Thursday, May 16, 2024

Glam from Elsewhere in the Anglophonosphere

Well, if Canadian hauntology wasn't surprising enough, here's a whole book on Canadian glam

Yes it is an "untold story".

When I was doing my wide-trawling research for S+A, I did come across examples of glam 'n' glitter from Commonwealth territories.... but nothing that really asserted itself as essential to the tale. 

Mostly fairly straightforward Bowie-imitations. 

Sometimes well-done -  e.g. New Zealand outfit Space Waltz, fronted by Alastair Riddell

Canada's main claim seems to be Sweeney Todd, whose emulative pitch involved shoving the word "Roxy" into a song title. 

And it worked - it got to Number 1 in Canada. 

Then the band's Nick Gilder redid it as a solo song in an attempt to have a US hit.

But then Sweeney Todd rerecorded it - with a young Bryan Adams singing - also in an attempt to have a US breakthrough.

What a farrago!

(Gilder did hit on his own with songs like "Hot Child in the City")

It was also, around that time, covered by Suzi Quatro (whose image is rather toned down here - where's the black leather bodysuit?)

Ex-Runaway Cherie Currie covered it later too.

I feel like I came across some other Canadian groups that were a bit glammish but perhaps more proggish.

And then in Australia, the nearest to glam I came across was Skyhooks, who were probably more like 10cc pastiche-rock, or Down Under Buggles, or The Tubes meet Sailor. But who could really play, go head to head with ooh The Doobies maybe.

And then there was the Ziggy-damaged Duffo, who tried to jump on the punk wagon 

Lou Reed damaged too

Glam 'n' glitter from the UK was very popular in Australia - particularly the most lumpen kinds, like Slade - and overlapped with the sharpies subculture as discussed here earlier

New Zealand also had Split Enz were somewhere in a zone between glam and prog - a little bit Cockney Rebel, a little bit Genesis. And produced early on by Phil Manzenara. 

Via Down Underman Andrew Parker, some examples of AC/DC looking glammish 

And then Bon Scott in pigtails and schoolgirl frock to match 'n' mirror Angus's schoolboy get-up 

This is less glam and more partaking of that tradition of unpretty rockers dressing up in women’s clothing for a laugh, like local football teams did all around England, in order raise money for charity, or Widow Twankey in panto.  Keith Moon did it...  Fleetwood Mac's English Rose ...  Zappa and the Mothers…  

The Stones started it with "Have You Seen Your Mother Baby (Standing in the Shadows) -  the single cover, the video. 

In this lineage, the dragging is to look ridiculous or grotesque, not alluringly ambiguous and between-genders, as with Bowie wearing a frock and femininely draped over the chaise longue for the cover of The Man Who Sold the World


The Robert Dayton book on Canadian glam is to be published by Feral House.

Who recently published a whole book on glam metal - titled American Hair Metal: Can't Get Enough, it's by Steven Blush (a name I associate with hardcore punk)

I got sent a copy - it's heavily pictorial, full-color glossy!

Another era of men dressing like women and slapping on the make-up - and in this case, very much doing to look gorgeous. To, in fact, attract women in the audience who looked much the same as the men on stage.  

Well, there's exceptions - Twisted Sister played it for grotesquerie 

American Hair Metal is a departure from the old Feral House days of Apocalypse Culture and that kind of thing. 

But then I suppose for your edge-walkers, at a certain point only the mainstream at its most gross and vapid becomes truly transgressive,...   authentic Americana... the kind of exoticism / slumming combo that leads brainy people people to get into wrestling or demolition derbies or what-have-you...  

Bit like how the RE:Search people started getting into EZ listening and exotica and the like. 

Jaded palates need new frissons.

It's the ultimate taste-move, in the sense of a 'checkmate' to other edge-chasers, but also "ultimate" as in  there's nothing left, nowhere else to go.... a kind of self-stalemate

Unless, unless, you go round the circle completely and go back to the middlebrow, 'The Beatles are great", type position.

