A Journey In Music – Part 1 – To Glam And Back

 

So, if you’re reading this, I guess you’ve a passion for music. And you will have had a start point on your own musical journey. For me, it was Top Of The Pops on a Thursday night – an absolute staple in our house – the whole family sat around the TV every Thursday night, along with 15 million others in the UK. Born in 1965, my earliest memories of the show are The Sweet singing Little Willy and Wig Wam Bam in 1972 – my musical journey started at 7 years old. This article is not intended to be an expert insight into Glam, it is simply my story of a musical journey with Glam. It started in 1972 but got ignited in 1973, when Blockbuster hit number 1 and I was on my way to Woolworth’s to make it the first single I ever bought. My first album followed in 1974 in the form of Sweet’s Desolation Boulevard. Yeah, there were others who had me singing along – Slade and Suzi Quatro immediately springing to mind. Sweet, though were my band and I think what really got me hooked wasn’t the Chinn-Chapman penned singles but the B-sides and album tracks that were all self-written and to be quite frank rocked like nothing I’d ever heard on my beloved Top Of The Pops. Probably my favourite track off Desolation Boulevard was, and still is “Breakdown”.

If you get chance, check out the rest of this concert on You Tube – better still, buy the DVD. It really showcases how good the musicianship of these guys was, and in Andy Scott’s case, still is.

Did I ever get to see Sweet in their prime ? No, did I bollocks !! Did I have the chance to ? Indeed, yes !! There I was, 8 years old, the family staying with my Grandma in London for my birthday. The Evening Standard comes out – “What would you like to do for your birthday ?” Lo and behold, staring me in the face is an advert for Sweet – playing The London Palladium – 21 July 1973. “I want to go and see Sweet”. My Mum’s answer – “You’re too young. You can go and see the new James Bond Film” – Live and Let Die had just been released. My 8th birthday still grates to this day !! It wasn’t until Sweet had split and I saw “Andy Scott’s Sweet” and “Brian Connolly’s Sweet” that I finally got to see them live. In between times, they continued to make incredible rock albums, in particular “Give Us A Wink” and “Off The Record”. Check out Andy’s insane guitar work on “White Mice”. Mick Tucker’s drumming isn’t far behind.

These guys may have minced it up on Top Of The Pops but make no mistake they were bad boys. They were banned from Mecca Ballrooms for outraging public decency with their over the top stage show and sexually referenced lyric changes. “If We Don’t Fuck You, Then Someone Else Will” became a staple in their live set. This lot were The Sex Pistols of original glam rock. Classic Rock journalsist, Dave Ling, sums them up nicely as “womanising, drug taking, hell-raising, macho alcoholics”. Steve Priest (bassist) describes one of their more adventurous stage props “a six-foot dick came swinging down from the ceiling, spraying the audience with confetti. It was a realistic looking affair, with all the attributes of the male appendage. It was huge, with coloured veins and a subtle 1,000-watt bulb inside.” Without Sweet, there would have been no Kiss and no Crue – both bands hail Sweet as hugely influential. “Without The Sweet there would not have been a KISS” – Gene Simmons – Kiss. “We wanted to be The Sweet” – Nikki Sixx – Mötley Crüe. “This is the band I wish I had been in” – Joe Elliot – Def Leppard. For more tales of excess, you can’t do much better than checking out Dave Ling’s article.

Dave Ling Article

While Sweet (and in particular Brian Connolly) were drinking themselves into oblivion in their silver booted campness, the original queen of noise, Suzi Quatro, was brought over to the U.K. from her native Detroit by legendary record producer Mickie Most. Now I can’t say I was a massive Suzi Q fan but she definitely deserves a mention as the original female rock ‘n’ roller. Suzi’s influence is beyond compare in the female rock world. “The Wild One”, as were most of Suzi’s singles, was penned by none other than Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, the guys behind Sweet’s early singles. Mike Chapman eventually went on to work on Blondie’s biggest albums.

