Alvin Stardust dies: Farewell to our man in black

John Walsh pays tribute to the glam rock singer with the quiff

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The Independent Online

Alvin Stardust has died. The singer with the Elvis quiff, the threatening finger and the unfeasibly tight leathers succumbed to metastatic prostate cancer at his home in West Sussex, aged 72.

His heyday was the “glam rock” period of the early 1970s, when pop groups like T Rex, Slade and Sweet took to dressing up in sequins and satins, ill-advisedly applying mascara and glittery eye-shadow. Stardust stood out in this effete throng because he was surly and self-consciously retro.

He looked like an Elvis Presley impersonator when in 1974 he sang his first and biggest hit, “My Coo-Ca-Choo”, clad in a shiny black PVC shirt and leather flares. His hair was luxuriantly bouffant, black sideburns covered most of his pale cheeks and he gazed at the camera with a mixture of sexy come-hither and curled-lip disdain. His only real concession to “glam” lay in the huge diamante rings that he wore on his leather gloves.

At a time when every teenager and student, especially male ones, threw themselves into glam-rock fashions, nobody ever chose to dress like Alvin Stardust. Perhaps because nobody in their right mind would ever consider wearing a ring over a glove.

His career was full of impersonation, passing-off and covering-up. Born in 1942 as Bernard William Jewry, he was a roadie with Shane Fenton and the Fentones, an unknown teenage band who sent a demo of their songs to a BBC music programme. By the time the BBC replied, asking them to audition, the 17-year-old lead singer had died of rheumatic fever. Jewry was hastily recruited as a replacement “Shane Fenton”.

A decade later, Jewry was brought back into the music scene by Michael Levy of Magnet Records (yes, that Lord Levy) who wanted someone to sing Pete Shelley’s song. He and Jewry hatched up the look and the name Alvin Stardust. Apparently, he was told to dye his hair black just before going on stage, and was obliged to wear his trademark gloves to cover the stains on his hands.

He had a No 1 hit with “Jealous Mind” and three more Top 10 singles in 25 years. He died only weeks before he was to release his first album for 30 years, entitled Alvin. Making it was, he said, “the best I’ve had in years”.

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