Saturday, January 31, 2009

"Come on feel the noise"'s Slade

This week I decided to try something different with the layout of this blog, including the addition of the appropriately glam "bottles of your mother's makeup" rating system (patent pending).

Slade never hit it big in North America but they had their share of #1 singles in the UK. In fact, in the early years of glam, Slade was out-charting glitter superstars like David Bowie and Marc Bolan. The band is responsible for 17 top 20 songs in the UK and are cited as influences to post-glam groups like “Kiss” and “The Ramones”.

Rocker Profile: Slade is a band from the West Midlands, England. At the peak of their popularity, the band consisted of: Noddy Holder on vocals and rhythm guitar, Dave Hill on lead guitar, Jim Lea on Bass and Don Powell on drums. The band was pieced together from the leftovers of several unsuccessful English groups. From 1971 to 1975, the band released several successful albums, the two most acclaimed being “Slayed?” in ’72 and “Slade in Flame” in ’75. The band also released a popular Christmas tune entitled “Merry Christmas Everybody” which resurfaces every holiday season in Europe.

Glamtastic Review: Today we’ll have a look at Slade’s third studio album, “Slayed?”. The album charted well mostly in the UK and Australia. It is notably darker than other early 70s glam efforts. The album’s gritty sound, with its anthem choruses and seemingly sporadic guitar noodling, serves as an obvious precursor to later rock acts like “Twisted Sister” and “AC/DC”. In fact, Noddy Holder’s coarse voice sounds incredibly similar to the vocals of the late AC/DC front man, Bon Scott.

What I Like About the Album:

-Songs like “Look at Last Night” and “The Whole World’s Goin' Crazee” are lyrically playful, powerful tunes, that speak on rock and roll stardom in both a grounded and surreal fashion.

-Bassist Jim Lea manages to stick out from the rest of the musicians, his wickedly hopping, vocal-mimicking bassline in “More Over” is fun.

-“Let the Good Times Roll” is a strong and catchy track with a great guitar breakdown in the interlude as well as at the end of the track.

What I Don’t Like About the Album:

-Many of the songs feel too similar. Slade sticks to a certain formula for every track on this album: a couple of lines for the verse, than a yelled anthem chorus. This formula is repeated and an interlude or solo is tossed in here or there. Slade does perform these types songs well but there needs to be some variation.

-Most of the songs aren’t very fulfilling lyrically. Cliché or cheesy lines pepper many of the record’s verses. Here’s an example from “We’re all goin’ Crazee” that made me shake my head a little: “We all get our kicks, playing in a rock and roll band, There’s nothing like the feeling when you give it all you got, and people want to shake you by the hand,”

-Like the actual song structure, the song themes themselves do not vary enough from track to track. With the exception of only a couple of songs on “Slayed?” most of the album is about either kicking a girlfriend to the curb or partying and finding a new one.

Verdict: I enjoyed “Slayed?” overall but it felt like rich glam rock filler, catchy but with very little creative substance.

3.5 bottles of your mother's makeup out of 5

"Mama Weer All Crazee Now" from the album "Slayed?"

band image from
album image from

Sunday, January 25, 2009

How to Apply Glitter...

Researching for this blog gives me the chance to appreciate some great bands. I get to recall some gems I haven't heard in years and I even happen upon some great new music info from time to time. That being said, parusing the dusty corners of the interent's lengthy glam rock tomb doesn't always bring about glitter gods. Some bands fall a little short of the idea of glam, others are just plain lost.

So, the question is: What makes good glam music good and bad glam music...not so good? Well, I decided to run you through a couple of clips and point out some details to help sreamline your judgment on the topic.

This is "The Sweet" with "Ballroom Blitz". You probably recognize the track. It has been used countlessly in television commercials, video games and movie soundtracks. This is glam rock good. Why?

-The song sports a simplistic, crunchy rock riff, catchier than the common cold. Good glam rock keeps things simple and memorable.

-The lyrics are out of this world. Surreal scenes and sounds are paramount in the glitter rock scene.

-The spoken lyric breaks are great, probably one of the most memorable elements as they create the hectic atmosphere of the "ball".

-The band looks like it's ready to go trick or treating. Glam rock is about the looks of the band members just as much as it is about the music. If the band doesn't have you guessing the sanity or sexuality of at least two band members, it fails visually. No exceptions!

This is "Sparks" with "Get in the Swing". This band gained limited success in the glam rock scene in the 70s. Sparks later became far more popular in the UK when they devoted their efforts to developing a "new wave" sound in the early 80s. This is glam rock bad. Why?

-The song strays from simplisity. It has several sections, none of which are attractive to the ear. Let's face it, the song sounds like it would be played during a montage in an after school special, most likely when a character is learning the merits of hard work. This is not glam.

-The costumes are bland. I'm not sure whether the vocalist is wearing shoes but I am sure that those short shorts aren't glam.

-There ARE at least two men in the group that make you question their sanity and sexuality...but in "Get in the swing" it simply does not add to an out-of-this-world presentation of what is supposed to be a flashy, mixed media.

-The lyrics are grounded and uninterestng despite a brief call to the Gods in the interlude of the song.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Ziggy Played Guitar..."

