The heels are alive...
Forget VE Day, Channel 4 have declared Bank Holiday Monday to be National Glam Rock Day. David Benedict watches and weeps with nostalgia
Friday 05 May 1995
Thankfully for those poor benighted folk who were out of the country at the time or are simply too young to remember, there's a refresher course available in Glamrock: the Glam Top 10 (9-10.30pm). Living legends (just), Alan Freeman and Tony Blackburn (above) present unmissable footage of such musical giants as Sweet ("Ballroom Blitz"), Alvin Stardust ("My Coo Ca Choo") and, of course, Mud, purveyors of the immortal line: 'That's neat, that's neat, that's neat, that's neat, I really love your tiger feet."
Back when discos were still called discotheques, one affected to be interested in serious rock music. This meant spurning commercialism in all its wickedness and singles in particular. Leonard Cohen recorded songs to slit your wrists to, the Beatles had gone mystical and Led Zeppelin et al took themselves terrifyingly seriously. You were supposed to stay indoors and gaze at your (unwashed?) navel. Glam rock had no such pretensions. It was brazen. Forget angst, this was about going out and having fun, which is why most music encyclopedias ignore the subject completely. You will search in vain for an in-depth analysis of The Rubettes despite four weeks at Number One with "Sugar Baby Love".
The entire revival business is just homesickness dressed up as a cultural movement and glam rock is all about dressing up. Let's face it, Gary's last name is Glitter.
His greatest virtue is his sense of humour, a quality in very short supply in Seventies music. Can you imagine Pink Floyd having the sangfroid to do a self-denigrating commercial for Heinz lentil soup? Gary (above) doesn't need anyone to do his irony for him. Overweight and over the top, he dares you to take him seriously. Together with the oh-so-butch Glitter Band, his annual comebacks are the musical equivalent of revivalist meetings. The lyrics never were that complex, but it still comes as a surprise to discover that all you had to do was be alive when they were first released to know them off by heart. There's an opportunity to test this theory at 12.05am with Remember Me this Way, a treasurable documentary of a sell- out concert at the Rainbow in 1973: back-stage, onstage, the records, the rehearsals and the main man.
One of the day's undoubted highlights is the 1.30pm screening of a 1979 Abba concert at Wembley Arena. Without the costumes, they would just have been another bunch of Eurovision-winning, million-selling Swedish singer- songwriters. Fortunately for posterity (if not for them), the costume designers from hell were on hand with de rigueur silver platform boots, skin-tight lurex jumpsuits and Marie Antoinette outfits in electric blue. The gang of four are back in Abba: the Movie (6.45pm). Open your windows at the film's climax to hear the nation joining in with the anthemic "Thank You for the Music". Not that they really qualify as glam rockers. They lacked the sexual ambiguity of T-Rex or Sweet. It was all a trifle too wholesome, but what they lacked in wit they made up in that other Glam Rock essential: hair.
Glam rock sent performers and punters scrambling into unisex salons for everything from feather cuts to wedges. Back then, coiffure counted. It was as if hydrogen peroxide had only just been invented.
Blondes definitely had more fun. Moody brunette Anni-Frid flirted with the 1970s life-changer, the perm, in an attempt to steal the limelight but Abba fans fought for front-row seats just so that they could revel in the shadows cast by Agnetha's famous flicks. Hers was the face that launched a thousand curling tongs. Teenyboppers and those old enough to know better singed their way to tonsorial ecstasy with Braun styling sets, a kind of portable one-bar fire with a long clip attached beneath which you tortured your poor suffering locks.
Anyone thinking of joining the glam rock revival should bear in mind the fashion adage: if you can remember wearing it the first time round, don't even think about trying it on for the revival. That shouldn't stop you locking the door, switching on the answering machine and settling back for a day-long wallow, with or without your Marc Bolan wig.
C4's Glamrock day runs from 7am-3am on Mon 8 May
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