Friday, May 3, 2024

Glam Raiders / Glitter Ravers

Sampling from Kenny's "The Bump"

(ooh and right at the end a tiny bit of Steppenwolf)

Space Raiders almost seem like a belated belch from the back of Paul Oldfield's brain

Or like the runty lovechild of World of Twist and Denim

Space Raiders recorded for Skint and were thus aligned with Big Beat.


More glam-raiding -  "Monster Munch" samples the riff from "Teenage Rampage" - and further in, the chorus -  ensuring a flood of royalties into the coffers of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman (possibly also to surviving members of The Sweet, since its their performance). Well, more like a trickle of royalties. 

The opening track on the Space Raiders debut album Don't Be Daft
is  called "Raiders Rock the Nation" and the track's credit says "written by Marc Bolan".

 I can't work out the T.Rex  track it's drawing on, though.

It also features someone called Scraggy Pee.

A nod to Marc also in the title to this tune "Middlesboogie (U Gimme Hot Love)" (as well as a nod to their hometown Middleborough)

Now this grebo trudger from the second album Hot Cakes sounds very glam and so does the title with its echo of "Truck on (Tyke)"

An odd choice for a single, this - sort of ambient big beat

I used the word "grebo" above and it turns out aptly because my favorite act on Skint - well apart from Norman Cook - was Bentley Rhythm Ace and one of them, I discover, was in Pop Will Eat Itself

(Big Beat is all about about picnicking on pop history and regurgitating it entertainingly )

Adding to the rockdance provincial lumpen-ness, another person involved in BRA - on a guest level - had once in been in EMF

Although Bentley Rhythm Ace derive all their samples from the lowest strata of vinyl (car boot sales etc), they don't appear to have scooped up any scrags and scrap from the glam 'n ' glitter era. 

They did do a track called  "Kenny Beats (Part One)", though. 

This was my favorite BRA - it struck me as sort of Professor Branestawm version of plunderphonics. 

But also like a Spike Milligan version of freakbeat. 

Or perhaps I'm really thinking of The Alberts and "Professor" Bruce Lacey

"As a small boy Bruce Lacey was fascinated by junk.... No one in this world can convince him anything is useless in his

Talking of the Midlands - and of glam intersections with dance -  I once described Stafford's Altern 8 as the Slade of techno. Not really sonically but more in the overall daftness, image-gimmickry, and mis-spelled song titles. 

Mind you, Slade did say of their back-to-basics / rock-made-for-dance stance:

"The kids don't want to sit down and think about music.... 

"The kids want to rave". 

Sunday, April 28, 2024

lost in the schaffel


Minimal house was in such a rut by the early 2000s they tried to juice it up with some glammish boogie swing in the form of the "schaffel" fad  pushed by Kompakt.  

Born of Wolfgang Voigt's formative adoration of Marc Bolan - as evidenced much earlier in the 1996 Love Inc. track "Life's A Gas" (which samples you-guessed-it). 

Schaffel - a moment so minor that I clean forgot to mention it in this 2011 archaeology of the term and the rhythm-feel known as boogie  via a Soul Jazz compilation of Southern Rock titled Delta Swamp Rock

As it seems to languish behind a registrants-only wall at the Graun, here is the relevant portion of the piece:

... Southern Rock overlaps with that broad strip of Seventies blues-tinged rock called boogie, which ranges from ZZ Top to Brit combos such as Humble Pie who toiled on the US arena circuit and became vastly more popular in America than in their homeland. Boogie has a technical definition: a musician friend explains that it has to do with 4/4 being subdivided by 12 rather than 16 notes, with syncopations on the third subdivision of each beat. 

But the best way of conveying it is to just point at examples: "Get It On" by T.Rex (Bolan's 1972 T.Rextasy-exploitation flick was titled  Born To Boogie), "Slow Ride" by Foghat, "Whatever You Want" by those dependable boys in blue denim Status Quo (who then got parodied by Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias on "Heads Down No Nonsense Mindless Boogie").

