Often times mistakenly categorized in the United States as 1980’s hair metal, Glam Rock was a 1970’s British movement that combined the catchy melodies from bubblegum pop with the rebellious essence of the early hip-shaking rock n’ roll. Such a striking conglomeration of inspiration was bound to make an enormous impact on to the world of rock music and pop culture.
Deemed the “rebelling against rebellion” by Robert Palmer, Glam Rock took shape in the late 1970’s as a counteraction to the rock n’ roll of the late 1960’s. Glam Rock was meant to celebrate the live rock show and create a unique theatrical experience. Dawned in glitter, women’s clothing, and makeup, Glam Rock Stars emerged onto the stage displaying a persona entirely different from their own. The overt sexual behavior and intent to remain true to one’s self despite societal constraints, is what molded Glam Rock into a niche genre within rock music that went on to captivate an audience just as distinct.
The artists often viewed as the pioneers of Glam Rock are David Bowie and the band T. Rex. Both Bowie and lead singer of T. Rex, Marc Bolan, shaped the image of Glam Rock’s fashion sense and crafted music that was silly, sexy, and aurally fascinating. What was most different about what these artists were capable of achieving was the ability to constantly alter their personas. Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust is a prime example of a memorable persona that carried a life and career almost separate from the star that created it.
Other British bands and musicians that aided in mainstreaming Glam Rock are Queen, Gary Glitter, Sweet, Roxy Music, and Elton John. Though not as well received in the US, Glam Rock initially emerged in the underground scene with the band, New York Dolls. Despite this inability to break into American mainstream music, Glam Rock is a direct influence and inspiration for musicians such as Kiss and Alice Cooper. 1980’s hair metal was also greatly impacted by the image of Glam Rock stars, possibly a reason for the typical confusion in the United States between the two genres.
Additionally, Glam Rock was a root that grew both the British and American Punk Rock scenes, keeping the door open for rock music’s tradition of unapologetic self-expression. Encompassing all that was opposite about Rock N’ Roll in the 1960’s, Glam Rock exposed the remaining components to the music that had not yet been seen or heard. Though a short lived genre, it is easy to recognize the importance of Glam Rock in the world of music and art. Hoping to achieve a unique level of greatness, Glam Rock is a distinctive moment in music history that will always be remembered but could never be duplicated or controlled.