1972-1973 were the classic years for glam rock. Here, I have covered both variants in the genre with ten of my favourite albums. There were the showy, stomping drum anthems of Slade, T. Rex and Suzi Quatro alongside the "thinking man's glam" of David Bowie, Roxy Music and Cockney Rebel. It all made for quite a heady vintage.
They are not listed in any particular order of preference, as I always find that pretty much impossible to do. They are simply ten albums that I love that represent the period perfectly for me.
* To read detailed, track by track reviews of the albums and the artists, click on the album's cover image.T. Rex - The Slider (1972)
If killer minimal note riffs and bizarre rhyming couplets are your bag, it doesn't get much better than this. Marc Bolan had stopped sitting around on Persian carpets with an acoustic guitar and a bongo player at his side, inhaling incense. He had gone full electric, thankfully. The album is absolutely full to the brim of archetypal Bolan guitar and nonsensical, rhyming lyrics. This was T. Rex at their creative glam best. Of course, they were a chart-oriented glam group, but despite its obvious comparative shallowness this is actually a highly credible album of its era. It should not be overlooked. This was an album chock-full of short, melodic but punchy and riffy glam classics. Along with Electric Warrior, The Slider is among the best of the T. Rex albums, released at the height of their glam rock domination in 1972. Later albums tried, with varying levels of success, to repeat the same formula but never quite got there.
Slade - Slayed? (1972)
Another album that, though it showcased two stonking hit singles in Mama Weer All Crazee Now and Gudbuy T' Jane was a credible offering in its own right. Tracks like The Whole World's Goin' Crazee and Let The Good Times Roll proved that this was not just a vehicle for the singles. Slade were a proper band and that should never be forgotten. This was the first album I bought back in late 1972 before progressing to David Bowie, Mott The Hoople and Roxy Music. For some reason, others at my school got to know I had the album and a boy from the first rugby XV, who would never otherwise have spoken to me, asked me if he could borrow it. I duly told him to fuck off.
Suzi Quatro - Suzi Quatro (1973)
Glam rock acts, on the whole, didn't produce albums of much quality. This is different. It didn't contain the single Can The Can, although it did contain the follow-up 48 Crash and the latter kicks off the album in true glam rock drum style. Suzi and her band of (portrayed as) feckless, hard drinking males are on top of the game. In 1973, it really was unusual to see a woman, yes a woman, fronting a rock band. Yes there had been the wonderful Janis Joplin and "adult rock" artists like Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick and Curved Air's Sonja Kristina, but Suzi Quatro was a chart act. Until then it simply had not happened. I remember when she first appeared on Top Of The Pops doing Can The Can. Like David Bowie a year earlier, she was the talk of the playground the next morning, particularly for teenage boys like myself. "Did you see her?" was the first thing we said to each other.
David Bowie - The Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars (1972)
The first "serious" album that I ever bought. While it, like several of the albums in this list is not "glam" like, say, T. Rex, it is impossibly glam in its overall feel. Bowie and Bolan - friends and twin figureheads of glam, 1972-style. Bowie has said that the album isn't as conceptualised as many have viewed it. It is a series of randomly connected, great rock songs with no real continuity. I have always viewed it as such, even right back then, when I first bought it, aged thirteen. Certainly, though, Bowie “bigged up” the Ziggy image for all it was worth - bright orange coxcomb hairdo, one legged tights and full make up. We had not really seen anything like it, to be fair, and Bowie’s appearance on Top Of The Pops in July 1972 performing Starman had us all talking in the school playground the next morning, and it had the country’s parents recoiling with horror, despite the previous decade’s excesses.
Roxy Music - Stranded (1973)
As "glam" as T. Rex, Slade or David Bowie were one-time "art school" innovators Roxy Music, who had a style all of their own. Street Life was one of the great glam singles in that it was essentially glamorous. That feeling pervades the whole album. Notably, Bryan Ferry, in the autumn of 1973, began to adopt the tuxedo-clad lounge bar look and the group were becoming more of a vehicle for his aspirational chic than a bizarre, disparate melting pot of futuristic/proto-glam characters/images. There are many who think that the only credible Roxy Music albums were the first two - the Eno ones - but this is really up there with them. Indeed, in many ways it could be considered superior. Listen to it as a whole, it gets better and better. The vaguely unsettling, difficult to categorise nature of their music is still clearly in evidence.
