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Glam Rock

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"This was a weird new Australia: Plenty of glitter, an ex-surfie singer named Shirley, a crossdressing, cranky guitarist, and a weird name: Skyhooks. But it was their attitude that had the biggest impact: They took nothing seriously, including themselves."
Long Way to the Top: Stories of Australian Rock & Roll

Glam rock is a subgenre of Rock & Roll that developed mainly in Britain during The '70s. As far as the music itself went, glam bands was the mainstream alternative to the nascent Progressive Rock and Heavy Metal genres, with songs that evoked the kind of good old fashioned rock 'n' roll of The '50s and The '60s, which won a lot of glam bands the same kind of huge teenage audiences that had screamed at the The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in the last decade.

What really identifies glam rock and set it apart was its focus on image. This was the age of outlandish costumes and theatrical on-stage antics, often highly sexualised. Just as the music often seemed like it was trying to evoke rock's rebellious attitude, the fashion and energetic performances aimed to dress it up in over-the-top grandeur.

As mentioned above, glam rock was primarily popular in the UK, where the genre was split into three subgenres. For the artistically-inclined listener there was the artsy stylings of David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust persona and Transformer-era Lou Reed, the bombastically operatic art rock of early Queen and Sparks, and the jazzy synth-trickery of Roxy Music (as well as Roxy Music alum Brian Eno's early solo work). Beloved by teenagers were the straight-up rock and roll acts such as T. Rex, Gary Glitter, Mott the Hoople and Showaddywaddy. Finally, there were harder rocking groups like Slade, Sweet, and the later works of Queen, whose fusion of pop-melodies with loud guitars and drums would be a significant influence on Hair Metal ten years later.

Although its heyday has long since passed, glam rock has been highly influential in the development of popular music. Hair Metal is an obvious result, but you'd also be hard pressed to find a British Punk Rock, Post-Punk, New Romantic, New Wave Music, or Goth Rock band not influenced by Bowie, T.Rex, Bryan Ferry, or the New York Dolls, while the simple style and image conscious approach have been a major influence on Britpop and a lot of contemporary indie rock.

Often associated with Hair Metal.


Glam Rock Revivalists:


  • Agent Peacock: With the Camp of unprecedented degrees, Glam Rock was also known for being the precursor to Punk Rock.
  • Bishōnen: Bloody everywhere, young Bowie and Bolan being particularly notable examples.
  • Bishie Sparkle: Achieved on-stage through copious amounts of glitter.
  • British Rockstar: This genre was mainly popular in Britain.
  • Camp Straight: Many of the performers, though the genre had its share of LGBT stars.
  • Christmas Songs: For some inexplicable reason there was a bit of a craze for glam rock Christmas songs. This resulted in Slade's "Merry Xmas Everybody" and Mud's "Lonely This Christmas", both of which were Christmas number-one singles (in 1973 and 1974, respectively) in the 1970s, and Wizzard's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" which was kept off the number one spot by the former. All three songs are still played a lot by British radio stations during December; Noddy Holder has referred to "Merry Xmas Everybody" as his pension scheme due to the royalties it continues to generate for him and co-writer (and fellow-bandmate) Jim Lea.
  • Cover Version: Bowie's album Pin Ups was nothing but glammed up covers of The British Invasion tunes. Almost every hit single released by Showaddywaddy was a cover of an old rock and roll number.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: Basically the defining characteristic of stage costumes for this genre.
  • Faux Yay: While glam rock had its share of LGBT+ stars, a good number of performances revolved around miming over-the-top displays of sexuality between male performers who weren't interested in one another, most famously with a photo of Mick Ronson pretending to give David Bowie's guitar a blowjob on-stage.
  • Guyliner: Most of the performers wore makeup.
  • Ho Yay: And lots of it.
  • Impossibly Cool Clothes: A hallmark of the genre, with many artists priding themselves on flashy and elaborate outfits that complimented the flamboyancy of their music.
  • Intercourse with You: "Get It On" by T. Rex is this to the Nth degree.
  • Long Title: T. Rex's (then know as Tyrannosaurus Rex) debut album My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair... But Now They're Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows
  • Occidental Otaku: A lot of glam acts were influenced by kabuki theater.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: A major element of glam rock's image among the genre's harder-soundings artists was a juxtaposition between flamboyantly effeminate imagery and a flamboyantly masculine sound.
  • Rock-Star Song: "Ziggy Stardust" and "Lady Stardust" by David Bowie are both this, as are a lot of Mott the Hoople songs.
  • Stage Name:
    • David Bowie is a stage name (his birth name was David Robert Jones), but he then took the stage name "Ziggy Stardust" on top of that, Marc Bolan was a stage name, Jobriath... you get the point.
    • Freddie Mercury is an interesting aversion, as while it sounds like a stage name, he actually legally changed his name to that shortly after forming Queen.
  • Teen Idol: Most of the big names were hugely popular with teens. Much like Beatlemania in the previous decade, music historians have started to refer to T. Rex's peak period as "T. Rexstasy", which became a popular enough term to be used as the name of a tribute band.
  • X Treme Kool Letterz: All of Slade's song titles ("Cum On Feel The Noize", "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" and so on). An old joke was that they'd wanted to call themselves either "Slide" or "Slayed", but they didn't know how to spell it.


Video Example(s):



Queen is a famous British rock band known for their style which combines hard rock, massed vocal harmonies, Brian May's intricately arranged and highly overdubbed guitar work, catchy pop melodies, surreal humour and flamboyant, theatrical performances (which the band was steered towards mainly by Mercury). The band was formed in 1970 with front-man Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara), guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. After going through a series of short-term bassists, they finally settled with John Deacon in 1971.<br><br>The song example is "Bohemian Rhapsody".

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