REVIEW : These boots were made for women

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The Independent Culture
On the Glam Rock Top Ten (C4), Dave Hill of Slade - the guitarist with the grown-out tonsure haircut and the fondness for top hats - reckoned that his contribution to civilisation has been curiously overlooked these past 20 years. Gazing lovingly at a snap of himself in his chart-topping peak, he oozed pride. "It was me what popularised them," he said, as the camera panned down to the 6in high patent plastic platforms he sported. "Basically I was wearing women's boots long before they became available for men. You wouldn't wear them now, but I'm not going to look at myself and say, what a twat." That was the great thing about Dave Hill: he was never afraid of being in a minority of one.

Hill and his stacks were granted extended air time because, from the ever-diminishing seams of popular culture from which to sustain an entire Bank Holiday theme night (next year: Theme Night Theme Night), Channel 4 had arrived at a grubby barrel whose bottom was marked "glam rock". Across the evening were strung a few disparate snippets gleaned from the four years (1971-1975) restraint forgot, from the jolly Abba - the Movie to a contemporary rockumentary about Gary Glitter whose major insight was "I do, I sweat a lot". Never had Vera Lynn, warbling on the other three channels, looked such an attractive proposition.

The centre-piece of the night, though, was the Glam Rock Top Ten. Its premise - a who-were-they-then and where-are-they-now of the era - promised 90 minutes of pleasure unmatchable this side of an afternoon at Old Trafford. Sadly, the result was more like finding yourself in possession of a season ticket for Leyton Orient.

The period under scrutiny was one of the most creatively fecund in rock history, producing four acts - Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Lou Reed and Roxy Music - of lasting significance. None of them, however, were featured; maybe because they were too illustrious to be interviewed. Which left the programme to concentrate on the flotsam that bobbled along in their creative wash. Since it included Sweet and Mud, even that could have been entertaining, if the programme makers had followed, say, the methodology of The Rock and Roll Years and let the nostalgia, the boots and the eye- liner speak for themselves.

Instead, they adopted the worst tactic possible: they tried to take the mickey. Dani Behr's would-be arch commentary had the vocabulary range of a Bay City Rollers lyric ("Marc Bolan's death shook the rock world to its foundations") combined with the humour of John Major's speech writers ("T Rex were so famous they had a cooking fat named after them"). But it was as nothing compared to the compres: Tony Blackburn and Alan Freeman, self-consciously and embarrassingly sending themselves up in a grotesque parade of coarse and coarsely delivered gags.

"It's time to check out the bubbling undersection," said Freeman at one point.

"You know something, Fluff," said Blackburn, eyes straining to focus on the autocue. "I don't fancy checking out your bubbling undersection." Sometimes Harry Enfield must wonder what the point of satire is.

Try as they might, Blackburn and Freeman could not divert attention away from several gems hidden in the 90 minutes: the fact the producers and managers, 20 years on, looked significantly more prosperous than the performers. Or the terrible sight of Brian Connelly of Sweet laid low by a series of cardiac arrests, a metaphor for the perils of pop excess. Or the revelation that all the Top 10 - except, for obvious technical reasons, Marc Bolan - are still performing: often, like a bad Hollywood sequel, with a suffix in tow. Thus Dave Hill is on the road with Slade 2, still with the hair, still with the hats, and still, no doubt, with the conviction that he does not look remotely ludicrous. Heroic, in a way, his 20-year battle with reality.