"Boogie" originally comes from "boogie-woogie", a piano-oriented style of blues designed for dancing, which emerged in the 1930s and filtered into numerous corners of American popular and roots music.  As adopted in rock, it signifies a black-and-bluesy swing, a funky shuffle feel.  What's odd is that boogie today has a third, completely different meaning: it is used by DJs and collectors to refer to an early Eighties postdisco style whose slick, synthetic funk couldn't be further from the low-down earthiness of Southern rock.

The origins of this other boogie go back to the late Seventies when the word started cropping up in the titles of disco-funk tunes like Taste of Honey's "Boogie Oogie Oogie", Earth Wind and Fire's "Boogie Wonderland", The Jacksons's "Blame It On the Boogie" and Heatwave's "Boogie Nights". The week before Delta Swamp Rock arrived in the mail, I received a boogie CD-mix from a deejay friend, Paul Kennedy, which he'd titled Juicy Nights and crammed with postdisco gems by outfits like Change and BB & Q Band.  A few of the names were familiar to me from the Eighties, when another deejay pal of mine used to buy U.S import 12 inches, an outlandish concept to someone on a student grant.

What defines this  boogie is that it's disco but slower and funkier: 110 to 116 beats-per-minute is the prime range, says Paul, with a strong accent on the second and fourth beats rather than disco's straight stomping four-to-the-floor. It's mostly played by bands, as opposed to being the creation of a producer, but synth-bass, electronic keyboards and drum machines get more prominent the deeper you get into the Eighties. Some of the most famous examples of the style are hits like D-Train's "You're the One For Me", Peech Boys "Don’t Make Me Wait", and Yarborough & People's "Don’t Stop the Music", while pioneers and exemplars include Kleer and Leroy Burgess  (of Black Ivory and Aleem).

Thing is, I don't recall anybody calling this stuff "boogie" back then; they'd just have talked about "club tracks" or  "discofunk".  In deejay Greg Wilson's exhaustive etymological history of the genre,  the word "boogie" crops up as  a vague reference in the occasional club flyer or record shop section, or as a verb equivalent to "get on down" . But boogie only really becomes a genre tag retrospectively, to describe a kind of music no longer made, and even then only by a small number of London-based soul cognoscenti.  It's really only in the last decade that the term has achieved serious currency as a record dealer and collector buzz-word.

Boogie is a prime example of the creative remapping of the musical past that is rife today, with DJs and compilers retroactively inventing genres that had only the most tenuous existence in their original heyday (see "acid folk, "junkshop glam", etc)....

Friday, April 19, 2024

Oh, Geneva


Huysmans and Her

Liquid Skyjuice

Vince Noir's twisted sister

Romo's Romo


Drunk on Duchampagne

Nina Hagendaaz



More maximalist thriftstore glam faves 

An old favorite 

An interview

Breadown of influences

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Videogame Killed the Radio Star


An interesting short film about David Bowie's co-creation of the 1999 game Omikron: The Nomad Soul

Which the album Hours was the soundtrack to, an attempt to give the game "a heart"

I confess this was new to me... my interest in his activities really flags from the late '80s onwards. 

A couple of things that struck me watching the film

A/ Omikron's co-creator David Cage is described as a games auteur, someone respected more than enjoyed, written about more than played... "Edgy". Now, granted,  I know next to nothing about games but it struck me that from what I could see there, in terms of look it is looks much like every other game... the way the camera moves... the fight scenes ... and as the mini-film concedes, it is an adventure game. 

B/ the film makes great play about how ahead-of-his-time, advanced in his thinking, Bowie was when it came to all things digital... First pop star to have his own online music retail system, long before iTunes and Apple... many other internet-innovative things I've already forgotten since watching this short video...  And you've probably already seen elsewhere the clip they use of the Dame (with terrible hair and awful shades) proselytizing about how the Internet is going to change all our preconceptions about  media - "for better or worse" - and with it human consciousness...  He sounds like a wide-eyed Silicon Valley tech-guru... jacked up on issues of Mondo 2000 and one too many smart drinks. 

