Glam rock with its style: glittering clothing, guitar solos and, above all, completely weird styles, caused a stir in the early 1970s. But what exactly is glam rock? Is it a music style or rather a fashion style of your own?
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Sometimes referred to as « glitter rock, » glam rock is a genre that emerged in the 1970s and combined stylistically daring costumes and male makeup. But also theatrically designed music and concerts that should shock. David Bowie is one of the artists who created this counterculture that emerged in Britain in the late 1970s.
In this article you will find out what glam rock is musically, but also in terms of style. We’re going to take a look at who contributed to the rise of this style. It also features the 20 greatest glam rock tracks and albums. 🎸
Let’s get started right away!
A real glam rock fan never leaves the house without his « »rocking skull T-shirt » » .
Definition of glam rock
In terms of the music itself, glam rock bands were the main alternative to the emerging genres of progressive rock and heavy metal, with songs reminiscent of good old rock ‘n’ roll of the ’50s and ’60s. The same one that has given many glam bands the same kind of teenage audiences that the Beatles and the Rolling Stones have had over the past decade.
What really identifies and differentiates glam rock is the attention it pays to image. It was the time of whimsical costumes and theatrical antics on stage, often heavily sexualized. Just as music often seemed to evoke rock’s rebellious attitude, so too did fashion and energetic performances aim to dress it in plus size. 🕺
Glam rock was mostly popular in the UK, where the genre was divided into three subgenres. For art lovers, there was the art styles of David Bowie in his persona de Ziggy Stardust. The teenagers loved rock and roll bands like T. Rex, Gary Glitter, Mott the Hoople and Showaddywaddy. Eventually there were heavier bands like Slade, Sweet and the last works of Queen, whose fusion of pop melodies with loud guitars and drums would have a significant influence on hair metal ten years later.
Although its heyday is long gone, glam rock has had a major impact on the development of folk music. Hair metal is an obvious result, but it would also be difficult to find a British punk rock, post-punk, new romantic, new wave music or goth rock band that wasn’t influenced by Bowie or Bryan Ferry. While the simple style and conscious use of imagery had a major impact on Britpop and much contemporary independent rock.
Other name: Glitter Rock
Glam rock, also known as « glitter rock », emerged in Britain in the early 1970s and celebrated the staging of rock stars and their performances. Often dusted with glitter, the musicians took the stage in make-up and women’s clothing, assuming theatrical personas and assembling glamorous musical productions often characterized by space-age futurism. 💅🏻
Self-aggrandizing and decadent glam rock positioned itself as a countermovement to the rock mainstream of the late 1960s. On the fringes of society and rock culture, glam rockers rebelled, as critic Robert Palmer put it, « against rebellion. » At the heart of glam rock was a heavy guitar sound shaped by hard rock and pop, although the movement also had incarnations of heavy metal, art rock, and punk.
David Bowie, one of the main supporters of this movement, set the standard by writing The Man Who Sold the World in 1970, and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in 1972. Other artists associated with the British People associated with Glamor include Elton John , Queen, Roxy Music, the Sweet and early 1980s Culture Club. Velvet Underground’s Lou Reed launched his solo career and American glamor with Transformer (1972), co-produced by Bowie.
In the US, glamor took a harder turn with the proto-punk styles of the New York Dolls and the glitzy hard rock of Kiss and Alice Cooper. In the 1980s, glamor turned intoHeavy metal excesses with American bands like Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe and Poison. In the 1990s, Marilyn Manson caused controversy with a glamor brand designed to shock conservative Americans. 🇺🇸
In its very first classical incarnation in Britain, around 1972-1974, this style of music grew out of a number of different musical trends:
- A departure from what was felt to be the crushing seriousness of the metal, prog and hard rock bands that would go on to form what would become known as « classic rock ».
- A related love for retro ’50s three-chord rock and roll, the rise of bubblegum music for teens in the late ’60s.
- And a general misogyny sparked by the culture wars of the time.
So the quintessential British glam rock song was loud, stomping, simple and flamboyant, with fat guitar riffs and repeated chants that got the crowds singing along. The typical glamor song of the era also featured heavy, tribal rhythms and a lead vocal that blurred at least some gender differences. Note other artists too musically adventurous to commit to a single genre who also dabbled in glamour, like Queen, David Bowie, ELO or Cheap Trick.
Of course, this was carefully noted in America. Sweet managed to have hits in the US and the New York Dolls took the movement to heart and changed the rock scenethis city for the rest of the decade. At the same time, Alice Cooper began injecting the genre’s style and attitude into his own Doors-inspired blend of goth and hard rock . 🤘
All of this helped glam become a hugely influential movement: the early punksand the New Wavers adopted the style’s anti-hippie attitude and brutal simplicity. While metal and hard rock bands looking to appeal to younger and more diverse audiences began to assimilate the genre as well. The most popular of them – KISS, Van Halen and Aerosmith – had a big break on American radio with their bluesy, heavier version of glamour. In the ’80s their success would become the spearhead of the entire « hair metal » movement (for which glam is unfortunately confused with glam by many Americans to this day).
Glam rock albums
David Bowie’s 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars is a perfect model for glam rock at its most ambitious. It revolves around the person Ziggy Stardust , a musician from Mars who came to earth in the last five years of his existence. Ziggy’s fame was his downfall as he became a victim of his own success. 👀
Bowie had great success with his albums in the early 1970s. These included 1973’s Alladdin Sane , 1973 ‘s Pin-Ups , and Young Americans , which appeared in 1975. He was undoubtedly the most influential glamor rockerr and is still active today. At his peak, he was backed by a powerful trio of musicians consisting of guitarist Mick Ronson, bassist Trevor Bolder and drummer Mick Woodmansey. Ronson created particularly powerful riffs in songs like « Rebel Rebel. »
The glam rock style
Glitter rock isn’t just about the music. It was also a style of clothing. He put the emphasis on outrageously extravagant fashion: platform shoes, sequined suits, women’s make-up for the Flashy jackets , and many other accessories that deviated from the « norm ». ✨ Bowie was the main trendsetter and his image was at least as important to many fans as the music itself. However, he kept a certain distance from his glamorous off-stage image.
The outrageous fashion style contrasted with the traditional constraints dictated by a person’s gender. Male singers and musicians took the stage with lots of glitter, tight satin dresses, eyeliner and a wide variety of colors in general.
Over the years, glam rock musicians have pushed the genre’s aesthetic to greater and greater extremes that have somewhat obscured its rather humble beginnings. It is a revolution that emphasizes the self and experiments with identity, self-expression and sexuality. You could say that glam rock is more about style and individuality than music. 💃
In 1973, Elton John appeared wearing sparkling orange sunglasses as he performed Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, leading people to label him as having a glam rock style. The glam rock-inspired image of a long-haired frontman singing into a microphone while wearing a spandex bodysuit, her exposed chest is now familiar to the general public as well.
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Top 20 Best Glam Rock Songs
As a young rock star, we have selected the 20 best glam rock songs of all time for you. Some of them can be found on YouTube, often with ultra-hot clips, we invite you to search for yourself. 😉
#20) T-Rex, Hot Love – 1971
« There should be real, ruthless prostitution in this industry, » Bowie told Cream magazine in late 1971. With this homage to the Velvet Underground, saturated with homosexuality and seedy Manhattan, he did his best to make it happen. Mick Ronson’s guitar destroys everything.
#19) David Bowie, Queen Bitch – 1971
« There should be real, ruthless prostitution in this industry, » Bowie told Cream magazine in late 1971. With this homage to the Velvet Underground, saturated with homosexuality and seedy Manhattan, he did his best to make it happen. Mick Ronson’s guitar destroys everything. 🎸
#18) Alice Cooper, School’s Out – 1972
From Detroit to Los Angeles, these hard rockers had been wearing makeup and dresses since 1969, making them well suited to the glamor imperative. School’s Out was a primary track on their rise, staying at #1 for three weeks over the summer break.
#17) Roxy Music, Virginia Plain – 1972
Along with Bryan Ferry’s ultra-stylish performance and Eno’s other synthesizer screams, this finally came from the planet Mars in the late summer of 1972. Full of references to pop art and pop culture, Virginia Plain was nothing short of a manifesto for a new era: « So you and I, just the two of us, must look for something new ». 🧐
#16) Mott The Hoople, All the Young Dudes – 1972
Bowie may have provided the raw material, but Mott provided the definitive rendition of this generation-defining song, with its snickering reference to the Beatles and the Stones. The musicians crouched and rolled around Ian Hunter’s harsh voice: « Oh, is there concrete all around/ Or is it all just in my head ».