No Glam list would be complete without Slade. Yeah – they figured in my early listening but never had the same influence on me as Sweet. Bovver Boys playing raucous rock ‘n’ roll, dressed in mirrored top hats and glitter. Which leads me onto the question of what is “Glam” ? Well Sweet desperately wanted to be a hard rock band. Slade’s image evolved into a glam band from skinhead roots and Marc Bolan was a mod before he became a cross-legged, folk pixie and then a feather boa’d glam prince. At this point, to me, Slade are a rock ‘n’ roll band. I’ll come back to them again later, when they really developed credibility as a metal band at Reading Festival. For now, here’s “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” in all it’s rock ‘n’ roll glam glory.

I knew of T.Rex from Top Of The Pops but pop ditties like “Ride A White Swan” didn’t really do it for me. However, once I started to take command of the family record player I decided to have a rifle through my parents very small and limited record collection. Lost in the middle of such appalling music as Andy Williams, Doris Day and Fiddler On The Roof, was this …

What the hell ? Well, whatever I thought to T.Rex at that point, that cover grabbed me by the balls and I just had to stick it on the turntable. Not only did what came out the speakers grab me, but the incredible, insane lyrics on the inner sleeve too. This album is an absolute classic of any genre. Every song is killer and one of those albums that I have played for 40 years plus. So here is Marc Bolan in his prime – dancing from cradle to grave “I danced myself right out the womb, Is it strange to dance so soon … I danced myself into the tomb”. To do this day, my parents have no idea where that album came from !!

1976 came. The Sex Pistols turned music on it’s head and punk’s “Filth & Fury” filled the airwaves and newspapers. Did Glam die in 1976 ? Maybe. If not dead, it was dying a slow, painful death in the UK. Not so, over the pond. In 1976, Kiss followed up their big breakthrough album, Kiss Alive, with in my opinion their finest ever moment – Destroyer.

Master producer Bob Ezrin transformed the raw, face painted, incenduous live act into a recording band of incredible talent. After a slow start, the album started to pick up with the release of Peter Criss’ ballad, Beth, as a single. The flip side was Detroit Rock City. All of a sudden the whole of the U.S. was Kiss’ for the taking. Destroyer’s cover, the most over the top stage show ever created and the other-worldliness of Destroyer’s music literally transformed Kiss into superheroes. The fact that no-one had ever seen their faces only reinforced the mythology. As well as Bob Ezrin, Kiss’ manager, Bill Aucoin has to be credited as the ultimate mastermind behind creating the monster that literally ruled the U.S. in the mid to late 70s. I challenge anyone to show me more iconic album artwork than Destroyer and the inside of Kiss Alive II’s monstrous gatefold cover.

 

 

 

It wasn’t until 1978 that I discovered Kiss and that wasn’t by the obvious route. While Kiss owned America, they were not big in the UK and had only graced these shores once. Certainly I had never heard them on the radio. 1978 saw the release of the solo albums and for some reason Gene Simmons’ Radioactive got a bit of Radio 1 airplay. I had no idea who Gene Simmons was nor who Kiss were for that matter. Having graduated from Woolworths to HMV for my record purchases, I duly trundled into town to buy Radioactive – a pretty cool song, I thought. Now in my bag was a picture cover, red-eoactive vinyl single. Not only that, the Kiss marketing machine was in full swing with posters of the band on the walls, 4 different coloured singles and a huge stack of discounted Alive II albums, complete with booklet and badge. Now, at the tender age of 13, my pocket money only stretched to the said single and I had to save up for my first beloved Kiss album, Alive II. To this day, one of my favorite Kiss albums – the raw power of side 1 is untouchable.

By 1980 I was 15 and I’d seen two live bands – The Boomtown Rats and The Jam – both fantastic gigs and I was well into the whole punk thing (whilst still listening to the likes of Sweet and Kiss). Lo and behold, Kiss make their second trip to the U.K.. None of my 8 year old disappointment of not seeing Sweet at the London Palladium, I had a coach and ticket package booked for Stafford Bingley Hall the day they came on sale !!

