Simon Reynolds on Glam’s Defining Moments

The author of Energy Flash and Retromania looks at some of glam’s key artists and releases

Simon Reynolds is one of music journalism’s biggest names, and his first love as a listener was glam. The genre rose up as he was a youngster in the UK, and it captured his imagination with its eerie sonics and flamboyant fashion. Over the past few years, Reynolds has been researching the genre for a new book entitled Shock and Awe. In a recent episode of Pathways with Todd L. Burns on Red Bull Radio, Reynolds ran through glam – the good, the bad and ridiculous – in a wide-ranging conversation that expanded the definition of glam to include artists like Sia and Marilyn Manson among the usual suspects, with David Bowie, perhaps unsurprisingly, towering over them all.

Red Bull Radio

Anthony Newley – The Roar of the Greasepaint—The Smell of the Crowd (1965)

[Newley’s] someone that I didn’t know much about, and that’s partly because when you read biographies of Bowie, people tend to skip past [Newley] because he became a very mainstream figure, and he went Las Vegas and would do TV spectaculars. But in his early career he did some really interesting TV series – Strange World of Gurney Slade, which is all these kind of things that anticipate Monty Python, but even plays like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard, where it goes fourth wall, he’s talking to the camera. Things where he goes in and out of performance and steps outside it, sort of like meta TV, and playing games with questions to do with reality. Almost like a TV version of existentialism, influenced probably by the Theatre of the Absurd.

Anthony Newley - Who Can I Turn To?

That’s where [Bowie] gets a lot of these ideas from, I think, the plays that Anthony Newley did like Stop the World, I Want to Get Off. It’s a kind of existentialist, absurdist form of entertainment. It’s still like a musical, but has these ideas about reality and illusion. Ziggy Stardust seems to come very much from him being a fan of Anthony Newley. To the end of his days, [Bowie] was always like, “Oh, he was such a great creative figure, Newley, he was such a big influence on me.” Newley did not reciprocate the feeling, apparently – he never said anything nice back about Bowie.

The Kinks - Lola

The Kinks – “Lola” (1970)

It was a very risqué song at the time. It was all very much on trend. There were starting to be movies that had cross-dressing characters, or that had themes of gayness and openly gay characters. There was a film called Sunday Bloody Sunday, starring Peter Finch and Glenda Jackson and Murray Head, about a three-way love affair between a man and a woman who were both in love with the same beautiful young man. These things were hitting the mainstream. There was a film called Triple Echo that had a character about a soldier who deserts during World War II, and dressed as a woman. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, that movie by Russ Meyer, has a cross-dressing character in it.

These things that Bowie was doing, and the Kinks with “Lola,” were not occurring in a cultural vacuum. These things were in the air. “Lola” works as this singalong anthem that you could just about ignore or miss the vocals, but for those who pay attention, it’s a wonderfully cheeky, risqué little song.

T.Rex - Bang a Gong (Get It On)

T-Rex – “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” (1971)

That’s the archetypal Bolan song, in the same way that “Born to be Wild” is the one song that everyone knows by Steppenwolf. It’s so sexy and it’s got a kind of androgynous sexuality to it. It’s blues-based, basically, but it contrasts with a lot of the blues rock of the ’70s, which was very phallic, masculinist, sexually domineering... Musically, it’s perfection. It’s like they couldn’t be so minimal. It’s got such a fleet, delicate sexuality to it.

David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)

One of the things about Bowie is he kind of did follow the trends. He had this hippie folk phase; he tries to go heavy and be a progressive underground rocker. Hunky Dory is not really a glam record insofar as it’s sort of un-rocking as an album. It’s a fantastic record – in the book I described it as being a bit like an existentialist Elton John record. It’s very arranged and orchestrated. It came out to quite a quiet reception initially, and it was really with Ziggy Stardust that he becomes glam.