#15) Lou Reed, Vicious – 1972
Another Bowie production and another career renewal. Vicious begins Reed’s second solo album just as one would want it to, with the award-winning Manhattan poet spewing out the Warhol-inspired words, « Vicious: you hit me with a flower, » while Mick Ronson embodies the song’s menace. 🔊
#14) David Bowie, The Jean Genie – 1972
Bowie returned to the R&B era of the ’60s with this one. It was based on the old « I’m a Man » riff but updated with Ronson’s booming guitar, burlesque rhythms and double meanings. The band put on a fantastic performance that year.
#13) Slade, Cum On Feel the Noize – 1973
It was their fourth #1 in 18 months, giving guitarist Dave Hill an excuse — as if he needed it — for wearing increasingly outrageous outfits to concerts. A chorus and lyrics that are a direct invitation « to rock, rock, rock ». 😛
#12) Roxy Music, Editions of You – 1973
« For Your Pleasure », featuring singing model Amanda Lear on the cover, is one of the few coherent albums from this period. The rocker was one of those who fought homophobia hardest with phrases like « Boys will be boys will be boyoyoys. »
#11) Bonnie St Claire, Clap Your Hands and Stamp Your Feet – 1973
With its catchy tunes and rock ‘n’ roll roots, the glamor on a cloud was huge. And here’s a great Dutch debut, with Beach Boys-style choirs, beach gossip and of course the ever-present Chuck Berry riffs.
#10) T-Rex, 20th Century Boy – 1973
It could have been any of T-Rex’s four hits from 1972 – Metal Guru in particular – but it was the heaviest of them all. A furious rocker with a heroic riff that showed for all to see just how much Bolan understood the essence of pop stardom.
#9) Iggy and the Stooges, Search and Destroy – 1973
Produced by David Bowie, The Stooges sounded glamorous, largely due to the high notes and guitar. But Search and Destroy, like their parent album Raw Power, went much further and deeper than few would have expected in 1973. 😵
#8) New York Dolls, Trash – 1973
Simultaneously ridiculous and tough, unkempt and tough, vicious and tender (just listen to those floating girl band harmonies). Trash, along with Jet Boy, was the Dolls’ big pop movement.
#7) The Sweet, The Ballroom Blitz – 1973
The Sweets were booming after the blockbuster and it could well be that this is the archetype of the glam rock song . A pounding rhythm, electric guitar riffs and well controlled vocals. Impossible to stop and always exciting: a masterpiece. 🎧
#6) Mud, Dyna-Mite – 1973
Written by the sweet svengalis, Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, Dyna-Mite remains firmly in our top list. Ridiculous flares and a little self-mockery with a badly mastered biker dance – the future Sex Pistols had all of their talent.
#5) Suzi Quatro, Devil Gate Drive – 1974
Quatro had some gilded references in the garage. His first band, the Pleasure Seekers , had recorded What a Way to Die in 1966 and was number one for two weeks. Mixing rock ‘n’ roll with a touch of Burundian beat, it continues the explosive theme of the club/ballroom of the time with a touch of autobiography.
#4) Sparks, This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us – 1974
The sparks were the last big glamor flash : delicate, artificial, super-hooky and high-concept, with a hard rock band and ultra-shiny dresses. They released a song with the lyrics « you hear the thunder of stampeding rhinos, elephants and tacky tigers » before reaching number 1 on the charts.
#3) David Bowie, Rebel Rebel US – 1974
Bowie said goodbye to the youth movement he had helped found. Captioning « You got your mother in trouble, ’cause she ain’t sure if you’re a boy or a girl » girl) and his last top 10 finish in 18 months. This American mix features dreamy reverse harmonies, added percussion and a phased guitar.
#2) Iron virgin rebels rule – 1974
Almost every major Glutterrock record has been a success, but this is one of the best. A grinding Sweetarama disc by a Scottish band that toughened up the wild youth while wearing Clockwork Orange-inspired costumes. The singer wore a padlock at the crotch with the caption: « Keep out ». ⛔️
#Nr. 1) Sweet, The Sixteens – 1974
A four-minute mini-opera about a failed youth revolution and a top 10 hit of the summer, featuring the renamed band. Rises above the complex structure of the song with a totally convincing performance. The Sixteens is a classic of teenage disillusionment that borders on glam rock caricature.
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