Now, however good The Boomtown Rats and The Jam were live, there are simply no words to describe that Kiss show. If you ask anyone who was there, it was quite simply the most unbelievable Kiss show they have ever played in the U.K. Rumours abound of video footage existing but it has never been uncovered. I was simply blown away. Kiss were not a band – they were quite simply the real life superheroes that the media and their own PR machine had made them out to be. Stanley was indescribable as a front man. Put that with Gene’s fire breathing & blood spitting, plus Ace’s smoking, rocket firing guitar – this was a schlock horror film out of all proportions with the most insane rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack. Life was never the same again and Kiss took over in a massive way. Every penny went on the back catalogue and I caught Kiss on every trip to the UK until Ace left for the second time.

Kiss’ popularity was waning in the U.S., as was original glam in the U.K., but something most unexpected was brewing on the horizon. Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Oz pulled out of 1980’s Reading Festival. Glam has-beens, Slade, were drafted in at short notice and overnight became heavy metal heroes. From the SladeInWales site: “Slade went out and kicked everyone’s ass so hard they completely stole the show.” The day is best summed up by Vintagerock’s article …

Vintagerock Article

I had the pleasure of seeing Slade with Noddy on 12 December 1983 at The Palais in Nottingham – they really were an immense live band.

Slade Nottingham Palais Setlist 

Sweet struggled on in various guises, Slade were resurrected and a bunch of snotty upstarts in L.A., called Motley Crue, kickstarted a whole new wave of Glam and what was to become known as Hair Metal. Some, however. would say that the guys that started the whole thing off weren’t from L.A. at all but from far flung Finland. Tim Sommer describes their influence perfectly …

Tim Sommer Article

Cue one of the biggest regrets of my life. So, I moved to Nottingham in 1983 and come 1984 one of my mates harassed me over and over to go and see this ace band “Hanoi Rocks” at The Palais. Don’t ask me why, but I’d never heard of them. And what on earth could I have been up to that night to warrant me not going ? History is history and I never went. Here it is in all it’s glory – The Nottingham Tapes …

Now I did had the pleasure of seeing Crue at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall on 12 Feb 1986 but I have to say, I wasn’t blown away and my memories are more of the punters’ clothing than the band. Sunset Strip had nothing on Nottingham that night. A glam piece wouldn’t be complete without one Crue track though …

Nottingham at that time had spawned it’s very own glam scene and there were a lot of local bands building up big followings. In my view, the best of the lot were Deuce and their live shows have stuck in my mind far more than Crue’s night at The Royal Concert Hall. The first time I caught Deuce was at Nottingham Basford Hall, I’m guessing in 1985. This was a Glam festival headlined by yes, that band again, Sweet. By this time it was just Brian Connolly’s Sweet and it was Brian that I had gone to see. This would have been the first time I had caught any formation of the band. Sadly Brian and his band were a no-show. I can only guess that this was due to Brian’s health. His alcoholism is well documented and he was a sad figure in his later years. Not to be disappointed, the Nottingham faithful got well into the night with a host of home-grown, glam talent. The two bands that stood out head and shoulders above the rest were Brazzen Huzzey, with a certain Iain Dilley on bass. Deuce became the headliners in Sweet’s absence and blew everything away bar the roof. At this point Punkie Wayne Richards was the lead singer and Gregg Russell lead guitarist. These guys made Crue look like Duran Duran and as far as home made pyro goes, early Kiss had nothing on these guys – just ask my mate, who’s hair went up in flames after a few stray firework sparks flew into the crowd.

