❉ This detour down Glam’s back alleys has more should-have-been hits than perhaps any other box set.
“All The Young Droogs is a diverse set that takes in tubthumpers and hellraisers to elegance and decadence. Glam’s influence was felt in punk and practically every new British pop act to emerge in the late ’70s and early ’80s were the children of Bowie & Roxy.”
What was Glam?
As the past ebbs further and further away memories blur and younger people who weren’t there at the time become gatekeepers to a musical past they don’t understand, you can find plenty of ‘New Romantic’ compilations that feature the likes of Talking Heads, Public Image Ltd. and Wax (the collaboration between Graham Gouldman and Andrew Gold, neither of whom I believe were regulars down the Blitz club). Similarly, you can plenty of ‘glam’ CDs that feature the decidedly unglamorous Faces, John Kongos and 10cc. Just as ‘new romantic’ has come to mean ‘80s’ so ‘glam’ has come to mean ‘70s’.
Glam was (obviously) as much a visual concept as a musical genre, and one that is still much derided today, aside from the holy trinity of Bowie, Bolan and Roxy Music. Some bands may earn a grudging respect as ‘great singles acts’ but the truth is the likes of Slade or the Sweet are among the greatest bands the UK has ever produced. All the best pop music works as singles, so great singles acts are great pop acts, period.
Some people who really know their glam rock are the compilers of Cherry Red’s All The Young Droogs box set. Years ago an article appeared in Record Collector magazine which coined the label ‘junk shop glam’ which has affixed itself to the type of glam single you’d find in bargain bins all over the UK. You won’t find many household names on this set, although Iggy Pop, Mott The Hoople, Bill Nelson’s Be Bop Deluxe and the Spiders From Mars (minus Ziggy of course) all make appearances. As we connoisseurs of all things cult know there are plenty of gems hidden under the popular culture radar and 60 such warbles are now available in a droogie 3CD package.
Unlike the weird and wonderful Oh Yes We Can Love! glam box from Universal that stretched the glam concept all the way back to Noel Coward and forward to Goldfrapp, this is a set firmly rooted in the early ’70s (aside from a stay 1969 track). It also steers away from the top 20, in fact some of the tracks are previous unreleased or only originally issued as private pressings to be distributed to no doubt delighted family and friends.
What was the Glam sound?
There isn’t that much that unites Tony Visconti’s lush productions for T. Rex or Roxy Music’s electronic-fired Eno era or Mike Leander’s echoey, dub-like productions for he-who-shall-no-longer-be named. Similarly this is a diverse set that takes in tubthumpers and hellraisers to more elegance and decadence. Glam’s influence was felt in punk and practically every new British pop act to emerge in the late ’70s and early ’80s were the children of Bowie & Roxy.
The first disc, subtitled Rocks Off!, kicks off with Ray Owen’s Moon and Hey Sweety in which the former blues singer from Juicy Lucy asks a young lady ‘what’s your price?’, prime example of the casual sexism of the time. This is followed by the proto-punk of Third World War’s Working Class Man which you’d swear was from 1977 rather than 1971 until the atonal sax comes in at the end, making it sound more like post-punk.
Though largely seen as a British phenomenon there were plenty of acts from abroad who fell under glam’s broad umbrella from the jet trash of the New York Dolls to the art pop of Sparks. We get more proto-punk from Iggy & The Stooges and Milk ’N’ Cookies from Long Island marry their power pop to the Glitter beat to produce a stomp-along classic in Wok N Roll.
It’s not all shimmering silver and gold – I did find the likes of Slowload’s B-side Big Boobs Boogie (!) , a sort of Status Quo/blues workout to be hard going. But the likes of Glo Macari’s Lookin’ For Love or Harpo’s Teenage Queen should have been number 1 for weeks, both ear worm of handclaps and a singalong chorus, which just shows that you need more than all the right ingredients to cook up a hit, luck still plays a huge part. Then factor in just how many copies of a single you needed to sell in the early ’70s and odds were against so many of these artists.
I also wonder if the young Gary Numan ever heard Lovely Lady Rock by James Hogg as the guitar riff turns up in Tubeway Army’s This Is My Life.
Glam’s much vaunted sexual ambiguity rears it made-up face with the likes of Supernaut’s I Like It Both Ways (don’t we all dears…) and Fancy’s Brother John who likes to wear red dresses although this is quickly countered by the cor-blimey Small Faces-like Get Outta My ‘Ouse by Hustler where our poor lad faces the wrath of his own father and that of his “bird”, and he reassures us he’s not ‘ginger beer’. Phew…needless to say this is sort of amusing in an ITV ’70s sitcom way rather than causing me to throw my limp wrists up and scream homophobia.
Things continue to be generally laddish on the second disc, subtitled Tubthumpers and Hellraisers although Simon Turner sounds ratter effete on Sex Appeal. Some Eno-like electro notes are sprinkled over The Jet’s uninspiringly-titled Yeah! which is a huge plus in anyone’s book. Needless to say, these are not the same Jets who were either rockabilly revivalists in the early ’80s or the ghastly Tongan Crush On You hit-makers. I know which Jets I would have preferred to see on Top of the Pops. There’s more singalong stompers from the likes of Hello, Boneshakers and UK Jones but I do feel this is the weakest of the three discs.
The final disc is subtitled Elegance and Decadence (taken from Kraftwerk’s ‘Europe Endless’ as I’m sure you don’t need telling…). This is where things get much more arty, more European and rather more effete, this is the glam that fed into the new pop of the early 80s, rather than the punk that immediately followed glam as the next big thing. We kick off with Brett Smiley – the absolute epitome of effete, you feel the merest waft of another man’s testosterone mixed with Brut 33 would have made Brett faint clean away.
