Monday, 15 December 2008

Sweet - Spotlight (b-side), Jeanie (b-side)

Poppa Joe: The Sweet
It’s funny the way music can polarize normally sane and level headed people. Glam rock was seen as a joke at the time by many so called serious music fans. Why listen to Slade or T.Rex when you could bore the pants off everybody by playing The Grateful Dead at 2 o clock in the morning.

One of the greatest dividers of musical taste in the early 70’s was The Sweet. They had a slow start in the UK charts; and it was not until they teamed up with songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman (commonly known as Chinnichap) that they started having top ten hits. At heart Sweet were no nonsense rockers and at times some of the ‘bubblegum’ songs Chinnichap were providing was at odds with their true musical identity.

It was not until 1972’s Wig Wam Bam that the group even started to get a harder edge to the sound. In fact this was the first song where the band had actually played their instruments. On all earlier singles the backing music was played by session musicians, something which always pissed off the band as they were all accomplished musicians in their own write.

They (Brian Connolly, Andy Scott, Steve Priest and Mick Tucker) had always written and played on the B-sides of their records, so it was only a matter of time before they began to write and produce the A-sides as well. This signaled a heavier, rockier Sweet sound. The first of these self written singles Fox on the Run was released early in 1975, but by then the glam rock boom had almost run its course.

It may be time for a Sweet re-appraisal. One of the biggest sellers in the glam era but also one of the most underrated. Maybe it was because of the way they looked or because they didn’t play the instruments on their early recordings, who knows. Ask anyone for a list of their favourite ‘Glam’ anthems and I’m sure a Sweet song will be in there somewhere. Blockbuster, Hell Raiser, Ballroom Blitz, the list goes on.

Spotlight is the B-side to Alexander Graham Bell which reached number 33 in 1971. Written by the band members it is not as heavy as later B-sides penned by them, and shows a lighter musical touch.

Jeanie is the B-side to Poppa Joe a number 11 from 1972. This is almost as ‘bubblegum’ as the songs Chinnichap were writing for them. A light hearted love song to ‘Jeanie’ not much more to say other than its bright and ‘poppy’ and I used to play it more than the A-side.
The two B-sides highlighted here are from their earlier Chinnichap singles. As with most glam rock the music and lyrics would never win any awards for being sophisticated, intellectual or philosophical. Still, writing a song about the guy who invented the telephone has got to get some praise and kudos. In their own way the lyrics are quite tender and poetic.
“A candle flickers in a window
Two thousand miles away she waits there
There's a young man thinking by a window
How was she to know just how much he cared
The sun rises early in the morning
Millions of people still unaware
of something he discovered without warning
so he could show a girl just how much he cared”Alexander Graham Bell – Nicky Chinn & Mike Chapman 1971.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Slade - My Town (b-side), She Did It To Me (b-side)

Based on overall chart performance Slade were the most successful artist of the glam rock era. This was highlighted in Channel 4’s ‘Top Ten Glam Rock Artists of All Time’, where Slade and strangely the Bay City Rollers came in first and second respectively.

At their peak Slade were the most commercially popular band in the UK. They achieved 12 top five hits from 1971 to 1974. This included six number 1’s, three number 2’s and two songs at number 3. Three of their singles went straight into the chart at number 1, a feat last accomplished by the Beatles. After 1975 Slade’s success faded however, but they did have some further success in the early 80’s with another two top ten hits, Run Runaway and My Oh My.

I must admit that at times during the early seventies I think I preferred Slade over even Bowie or T.Rex. For great, stomping, heavy, guitar driven pop they couldn’t be beaten. Apart from the great song writing, Slade’s greatest asset was having Noddy Holder as front man. Noddy (Neville) Holder had one of rock’s great voices and unlikely as it seemed had one of glam rock’s great iconic images, the mirrored hat. Along with Bowie’s Aladdin Sane lightning flash and Bolan’s “Corkscrew hair,” that mirrored hat is the most recognisable thing associated with glam rock.

Even now I still get misty eyed when certain songs come unexpectedly on the radio. We had a black Fidelity record player at home when I was a kid in the 70’s, and playing Skweeze Me Pleeze Me (sic) over and over again is one of the happiest memories from my childhood. The intentional misspelling of the song titles was also a good way to wind up teachers and parents.

My Town is the B-side to My Friend Stan released in 1973 and eventually reaching # 2 in the charts. Both are from the album ‘Old, New, Borrowed and Blue’. My Town is the harder hitting flipside to the bar room piano style evident on the A-side. No introduction, no messing about, just straight in after a single snare beat.

She Did It to Me was the flip-side to Bangin Man a 1974 Slade song that reached # 3. This was a slow, piano driven ballad in the style of Everyday the single that Slade released earlier that year. Proving that they could do slow and sensitive with the best of them.