Thing is, all this modish, modem-ish stuff he did... none of it had any lasting impact, nobody remembers it...  It's all just trendy piss down the latrine gutter of history. 

If Bowie endures, if he'll be remembered in a hundred years, it'll be for those creaky, analogue things known as words-and-music...  Oh, and a few images: the costumes, the albums covers, iconic photographer's shots, some of the videos or TV appearances... 

It'll be for the human yearnings disguised artfully behind his various masks and costumes. 

Thursday, April 4, 2024

hair metal a decade too soon

"New York Dolls go to Studio 54" is how I describe them in S+A

A parallel noticed at the time

And then of course the names - Sylvian / Sylvain, Jansen / Johansen - are the giveaway

Looking and listening to "Adolescent Sex" again, it's like the sound and the look of the song / promo is entirely sourced in the guitar break in "Amazona" 

But the other thing about the image is that it is hair metal a decade too soon

I don't understand why "Adolescent Sex" didn't do a "Welcome To the Jungle" and instantly propel  Japan to Guns N' Roses level 

(Not that I would want to have foregone their growing-up so exquisitely

In this publicity photo from 1977  they look like they belong on the Sunset Strip in 1987

Actually what they look like is Def Leppard.

Or Hanoi Rocks.

Another 1977 image is totally hair metal - and again, like a premonition of Axl Rose, from the reddish blonde hair to the ice cream face and the hairless chest

Ooh, how funny - they identify him on the cover by his real name David Batt, not David Sylvian

How the single was pitched to the public 

Two different crotches - same hand, though!

Or maybe it's the same crotch, different trousers? 

Supposedly they had an ad -  or maybe it was A stage projected image - around this time, of David Sylvian, bare-chested but with female breasts. 

Sometimes I'm not sure if I came across that in my researches or just dreamed it! 

Hmmm, maybe it's something I heard when I interviewed Simon Napier-Bell, who managed them. 

Re. the discorock feel of the tune, they were actually signed to Ariola-Hansa, a disco label


Oh! you pretty thing!

Sylvian, of course, very embarrassed by this debut album and whole first look-sound

This era doesn't have quite enough killer tunes though - nothing that would inspire you to dream up a whole counterfactual universe where Japan invented pretty-metal, make-up metal, glam metal, peroxide and blow-dry metal, a decade ahead of the game, like "Adolescent Sex" does 

Such poseurs

(I know it's not an official video, but a fan creation using this)

Addendum: below  a couple of ancient Blissblog posts about David Sylvian and Japan, in response to this K-punk celebration of the groop circa Tin Drum, titled "The Barthes of Parties"! "Adolescent Sex" pops up towards the end... 

The escape artist

Mark’s mini-essay on Japan is so immaculate and exquisite, it seems almost churlish to say that, actually, I find “Ghosts” rather a moving song. I’m not alone either--there’s the missus (possibly America’s #1 Japan fan-- a lonely breed), and there's Goldie (he sampled it on Rufige Cru’s neglected classic “Ghosts of My Life”, a masterpiece of svelte darkcore), and Tricky ("Aftermath" has a sample from "Ghosts", right, or a lyric-quote?), and maybe even Dizzee Rascal (judging by the the Sylvian-Sakomoto vibe on ‘Sittin’ here’ and “Do It”, the two melancholy songs that bookend Boy In Da Corner)

Carrying on previous trains of thought, I suppose my question is: would it actually diminish the song to believe it had some source or emotional referent in David Sylvian’s real life? To take it as both haunting and haunted. He’s very stylized as singers go but it seems like “beautiful sadness” is something that runs through a lot of his work (along with the quest for serenity) and you could see him as having less to do with a mannequin like Steve Strange and more with Scott Walker, or Nick Drake, or even Frank Sinatra (melancholy given poise, pain contained through elegance). Or Ian Curtis--“Ghosts” in some ways seems like a sister song to “Love Will Tear Us Apart”.