He dabbled a bit with wearing costumes, reactivating his original interest in show biz – in his hippie phase he kind of moved away from that. He always had a love of clothes and of theatricality and mime, obviously, was an interest. He reactivates all of that and really gets into this extravagant outer space image, and really takes the whole gender ambiguity, third sex thing to the limit. He toyed with that first on the cover of The Man Who Sold the World, where he’s wearing a man dress and his whole posture on the cover is very feminine, not the way that a man would traditionally in rock music visually present themselves. He’s kind of in a coquettish posture, reclining on a sofa. The cover of that record is probably way more influential and important than the music.

Lou Reed – Transformer (1972)

Lou Reed had a glam phase, but one of the things that I got intrigued or puzzled by when I was doing the book was this idea that Velvet Underground were the first glam band, and I just couldn’t see it. They weren’t particularly theatrical – they were very dressed down, in fact, in their appearance – and the sound doesn’t really anticipate glam. It’s either much more folky and fragile or it’s abstract and experimental in a way that not many glam groups do. I think people think of them as precursors to glam because of the Lou Reed thing, and Bowie adopting Lou Reed and sort of recharging his career, but I think if you look at the records, Bowie had a much bigger influence on Lou Reed than the other way around.

There’s a period when Lou Reed has a kind of real crush on Bowie, and just thinks he’s the greatest thing. It’s an artistic crush as well as a personal friendship, and Transformer is a result of that, where he basically just puts out a record that doesn’t really sound like any of his other records, and Mick Ronson is very involved in the sound of it, and it sounds like Hunky Dory but with Lou Reed lyrics. I felt listening to it that it was almost like he was trying to perform a fantasy of New York and Lou Reed and the Warhol scene that fitted what Bowie imagined it to be.

Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies (1973)

[Alice Cooper] was very much coming up with these ideas himself, independently and concurrently with Bowie and Bolan. He’s putting on women’s clothing, much more as sort of a grotesque, disturbing, surreal stage thing to do. He’s bringing an element of theater that is initially a chaotic, improvised, hippie freak show kind of theater, but then it gets more choreographed. There’s props and staging going on as the band gets huger.

Alice Cooper - Hello Hooray

Although Alice Cooper said quite liberated things about sexuality and how people should have sex with whoever they want, and how he hadn’t slept with a guy but he wasn’t averse to trying it, the emphasis with Alice Cooper was much less to do with androgyny and more to do with this sort of shock horror theatricality. A love of show biz, feeling that rock music in the ’60s had been anti-show biz, but feeling that the destiny of rock music, especially as it went into the arenas, was to become a new kind of show biz. Alice Cooper loved musicals – he loved all the products of Hollywood, every kind of genre movie, Westerns. A lot of the songs are inspired by Hollywood. There’s even two different songs based around West Side Story, which is one of his favorite musicals.

New York Dolls – New York Dolls (1973)

I liked them a lot more through researching and writing than I had before. I had always been a huge Stooges fan, and then, as you do when you’re growing up, you check out the things that people regard as iconic, and I was always a bit underwhelmed by the New York Dolls album when I heard it in the early ’80s. A lot of people didn’t think it was that well produced, and didn’t really capture their chaos live. I filed them mentally as something that “you had to be there,” but through writing a history of it, I in a weird way created an equivalent of being there. Immersing yourself so deeply in that time, it gets close to feeling like you’re there.

New York Dolls - Lonely Planet Boy

You actually see, “Ah, they did have this enormous impact.” The idea of them was exciting. It is the start of that thing that then happens with the Sex Pistols, the idea of a band that are chaos. They’re just uncontrollable chaos, which I felt the Stooges got that on wax, much more than the Dolls ever did. [The Dolls] didn’t actually dress in women’s clothing onstage the way that they do on the front cover of the album, which is just such a fantastic front cover. They were definitely pushing a lot of buttons in terms of mixing up clothing of both genders, but they weren’t really a drag band when they played live. Just the look of them and the way they carried themselves on stage was genuinely threatening, I think.

Suzi Quatro – “Can the Can” (1973)

I was really surprised when I moved to America and married an American and found out that Suzi Quatro is really not known in America except for being Leather Tuscadero in Happy Days – basically playing the same character as Suzi Quatro, which is like a tough, rock & roll chick. In Britain she was really big for a couple of years. She had a whole bunch of hits produced and written by Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn. She had a great sound. It’s these loping, bluesy, aggressive tunes that project a lot of attitude.