Monday, 10 November 2008

David Bowie - Velvet Goldmine (b-side), The Prettiest Star (original), Simon Turner - The Prettiest Star (cover version)

The following article by Lou Reed from Rolling Stone magazine says it all

David Bowie's contribution to rock & roll has been wit and sophistication. He's smart, he's a true musician and he can really sing. He's got such a big range: I like the Ziggy Stardust voice, but he's got a lot of different voices. He's got his crooner voice, when he wants to. And he has a melodic sense that's well above anyone else in rock & roll. Most people could not sing some of his melodies. He can really go for a high note. Take "Satellite of Love," on my Transformer album: There's a part at the very end, where he goes all the way up. It's fabulous.

There had been androgyny in rock from Little Richard on up, but David put his own patina on it, to say the least. He thought hard about that Ziggy character; he'd been studying mime, and he didn't do it just for laughs. He was very aware of stagecraft. He made an entire show out of that character and then he left it behind. How smart can you get? Can you imagine if he had to keep doing Ziggy? I mean, if you listened to what critics and audiences say, you'd be playing four songs over and over again. David set himself up to do other characters, like the Thin White Duke. And his take on American soul music, on albums like Young Americans, was incredibly good; the original material he wrote was great.

I can't pick a favorite record. It depends on my mood -- any of the dance records; Ziggy Stardust; I always liked "Bewlay Brothers," that track on Hunky Dory. And the albums he did with Brian Eno, like Low and Heroes, are phenomenal. He's always changing, so you never get tired of what he's doing. And I mean all the way up to now: "The Loneliest Guy" on his latest album, Reality, is a great song. Yet another one.

We're still friends after all these years, amazingly enough. We go to the occasional art show and museum together, and I always like working with him. I really love what David does, so I'm happy that he's still doing it and that he's still interested. I saw him play here in New York on his last tour, and it was one of the greatest rock shows I've ever seen. At least as far as white people go. Seriously.
From Issue 946 — April 15, 2004 Lou Reed Rolling Stone magazine

David Bowie was, and is the main man as far as I am concerned, and any song he recorded during the seventies could have gone on this blog. It all started for me with the performance of 'Starman' on Top of the Pops in 1972. Bowie in a multi-coloured jumpsuit with his arm limply placed around guitarist Mick Ronson's shoulder camping it up as if his life depended on it.

"Let all the children boogie"

'Velvet Goldmine' is a song written and recorded during the Hunky Dory sessions in 1971. However, it did not make it onto the album and was eventually released as the B-side to the UK re-release of 'Space Oddity' in 1975 which eventually went all the way to number 1 in the charts. It was also used as the title for a 1998 film about the glam rock period that was loosely based on facets of Bowie's career at that time.

'The Prettiest Star' is a song originally released as a single in 1970.Bowie had recently re-recorded an old Deram track, 'London Bye Ta Ta', intended as a follow-up single to 'Space Oddity' in early 1970. However, the same sessions also produced a new composition named 'The Prettiest Star'. Bowie wrote it for Angela Barnett, reputedly playing it down the telephone as part of his proposal to her. He also chose it as his next single.
The track was significant in one other respect; it featured Marc Bolan on guitar, with whom Bowie would spend the next few years as a rival for the crown of the king of glam rock. Producer Tony Visconti, who brought the two aspiring pop stars together in the studio, recalled that the session went well until the end when Bolan's wife June remarked to Bowie, "Marc is too good for you, to be playing on this record!"

Despite receiving good notices, the single reportedly sold less than 800 copies, a major disappointment on the back of the success of 'Space Oddity'. In 1973, a more glam-influenced version was recorded and released on the album Aladdin Sane, with Mick Ronson recreating Bolan's original guitar part almost note-for-note.

David Buckley (1999). Strange Fascination - David Bowie: The Definitive Story: pp.80-81
Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record: p.32
"One day though it might as well be someday
you and I will rise up all the way
all because of what you are
The Prettiest Star"The Prettiest Star - David Bowie
English musician, songwriter, composer and actor Simon Turner released a cover version of The Prettiest Star in 1973.

Friday, 31 October 2008

T Rex - Life's A Gas (b-side): Sitting Here (b-side)

"Television man is crazy saying were juvenile delinquent wrecks, Oh man I need TV when I got T Rex" All The Young Dudes - Mott The Hoople 1972. Written by David Bowie.
Someone once said "you can never go back." Well I'm not so sure, because here I am.
It was the start of the 70's, the Beatles had finally split, bitter and broken. Apollo 13 had been a trip too far. Brazil had won the world cup and the beautiful game was born, and on Top Of The Pops one Thursday evening in 1971 glam rock too was born.

Hot Love was to be the first UK number one for T-Rex, staying at the top for six weeks from March 1971. Main man Marc Bolan appeared in silk and stars with tears of glitter running down his cheeks. It wasn't called glam rock yet, but this was the beginning.

