Glam: The Thrill of It All


Roxy Music

By David Cohea

Even if the whole Blaxploitation thing missed you by a ‘70s suburban ‘mile, you could rest assured that your macho male demeanor would be threatened in the other way by a dude in gold lame pants, girlie shoes and woman’s makeup.

Zeitgeist, meet Ziggy Stardust. It was enough to make a boy wonder.

Glam — also called “glitter” rock — emerged in the United Kingdom in the early ‘70s and was performed by bands in outrageous outfits, including high-heeled platform boots and glitter.


marc and micky

Marc Bolan and Mickey Finn of T-Rex.


The earliest stirring of glam came in the late ‘60s, emerging from psychedelic and art rock music then in vogue. It probably started when Marc Boland’s folk duo was renamed T. Rex as they took to playing electric instruments and wearing glitter and satin when they appeared the UK’s Top of the Pops TV show in March 1971.

Glam is more identifiable as a fashion trend than a sub-genre of rock ‘n’ roll, as the musical styles varied widely from the rock ‘n’ roll revival of Slade and Gary Glitter to the art-rock stylings of Roxy Music and David Bowie.

Roxy Music was founded in 1971 by Bryan Ferry after he lost he job teaching ceramics at a girls’ school. He advertised for musical collaborators in an avant-garde art-rock endeavor. The original band – Graham Simpson, Andy Mackay, Paul Thompson, Phil Manzanera, Brian Eno and Ferry – released their first album in 1972. Three of the band members had school degrees, and the group combined their interest in music, fashion and art to create a carefully crafted look and style. Roxy Music’s “look” was as unmistakable as its groove, and the band played and recorded together for the next 10 years before Ferry struck out on his own. The band never formally disbanded, and Roxy Music made reunion performances up the present.



Ziggy Stardust, AKA David Bowie.


Most of the U.K. glam bands had middling success in the United States. The notable exception was David Bowie. Bowie’s song “Space Oddity,” released in the U.K. in 1969 (rush-released to coincide with the Apollo 11 moon landing) and re-issued in the U.S. in 1973, eventually reached No. 15 on the Billboard charts.

In 1972 Bowie emerged as Ziggy Stardust, the flamboyant, androgynous hero of the Spiders From Mars band. Bowie made a huge impact on rock culture at the time, creating a what one biographer has called “perhaps the biggest cult in popular culture.” For Bowie, the Ziggy Stardust persona turned out to be one of many over a long career, but glam’s reigning imago belongs to Ziggy.

Some U.S. bands, notably Lou Reed and The New York Dolls, attempted to join the glam bandwagon, but glam never took hold on this side of the Atlantic.


new york dolls

The New York Dolls.


Glam’s influence proved wide-ranging, however. Glam styling can be seen in mid-70s rock bands like The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart and Queen.

Glam metal acts would follow toward the end of the decade and into the ‘80s like Kiss, Twisted Sister and Quiet Riot. In the UK, the androgynous vibe would be picked up in the ‘80s by Culture Club and Flock of Seagulls.



Twisted Sister.


During my high school years in Chicago, Broadway Avenue in of New Town (on the near North side) was a grand parade of chicks and chickdues clattering to and fro all wispy and serious in pants 6 inches too long to compensate for 8-inch platform shoes.

The Rolling Stones’ “Angie” is the anthem that makes me remember that time most whenever I hear it. Whether “Angie” refers to heroin (as songwriter Keith Richards later claimed) or instead to David Bowie’s first wife, who was rumored to have walked in on Bowie and Mick Jagger while they were engaged in sex), it still makes me think of walking grey freezing afternoons with all those young dudes looking so willowy and pretty.

Like glam, “Angie” was a song to a lover of indeterminate sex (perhaps the self-adoration of the age made the particulars of partnering unimportant), a spell against winter, and a sassy rejoinder to walk tall and wear mascara if that’s what it took to be loud and proud of it.



Mick Jagger sings “Angie” in a 1973 promo video.





gary glitter

Gary Glitter.



David Bowie with the Spiders From Mars.


Roxy Music

Roxy Music


Marc Bolan Story_clip_image002_0000

Marc Bolan

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Filed under Rock n Roll, The Seventies

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