Then comes John Howard, who was an actual out gay man and not afraid to express himself openly in his songs. This could be why you’ve never heard of him, but I highly recommend you check out his Kid In A Big World album, also out on RPM.
Next comes probably the most well know track on this set, though probably not in its original incarnation. Metro’s Criminal World, which is another one of those tracks that you hear and wonder why it wasn’t a hit. You may be familiar with David Bowie’s cover on his mega selling Let’s Dance album, I don’t think I’m committing heresy in saying Metro’s original is the superior version.
The Bowie connections continue with Woody Woodmansey’s U-Boat Star Machine and the Spiders From Mars’ White Man, Black Man – if you haven’t heard either, you’re not missing much.
Suddenly along comes Steve Elgin, who makes Brett Smiley sound like Danny Dyer, which is one the campest things I’ve ever heard, and I’ve got a Danny la Rue CD. Don’t Leave Your Lover Lying Around (Dear) is one of the absolute highlights of the box, a British Jobriath no less. I’m very disappointed Steve only recorded this one single. Now I have to try and track it down to hear the B-side Seductress. My advice – don’t leave your lover laying around unless you want them to get some of the old in-out from Steve.
If you have any interest in the early ’70s, away from cliches of Spangles, Space Hoppers and striking miners then All The Young Droogs is a highly recommended detour down some of pop’s cul-de-sacs and backalleys. Here you’ll find more should-have-been hits than perhaps any other CD box set I’ve heard. The great thing about compilations like this is that they are like marathon versions of an alternative universe Top of the Pops – if you don’t like something it doesn’t matter as something else will be along in a few minutes that might be one of the most choodessny pop-discs you’ve ever heard my brothers.
DISC ONE: ROCK OFF!
1. HEY SWEETY – Ray Owen’s Moon
2. WORKING CLASS MAN – Third World War
3. I GOT A RIGHT – Iggy & The Stooges
4. WOK N’ WOLL – Milk ‘N’Cookies
5. HOLD ON TIGHT – Method
6. BE A MAN – The Brats
7. LAZY LONDON LADY – Change
8. LOOKING FOR LOVE – Glo Macari
9. BIG BOOBS BOOGIE – Slowload
10. LOVELY LADY ROCK – James Hogg
11. TEENAGE LOVE AFFAIR – Iron Virgin
12. I LIKE IT BOTH WAYS – Supernaut
13. BROTHER JOHN – Fancy
14. DON’T LET GO – Rats
15. SHE’S NOT MY LOVER – Cole Younger
16. ROXY ROLLER – Sweeney Todd featuring Brian Guy Adams
17. BOYS WILL BE BOYS – Taste
18. GET OUTTA MY HOUSE – Hustler
19. MACHINE – Ning
20. HARD ROAD – Stevie Wright
DISC TWO: TUBTHUMPERS & HELLRAISERS
1. MY TEENAGE QUEEN – Harpo
2. BY BYE BAD DAYS – Hector
3. SATURDAY NIGHT – Bilbo Baggins
4. GAME’S UP – Hello
5. POSER – Frenzy
6. SEX APPEAL – Simon Turner
7. YEAH – The Jets
8. LUCIFERA – Lemming
9. WHIZZ KID – Mott The Hoople
10. LITTLE BOY BLUE – Angel
11. BABY GRANDE – Zephyr
12. I WANT YOU (ALL NIGHT LONG) – Hot Rod
13. LOOKING FOR YOU – Redhead
14. CUT LOOSE – Stud Leather
15. GIMME GIMME SOME LOVIN’ (GIMME GIMME GOOD LOVIN’/GIMME SOME LOVIN’) – Biggles
16. DOG EATS DOG – Mint
17. FAST TRAIN – Tank
18. HEY HEY JUMP NOW – The One Hit Wonders
19. SWEETNESS – Boneshaker
20. LET ME TELL YA – U.K. Jones
DISC THREE: ELEGANCE & DECADENCE
1. ABSTRACTING BILLY – Brett Smiley
2. GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER – John Howard
3. CRIMINAL WORLD – Metro
4. WHITE STOCKINGS – Roy Allison
5. SPACESHIP LOVER – Paul St John
6. ULTRASTAR – Rococo
7. STAR MACHINE – Woody Woodmansey’s U-Boat
8. NIGHT CREATURES – Be Bop Deluxe
9. NEW YORK CITY PRETTY – Clive Kennedy
10. I WON’T DANCE – John Henry
11. DON’T LEAVE YOUR LOVER LYING AROUND (DEAR) – Steve Elgin
12. WONDER ONES – Alastair Riddell
13. I LIVE IN STYLE IN MAIDA VALE (DEMO VERSION) – Helter Skelter
14. VIRGINIA CREEPER – Greg Robbins
15. PAPER PARTY – Brian Wells
16. WAITING – The Doctors Of Madness
17. SHOWBIZ KID – Sleaze
18. WHITE MAN, BLACK MAN – Spiders From Mars
19. PASTICHE BLUE – James Arthur Edwards
20. DAYBREAK – Buster
❉ All The Young Droogs: 60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks, Rock’N’Glam (And A Flavour Of Bubblegum) From The 70’s, Various Artists 3CD Boxset (RPMBX543) is out now from RPM/Cherry Red Records, RRP £17.99.
❉ Ian Harris is a regular contributor to We Are Cult.