Having foolishly missed out on Hanoi, there was no way I was going to miss The Cherry Bombz at The Palais on 26 Feb 1986. Featuring Andy McCoy and Nasty Suicide from Hanoi, Cherry Bombz were a fantastic live band but once again, it was the support band, Deuce, who I remember most. This time, Iain Dilley from Brazzen Huzzey had replaced Punkie Wayne on vocals. No footage exists of this line up but the recorded version of “Seven Years” is testament to their quality …

… and it would be rude not to play the headline band that night …

Deuce split after releasing Queen Of The Night …

Punkie Wayne had formed the aptly named “Sleaze Patrol” and Gregg Russell formed “Wraith”. Wraith lost a lot of the glam image and were more of a traditional metal band, making some cracking albums along the way …

Iain Dilley started APB.

On his days off from Wraith, Gregg Russell helped out with APB’s pyro. He recalls the night Nottingham’s glam scene literally came crashing down “I remember the blast well. I was doing the pyro for APB at a club in town. I was using a home made pyro set up. As usual I put about half a tub of pyro in each pot (they recommend a teaspoon). There were three pairs of huge pyros, however we were one pot short. I found a big tin of beans in the kitchen, emptied it and used that. I covered the tops and taped them down. This compresses it and makes a much louder bang. The gig started and the first ones went off fine. The second pair didnt fire. I got the nod off lain and threw the switch ….BOOM!!! … the loudest bang ever, followed by silence and darkness. Except for the guitar player carrying on. It blew down the lighting rig, smashed a cymbal … shrapnel everywhere. The fire brigade turned up. There were quite a few injuries and I was subsequently arrested. It got APB on the early evening news – any publicity is good publicity, right ? Maybe not – getting banned from almost every venue in Nottingham probably wasn’t the best result” Don’t play with matches, gunpowder and tins of beans kids !!
Outside of Nottingham, Deuce supported the likes of Wrathchild. It wasn’t until 1988 and the Nukklear Rokket single that I saw Wrathchild. They certainly deserve a mention for their over the top antics and confetti firing bazooka. Stakk Attakk is one of the 80’s UK glam revival masterpieces.
At this point, I have to give a mention to 50third founder and fellow writer, Stephen Cribar. Across the Atlantic in Toronto, Stephen was drumming with his band, Harlott, from 1983 to 1986. The band opened up for such acts as Anthrax and Helix. Harlott received airplay on Toronto rock-radio Q107, had write-ups and reviews in Kerrang, Metal Forces and Metallion Magazine to name a few and were featured on the Canadian metal compilation LP ‘Maple Metal’ with the song ‘Angel In The Dark’. Stephen recalls “I remember opening for metal queen, Lee Aaron, and her walking by our dressing room saying holy shit, you guys wear more makeup than me. That was what it was like. How far could we all take it ?”.
You have to wonder how big some of these bands could have gone, had they come out of L.A.
Closer to home, Cardiff’s Tigertailz were probably the closest the UK got to L.A.’s hair metal scene in image. I got into the band in 1988 when Kim Hooker replaced Steevi Jaimz and rerecorded “Livin’ Without You” off their debut album “Young & Crazy”. It was subsequent release “Love Bomb Baby” that really propelled the band and set up second LP “Bezerk” to dent the charts and spawn 3 hit singles. The Bezerk album cover proudly boasts of “no hair extensionz, no wigz, no surgery”. Bezerk is a fantastic glam album. The follow up “Wazbonez” is a much darker, heavier affair and in a lot of respects my favourite of the two. Live, though, they were something else and I fondly recall the first time I saw them. This was the last date of one of the early tours with Kim Hooker at Sheffield University. I was completely blown away by their energy, the music and stage antics. Apart from John Otway, Tigertailz bassist, Pepsi Tate is the only person I can recall doing forward rolls on stage. Stage invasion, silly string – that gig was wondrous chaos. As Berzerk was released, they hit bigger stages and the show got grander – more pyro, luminous drum sticks and a Robocop themed guitar solo. Put all that together with Kim as a brilliant front man and the rest of the band also having amazing stage presence, they were awesome gigs. On video, at the start of the video jukebox era, “Love Bomb Baby” has to be their finest hour.