Last week’s entry focused on Marc Bolan, the man who set the tone for glam rock in the early 70s. Today we’ll look at tge man that took Bolan’s glam rock foundation to a stellar level.

Rocker Profile: David Jones, later relabelled David “Bowie”, first entered the music scene at a young age. Like Bolan, Bowie first began to make a name for himself writing and performing psychedelic folk tunes for an underground audience. One of these tracks, recorded in 1969 for a self-titled album, was the popular “Space Oddity”. This song was recorded to coincide with the moon landing and it quickly climbed the UK charts. It was soon after Bowie’s first tastes of artistic and commercial success that he teamed with the most influential collaborator of his glitter phase, Mick Ronson. Ronson contributed to five Bowie albums in the seventies, including the popular “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars” and “A Lad Insane”, two records which unified a space-aged glitter sound with astronomical visuals. The Ronson albums became well-known for Bowie’s experimentally androgynous stageshow . He dawned layers of sparkling makeup, platform heals, and tight lycra jumpsuits onstage. David focused on creating a visual personification of the flashy and weird glam rock sounds of the 70s and he became extremely successful because of it.

Glamtastic Review: We’re going to have a brief look at Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars”. The album begins with the apocalyptic “5 years”, a slow, piano driven track that lays the groundwork for the album. The song successfully introduces bizarre imagery; the world is close to an end and everyone seems to be learning to cope with the dark atmosphere. It’s a fantastically ear-tugging opener. The album boasts many chugging, distorted tracks like “Suffragette City” and “Star”. The track “Hang Onto Yourself”, with its clap track and frantically simple bass, sounds as though it would fit in perfectly with any early "Ramones" record. I think the most prominent gems on the album are the slower tracks, though. Songs like “Starman”, “Rock and Roll Suicide” and “Ziggy Stardust” take their time with simple melodies which frame Bowie’s interesting and energetic voice. Bowie has an absolutely stunning range, his highs are practically feminine on the record. “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” is a fantastic concept album, it jumps from different ideas in a near apocalyptic world inhabited by spaced out rockers. This album IS "glitter". Listen to it a couple times.

"Starman" live

Bowie black and white from:
Album artwork from :

Friday, January 16, 2009

It Came From...Everywhere?

Glitter, flamboyance, fashion, freedom, sexuality, surrealism, emotion, sound, expression, colour, confidence, art, rhythm, glam, glam, glam.

Welcome to glam rock, a strange, sense-encompassing musical movement popularized in the mid 70s. Also known as “glitter rock”, glam music takes pinches of popular culture and presses them together firmly in one happily-odd art.

Glitter rock’s revolutionary rise to mainstream popularity was short but powerful. The movement, arguably a transitional phase, ushered the rise of many talented musicians. Pioneering glam rockers took influences like blues, country, Motown, doo-wop, rock and roll and the dream-like tunes of the post-hippie movement and used them to create something radically new, setting the foundation for generations of musicians.

This blog focuses on the brave men and women behind the boas: the history, the music, the albums and the musicians they inspired.

Rocker Profile: The first prominent figure in the world of glitter rock was a corkscrew curled boy from Hackney, London. Marc Feld, later relabelled“Marc Bolan”, found moderate musical success in the London underground as a folk artist. It was after he shed his Dylan-esque image and worked an electric guitar into his act that his band, “Tyrannosaurus Rex”, began steadily appearing in the UK charts. After rearranging the group’s line-up and shortening their title to “T.Rex”, Bolan began working with producer Tony Visconti. Bolan and Visconti collaborated on several of T.Rex’s more commercially successful albums: “Electric Warrior” in ’71, “The Slider” in ’72, and “Tanx” in ’73.

Glamtastic Review: Today we’ll have a look at the album that started it all, “Electric Warrior”, Bolan’s first full-length venture into electric rock. The album was a risky move for a once thriving folk artist. Electric warrior consists of sixteen tracks that display Bolan’s diverse musical interests. The album opens with “Mambo Sun” a track which incorporates a deeply metallic, bouncing rhythm guitar with Bolan’s imagery-focused, dream-like lyrics. Bolan playfully dives into takes on his blues and rock influences in many of the tracks including “Lean woman blues”, “Jeepster”, “The Motivator” and the popular “Bang a Gong (Get it it on)”. These tracks explode with a sort of energetically playful freedom, almost a boastful exhale for the once unplugged musician. That isn’t to say that there aren’t nods to Bolan’s folk roots in Electric Warrior. The musician smoothly blends his new sound with the steady pulsing strums of his classic folky ballads. Across the record, songs like “Life’s a Gas” or “Girl” pay tribute to his musical past. “Cosmic Dancer” an existential folk tune is punctuated with crooning moans and the whispers of a fine string arrangement which displays the marriage of Bolan’s old ideas with a new sound in a fresh way. This album was all about change for the artist and it is a fantastically well rounded sampling of meandering musical ideas. If you have a chance, do yourself a favour and check it out.

That's it for "RMWB" for today. Tune in next time for a spaced out guitarist and his out-of-this-world arachnids... untill then, check out the "Random Glam Clip of the Day":

David Bowie and Marc Bolan perform, Marc tumbles offstage. This was Bolan's last appearance, he died only nine days later in a car accident.

* all album artwork from