glam rock

   The early 1970s saw the emergence of glam rock, so named because its concerns lay as much in an artist’s appearance as in the music produced. In many ways, glam rock was both an extension and a rejection of the earlier hippie movement (indeed, many of the artists associated with the scene had earlier careers in bands associated with the hippies). The hippies’ freedom of dress was adapted to the wearing of flamboyant clothes along with makeup and glitter. Gone, however, was most of the political involvement, as glam rock concerned itself almost entirely with the idea of simply having fun. However, one of the main proponents of the music, David Bowie, introduced an element of the politics of sexuality by stating, in a Melody Maker interview, that he was gay. For most artists, though, the extravagant dress and make-up had no overtones of sexuality.
   Other leading figures in the glam scene included Gary Glitter, T-Rex, The Sweet and Slade. The music they made was largely simplistic, being a watered-down version of hard rock, usually based on a distorted guitar sound; songs had catchy choruses, often based on a chant (as in, for example Gary Glitter’s ‘Rock And Roll Part 2’ or Slade’s ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’). This style was not exclusive, though, as can be evidenced in songs such as David Bowie’s string-led ballad, ‘Life On Mars’ and Roxy Music’s quietly menacing ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’. For the most part, however, glam rock was an escape from the music of the late 1960s, which was perceived at the time as having been over-intellectualized.
   Noddy Holder, lead singer with Slade, summed up this attitude: ‘[Audiences] just wanted to be cool and sit down and dig the music and read deep things into it. But finally everybody got sick of that.’ It was, perhaps, this very simplicity that ensured glam rock’s demise. By 1975, artists were either moving into other styles of music, as in the cases of Roxy Music and David Bowie (whose Young Americans album, with its Philly soul style marked the end of the glam rock era), or were simply fading towards obscurity and a career in small-scale revival nights as the (largely teenage) fans of the music grew up and found newer sounds to listen to.
   See also: disco; glam; new romantics
   Further reading
    Hoskyns, B. (1998) Glam! Bowie, Bolan and the Glitter Rock Revolution, London: Faber.
   SIMON BOTTOM

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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