❉ ‘Angel Face’ hitmakers get the box set treatment from Cherry Red, but how do their albums hold up?
“‘Goodbye My Love’ – it’s a hell of a record
They did it by themselves, the leader was not present” – Luke Haines, ‘Bad Reputation’
“For me the Glitter band were more influential than the Beatles” – Mark E. Smith
The Glitter Band’s four studio albums have been collected together by Cherry Red. Whilst they appeared on stage and on television stomping, chanting ‘Hey!” and backing you-know-who they didn’t play on his records (brass section aside). Which is lucky really, as that should mean they remain untainted from the corpulent shadow of the leader of the gang.
The Glitter Band had amazing visual symmetry – two guitarists (Gerry Shephard and John Springate), two saxophonists (Jon Rossall and Harvey Ellison) and two drummers (Pete Phipps and initially Tony Leonard). Visually they were the epitome of shimmering 70s pop. Using Mike Leander as producer it’s not surprising that their early music sounds very much like you’d expect, using the familiar Glitter tropes of thumping drums, chanted vocals and crunchy glam riffs. For my money their debut single, Angel Face is one of the best records of the glam era. It is included on their debut album the rather brilliantly named Hey!. Sadly the album is largely glam rock album by numbers, with way too many cover versions of 50s and 60s standards done in the Glitter style which very quickly becomes annoying and monotonous. The self-written songs are highlights especially the aforementioned Angel Face and follow up single Just For You.
Their second album ‘Rock N Roll Dudes’, despite its naff title is much better. Having ‘dudes’ in your album title would have been cool in 1972, riding the Mott The Hoople zeitgeist but in 1975 it was laughable This album features their biggest hit Goodbye My Love, as loved by Luke Haines. It also contains Let’s Get Together Again which was covered by The Human League on their ill-fated ‘Romantic?’ album in 1990. There were already signs developing that the Glitter Band wanted to break away from the Glitter formula, although the tracks selected as singles remain very much recognisable. The shiny suits of ‘Hey!’ are replaced on the cover by white jackets that make them look like entertainers from a mid-70s holiday camp.
‘Listen To The Band’ (sadly not containing a cover of the Monkees track) I’ve seen described as the Glitter Band’s ‘Sgt..Pepper’. That’s really pushing it, it’s not even ‘Glitter Band For Sale’. The sad fact is while they have flashes of brilliance and even genius that tended to happen on 45 and their albums are all quite patchy and inconsistent. This one does have them straying into funk (!) on the instrumental Makes You Blind (snigger) and trying on quite a few different musical styles with not many examples of the classic Glitter sound. This is a shame as I’d have loved an album of self-written songs around 1973.
By the late 1970s the band tried again to escape the formula, changing labels, shortening their name to the G. Band and then trying the nom-de-disque Air Traffic Control. Final album ‘The Paris Match’ shows awareness of the times – a song called Punk Kid – but it’s a bit bland and disappointing again, with even more funk and disco elements seeping into the sound. Their version of Sympathy For The Devil is rather anonymous – play it in a pub quiz and no one would guess who it was. I wish they’d recored it for ‘Hey!’. A version with the Stones’ woo-woos replaced by shouts of hey-hey would have been something to behold!
The band fizzled out though they reformed a few times and splintered into rival Glitter Bands in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Pete Phipps probably retained the most high profile career, drumming with Eurythmics and for two albums XTC in the 1980s.
If you want good round up of the Glitter Band you may be better off with a best of CD, Cherry Red’s own The Bell Singles Collection hoovers up most of the highlights. But this box is cheap, there’s a lot of fun included and you may find you enjoy it more than you expect, but don’t raise your expectations too high.
❉ ‘The Glitter Band: The Albums’ (7Ts Records GLAMBOX162) is available from Cherry Red Records, RRP £17.99