Today my band is playing Glitterfest so to celebrate, let’s have a look at that most glittery of genres, glam! It’s another 70s-centric week this week: I’m sure there were good glam albums released in the last three decades, but none on the list.
Alice Cooper, ‘School’s Out’ (link)
A Broadway musical about a quintet of seniors who like wagging lessons and bumming cigarettes, who hate school but realise when they graduate that maybe the real world isn’t all that either. It’s pretty much as theatrical as I’ve made it sound, to the extent that there’s excerpts from ‘West Side Story’ included and there’s even a grand finale. Not desperately worried about sounding cool, the ridiculousness suits Vince and the gang, and is indulged by producer Bob Ezrin (the rowdy school kids on the title track are the clue to his involvement). This overdelivered against expectations.
Hanoi Rocks, ‘Back to Mystery City’ (link)
With two of Mott the Hoople at the controls, the game Finnish quartet play for the stadiums with this, their only appearance on the list, and occasionally stop off for Adam Ant Burundi beats (‘Mental Beat’), street sound effects and Banshees bass (‘Tooting Bec Wreck’) and even flute-led folk (on the deliberately misleading kick-off ‘Strange Boys Play Weird Openings’). They’re not afraid of a little experimentation or of looking daft, but their riffs and melodies don’t give me much to get into or linger in the memory.
Mott the Hoople, ‘Mott’ (link)
Speaking of Mott, here they are with their lone entry on the 1001, a year after Bowie had given them a leg-up with ‘All the Young Dudes’. This was released in 1973, the same year as ‘Aladdin Sane’, but feels like an inferior version of the Spiders album: it doesn’t help that the arrangements are so similar (Ronson-ish guitar, Hunter’s Ziggy-esque voice, raunchy saxophone, piano). The most distracting thing here is ‘I’m A Cadillac”s eight minutes of wandering, or perhaps the piano opening of ‘Hymn For The Dudes’, while ‘Ballad of Mott the Hoople’ is as naff as its name (you’ve probably noticed they weren’t a band who were good at naming things).
Roxy Music, ‘For Your Pleasure’ (link)
Brian Eno is all over this list in various guises, whether that’s on his own albums, or as producer. Here, he’s in his final appearance as one of a band, lurking in the background of Roxy Music and putting everything through the VCS3. While his precise contributions are often hard to identify – he doesn’t really play an instrument as much as manipulate the sounds of the others – it’s almost certainly his involvement which makes this album more artsy and arctic than its contemporaries. Even ‘Do The Strand’, in theory just a glam stomper, sounds pregnant with menace, while ‘The Bogus Man’ and ‘For Your Pleasure’ burble around guitar, synth and sax jams for 10 and 7 minutes respectively. One listen probably isn’t enough to fully penetrate the mysteries of that second side, but this is a good album.
Slade, ‘Slayed?’ (not on Spotify)
Slade were a huge band in the 70s – three of their songs went straight in at Number One – but they’re mostly remembered now, of course, for their Christmas song, and only appear once on the 1001. So was any of their stuff any good, then? Well, this album has its moments. It’s an unsophisticated, but unpretentious, combination of Cheap Trick-ish melodies, big choruses, and terrace stomp’n’chant, with an obvious legacy in mega-selling 80s acts like AC/DC. Unusually, the hits all come from the second side of the album: ‘Gudbuy T’Jane’ and ‘Mama We’re All Crazee Now’ both sound pretty good. I suspect this will be the only time I listen to this record, although it probably seemed great live and down the pub.
Sparks, ‘Kimono My House’ (link)
I know, I’m sure you’re surprised I’ve never heard a Sparks album before (even their Franz Ferdinand collaboration). The band had relocated to London just before this album, recruiting a new rhythm section of British musicians, and yeah the Brits acquit themselves fine here but let’s not pretend the Maels aren’t the stars. Ron’s songs are flamboyant and ostentatious without being excessively camp to drown the melodies, and Russell’s voice is the perfect medium for the message. Clever dicks without being dicks. Yeah this is good. (It also features their biggest hit, ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us’, as the first track.)
T-Rex, ‘Electric Warrior’ (link)
The former hippies have an immediately recognisable sound: acoustic guitar, strings, bongos and female backing vocals, which serves as a very palatable backdrop for Bolan’s trans-Atlantic spaced out drawl. Made without any grandiose concept or plans for posterity, ‘Electric Warrior’ has in fact aged pretty well, mainly because Marc’s a good writer and Visconti’s production shies away from using any faddish trickery. This is the album with ‘Jeepster’ and ‘Get It On’ and ‘Cosmic Dancer’, but there are some curious moves, too: ‘Girl”s ramshackle Ornette Coleman horns sound like they’re from a Godspeed You Black Emperor intro, while heavy rock closer ‘Rip Off’ unexpectedly ends with a drone section.
Next week: time for something wacky: we’re looking at royalty (or at least bands and albums named after royalty)!
Status update: 616 listened to, 385 remain. Just over a year left on this project.