall – who would eventually become The Glitter Band.
The follow-up single, I Didn’t Know I Loved You (Till I Saw You Rock ‘n’ Roll) went to #4 in October 1972 and ‘glittermania’ swept the nation. The instantly identifiable trademark sound, The Glitter Beat, made 1973 Gary’s most successful year.
Two UK number two hits, Do You Wanna Touch Me? (Oh Yeah) and Hello Hello I’m Back Again were followed by two #1’s with I’m The Leader of The Gang (I Am) and I Love You Love Me Love, the latter actually entering the chart at #1 and staying there for a month.
The Touch Me album spent 35 weeks in the charts and, as well as touring the UK, Gary also toured Germany, Australia, France, Spain, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Scandinavia and Austria.
The ballad Remember Me This Way hit #3 in March 1974 and was followed by another #1 with Always Yours and a #2 with Oh Yes, You’re Beautiful.
The Glitter Band scored hits of their own in the same year with Just For You and Let’s Get Together Again, utilising the same Glitter Beat evident on all of Gary’s chart-toppers.
Two 1975 ‘glitterbeat’ hits, Love Like You And Me and Doing Alright With The Boys, charted before Gary went to America to record The G.G. Album which also featured a then-unknown Luther Vandross on backing vocals. A mixture of R&B and New York disco, the LP was poorly received by Glitter devotees and the single, Papa Oom Mow Mow, only managed to scrape into the Top 40, as did You Belong To Me.
Gary announced his retirement from live performances with five nights at London’s New Victoria Theatre, the last of which was televised.
Relocating to Paris in the Summer of 1977, he kept a relatively low profile until being offered the part of Frank N Furter in a New Zealand production of The Rocky Horror Show:
A spell of living in Australia followed before he felt the urge to return to the UK in 1979 and to re-launch Gary Glitter.
His comeback began in November 1980 with a short club tour and the release of two independent singles, Whatcha Momma Don’t See and When I’m On.
Throughout the early eighties, he worked tirelessly on the live circuit, his shows as extravagant as ever, and totally re-established his career and credibility. The Lyceum and other major venues were regularly packed to the rafters and he was a firm favourite on the university circuit.
Joan Jett had a US Top 20 hit with Do You Wanna Touch Me? and Gary himself stepped back into the UK charts when Dance Me Up hit #25 in July 1984. That Christmas he enjoyed his biggest hit for nine years when Another Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas hit #7.
TV adverts for Heinz soup and poster adverts for British Rail kept his public profile high. The NME put him on the front cover, The Timelords featured him on their chart-topping Doctorin The Tardis single and he presented his own chat show, The Leader Talks on late-night TV.
Gazza succeeded because he was more of a showman than a rocker, and he refused to take his image seriously. He took his music seriously, however, and worked and worked and worked on getting his music and his image across. Gary was probably the most unlikely teen idol ever.
Paunchy, past 30 and with a 50’s throwback bouffant quiff, he took Glam Rock‘s job description to its giddy limit with an outrageously hairy chest encased in a rhinestone and glitter jacket, painfully tight silver foil trousers and the flashy and orthopedically dangerous high heels which made Mr Glitter the most imitated act of the time. But nobody could get near to the exciting productions of Mike Leander which showcased Glitter’s talents so well.
But the most remarkable aspect of Gary Glitter’s varied career was his incredible capacity for survival.
He came through drug addiction, alcoholism, bankruptcy, numerous youth culture revolutions, baldness, a suicide attempt and allegations of kiddie porn, to become the darling of the advertising and late-night TV industries.
He also consistently sold out 10,000 capacity venues with his annual Christmas tour.
Gadd’s world began to unravel, though, in 1997 when over 4,000 indecent images of young children were found on a computer he had taken to PC World for repair. He was jailed for four months. Fleeing the country upon release, he moved to Cambodia but was expelled from the country in 2002 and moved to Vietnam.
In late 2005, at age 61, he was arrested by Vietnamese authorities and charged with molesting two girls, aged 10 and 11, at his home in Vung Tàu. He was convicted of committing obscene acts with minors and sentenced to three years imprisonment.
He was released from prison on 19 August 2008 and returned to London, after being refused entry into Thailand and Hong Kong. Glitter consistently denied any wrongdoing, saying he was framed by British tabloid newspapers.
In January 2015, Glitter appeared at Southwark Crown Court in London, accused of seven counts of indecent assault, one count of attempted rape, and two other sexual offences against three girls between 1975 and 1980. The trial lasted two and a half weeks, and on 5 February 2015, he was convicted of attempted rape, four counts of indecent assault, and one of having sex with a girl under the age of 13. He was acquitted of the three other counts.
On 27 February 2015, Glitter was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Do you wanna be in my gang? er, we’ll get back to you . . .