Glam rock reached its greatest highs in 1973, from then on there was only one way to go. By Christmas 1975 glam rock had one last epic swan song with Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody then was gone.
Two people stood above everyone else in the glam rock world, David Bowie and Marc Bolan. Even now Bowie is still my all time favourite artist, not just for the glam stuff but for all the music that he produced later. Bolan is probably the one responsible for kick starting the glam rock genre, but Bowie is the one who gave it fuel.
By 1973 when I started buying records, Bolan had peaked, which is why I probably preferred and bought more Slade and Sweet at the time. Bowie and Bolan may have been seen as the leaders of the genre, but Slade sold more records and had more number 1's.

For me, T.Rex were a more visual thing, I got my weekly fix by watching them (and others) on Top Of The Pops every Thursday. While Bowie had songs that always seemed to have more depth, both musically and lyrically. But while Bowie has gone on to bigger and better things, Bolan and T.Rex will always be synonymous with glam rock.

Life's A Gas (b-side)
Originally uploaded by Honeytripper

Life's a Gas was released on the Electric Warrior album in 1971 and as the b-side to Jeepster the same year. The song peaked at #2 in the UK charts.The record was released by Fly records without Marc Bolan's prior permission. The singer had just signed with EMI and was about to start T.Rex Wax Co. However Bolan still promoted the song even when not totally happy with its release.

Bolan also sang the song with Cilla Black on her British TV show at the beginning of 1973. He first mimed to another song on the show 'Mad Donna'. It was usual in those days (and still is for that matter) for a band or artist to mime to a recording rather than do the song live. But after singing (miming) the song, Marc and Cilla decided to sing a live duet of Life's A Gas.
Although on paper singing a live duet with Cilla Black would seem to be a bad idea, in reality the simple beauty of the song came through, and not even Cilla Black's tuneless, nasal warble could spoil it

Sitting Here is the B-side to Truck On (Tyke) a late 1973 single from T-Rex. It only reached number 12 in the British charts, by Bolans standards (up to that point) not very good. Even though Truck On is not seen as one of Bolan's best singles, I personally rate it quite highly. Again this might be because I bought it at the time so it brings back good memories but also because it had one of the better b-sides, a nice simple love song predominantly played on the acoustic guitar.
It also had the classic lyrical couplet of:
"Oh love's a wonderful thing that comes and goes
Even when I'm pickin' my nose"

Wednesday, 29 October 2008


1. An air of compelling charm, romance and excitement.
2. Magic or enchantment. A sense of magical beauty and alluring charm.
3. A kind of haze in the air, causing things to appear different from what they really are.


I bought my first 7" record in September 1973. I was ten years old.
It was the Sweet's 'Ballroom Blitz'. I obviously had a lot of pocket money that week as I went out the next day to buy two more; 'Angel Fingers' by Wizzard and 'Life On Mars?' by David Bowie. That was only the beginning.

From the start glam rock was on a mission to be bigger, brighter, more flamboyant and more 'in your face' than any other style of music at the time. In the UK especially it became a musical,
cultural and fashion statement. Lots of glitter, over the top costumes, platform boots, and not so subtle make-up were it's stock in trade.
It had some great music, (it also had lots of crap music) songs that would stand the test of time. But even at it's worst, it could still entertain, but with tongue firmly in cheek.

Glam rock gave pop back to the kids after years of progressive rock doodling and fret-wank. To many it was a beacon of light in a country that was literally in the dark.
In most respects glam rock is totally fake, but to young kids like me it was real and alive. It may have been 'Brickies in eyeliner' but to the kids it was 'stardust for the dudes'?

This blog isn't here to give total insight into the glam rock genre and it's protagonists, it's here to give a taste of the sights and sounds of that era. The forgotten A-sides and album tracks that weren't fully appreciated the first time, and the equally forgotten and long lost B-sides that were the flip-side of what glam was all about.

I have tried to restrict myself to sharing songs from the period 1971 - 1975, these are considered to be the main glam rock years, but I'm sure songs either side of these dates will sometimes creep in.

Others have walked through, and flirted with the glam world; the Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart to name two. For every Bowie and Bolan there was an Alvin Stardust or Barry Blue.
But even some of these 'second generation' glam artists could produce a decent song or two.

Of course I am looking back on all this from the perspective of a 45 year old man; wife, child and all that comes with that, but when I write this blog I am ten years old again and it's perpetually 1973. So I guess I will always have my rose tinted specs firmly on when looking back at that time.

I have loved other music with a greater passion since, but not with the same youthful joy, or with such a sense of longing and nostalgia when I hear it played. And now 35 years after buying that
first single I sit here writing this.

I think that maybe when you find yourself, like me, at 45 RPM in life, your mind naturally returns to the past and your own inner groove.

Anyway hope you like some of the stuff on here, please comment on any stuff you like/dislike or want to hear more of.

"Are you ready Steve? Aha!
Andy? Yeah!
Mick? OK!
Alright fellas, lets go"