She is a part of glam in a real way. It was difficult – there weren’t many women involved in glam at all, on the front lines of glam in terms of leading bands. It was really the Runaways and Suzi Quatro. That’s because, in a way, part of glam is it’s men dressing up as women or wearing makeup. The equivalent move for women is to dress down. That makes you un-glamorous. It was quite difficult. Glam is the story of men – often, for the most part, heterosexual men – becoming androgynous. Wearing women’s clothing, wearing makeup. There isn’t an obvious reverse move for women to do.

Suzi Quatro - Can The Can

Suzi Quatro did it in the sense of becoming androgynous by being really tough. She has this black leather bodysuit. She’s really cute, but it’s in kind of a tomboy-ish way. Her whole attitude is snarling vocals. I noticed in all her videos she kind of screws up her eyes when she’s singing or shouting the chorus. There hadn’t really been anyone like that in pop music. There’d been some all-female bands that hadn’t been hugely successful, but there hadn’t really been a woman with that punky attitude who’d been a pop star. That was her innovation.

Quatro doesn’t really come up very often in lists of pioneering women in rock, which is unfair. I think she deserves that. Before that, Grace Slick had a bit of an attitude, in a different way. Janis Joplin was wild and a libertine. In terms of a tomboy image and an aggressive punk attitude, I think Quatro was a pioneer of that.

Slade – “Cum On Feel the Noize” (1973)

Slade were not particularly one of my favorites before I started the book, and then through doing the book I came to love and respect them. I feel a great affection for them as an institution, and also I was just intrigued by how important they were considered at the time. In Britain they’re mostly known in a nostalgic way, this ’70s group, and they’re fondly remembered. In America, I don’t think they’re really known at all. At the time, Lester Bangs thought they were saviors of music. Nick Kent, who was sort of Britain’s approximate equivalent to Lester Bangs, thought they were representative of the revitalization of rock music as working class music, as teenage music. They were taken very seriously by some critics and they were hugely successful. I think they had like six number ones in Britain. Twelve Top 10 hits. They were selling huge, huge concerts.

Slade - Cum On Feel The Noize

A lot of it was these singles, and then the live experience of seeing Slade was considered pretty amazing. They were incredible entertainers. Noddy Holder and Dave Hill, the guitarist, were just real glitzy, down-to-earth, fun performers who looked really, outrageously colorful. They didn’t point to this world of exquisite decadence or sophistication in the way that Bowie or Bryan Ferry did. They were very down-to-earth, kind of crude and coarse.

The Sweet – “Teenage Rampage” (1974)

What I like about the Sweet in general, and this song, it’s got this mock insurrectionary quality to it. It’s referencing 1968 and the student riots but in this completely bubblegum way. It’s this fantasy of the teenagers taking over the country and rewriting the Constitution in passing laws. It’s hilarious. It’s absurd. The music has a certain menace to it. It’s the most punk rock anticipating of all the Sweet songs, I think. Their songwriter Mike Chapman, later their producer, said “Here’s the Nuremberg rally” when he presented “Teenage Rampage” to the Sweet. It’s got this ominous feel to it. Phil Wainman, who produced it, amplified that.

Sweet - Teenage Rampage

You can hear the Sex Pistols already in “Teenage Rampage” and some of the other Sweet songs. I think of them as plastic Pistols. It’s a glossed-up glimpse ahead to punk rock, sonically, while lyrically being generally frivolous and bubblegum. The Sweet’s main emotion is this hysteria. A lot of their songs have a hysteria about them, four-part harmonies. The Sweet were convinced Queen ripped off the shrieking, very high-pitched harmonies they developed.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Rocky Horror is coming from the same love of B-movies and pulp entertainment, comics and horror movies and all that kind of stuff. Alice Cooper is rock becoming theatrical and Rocky Horror Show is an example of the theater taking on rock. It comes out of a British actor, Richard O’Brien, who wants to write a script or a play and comes up with this campy entertainment in which he plays the role of the grotesque butler figure. His actual alter ego is Frank ’N’ Furter, the character played by Tim Curry, because as he later reveals in life, he identifies as trans these days – Richard O’Brien, the creator of Rocky Horror. The Frank ’N’ Furter character, with his cross-dressing and his whole campy, theatrical polysexuality, is his alter ego, his way of expressing that side of himself. He’s not ready to do it himself, in person, but he invents the character that Tim Curry inimitably incarnates that represents that side of himself.

