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Glam rock is a style of rock music that developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1970s performed by musicians who wore outrageous costumes, makeup, and hairstyles, particularly platform shoes and glitter.
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- Glam sent enough mixed messages to make a semiologist go cross-eyed. In its brash riffs and blunt beats, it revived the punch of ’50s rock ’n’ roll. It also fashioned a snide rebuke to the arty excesses of late-period psychedelia.
At the same time, glam’s vocals had a fruity theatricality, supporting lyrics that presented as a [[boast: “Your mother can’t tell if you’re a boy or a girl.” Glam was butch and femme at once: bisexuality in sound.
- Even as a teenager, I sensed this was sissy minstrelsy. But that served my semi-closeted agenda just as surely as did the stars out for a headline. Better, its trendiness made my 27-inch waist, haystack shag and soft features the height of hip. In a world later made hypermasculine by hip-hop, it’s hard to fully appreciate the social power wielded by rock-star-thin pretty things in the ’70s.
- Glam fashion was an almost literal scream, an embrace of the grotesque that somehow made men dressed as space aliens the new sex symbols. It used color as a weapon against hippie drabness. At the same time, its artificiality sneered at ’60s rock sincerity. “A good lie is better than a dull truth,” Alice Cooper said at the time.
- Jim Farbe, “Growing Up Gay to a Glam Rock Soundtrack”, New York Times, (Nov. 3, 2016).
- In the UK, between the Beatles and punk, pop went totally gay. In a straight way. "Brickies in drag" and all that. The Glitter Band, Slade, Mud,the Rubettes, Suzy Quatro, Sweet, Alvin Stardust – a true gilded age of amphetamine bubblegum. And the Americans had Kiss. Who were fun. But they weren't glam.
- … in the US charts you have to scroll down to see Sweet's not-really-all-that-glam Little Willy at No 23 to realise this is the decade hetero-pop went totally testostero-tranny (with Elton and the Bowie in supporting roles).
Which is kind of odd because a lot of the Brit glam-pop classics are now piped-muzak staples at US sporting events. Not the originals, mind, but covers by an anaemic yank hair-metal band called Quite Riot. This is a huge gap in the American cultural psyche. It's like a culture not having any knowledge of Shakespeare, surrealism or post-modernism. And who knows how damaging this lack of glam has been?
It probably explains why US hardcore punk was so macho, straight and boring. And why the US turned its back on gay metal (as we now know the Judas Priest S&M version to have been) and stripped the genre of all its pomp, glamour and self-mocking silliness to give us the visually dull likes of Metallica.
- Americans only got glam second hand via the posh Bowie version.
- Steven Wells, "Why Americans don't get glam rock", The Guardian, (14 October 2008).