It’s the 40th anniversary of the first manned moon landing, and looking back at that achievement it’s obvious that one of the many repercussions was evinced in the music of the era. In addition to the space rock of bands like Pink Floyd and Hawkwind and sci-fi minded funk acts like Funkadelic, the glam rock scene, which exploded around the same time, is one of the most obvious manifestations. For a couple of years, glam rock was massively popular in several countries and it spawned hordes of mylar-and-make-up-wearing rockers singing about extraterrestrial love and lonely planet boys. On December 7, 1972, the Apollo 17 was the last manned mission to the moon and the space age, shortly after, seems to have drawn quietly to a close. Glam rock seemed to fizzle shortly afterward, but maybe it just went underground, seeking out new frontiers in a different set of clothes.
First, in 1973, David Bowie retired his extraterrestrial Ziggy Stardust and released Aladdin Sane. Although hardly a radical departure, it was famously hyped as “Ziggy goes to America” and represented Bowie’s efforts to move in a new direction. Then, in early 1974, glam rock’s creator Marc Bolan announced that “Glam rock is dead.” His February release, Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow – A Creamed Cage in August, was described by its creator as “cosmic soul.” Bowie described his next direction as “plastic soul” shortly afterward. Glam’s two most important stars seemed committed to moving on in spirit, if perhaps overstating the change in their music.
Anyone that dared affect arty, theatrical or androgynous trappings was doomed to critical derision and/or commercial disinterest. Two who did (and were martyred in the press for it) were Cockney Rebel and Jobriath& the Creatures of the Street. Having both released their first records in 1973, they were unfairly criticized as mere glam-rock-come-latelies attempting to fill the void left by Bowie. In many ways, they were the vanguard of a new crop of glam rockers who were undoubtedly inspired by The Dame but in no way mere clones and traded many of his sci-fi aspects for the decadent sophistication associated with Roxy Music (and Bowie). Several would find a measure of popularity (though in no cases approaching the heights of TRextasy) but more remained underground, with their hype usually surpassing their sales.
In fact, many probably would reject the notion that they were glam at all, as their brand of hard-pop drew from progressive rock, soul, disco and a variety of other genres. But what unites the artists of this so-called second wave of glam is the retention of the early glam spirit that left them at odds with the corduroy/beardy/chevy van/whiskey-chugging aesthetics that marked most rock of the era.
1973 Cockney Rebel – The Human Menagerie, Jobriath – Jobriath
1976 Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel – Timeless Flight and Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel – Love’s A Prima Donna, Sailor – Third Step, Doctors of Madness – Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms, Doctors of Madness – Figments of Emancipation, David Werner – Imagination Quota, Roderick Falconer – New Nation, John Miles – Rebel, Supernaut – Supernaut, Skyhooks – Straight in a Gay World
With the so-called punk explosion, the always hyperbolic British music press got Khmer Rouge style and declared it year zero. Glam continued to exist underground and many more fine albums were released, however critically ignored they were, although most of the bands began to transform into something new, in some cases influencing the punk and new wave that were supposed to be reactions against glam. AsHorace wrote, “Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.”
1977 Sailor – Checkpoint, Roderick Falconer – Victory in Rock City, Max Lazer – “Saints of Rock n’ Roll” b/w “Street Queen,” Metro – Metro, Jon Miles – Stranger in the City
1978 Sailor – Hideaway, Doctors of Madness – Sons of Survival, Japan – Adolescent Sex and Obscure Alternatives, Jon Miles – Zaragon, Supernaut – The Nauts, Skyhooks – Guilty Until Proven Insane
1979 David Werner – David Werner, Flashman– Flashman, Metro – New Love, Jon Miles – Mmph
1980 Sailor – Dressed for Drowning, Cuddly Toys – Guillotine Theatre, Metro – Future Imperfect, Jon Miles – Sympathy, Skyhooks – Hot for the Orient, Coby and Iris Recht with Roger S. Clinton – The Apple Soundtrack
1982 Cuddly Toys – Trials & Losses
The second wave of glam and glam-influenced pop/rock was always malleable but many bands’ artistic evolution paralleled the shifting directions of the still active and relevant glam pioneers, Roxy Music and Bowie, incorporating new influences and inspiring many of the new wave/punk/post-punk/goth/urban void and especially the new romantics that followed. For example, Siouxsie and the Banshees covered Roxy Music, Sparks and T Rex, Bauhaus covered T Rex and David Bowie, The Damned played on Marc Bolan’s program and the Adverts mingled with Doctors of Madness. Without glam, we probably never would’ve had bands as wide-ranging as ABC, Adam Ant, The Cure, Duran Duran, Hanoi Rocks, Japan, Joy Division, Klaus Nomi, Magazine, Nina Hagen, Tubeway Army or a host of others. Of course, in the ’80s, there probably wouldn’t have been anything like glam metal, which helped promote big hair and subsequently contributed to global warming, so it’s not all good.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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