Also in 1988, as Kiss struggled through the 80’s without Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, Mr. Rock ‘n’ Roll himself, Ace Frehley, graced the UK shores at Hammersmith Odeon with his new band Frehley’s Comet. Now Kiss, are absolutely the sum of their parts and they would never have achieved what they did without the original four members. My absolute hero of the lot though, was and still is, Ace Frehley. Maybe not the most technical player but Ace brought rock ‘n’ roll at it’s most basic level into Kiss. Without Ace, Kiss just don’t sound like Kiss. If you look at the number of guitarists who cite Ace as their biggest inspiration, he has to be one of the most influential guitarists of all time, alongside the Pages and Claptons of this world. Ace is about groove and style. Show me a more iconic photo than Ace in his prime.
I remember a reviewer at the time saying that Ace could have come on stage and sung Baah Baah Black Sheep and the place would have gone nuts. It was an absolutely electric atmosphere and the reviewer wasn’t far wrong. Musically it wasn’t perfect and I still think Jamie Oldaker sucked on drums but just to be there was something else. Musically, Ace sure as hell had a great band when he revisited to play London’s Astoria in 2008. This was as much “welcoming home the prodigal son” as the Hammersmith show.
Come 1990, Seattle Grunge had pretty well killed off glam and hair metal overnight but there were a few reunions to come. Kiss in full make-up in 1996 at Manchester Arena absolutely blew me away, not least because I finally got to see the original band in all it’s glory – an unbelievable night.
2005 saw Tigertailz reformed with Matt Blackout replacing Ace Finchum on drums. I had the pleasure of catching them at Rock City in Nottingham and once again, they were incredible live. This line-up sadly was short-lived with bassist Pepsi Tate passing away from Pancreatic Cancer in 2007.
Fast forward 10 years and where are we now ? Suzi Quatro joined forces with Don Powell Of Slade and Andy Scott of Sweet to form 70’s Glam Supergroup QSP to critical acclaim and selling out Sydney Opera House at the end of an Australian Tour.
Slade continue without Noddy. Kiss continue without Ace and Peter. Wraith have just released a killer album, Revelation, getting amazing reviews from everyone who gives it a spin …
“Hunted” pays homage to the Nottingham Glam scene of the 80’s …
Ever-present Mike Monroe continues to release brilliant albums and remains one of the finest front men in rock ‘n’roll.
Tigertailz, now fronted by Rob Wylde, released “Blast” in 2016 to critical acclaim, audaciously covering Mud’s “Dynamite” in the process …
Ace Frehley released “Origins Vol. 1” last year. An awesome covers album if ever there was one …
And I’ll leave you where it all started, with Sweet. Only Andy Scott left now but he has a great band with him and it’s a pleasure to catch them every year at Holmfirth. They supported Rainbow at London’s O2 this summer, which must be one of the biggest gigs they’ve ever played in the UK. It’s great to see them pulling out a few album track gems these days. Here’s Lady Starlight from Desolation Boulevard at Holmfirth last year …
Most years, we get to hear this all time classic off “Sweet Fanny Adams”. Probably Sweet’s most covered song, “Set Me Free” …
Catch Sweet at
Chesterfield – The Avenue – Dec 14
London – Kensington Nell’s Jazz & Blues – Dec 15
Hull – The Welly – Dec 16
Holmfirth – Picturedome – Dec 17
Bilston – Robin 2 – Dec 18
Oh, and last but not least, there’s a killer new book out on Sweet – well worth adding to your Christmas list …
A Glam revival anyone ? Or did it ever go away ?

 

 

 

 

                                                            

About author View all posts Author website

Graham Geldard

Music first, Photography second, now the two go hand in hand. Travelled the length and breadth of musical genres – 70s glam rock to 77 punk to 80s / 90s mod, post punk, trashy rock ‘n’ roll & metal. Will listen to and shoot anything. Now hooked on the thriving Leeds gig scene – local bands and visiting bands, arenas to toilet venues.

Post a Comment