Glam Rock laughed in the face of the pompous pseudo-intellectualism that was becoming prevalent in the music world in the early seventies. It declared war on seriousness.
You want three day weeks? We want Can The Can. You want Tales From Topographic Oceans? We want Tiger Feet. It is, of course, the sweetest of all ironies that Marc Bolan – the man who it could be argued invented the Glam Rock genre, took himself more seriously than a hundred Topographic Oceans. He probably thought he was a Topographic Ocean . . .
Glam picked up on the hippie ideal of showing off and took it to a new level. The hippies blew it when they started to take themselves seriously – always the death-knell of any movement – and that was a trap that the Glamsters couldn’t fall into. After all, how could you take yourself seriously when you were wearing metallic blue and silver platform boots with a five-inch heel?
Actually, some of them did – most of them did – and as soon as they did, they were finished. Apart from the aforementioned Grand-daddy of the scene – yes, Mr Bolan – most of the Glamsters played with the idea of being sensible, looked at it and laughed at it.
Any self-respecting Glam rocker needed ten basic things. You’ve got to remember. That first Top of the Pops appearance was all-important. Make the right impression and Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman might take notice. Get it wrong and you would be back to doing Beatles and Stones covers at the Greyhound in East Grinstead.
So what was the right look? What were those 10 things?
- You’ve got to dress like a girl (or – in the case of Suzi Quatro – like a man)
- You’ve got to have long hair
- Your hair’s got to be bouffant
- You’ve got to wear loads of make-up, preferably put on while you’re wearing boxing gloves
- You’ve got to wear trousers that are incredibly tight at the top
- And very flared at the bottom
- Your trousers have got to be so tight at the top that they split you in two, leaving people in no doubt
a) about your religion, and
b) that you’re built like a Grand National champion. (The same effect can be achieved by a quick visit to your local greengrocer)
- You’ve got to have loads of glitter and/or mirrors plastered all over you
- Your shoes have got to be orthopaedic and be able to double as step-ladders
- Any jacket lapels or shirt collars must be at least 6 inches long, and – if you’re really serious about it – across
If you adopted a minimum of, say, five of those points, really, you stood a good chance of making it big. If you did between five and eight, you’d get in the Top 20 after one Top of the Pops appearance. If you followed all 10 points, Mickie Most would probably invite you round for dinner.
After five glorious Glam years, the world changed forever.
A different style of dressing up caught on, a new movement was born – the boy looked at Johnny, and liked what he saw. Clothes were ripped, make-up was plastered on eyes with a trowel, cheeks were pierced with safety pins, nobody smiled. Punk had arrived and the simple pleasures of glitter and gloss were all too quickly forgotten.
Flares and big hair stayed in fashion for a while, enjoying a wild time in discos around the world until well into the 1980s, but the Glam bands of Britain woke up one morning in February 1976 and found that they had been confined to endless nostalgia tours around seaside piers, holiday camps and bingo halls.
Many of them are still doing the scampi-in-a-basket circuit, enjoying the beer and laughs, even if the new band members get younger than the audience by the week.
Of course Glam didn’t change the world. It just felt as though it did for all those starry-eyed boys and girls who wrecked their foot arches on gigantic heels, and are now worrying about their own daughters doing the same in those daft-looking platform trainers.
Ultimately, it was a bloody good laugh. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.