Whenever I see someone who has pulled off a really drastic form of self-reinvention, gone all the way with artifice and masquerade--be it Strange, Numan, Leigh Bowery, Marilyn Manson--I always wonder: what are they running away from? It takes so much energy to do that and to maintain it. (I can barely muster the strength to look halfway presentable to the world).

With Sylvian, perhaps the word “Catford” is explanation enough. No slight to that town but if it’s like 95 percent of the UK or anywhere else for that matter, then you can imagine why the sparkle-starved, culture-famished David would want to dedicate his life to exquisiteness, alien glamour, forbidden colours, to turn himself into a perfect surface, to get away and never go back. But there’s something more, I suspect: thinking of him performing "Ghosts" on TOTP, the excessive poise and stillness, the statuesque quality of his vocals (a frieze of emotion, almost), the perfectly made-up blank white expressionless facade, to me it all screams internal struggle, damage in the depths. Real ghosts in his real life.

“Lines of flight” always carry with them traces of what’s left behind. Can we even conceive of escape or reinvention of the self without registering what's being escaped from, or acknowledging the raw, base matter that is remoulded into a human art object?

I think you could work up another reading of Sylvian, not opposed but supplementary to Mark’s.
It might cue off Penman’s riff about class and Bryan Ferry’s voice, how its alien-ness was produced by the struggle of a Geordie trying to sound debonair --and how that slightly grotesque quality disappeared when he perfected the po(i)se and shed the last traces of Tyneside. (Joy says one of her Japan fan acquaintances had managed to find a very early radio interview with Sylvian where he's talking with a thick Catford accent--again the struggle, the effort that goes into changing one's voice). 

It might then proceed to examine Bowie/Roxy and the glam end of artrock, its motor fantasy of stepping outside the lowly world of production into a sovereign realm of pure unfettered expression and sensuous indulgence, an imaginary and fictitious notion of aristocracy (more Huysmans than real lords who have to do humdrum things like manage their estates, juggle their investments, do a bit of arms dealing). It might pause to consider briefly the disillusionment of actually achieving the supermonied aristo life--Ferry, condemned to mooch jaded forever through art openings, fashion shows, all tomorrow’s parties (that old tis better to journey than arrive line). 

It might also look at the history of Orientalism and its relationship with dandyism. The Far East and its codes of etiquette, the extreme stylization of emotion in its art; grace and symmetry. (Didn’t Barthes write a whole book about Japan--the country, not the group!--called something like Empire of Signs, one of its ideas being Japanese culture as a realm of surfaces, where the depth model is abolished--he had this idea that the Japanese don’t think eyes are windows to the soul, they see them as attractive but flat planes). 

There must be some connection between artrock’s ruling-class fantasies and ideas of China or Japan as extremely well ordered, disciplined, hierarchical societies. There’s a bit of totalitarianism chic going on--Mao, the Emperor, Mishima etc--that parallels Bowie’s “what this country needs is a really strong leader” flirting with fascism phase, or Iggy with his “visions of swastikas” and plans for world domination (and those are lyrics from “”China Girl” come to think of it). As reheated by the New Romantics: Spandau Ballet’s Journeys To Glory with its noble torso statuary on the cover and Robert Elms’s faintly fascistic sleevenote, the whole idea of a Club for Heroes. 

Glam's tendency (through its shifting of emphasis toward the visual rather than sonic, spectacle rather than the swarm-logic of noise and crowds) towards the Classical as opposed to Romantic. Glam as anti-Dionysian. The Dionysian being essentially democratic, vulgar, levelling, abolishing rank; about creating crowds, turbulence, a rude commotion, a rowdy communion. Glam being about monumentalism, turning yourself into a statue, a stone idol.

bit more on Sylvian...