A lot of glam is the idea of the world coming to an end, so escape, and also anything goes. In the end days of man, all rules about behavior and sexuality just get thrown out the window.

In Rocky Horror Show, a lot of the obsession of the glam era, like cross-dressing, ’50s revivalism, the whole trash aesthetic involving these pulpy B-movies, they all come together. Also, I do like decadence and I always thought of it as a fun romp, and it’s actually got kind of a dark undercurrent, Rocky Horror Picture Show. It ends on quite a bleak note.

That created this mimetic subculture where people go to see the midnight movie presentation dressed as the characters, they talk back to the characters on screen, they do these rituals where they squirt water in the air when it’s the rain scene, and some of them have umbrellas. They sort of perform the movie with the movie and they talk back to it. There’s that sense of the screen becoming porous. They’re in the filmic space themselves. The audience invades that space. That side of it tends to amplify the campy side of it that relates to other phenomenon like Wigstock in York, all these drag, camp aspects – not so much the darkness. That surprised me when I watched it again for the book, that it does have this sort of dark undertone, which is part of glam. A lot of glam is the idea of the world coming to an end, so escape, and also anything goes. In the end days of man, all rules about behavior and sexuality just get thrown out the window.

Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody” (1975)

Brian May and Freddie Mercury especially loved [Jimi] Hendrix. They liked all the things that Hendrix had done in the studio with Electric Ladyland, and they just wanted to take the layering of guitars and processing of guitars even further. Brian May, I gather, was actually the person who really pushed the layering and the processing of the vocals as well, rather than Freddie Mercury. It’s like an architecture, the voice that you’re hearing on these records. It’s astonishing.

In the book, I have this whole thing where I talk about Baroque. I think the aesthetic really relates to the Baroque era. “Bohemian Rhapsody” obviously owes a lot to opera and Baroque, and Rococo excess and maximalism. On their records, the incredible ornate layering and the love of ornamentation and fold upon fold of texture, that’s what it comes from, from that era of classical music.

They always wanted to do rock. There’s always two things going on in Queen. There’s a studio obsession thing that comes out of Electric Ladyland and out of that side of the Beatles. There’s also a side that is stagecraft and being a very powerful live band. That probably comes more from Led Zeppelin and other epic, hard-rocking performers – Jeff Beck, all these British blues giants that came out of the Yardbirds. They have both going on at the same time, and then this overlay of excess that comes from Freddie Mercury and his sexuality. They seem to be trying to express that through the songs without coming out publicly. But it’s there. The band is called Queen. It’s in your face in a way, but not. Lots and lots of rock fans never thought that Freddie Mercury was gay. They just thought he was an excessive performer.

Iggy Pop – Raw Power/The Idiot (1973/1977)

With The Stooges, there’s this sense of apocalyptic chaos brewing in the music, but it’s also very focused and military in its aggression. That’s the music of that era that seems to be punk already. It’s like it’s already achieving what the Sex Pistols will then take to a different direction. Bowie used to talk about Iggy having this natural theatre, this street theatre, a Detroit sort of theatre that was different from his own kind of theatricality and different from what Alice Cooper was doing, this show biz shock-rock. It was much more improvised, but it was very much performed, and it was very much testing the body, pushing the body to the limits doing these things – these back bends and contortions onstage that you flinch looking at a photo of, even now. It’s someone really putting themselves on the line for their art, injuring themselves and trying to get a reaction. It’s in some ways similar to the spirit of things like The Living Theatre in the ’60s, where people were trying to bring reality on stage and have confrontations with the audience, or bring people from the audience on stage.

