Something came up on the Sweet comments thread that tied in with a point I’ve been looking for a space to talk about, viz. what the “glam” in “glam rock” can possibly mean. Glamour? Well, of a sort – Bolan was glamorous, Bowie beautiful and overtly freaky, Eno an androgyne peacock, and so on. This is the version of “glam” that’s more easily exportable, the one that the film Velvet Goldmine picks up on, the one with all the sexual and cultural mystique. But then what about Slade, or the Sweet, or Gary Glitter or Roy Wood? What about their “brickies in dresses” version of glam, the louder, less poised one that seemed to take everything in the past and present pop atmosphere – skins and suedes, longhairs, pantomime drag acts, wrestlers, art school androgynes – and slap it all together with the contrast turned on full?
I have often had a problem with glamour – born squarely out of resentment, I admit – but not with glam: the absurdity, glee and aggression of Slade’s look win me at once. This is dressing up for the joy of it, even if it’s also a smart marketing move in an era where instant teatime TV impact was becoming half the battle. The glam rockers look part ridiculous and half superheroic, and even the word – “GLAM!” – is like a comic book sound effect, kinetic and thrill-powered. I don’t know if they were asked very often why they dressed the way they did – I’m sure the response was along “because we can” lines: their look is an expression of liberated force just like Noddy’s bellow in “Cum On Feel The Noize” – “WELL IT MAKES ME MONEY!”
This will to stardom is what links Slade to Oasis, who covered this track even though they dressed much worse – the Gallaghers entrants in a now-long line of British pop wannabes who thrilled the press by proclaiming fame and worship as theirs by right. Whether Slade made similar statements verbally I don’t know but that sense of entitlement comes through in the music from their all-conquering glory year, 1973. I have never owned a copy of “Feel The Noize” that plays as loud as the song wants to be – live this must have been an awesome, frightening spectacle, the thick-cut hooks and Noddy’s buzzsaw shriek coming through clearer, louder and stronger than they can on disc.
(This song stayed at Number 1 for four weeks, and during the fourth I was born. My contemporary existence won’t be a relevant factor in these entries for another couple of years, though. But I thought I’d mention it.)