Glam Rock: Then and Now
By Brian Knight
During the early 1970s, the music world was overcome by glam rock. There were two distinct characteristics to the Glam rock era. One was the sexual flamboyance exemplified by David Bowie and the other was proto-punk aggression illustrated by Iggy Pop. In popular culture, the sexual aspect of Glam rock took the limelight for it received the most media attention and the music was more accessible to the public. The hard rockers, such as Iggy Pop and MC5, were less popular in the mainstream, but their music created a huge influence for the artists to come.
This Glam rock attack was led by the popular artists Elton John, T-Rex, Lou Reed and David Bowie. By incorporating a flamboyant stage persona into their already incredible musical approach, these musicians redefined the role of the artist in musical culture. These artists put the emphasis on the singer as well as the songs.
Correlating with this movement was a foray into sexual discovery. The 1960s were typified by sexual liberation where love was everywhere and available to all. The 1970s were characterized by sexual exploration; words like homosexuality, sadomasochism and androgyny entered everyday vocabulary. Musically, references were made to this sexual ambiguity in songs like Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side.
The flag bearers for this sexual movement were the artists and especially the British glam rockers. Coinciding with this flamboyancy were a wealth of rumors: "David Bowie lost his eye because he got in a fight with Iggy Pop while fighting over a another boy during high school"; "Angela Bowie walked in on David Bowie and Mick Jagger in bed"; and Rod Stewart had to have his stomach pumped. Although most of these stories were simply rumors, some were calculated media maneuvers. Although an unconfirmed story in itself, it is believed that David Bowie’s public admittance of bisexuality was a successful ploy to bring him more attention.
In addition, fashion was an integral part to the image. Elton John had his large glasses; David Bowie had his dresses while Iggy Pop pranced around the stage shirtless. They all wore lots of makeup, which was tremendously helpful in skewing the gender lines even further. On the musical side of things, glam rock was hard biting and lyrical. The sounds were characterized by space-age lyrics, driving guitars and an overall loudness. That was the most amazing thing about these artists is that could back up their controversial appearances and lifestyles with amazing music. During this period, tunes such as Lou Reed’s White Light/White Heat, David Bowie’s Changes and Elton John’s Rocket Man dominated both the airwaves and music charts.
It was David Bowie’s collaboration with Mott The Hoople, All The Young Dudes, that became the anthem for the Glam rock generation. The song makes references to Glam rock itself, androgyny and drug use. Lyrics such as "Well Billy rapped all night about his suicide"; "Television man is crazy saying we're juvenile delinquent wrecks, Oh man I need TV when I got T Rex"; and "Now Lucy looks sweet cause he dresses like a queen" helped the Glam youth find their identity. The song reassured they that they were not alone in the world. Similarly, Bowie’s "Oh! You Pretty Things", which was released on Hunky Dory, was a calling out to the ‘confused’ youth of the world. When Bowie first announced his bisexuality, the local British papers ran the headline: "Oh, You Pretty Thing" which forever equated the song to Bowie’s sexual identity.
There are many albums that dominated the Glam rock era: Mott The Hoople’s self titled album, Lou Reed’s Transformer, David Bowie’s Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, to name a few. Beyond the albums that successfully made the bridge to mainstream pop, there were an equal amount of artists and albums that remained in relative Glam obscurity. Thanks to New York City’s Snapper Music and their impressive...
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