There’s that similar desire to break through the barrier between the audience and the stage, as seen most famously in that photograph of him in Cincinnati where he’s walking on the audience’s hands. I think that for Bowie, Iggy represented this unreachable ideal of total immersion and commitment to performance that he really admired, and he wanted to help Iggy become the star that he should’ve been. He really rescues him a couple of times, doesn’t he?

Gary Glitter

Gary Glitter was the archetype. A lot of glam people had been around for years. He started his career before the Beatles. He had a record out before them. He was touted as being a teeny-bop star and a credible R&B singer. His career never really took off. He had all these attempts to make it. With his producer Mike Leander, after many attempts together to come up with an original sound, he just came up with the song “Rock and Roll (Part 1 & 2)” which, lyrically, is all about ’50s references. The early ’70s was a big rock & roll revival period. Musically, it’s very advanced – the production, the looping of drums that was used, the space and the weird processing of the guitar, all these things. There are elements that seem to parallel and anticipate the sound of dub reggae, of electro records in the ’80s. For me, it’s a record that’s between primordial rock & roll and the future. It was a smash in the discothéques. It got no reviews. It got no plays on the radio. It started to take off in the disco and it was the more stripped-down, almost-instrumental version on the B-side (titled “Rock and Roll, Part 2”). It just had a few vocal chants and shouts, these caveman grunts that Glitter did. This is a much more skeletal, stripped-down version of the track, [which] became a disco anthem.

Gary Glitter - Rock and Roll (Part 1&2)

Then it became a hit. The radio decided to play it and he became a huge star. What is most interesting to me about Gary Glitter was this mismatch between the sound, which is really quite strange and punishing and really brutal, this brutal, thuggish sound, and his image, which was incredibly camp and reminded you of Liberace or the most glitzy, Las Vegas era of Elvis. Rhinestones. He would wear outfits that were preposterous... Things he could only wear once because they would disintegrate after his very sweaty performances. His performances were very camp and ludicrous, but extreme as well.

They are ridiculous and disturbing at the same time. The combination of the strange sound and the totally over-the-top, excessive imagery made him one of the real oddities of an era, something that people who grew up then just cannot forget. He made a bunch of great records, seven or eight records, tarnished forever by the sex crimes that he was prosecuted for. As such, he’s almost been written out of history. There is a box set of glam where they decided to leave him out. I couldn’t leave him out of my book, so I had to find a way of celebrating the records.

Heavy Metal Kids

Heavy Metal Kids are definitely more interesting on the level of the image and the thing they projected on stage, which was really the singer, Gary Holton. Musically, they sound like Faces but not as good. There was quite a lot of buzz about them in the mid-’70s and they had a few hits in the UK, but they were not innovators in any sense of the word.

Heavy Metal Kids - Delirious (German TV '77)

What was interesting to me about them was that their rhetoric and their presentation anticipated punk. It was very much like an exaggerated hooligan image that Gary Holton projected. There was a bit of Clockwork Orange in there. Clockwork Orange was such a huge movie, and I think in the UK it was even withdrawn from circulation by Kubrick because there were all these scare stories that it had inspired copycats and violence. He went into a tantrum about it and just pulled the film from the cinemas. It was used as a way of talking about anxieties about violence, about youth crime, about “the youth are out of control.” Heavy Metal Kids played all this up in their image, and it was all to do with violence and a sort of thuggish demeanor. I think it was an influence, an anticipation of punk, but the music did not live up to it.

Roxy Music

They are such a collision of all these different impulses. There is this very experimental and progressive music, things where they are doing tracks that are very similar to krautrock stuff, influenced by abstract noises, electronics, weird tape effects. Then they have this side of them which is the Bryan Ferry side, much more into songwriting, admiring great soul songwriters, Smokey Robinson and people like that. It is also much more camp and knowing and ironical. That comes out of the education Bryan Ferry had at art school where he was imbibing a lot of Pop Art ideas from the British wing of Pop Art. Richard Hamilton was sort of Britain’s Andy Warhol, in some respect, and Richard Hamilton was [Ferry’s] tutor at art school.