“Ghosts” is one of only two things by Sylvian I paid money for, so maybe Mark is right about it being exceptional in the Japan canon for its overt emotion; other stuff, like “Art of Parties”, sounds great but was a bit disengaged for me. But per Mark’s reading, maybe that’s what great about it, the slink of the surfaces.

The other thing was “Bamboo Music/Bamboo Houses” by Sylvian-Sakomoto: amazing drumming  

The China/Japan totalitarian chic thing doesn’t run deep, sure… it’s appropriately shallow, flirtation with decontextualized signifiers in true glam style. Still I notice that there’s a song called ‘Communist China’ on the first album, while on the Teutonic tip there’s “Suburban Berlin” and “Nightporter” which I assume is inspired by the Dirk Bogarde as Nazi-in-hiding movie. They also have a tune called “.... Rhodesia” bizarrely enough---surely the only rock song about this white-power pariah of the world community state, although I daresay there's a roots reggae tune of the same title.

That bio Mark links doesn’t mention “class”’ as such (maybe press releases should come with sociological data). But I’d hazard a guess re Sylvian: he’s from that upper W/C, lower M/C indeterminate greyzone whence so much great UK pop stems.

The later stuff’s not as barren as Mark makes out (although I once dismissed Sylvian solo as “jet-set mysticism”, while Jonh Wilde’s description of his voice as sounding like hair lacquer struck me as uncomfortably apt). But the “Gone To Earth” instrumentals are lovely in a Durutti/Budd/John Abercrombie sort of way, while things like “Orpheus” and “Waiting For the Agony To Stop” have a certain Scott Walker-goes-ECM grandeur.

 But I would swap his entire solo career for “Adolescent Sex” the title track of the first Japan album. It’s like disco-metal or something, its sashaying glitterball raunch and cokane dazzle suggesting a whole lost future or parallel pop universe. It’s like Guns N’Roses “Welcome To the Jungle” produced by Daft Punk circa “Digital Love” or something. This totally plasticized, artificial rock music that still rocks. (The only thing I’ve heard like it is some tracks made by Last Few Days, a second-tier industrial group who circa ’89 totally reinvented themselves as this glammed avant-raunch outfit and got a major label deal. Then they unwisely went house and that was that).

It’s interesting how Japan (and Foxx-era Ultravox too come to think of it) had so many of the same inputs and reference points as Siouxsie & the Banshees---Roxy, Velvets (Japan covered ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’), Dolls, Eno, Bowie, similar movies and books too I’ll bet, similar flirtations (that decadence/fascism/S&M/voyeurism) and shtick (ice queen, don’t touch me, regal remoteness, I am a machine, metal will rule in my master scheme). 

And yet the Banshees were deemed "punk" and all through this period Japan and Ultravox were jeered at as glam johnny-come-latelys, throwbacks. If you reconfigured glam as the true 70s revolution/upheaval in 70s UK pop, and made punk into its aftershock, you might get some interesting results.

Mark quotes Penman on the later Ferry stranded in an “autumn swirl of shriveled or dying signs (that once were lustrous: 'dance' - 'drug' - 'love'), making solemn play of an immensely empty escape in the facades of an eternal tone - windswept, misty, limpidly sensual, banal.” 

The comeback Roxy is something I’d probably have mostly disregarded at the time, except in an idle radio enjoyment way--not sure I’d even heard the original Roxy then, so had no disappointment or betrayal to bring to the table. But I always really liked the glint-swirl synths of “Same Old Scene” and in retrospect this wanly elegant later Roxy/Ferry--“More Than This”, “Avalon”  --has a certain narcotic allure. Weirdly, it’s like Ferry’s arrived at his own wispy aristocratic version of ambient music.

Glam from Elsewhere in the Anglophonosphere

Well, if Canadian hauntology wasn't surprising enough, here's a whole book on Canadian glam Yes it is an "untold story"....