Tag Archives: 1970s

From AC/DC to ABBA: five classic glam rock singles by non-glam bands

In the early 70s the likes of Bolan, Bowie and Slade were pioneering both the sounds and the looks that would come to define glam rock. Emerging in 1971, building momentum in 1972 and absolutely dominating the UK charts by 1973, glam was everywhere by 1974. Even non-glam bands were at it.

Here we look at five bands who managed to release great glam rock singles in 1974.

AC/DC – Can I Sit Next To You Girl

Released as their debut single in July 1974 the original version of ‘Can I Sit Next to You Girl’ is the only AC/DC release to feature Dave Evans on lead vocals, prior to Bon Scott taking over. The band would re-record the track with Scott but here you can see and hear the original. Angus is in his schoolboy uniform, of course, but the rest of the band are looking spectacularly glammed up. And it’s not just the image that’s glam either. The vocal delivery, arrangements and guitar riff all have far more of a glam rock than a hard rock feel to them. Now I love the sleazy hard-rocking Bon Scott-era of AC/DC and wouldn’t want to change a thing – but this debut single gives a delicious glimpse of how things might have been in some parallel universe.

Mungo Jerry – Long Legged Woman Dressed In Black

When ‘In The Summertime’ became the band’s first big hit in 1970 Mungo Jerry’s laid-back jug-band sound couldn’t be further away from glam rock if you tried. By 1974, however, it’s blindingly clear that glam was having an influence. It’s not just lead singer Ray Dorset’s studded white leather sleeveless jacket over his bare chest, we have a drum beat that wouldn’t be out of place on a Glitter Band release and a sing-along chorus that just screams pure unadulterated glam. My particular memory of this song was at my 8th birthday party when my dad crammed me and half the kids down the street into the back of his Ford Anglia to take us to the park. On the way back this came on the radio at full volume and we had all the widows open, screaming along to it at the top of our voices.

The Wombles – Remember You’re A Womble

Although their first single and (the theme tune from the BBC series) epitomises the lush orchestral pop that creator Mike Batt has been associated with much of his career, for the Wombles’ second single they went down a much rockier route. Joining Mike Batt (vocals/keyboards) were session musicians Chris Spedding (guitars), Les Hurdle (bass), Clem Cattini (drums), Ray Cooper (percussion), Rex Morris (saxophone), Eddie Mordue (saxophone) and Jack Rothstein (violin). Not only was the single a brilliantly bouncy slice of glam rock but, thanks to the glorious fiddle solo, it’s a brilliant slice of folk rock, too. As such it remains the greatest glam-folk single ever made. Tim Hart of Steeleye Span kind of agreed. In his book ‘Electric Eden’ Rob Young recounts that Hart “bought a triple LP of Wombles tunes and was impressed with the clarity of it’s sub glam power pop”. Batt was hired by the band and the result was Steeleye Span’s own glam-folk smash ‘All Around My Hat’.

The Rolling Stones – I Know It’s Only Rock n Roll

This July 1974 single and title track of the Stones’ album later that year originally emerged out of a jam session Mick Jagger had with Ronnie Wood and Kenney Jones of the Faces, along with David Bowie and bass player Willie Weeks. The track was polished up, some guitar licks were added by Richards and a Rolling Stones classic was born. Easily the most glam-influence song the Stones produced it really reminds me of T.Rex. And, of course, if you are going to release a glam rock single you need a glam rock video to go with it. Directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg the video shows the band dressed in sailor suits and playing in a tent which eventually fills up with bubbles. According to Keith Richards, the idea for the sailor suits came about at the last minute because none of the Stones wanted to get their own clothes ruined with detergent bubbles.

ABBA – Waterloo

Waterloo was written specifically as ABBA’s bid for the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest, after the group finished third with ‘Ring Ring’ in the contest for Sweden’s entry the previous year. With a driving guitar riff and a rocking upbeat tempo the song was quite a departure from the romantic ballads of previous European winners and, indeed, of ABBA’s later releases. Throw in the knee-high silver platforms, the glittery costumes and the star-shaped guitar and ‘Waterloo’ is a glam rock classic in all but name. Indeed, Abba themselves had cited ‘See My Baby Jive’ by English glam rockers Wizzard as a major influence at the time. My Nana, who was babysitting for us that night, let us stay up to watch them win Eurovision.

Related posts:

Before glam: the debut 60s singles of Bowie, Bolan, Slade, Mud and Sweet

The Sweet versus Bowie: the riff in Blockbuster and Jean Genie – origins and influences

Slade, strikes and the three-day week: the story of the greatest Christmas record ever made

 

Book review: ‘Look Wot They Dun! – The ultimate guide to UK glam rock on TV in the 70s’ by Peter Checksfield

Rather than another biography giving an overview of the various glam acts of the 1970s ‘Look Wot They Dun’ is basically an encyclopedic directory that methodically lists all the TV appearances of numerous bands associated with the glam era throughout the 70s. Fifty different acts are covered in all, with the appearances for each in turn listed chronologically.

As much as I am fascinated by this era and as much as I will always love bands like Sweet and Slade and T. Rex, I must admit when I first picked up this book I wasn’t sure whether there would be enough in it to sustain my interest across a whopping 286 pages. However, I soon began to get engrossed, reading some of the fascinating little snippets and insights that accompany many of the entries. In one of his earliest TV appearances, Elton John, for example, is wearing “a horrible outfit of faded blue jeans, a long-sleeved orange T-shirt and a sleeveless striped cardigan” prior to the emergence of the flamboyantly-dressed larger-than-life character of later appearances. The Sweet’s Andy Scott had a run of appearances on Opportunity Knocks in late 1966 in an outfit called The Silverstone Set, we learn, several years before finding fame with the glam rockers. And Mud’s first TV appearance, back in 1968, is on the Basil Brush Show while David Essex’s first appears some two years earlier on the Five O’clock Club.

Indeed, although the book is presented in catalogue format and lacks an explicit overarching narrative there are, nevertheless, obvious patterns that begin to emerge across a significant number of bands. First we see tentative appearances on scratchy black and white shows during the 60s beat boom (Marc Bolan and David Bowie/Jones on Ready Steady Go, the aforementioned Andy Scott on Opportunity Knocks etc.) Then we fast-forward a few years and see those same people bedecked in glitter and glam hamming it up on Top Of The Pops in the period 1971-1973. Then by around 1974 we mostly see the glam bands to start putting away the bacofoil and the glitter and opting for a more conventional rock star jeans-and-leather jacket or cool-white-suit look. Then, finally, in many of the cases we see the number of entries for TV appearances steadily declining as the second half of the seventies draws to a close.

Though I would have welcomed a bit more by way of narrative thread, the book nevertheless provides a fascinating insight into how one of the most visual musical genres of the twentieth century projected itself on to our TV screens. And as an invaluable reference tool I’m sure ‘Look Wot They Dun’ will be something I’ll be going back to again and again.

Published: February 2019

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