Roxy Music - Do the Strand

It is such a crazy mishmash of strange sounds and pop and weirdness and danceability and abstract noise and a great sense of image and theater. Just a riot of signifiers. Some of it is quite futuristic sounding. A lot of it is retro and post-modern in a way that had really not been seen in pop music before. There are all these references in songs in tribute to Humphrey Bogart. There is references to other stars and 1920s cocktail music, early jazz, early rock & roll. It is a great eruption of ideas and provocations and these brilliant songs. They also rock really hard as well on some of them, because of the great drummer Paul Thompson and Phil Manzanera as guitarist.

It is just almost too rich, Roxy Music. They were pop stars. Eventually in America they had hits. In Britain, they were pop stars with their first single. They built this cult around them of people for whom Roxy represented... It was like if you are into Roxy, you are a cut above. You are an elite who understands irony, understands all these references we are making. Then these people would flock to the concerts dressed up in amazing costumes.

Kate Bush – “Sat in Your Lap”/”Wuthering Heights” (1981/1978)

Kate was not generally bracketed with glamour. I think there’s a good case for saying that she comes out of it and then goes off on her own journey. Initially, EMI, when they signed her, they saw her as an audiovisual artist. The A&R guy at EMI talked about how they were going to break her in America through television. She always had this slightly amateur, dramatic side to her performance. It was very expressive. Lots of dance movements.

Kate Bush - Sat in Your Lap

There’s a connection with Bowie in that she studied with Lindsay Kemp, who is the mime and dance teacher that Bowie studied with. She was a big fan of Bowie, a big fan of Cockney Rebel, who were another of these theatrical British art rock, art pop groups that I write about in the book. She loved all that music. She also was friends with Genesis and Pink Floyd and those sort of groups, so she has a bit of prog in there, a bit of singer-songwriter, but I think glam is a big part of her make-up. Some of it is the tempestuous emotionalism of her songs. That seems to come out of that quite melodramatic side of Bowie that you get on things like “Wild is the Wind,” some of his more epic, melodramatic songs. It’s also the videos that she does later on that are so amazing, that involve a lot of modern dance.

She only toured once in the early part of her career, and that was a real stage spectacular with so much movement involved that her crew had to invent a mic. It’s now commonplace, but the mic that goes around your ear, a hands-free mic, was invented for her so that she could do all these dance moves that were a little bit over the top. A lot of people made fun of her, and she was cruelly impersonated on TV comedy shows in Britain. Very much coming out of that glam thing of a fully visual music. A fully visual, theatrical kind of pop.

Mötley Crüe

I always thought of it as being hair metal, but when I read the Chuck Klosterman book, his first book, he uses the word “glam” to refer to all those groups. Ratt, Mötley Crüe, Guns N’ Roses... I think, early on, that was what aficionados in America referred to as glam metal or glam. That surprised me at first, but then I looked into it, and the links are very clear.

In the book I say basically the Sunset Strip bands are dressing like the women in the audience that they’re hoping to have sex with later that night.

There was this group called London that a lot of these Sunset Strip bands originally played in. That’s a very Anglophile name. They were formed in the late ’70s, clearly looking to Britain and glam ideas. Blackie Lawless, in Wasp, was in a very late incarnation of the New York Dolls. There’s an important transitional group, this Finnish group called Hanoi Rocks, who were sort of like glam Johnny-come-latelies. They were a big influence on a lot of these Sunset Strip hair metal bands.

It’s basically the same thing. It’s guys dressing as girls, and finding that it’s a way of getting girls. In the book I say basically the Sunset Strip bands are dressing like the women in the audience that they’re hoping to have sex with later that night. They’ve got blow-dried hair that’s very well-conditioned, and often dyed with streaks. They’ve got various kinds of eye makeup, some of them have got blush on. They’re really dolled up, much more than the New York Dolls. They look more like the Dolls did on the front cover of their debut album. They are caked in makeup and they always have a very pretty singer, and often most of the rest of the group are really pretty as well. The music’s glam, and since it’s basic, it’s heavy metal you can dance to. At that time in the ’80s, metal was split in two parts. There was underground, which was the path of Metallica, leading to Slayer, and it’s thrashing and it’s not dance music at all. It tends not to have many great tunes, either.

