By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)
Born out of explorative rock genres, (Space Rock, Psychedelic Rock and Art Rock of the late 60’s) Glam Rock offered a shiny new presentation of rock and roll in its most primal original form but with a more refined and developed sense of the aforementioned overall artistic interpretations.
It was not only limited to the fashion for which it is most commonly known but its presentation, performance, delivery and lyrical themes. (Not dissimilar to the first genre that first developed these, Opera which was the first art form that was a total multi medium “show.”) While the pioneer glam artists initially revisited the core of rock and roll music’s song structure, (writing simple, yet infectiously hooky tunes) the presentation was revamped with more powerful guitar tones, musical arrangements and of course, theatrics.
T. Rex singer and frontman, Marc Bolan, is said to be the first person to embody the Glam idea(l), however “Glam Rock” wasn’t fully realized or coined until 1972 because of notable chameleon Davie Bowie’s excursion with his Ziggy Stardust persona and agreed the term was befitting of “Ziggy.” Glam would soon spread throughout England in 1973 via contemporaries such as Slade, Sweet, Roxy Music and Gary Glitter. And with Marc Bolan’s TV show and his ideas for guest stars along with all their developments in their presentation, it was not long before America caught on.
American acts such as the quirky New York Dolls, the dark Alice Cooper and the combination of the two/whatever-he-wanted-to-be Lou Reed employed the typical hook driven influences with their own flavors of visual presentation. Anthem and Arena Rock bands like Queen and KISS also emerged from further explorations of these elements. Still, the “hook” was at the forefront of the musical genre. It is speculated that the musical and visual are equally used to gain the audience’s attention and provide the ultimate entertainment.
Both in England and in the US, the subgenres Punk, Metal and the beginnings of the Goth movement in the 80’s were heavily influenced by the “total presentation.” Music was made visual. In Japan, the Visual Kei movement which also was born in the 80’s and has never stopped but hasn’t gained too much attention in the US. It is a movement which defies genre.
Mana, fashion designer and musician fronted multi-genre project, Malice Mizer, in the early 90’s and metal project, Mois dix Mois, in the 00’s are current staples. Mana personifies his culture’s “Opera” or “total show,” Geisha. Moving art in all its forms.
Through the years, in various other root genres such as Pop and Electronic Glam has made its influence known not only in Japan but in the West.
In recent years some of the best new incarnations of Glam include Suede and Placebo from England and in the 90’s a feature film emerged from the US, Velvet Goldmine, which interwove elements of the various pioneers of Glam into various personalities in the story. (The first of which was a boy from another world with a knack for show who influences others for years to come. Not unlike Bolan.)
Freddie Mercury of Queen understood the concept of the total show. “The lavish presentation appeals to me, and I have to convince the others,” he once said.
Including my Picks of the Week which highlight the originators, Marc Bolan/T. Rex, Slade, Bowie and Sweet, I have included some of my favorite modern day Glam artists that stirred my attention as a young musician simply by LISTENING!
SUEDE: Employing the old vintage sound and discussing the some visual traits in music/stardom (Ironically in plain clothes.)
PLACEBO: With examples of various elements both vintage and new:
MOIS DIX MOIS: With Goth/Symphonic Metal elements and heavy fashion influence.
“The show must go on.” – Freddie Mercury