Glitter and Glam: When Rock Became Fabulous

Resurrecting a scene that had become dull and reminding us all that style and substance can go hand in hand. #glamrock

By the end of the 1960’s, Rock and Roll had become splintered forever. Rock was the new category, signaling the end of some kind of adolescent phase into more “serious” sub-genres, such as Progressive Rock, Heavy Metal, Folk Rock, etc. Young people’s music was called bubblegum, even though it held all the hallmarks of some of the great early Rock and Roll records. The burgeoning singer-songwriter movement also made Rock more the realm of adults than the young people it was meant for. Things got deep, thoughtful, introspective. It seemed that all the fun had gone out of it altogether.

Bass player and vocalist Suzi Quatro, 1973, Photo by Bob Gruen.

In the late 1960’s, two different talents emerged that would carry the flag for something altogether different in the coming decade, and both were heavily influenced by Black, first-wave rockers that were enjoying a huge career resurgence at the time. In Los Angeles, that band was Alice Cooper, signed by Frank Zappa because they could easily clear out a room of people. They played loud, fast and many times humorous Rock, wore sequined and satined clothing and replete with a stage act that people simply were not ready for. In London, Marc Bolan decided that his group, T. Rex, should drop its hippie garb, start playing Chuck Berry riffs and wear shiny, flash outfits with make-up. After their first television appearance, it seemed glitter eyeshadow was sold out in shops all over England.

“I’m always surprised that people take what I say seriously. I don’t even take what I am seriously.”

David Bowie during his ziggy stardust phase, 1972

Once each group started to have major hits, much of the old guard establishment derided the new sound and look, calling it the result of the negative influence of the sexual revolution and the emergence of the Gay rights movement. Of course, it proved immediately influential. Many of the men in these groups teased around with gender bending, cross dressing and a rejection of uptight mores, including openly singing about sodomy and heavy drug use. This scene was alternately called Glitter Rock or Glam Rock, the latter being the more recognizable decades later.

The original Alice Cooper band. (l-r) Michael Bruce (rhythm guitar, keyboards),  Neal Smith (drums), Vince Furnier aka Alice Cooper (vocals), Dennis Dunaway (bass guitar) and Glen Buxton(lead guitar). From the Old Grey Whistle Test, 1971, courtesy of the BBC.

Flash clothing. Men wearing make-up. Loud, fast and fun music that you could dance to. Teenage girls finding new pin-ups. Artists who obviously didn’t fit in with convention. Proponents of more “adult” music complaining. These were the exact same types of criticisms leveled at 1950’s Rock and Roll artists, and interestingly, the Glam and Glitter scene was simply the remaking of that era for a brand new, more hedonistic time.

Vocalist, guitar player and songwriter Marc Bolan photographed by Masayoshi Sukita in 1972.

By the mid-1970’s, Glam and Glitter had fallen out of favor for Disco, Heavy Rock and Punk. This scene, however, was the bridge between the British Invasion and the American Garage Rock Movements to the Rock of late 1970’s. Glam and Glitter would again re-emerge in some form or fashion again, though, namely in the 1980’s American Hair Metal movement, which placed even more emphasis on glamour but ironically was more homophobic. But for a brief while, Rock and Roll became fabulous again.

First Part

  • Looking for a Kiss, New York Dolls, New York Dolls
  • Gudbuy T’Jane, Slade, Slayed?
  • Out of the Blue, Roxy Music, Country Life
  • Long Way to Go, Alice Cooper, Love It To Death
  • Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me), Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, The Best Years of Our Lives
  • Liar, Queen, Queen
  • 48 Crash, Suzi Quatro, Suzi Quatro

Second Part

  • Cracked Actor, David Bowie, Aladdin Sane
  • Walk on the Wild Side, Lou Reed, Transformer
  • Fox on the Run (single mix), Sweet, Desolation Boulevard
  • Roll Away The Stone, Mott the Hoople, The Hoople
  • Needle In The Camel’s Eye, Brian Eno, Here Come the Warm Jets
  • 20th Century Boy, T. Rex, single A-side


  • Black Diamond, Kiss, Kiss

Love to you all.

Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner
Host, Producer, Audio Engineer and Writer

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