Cockney Rebel - The Human Menagerie (1973)
In 1973, we were only just getting used to David Bowie and then Roxy Music, then out of nowhere came Cockney Rebel. Led by the irritatingly cocksure and often pretentious Steve Harley, they evoked “Cabaret”-era Berlin and dressed accordingly. Harley's lyrics were full of bizarre imagery and he had a penchant for making somewhat preposterous pronouncements on the music industry, politics and life in general. Basically, Harley was a pain in the posterior, but wow - what a debut album he and his band mates came up with.
Mott The Hoople - Mott (1973)
In the summer of 1973, three words mattered to me - Mott The Hoople. Yes, I had been "into" (using the contemporary vernacular) David Bowie since the autumn of 1972, but even then, at fourteen, there was something a little bit too effete about Bowie upon which to focus my adolescent admiration, despite my love for him. Mott The Hoople were different. They were LADS. Although they looked like some of the prefects did at my school when out of uniform - long hair, Afghan coats, and big flares, I always felt Mott could handle themselves in an apres-gig row though. No-one would push Ian Hunter, Overend Watts or Mick Ralphs around, would they? Like The Clash after them, or The Jam, they were "our band". A band of mates or big brothers to look up to. That is a feeling that really sums up my relationship with Mott The Hoople and it was one that accepted them for better or worse.
Lou Reed - Transformer (1973)
At fourteen I listened to this album and hadn’t got a clue about it. I still haven’t in many ways! It is clear, in later years, though, what a gay album it was. I didn’t even particularly get the references on Walk On The Wild Side, incredible as it may seem, or the pictures on the rear of the album (of a transgender model and Reed in a gay peak cap, hand on hip and blatant bulge in jeans). I just thought he looked glammy. Was it, therefore, given David Bowie’s influence, a “glam album”? Well, in certain places, yes. Spider From Mars Mick Ronson aded some guitar riffery and Reed glammed it up on some of the tracks, thinking, I guess, that this was the thing to do in 1972. In many ways, he sounds a bit confused by it all, and certainly it was an album the like of which he never came up with again.
The New York Dolls - The New York Dolls (1973)
I remember when The New York Dolls appeared on the scene and watching them The Old Grey Whistle Test, looking forward, post-Aladdin Sane, to seeing the new US rival to Bowie. There had already been Lou Reed, of course, but this lot were supposed to be the real thing. I recall being somewhat underwhelmed and a bit perplexed by them, but at fourteen, I guess I'll forgive myself. Anyway, for whatever reason, they never really took off. I think they were considered too drugged-up and decadent, certainly in the UK. They seemed genuinely seedy as opposed even to Bowie, Bolan, Mott The Hoople, Roxy Music and the like. Strangely, despite their drag-style get-up, what comes across loud and clear listening to them is a raucous macho swagger.
Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar Babies (1973)
1973's Billion Dollar Babies was the only really big album for Alice Cooper, every parent's bete noire in the early seventies. The supposed corruptor of the nation's youth crammed the album full of largely upbeat rock songs predictably covering taboo subjects like rape, necrophilia, blasphemy, horror and even fear of the dentist's drill. Forgetting all that over the top, showy schlock for a while, this was actually a very good rock album - heavy enough to keep the hard rockers happy but catchy and commercial enough to appeal to the chart rock and "glam" fans. I remember myself and at least three other of my friends had this album, along with Aladdin Sane, Mott and Free's Heartbreaker. It was extremely popular among teenage boys, it seemed. I also loved the fact that various media commentators and stuffy Tory MPs loathed Cooper. He would do for me, if only for that. He was pictured on the inner sleeve holding up a distinctly uncomfortable-looking baby complete with Alice Cooper eye make up and a leering Cooper and his band looking as if they are about to indulge in some shocking ritual. Even at fourteen, I knew it was all for show. I couldn't understand why the older generation got so uptight about it.
Check out my full glam rock artists' index here :-