Glam metal, Sunset Strip metal, is always danceable and raunchy, and it has anthems. It has anthemic choruses and it’s pop music. For a long while, it is pop music in America. It dominates MTV. It’s like glam without the arty side, and without the ideas that Bowie and Roxy and other groups at that time had, and not really that musically progressive. Except for maybe some of the things Def Leppard did, which were quite interesting, sonically.

Def Leppard – “Pour Some Sugar on Me” (1987)

“Pour Some Sugar on Me” has a kind of weird, dub electronic breakdown, and their songs are very, very produced. They’re very, very processed-sounding, interesting moves going on in them. It’s traditional hard rock that you’re getting, but with this sort of glammy veneer in the image. The guys are dressed up in makeup and they look really beautiful and glammed up, but they’re very heterosexual. There’s not a sense of them being bisexual or belonging to a third gender. They’re quite rampantly heterosexual. In that sense, it’s glam without a lot of the progressive or subversive aspects of the original glam.

Nirvana - The Man Who Sold The World (MTV Unplugged)

Nirvana – “The Man Who Sold the World” (1993)

In terms of the public statements, there’s a lyric by Nirvana: “Everyone is gay.” Kurt Cobain made public statements in support of sexual minorities, I guess, and he seemed to be on the side of the disadvantaged, the persecuted... Everyone who was marginalized and treated as a weirdo. In that sense, Kurt Cobain is more in touch with the original spirit of glam than the Sunset Strip metal groups are, because they are the music of regular, normal kids in America. He’s speaking for the outcasts. That’s what grunge is all about.

Marilyn Manson - The Dope Show

Marilyn Manson – “The Dope Show” (1998)

It was really with “The Dope Show” that the group’s secret glam love, or their roots in that, came through very obviously, with direct homages in the video to “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” and more of a groove. Twiggy Ramirez talked about how [Reed’s] Berlin and Iggy’s “Nightclubbing” were part of the groove of some of the music on that album, Mechanical Animals. But what also interests me about [Manson] is he has this thing – which is a very glam thing – which is to make fame and stardom and celebrity culture your subject. A lot of glam music was about stardom itself. It was self-reflexive song.

Sia - Chandelier (Live on SNL)

Sia – “Chandelier” (2014)

With Sia, there’s quite a clever ruse to protect herself from the public’s gaze and turn that into a sort of logo, this protective barrier where you never see her face. I don’t know if it’s so much the subject of her songs – most of them seem to be love songs on the whole – but certainly in terms of image and the fact that she wrote in Billboard an anti-fame manifesto, that’s a big part of her presentation: “I’m not going to present my real self. You’re only seeing this performance shell.” The fact that her most recent album was called This Is Acting, again, seems very interesting to me, because it echoed all the ways that Bowie talked about himself as an actor. “When I’m doing rock & roll, that’s an act I’m doing. It’s not the real me. It’s one part I’m playing, and next year I’ll play a different part.”

It’s still really strong in rock tradition, in hip-hop and so forth, the idea that there’s a relationship between the person onstage and their real self and that you draw on your real life and reality. At various points in rock, that’s been the dominant ideology. In the ’90s that was the dominant ideology with gangster rap. It was meant to be street knowledge. N.W.A. talked about, “You are about to witness the strength of street knowledge.” In recent years, that idea has sort of broken down and it’s gone to a glam idea, where what you’re seeing is show business. It’s a part or a role that’s being played, and people are putting on a costume and they’re taking it off. Sia is the furthest extension of that idea, where you never get to see her real face. She sings her songs and you don’t know if they have any relation to her real life. She says, “This is acting.”

By Simon Reynolds on July 7, 2017

On a different note