VARIOUS, Glam Rock 2 (Virgin Music Video)
Melody Maker, 1989
LIKE its predecessor, Glam Rock 2 is a pretty accurate encapsulation
of the Seventies glam spectrum: 50 per cent visionary, 50 per cent tawdry.
In the latter camp, there's the grotesque Wizzard and their ghastly
'flower power' meets 'pub rock' amalgam, there's the indelibly
seedy Teddy Boy revivalism of Mud, and there's Suzi Quatro's
amiable but neglibible tomboy raunch. As for the rest - "visionary" really
is the only word for music much of which still sounds astonishingly futuristic.
There's the divine Bolan, with rough-and-ready tumbles through "Metal Guru" and "Telegram Sam", plus the corrugated, cosmic boogie of "Children Of
The Revolution". There's The Sweet, a band over-ripe for rehabilitation.
Glam Rock 2 includes two hits from their twilight days,
after their they'd ditched their songwriting mentors Chinn and Chapman,
and started recording their own material in a bid to lose the 'tennybop puppet' image. "Fox On The Run" is crammed with hooks, but a little tame
compared with the bubblegum apocalypse of "Teenage Rampage" and
"Ballroom Blitz". But "Action" is awesome. Released over a year before
punk, it anticipates the insurgency of '76 with its sneered, accusatory
vocals and streamlined riffs that The Young Gods should be tripping over
themselves to sample. Johnny Rotten apparently liked The Sweet
and it may be more than mere fancy to suggest that the chant of
"liar liar liar" in the background of "Action" seeped into his
unconscious, to reappear in the form of "Liar" on "Never Mind The Bollocks".
Even more uncannily pre-emptive of punk is Alice Cooper's
anthem of anti-Messianic megalomania, "Elected". The opening
whiplash riff and Alice's soul-shattering scream remain one
of the bloodcurdling intros of all time, and if you listen
closely during the fade you can hear the boast "and we don't care",
a full six years before "Pretty Vacant". The accompanying video
of Alice's presidential campaign (the only non-TV studio footage
here) is impressively apocalyptic.
The other mindblowing clip is "This Town Ain't Big Enough
For The Both Of Us", by Sparks: their fiercest slice of
purple hysteria, bar the possible exception of the
later, Moroder-ised "Beat The Clock". Listening to its
swashbuckling dash and falsetto frenzy again, you can see
where Billy McKenzie got 50 per cent of his torrid aesthetic
from. There's something beyond wacky, truly perverse, about the
Mael brothers: the strange chemistry between the fascistic,
constipated Ron and the foppish Russell (looking here
like a cross between Jim Morrison and Johnny Rotten).
All this and the chance to gawp at Gary Glitter's
ill- advised, swansong attempt to revive his career,
by switching from stomp rock to Philadelphian orchestral soul
("A Little Boogie Woogie"). Roll on Vol. 3...