Play it again, Glam

Facial glitter, platform soles, velvet flares - and Aladdin Sane appearing at the Phoenix Festival? Yes, Glam Rock is back, says Michael Collins

The stars and styles of the golden years of Glam Rock, a glittering prize of a movement that peaked in 1973 with heels high and hopes at an all time low, are returning to the catwalk, the charts and the cinema. Authorisation comes via the rumours that at this summer's Phoenix Festival Aladdin Sane is to rise from the ashes.

For some time, David Bowie has been picking over that part of his past when playing queer, in Kabuki gear, led him to be crowned both king and queen of the Glam era. At the 1996 Brits he teetered on Katherine Hamnett stilettoes. His hair, since hitting 50 in January, has returned to its unnatural Seventies roots. It is currently spiky as a stalactite, and the orange that until recently made up the facial tan of the former "thin white duke".

The catwalk has also been littered with clues that the 1973/4 clothes rail would be rolling back into view. For his Givenchy collection, John Galliano accessorised his designs with the hands of mannequins. Along with lame, fake limbs were last a fashion statement back in the glam old days, from the dummy hands clutching Bowie's fishnet breast for his Stateside special "The 1980 Floorshow", to the sculptures of Allen Jones, and the fetish furniture housed in the Milk Bar of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.

The launch of Candy Man, a range of nail varnish for men, brings it all home to the high street and the precinct, which, of course, is where it once belonged. Pop stars such as Bowie and Marc Bolan bought the glam kit lock, stock and boa, but the boys on the street glided along the walkways and thoroughfares of housing estates with satin flares that hung on the hip and frayed at the floor, surreptitiously daring to paint a nail or two. "That Bowie's Glam Rock could turn barrow boys into screaming queens was the greatest triumph, and irony, of its period," writes Michael Bracewell in his new book England Is Mine, a chronicle of the English pop sensibility.

Despite Bowie's bisexual declaration at the time - a career move by any other name - the influential made-up faces were, from Bolan to Bryan Ferry, heterosexual. Elton John, the only gay in the pack, it transpires, was also the joker who didn't quite cut it (Gary Glitter notwithstanding). He was Charlie Caroli to Bowie's Pierrot. No matter how stacked the heels, thinning air and spectacles were anathema.

All that was touched by the hand of Glam was also touched by Bowie somewhere along the assembly line. In 1973 he "caricatured the new kind of visual tenseness that was taking over," according to the style and fashion tablet of the time Nova. As Ziggy Stardust mutated into Aladdin Sane, Bowie produced Lou Reed's Transformer (drag queens, make-up and Mars), and wrote for Mott The Hoople the song that became the "All You Need Is Love" of the Glam generation. In "All The Young Dudes" glitter, shoplifting, and T-Rex filled in for peace, lovebeads and understanding.

Now, as Bowie prepares to beam "The Aladdin Sane Revue" into 1996, the ghost of Glam hovers over London with the making of the film Velvet Goldmine, directed by Todd Haynes and starring both Ewan McGregor and comedian Eddie Izzard. The film takes it's name from a Bowie b-side. The set is as closed as a Kubrick film, but the PR people, McDonald & Rutter, claim that it "follows the rise of Brian Slade, a mythical rock god, who finds himself at the epicentre of the pleasures and decadence of his day, during the emergence of the Glam Rock scene in the early Seventies". Brian Molko, the singer with Placebo, currently lauded as the leaders of a new generation of Glam Rockers, is reported to feature in the film as one of the New York Dolls.

Since the single "Nancy Boy" hit the charts, Placebo - with Molko made- up and vaguely reminiscent of that bopping imp Marc Bolan - have been heralded as an antidote to the bad lads of Britpop and Loaded. Something wimpy this way comes. Even Robbie Williams has recently owned up to painting his nails to go down the pub. But those about to do away with Fever Pitch and get it on with feather boas will very probably lack the innocence and urgency that characterised the first shot of Glam Rock, when there was "Concrete all around but not in our heads", according to the aforementioned Glam anthem. Glam took the Wildean epigram to the extreme. If you're in the gutter, why look up at the stars when you can wear them in your hair, on your chest and on your cheeks?

Facial glitter became a statement of daring, and the Glam equivalent of a Masonic handshake. What Susan Sontag had written of Camp in 1964 was true of Glam a decade later: "The essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration. And Camp is esoteric - something of a private code, a badge of identity even among small urban cliques."

In England Is Mine, Michael Bracewell celebrates the way Bowie "blurred the boundaries between the present and the future, male and female, and offered a DIY disguise for the pursuit of glamour in a synthetic age". The last point was to some extent the credo of both Roxy Music and Cockney Rebel, the only two groups to arrive with a look that was pure Glam, whereas Bowie, Bolan and Slade had previously turned out as mod, flower child and skinheads respectively. Bryan Ferry, the nearest thing to Noel Coward from County Durham, brought the high life to the high street with songs that dropped Quaglino's and Casablanca into the equation. Steve Harley and the chiaroscuro of Cockney Rebel could put Biba, Bauldelaire and the Berlin of Sally Bowles together, often in one song.

With clubs now cropping up playing music from the Glam cannon, and punters forking out for something from Tommy Hilfiger's recently launched Glam clothesline, the current revival will be either at its peak or all played out when Velvet Goldmine reaches the screen. Back in 1973 The Rocky Horror Show and the Richard Allen Glam novels were the signing off point for the era. There was the mid-Seventies siding that was disco, but in many ways the Glam ley lines were built on when punk picked up the baton and ran all the way with it.

News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

    Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

    £120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

    Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

    £70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

    £24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness