Aug 07

GARY GLITTER – “I’m The Leader Of The Gang (I Am)”

FT + Popular103 comments • 9,744 views

#335, 28 July 1973

A question I’m honestly unsure of the answer to: if Michael Jackson had been found guilty of child molestation, what would have happened to his songs? Would “Billie Jean” or “Beat It” have emptied party dancefloors? Would “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” or “Human Nature” suddenly have become harder to like? And if Pete Townshend’s ‘research purposes’ hadn’t kept him out of legal trouble, would The Who’s old tracks have fallen from grace?

My hunch is that – after the news story had died down – the music would’ve been largely unaffected: already worked deep into pop history, it could be separated from the putative crimes. But in Gary Glitter’s case this didn’t happen – his music has been infected by his convictions for sex offences. His hits – so emblematic of seventies pop when I was growing up – have vanished from all that era’s compilations (Alvin Stardust seems to have been the main beneficiary here). Glam rock CDs occasionally feature the Glitter Band but leave Gary out. A couple of foreign Greatest Hits CDs surface on Amazon from around 2001, and then nothing.

It’s worth asking why this has happened. One reason, of course, might be that my hunch is wrong and that a child sex conviction of any kind means erasure from rock history. Another sensible inference would be that Glitter’s records weren’t good enough to survive exposure to his exposure. You could also argue that, even if they were good (and “Rock And Roll Part 2” is really good), their upfront party pop couldn’t bear the weight of darker associations in the way some records could.

Whatever the cause, listening to “I’m The Leader Of The Gang” and putting Glitter’s downfall out of my mind isn’t really an option. But is there anything in the record itself that makes the link so inescapable? This is a question I ask myself quite a lot when dealing with art by people who have done awful things. Take William Mayne, for instance, a children’s book writer of immense imaginative and empathic skill, and also convicted of serially abusing fans of his books. Is the thing that makes Mayne an excellent writer for children – his ear and head for how they talk and think – also what made him an effective paedophile, able to win and exploit their trust? An unpleasant thought, but that gift is also his art’s possible salvation: it’s not Mayne’s voice you’re hearing when you read his books. Whereas Gary is in your ear, informing you that he’s “the man who put the bang in gang”.

Hearing that, some kind of nervous chuckle is about the best he can expect. But it’s worth remembering that Glitter was never remotely a sinister figure before his conviction: he was always a largely comical one. My initial memories of him are of his eighties career, endless comebacks mocked in Smash Hits, and a Young Person’s Railcard advert with Gary in a facepack, supposedly trying to pass for under-26. A lame – but loveable – duffer who gave good show and was desperate to be young – this was his profile during his long twilight.

It probably wasn’t far from his profile back in his heyday – Glitter was a jobbing rock and roller who had seized hungrily on glam as a way to stardom, and maybe as a way to capture the remembered verve of rock and roll before the art school boys got hold of it. “I’m The Leader” kicks off with motorcycle noise lifted from the Shangri-Las but it has none of their sass, humour or emotion – it’s pure marching bludgeon, big on energy but doing nothing with it, leading the gang in tiny, repetitive circles. (It is to rock and roll what Calvin Harris is to eighties pop, you might say). It’s a cult-of-personality track made bearable because you know “the Leader” is a clown (“Who’d ever believe it?” he chirps, giving the game away) – and when suddenly he wasn’t a clown any more it couldn’t survive.



  1. 1
    DV on 22 Aug 2007 #

    I’m mad for Gary Glitter. OK, I only really remember Rock & Roll Part II and assume all the others must sound exactly like it, but I am a total sucker for that two drum attack and tribal action.

    Was Glitter convicted of anything more serious than Townshend? I know Glitter is on trial or something for actual kiddy fiddling in Cambodia, but his reputation collapsed when he had been convicted for the same thing that Townshend was caught at – downloading paedophilic images from the internet. I reckon that it was Glitter’s loveable chancer image from previously that led to him falling so far: the tabloids hated one of their darlings turning out to be a bad one.

    But I don’t really care about the convictions when I hear the music. For me, Glitter equals stomping music and KLF-associations, not squalid crimes.

    btw Tom, both William Crump and I have been e-mailing you about a very important matter… maybe you have received our mails, or maybe you have not.

  2. 2
    Tom on 22 Aug 2007 #

    The others basically are nowhere near as good as Rock N Roll Part 2 – “I’m The Leader” wouldn’t have got much more than 4 anyway.

    He got convicted of child abuse in Vietnam – over here it was the images yes.

    I have got the emails DV – I am crossing my fingers I can do something about them before the deadline.

  3. 3

    […] partly through listening to Luke Haines’ song ‘Bad Reputation’ a lot, then reading this on Popular: I’m The Leader Of The Gang (I Am) what do you make of Gary Glitter’s music? Can you engage with it separately from Glitter’s later […]

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    Rosie on 22 Aug 2007 #

    I don’t much care for either Gary Glitter or Michael Jackson. I’m not sure how far you can equate their legal experiences. One a multi-squillionaire operating in the American system with the best lawyers money can buy, the other a rather faded has-been in the UK court system. I was living in Bristol when the news broke locally that he’d been caught after taking his computer to PC World for repair. My first thought was “God, is he still alive?” and my second was “he must be pretty stupid to take a computer to PC World for repair, dodgy images or no.”

    It’s part of my function in one area of my life to be able to detach myself unpleasant aspects of the individual I’m working with, and that’s something I take in my stride. What I know about the private life has no bearing on that person’s creative work. So, for example, I can enjoy the music ow Richard Wagner even though the man was a complete shit.

    Would I leave a dancefloor when a Gary Glitter record came on? Yes, no doubt. But I’d have done that before I knew about the unsavoury side of his life anyway, because I never much cared for his style. I was never a big fan of Glam any way but plainly there was good Glam, bad Glam, and Gary Glitter. The neanderthal terrace-chanting did nothing for me, however tongue in cheek. It still leaves me cold.

    Michael Jackson, now, that’s another matter. I’ll have more to say about it when we get there, but even at my age Billie Jean is one of those tracks that would get me on my feet and on to a dancefloor. His unsavouriness has nothing to do with it.

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    Doctor Casino on 23 Aug 2007 #

    Both Glitter and his conviction are virtually unknown here in the states; “Rock & Roll Part Two” is a perennial for football game soundtracking, but it would be quite a trivia catch in most circles to be able to name the song, let alone its performer. I picked up his Greatest Hits a little over a year ago, having heard “Part One” on some rock compilation playing in the kitchen at work. It’s mind-numbing and exhausting to get through in one sitting, but taken individually, the tracks are all good. “I’m The Leader” is one of the better ones. Mostly I think these songs suffer by comparison to other, better explorers of similar ideas – I was told I would love Glitter because I loved Andrew WK, and I think it’s safe to say that Andrew WK is a lot better at this type of fist-pumping schtick, mainly because he doesn’t sound so distant from the material. Granted, the thin, nasal fogeyness of Glitter gives the songs a distinctive weirdness. I keep wanting to compare him to that other Gary, Mr. Numan, who conveyed much the same sweaty sonic creepiness, and presumably intended to. Glitter always sounds like he’s really trying hard to make a smashing glam record, and when he acknowledges this, as on “Part One,” which basically admits that he’s cut out for the fifties but stuck in the seventies, he strikes gold.

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    Marcello Carlin on 23 Aug 2007 #

    Once again I have to consider this thing I call Larkin’s Law – admiring the art and forgetting about, or overlooking, the flaws of the artist as a person. I’m not sure whether this can apply in all cases. But where exactly do we draw the boundaries, or do we only choose to do so when it comes to children? After all we’ve already had a number of very highly rated number ones – one of which is my favourite number one single of all time – which were co-written and/or produced by a murderer.

    Michael Jackson survives because, regardless of the legal and financial resources available to him, he was found not guilty and his music (or some of it anyway) is strong enough to transcend whatever he might be like as a human being.

    But to apply Larkin’s Law to a song which includes the line “I’m the man who put the ‘bang’ in gang” followed by a horrendous cackle is stretching it. I don’t agree with Stalinist whitewashing of history; I think his music should continue to be available in shops so that people can make up their own minds (as Jonathan King’s is, for instance, but JK’s a more complicated matter, as Mark S outlines elsewhere on FT), and I think Dale shouldn’t daintily skip over his records when they inconveniently happen to be at number two or three in whatever POTP chart he’s running down – without so much as mentioning the titles, or only mentioning them in part (e.g. “Doing Alright With The Boys” was announced as “Doing Alright”). You can’t pretend things didn’t happen when they demonstrably did, and between 1972-4 he was one of the biggest selling singles acts in Britain.

    If “Rock ‘N’ Roll Pt 2” is his masterpiece it’s because there are no discernible words and the record is practically ahuman; the drums and guitars are echoed and stretched out so much that they do not appear to be played by human beings, and the cavernous grunts provide a direct parallel with dub; Glitter was quoted at the time as citing Brando’s “We don’t need words” routine from Last Tango In Paris as a comparison. Then again the genius of that record was largely down to Mike Leander as co-writer and producer.

    There is more than a touch of Leonard Sachs and The Good Old Days about the “Come on, come ON” accelerando and the ingenious double-drum deployment – one kit solidly on the beat, the other skating quarter-accents around it, thereby forming rhythmic ambiguity with no real centre – was subsequently expanded by the Ants, the Hex Enduction Hour-era Fall and Denim (the latter using the actual Glitter Band). So Glitterbeat looked back to Max Miller and forward to the Aphex Twin.

    Still, it worked best on “Rock ‘N’ Roll” and diminishing returns of repetition and watering down occurred with each subsequent release. The vaudeville bonhomie of “Leader Of The Gang” would in other circumstances (i.e. the intervening quarter century) just about have passed on a Dr Demento level, but just as we can’t pretend it didn’t happen, nor can we go back and view it in the same way; we can’t pretend the rest of it didn’t happen either.

    Then again, as far as Larkin’s Law goes in this context – what about choirboy-loving Benjamin Britten?

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    Tom on 23 Aug 2007 #

    The Jackson qn is a hypothetical of course, as I said. But an interesting one – certainly in my office the overwhelming consensus, before he was found not guilty, was “he did something but will get away with it”, much tut-tutting, but the overwhelming dancefloor consensus among the same people was “MUST DANCE TO BILLIE JEAN NOW”.

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    Rosie on 23 Aug 2007 #

    Ah, I’ve just realised where Marcello got ‘Larkin’s Law’ from! Of course, Philip Larkin placed the blame for his shortcomings on his parents, which is about the one thing everybody knows about him (but how many can complete the stanza, never mind the rest of the poem.)

    The truth is, Larkin’s poetry was the same, before and after the revelations about his poetry, because once it’s left the author’s pen or typewriter it’s out of the author’s power and recreated – differently each time – in the mind of each individual who reads it. In the same way, you can in the light of what has been revealed put a new interpretation on Gary Glitter’s songs, but that is a construction of our time, not of 1973.

    And hey, if you took away all art created by people with unsavoury personal habits, there wouldn’t be much left would there?

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    lex on 23 Aug 2007 #

    “But it’s worth remembering that Glitter was never remotely a sinister figure before his conviction: he was always a largely comical one”

    My reaction to this is something you mention yourself at the end – GG’s comedy was in his clownishness, which is kind of sinister by default, and the clownishness is in the music too, which is why I’ve never liked it (though I think I only heard it AFTER he was convicted, my reaction to the news was “who?” haha it transpired he lived in a village v nearby my house though).

    I think your hunch about MJ is right, not least because a lot of people (maybe inc me! I don’t know) who assume, rightly or wrongly and completely despite the outcome of his trial, that he DID fiddle with those kids, or at least that his behaviour was the wrong side of creepy, and who still dance to ‘Billie Jean’. Also MJ is clearly so screwed up that I think these days most people think of him as some sort of alien rather than an evil human being, and his own history of being abused is quite well documented.

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    Marcello Carlin on 23 Aug 2007 #

    And I put it to you that you are in no position to know how “screwed up” MJ is or isn’t, and that by speculating wildly and frankly libellously about it you reveal a lot more about your own fixations.

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    intothefireuk on 23 Aug 2007 #

    Let us not forget these were the days of the football terrace and all that entailed. Terrace chants, gang violence, hooliganism etc. Tapping into the zeitgeist were lads bands like Mott, Slade & of course, Glitter. The pounding rhythms and anthemic nature of the music were perfect to punch the air and indeed your enemy to. Leader of the gang with its come on, come on was perfect terrace material.

    Unfortunately my particular memory of this song has an element of shame attached to it. My school in their wisdom decided to show a taped TV programme about what we now refer to as ‘special needs’ children as part of a social studies class. During the programme these unfortunate children were shown punching the air and attempting to sing along to LOTG. Cue hoots of derision and unsavoury mimicking by my fellow pupils. Forever after, whenever the record was played at school discos (when every song invariably had an action associated with it) the mimickery was repeated. It’s not a great memory but children can be very cruel.

    Glitter’s conviction, had it stopped at the PC world incident, possibly in time would have been, if not forgiven, then perhaps brushed over. Unfortunately his subsequent behaviour and further revelations have made it impossible to disassociate his behaviour from his music. The underlying thought now when listening to his music is – was he always like this ? – was his music a trojan horse for more nefarious activities ? It’s a pity because the music is pretty good – RnR pt2, IDKILYTISYRnR, Hello Hello, Leader – all great singles featuring the trademark Leander/Glitter beat and unison Sax/Guitar riffs.

    I have in fact attempted covers of Glitter material over the years to varying degrees of success but it became obvious when we last played one (about 18 months ago) and it fell flat on its face, that it was no longer a viable option. Whether we like it or not Glitter was a major part of Seventies culture – maybe one day he will be hailed as a troubled genius – I think not though.

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    Tom on 23 Aug 2007 #

    A hunch I ws pursuing before my home internet failed yesterday was whether or not some compilations are crediting old GG hits to The Glitter Band in order to escape the implications. I am not sure any are however if I were an unscrupulous Mitteleuropan repackager of Disky style compos this is a trick I might try and pull.

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    Marcello Carlin on 23 Aug 2007 #

    As an avid consumer of said Disky/BR-style compos I can confirm that the tracks labelled as The Glitter Band are in fact The Glitter Band.

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    Erithian on 23 Aug 2007 #

    Funnily enough I’ve taken my kids to a couple of children’s parties over the last couple of years where the parents have stuck on a compilation evidently released before GG’s little IT difficulties, and when a Glitter track came on no-one skipped to the next track or indeed turned a hair. Which just suggests that with a partyload of 6/7 year olds, no-one’s taking much notice of the music anyway (unless it’s used for pass-the-parcel).

    Marcello’s right about the airbrushing – when Channel 4 broadcast their definitive all-time Top 100 best-selling singles to mark 50 years of the chart, every other entry was covered in some depth, many complete with interviews; GG’s (not the one under discussion) was cut short after about ten seconds, the voiceover saying “This man used to be one of the most popular entertainers in the country. Not any more.”

    I’ll keep away from the subject of MJ (suffice to say I’ve never danced to Billie Jean and don’t intend to) and we can hopefully avoid m’learned friends reading postings on this blog. But re ITFU’s question about whether the music was a Trojan horse, it’s perfectly possible I guess – after all Jonathan King’s certainly was (thinking of his unlikely link with Jimmy Pursey). In the context of activities that are legal, every band that ever wanted to get rich, famous and laid, and every manager who ever had below-the-belt interests in his act (no names, but arguably the biggest act of them all) could be said to have used music as a Trojan horse, so why wouldn’t this be the case?

    I’m reminded of a choice quote in Q magazine a few years back – a major star talking about how his band once shared a bill with Gary Glitter and found him pretty objectionable. “If I’d known what he was into I’d have punched his lights out,” the star said. With a delicious touch of irony, the man saying this was Roger Daltrey!

    BTW Marcello – sorry to sound stupid, but who’s the murderer/writer/producer you’re thinking of?

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    Marcello Carlin on 23 Aug 2007 #

    Not at all, Erithian – it was Joe Meek, who not only shot himself but also his poor landlady.

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    Pete on 23 Aug 2007 #

    And we’re waiting on Phil Spector…

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    Alan on 23 Aug 2007 #

    “I’ve never danced to Billie Jean and don’t intend to”

    b-but that’s impossible!

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    Marcello Carlin on 23 Aug 2007 #

    Furthermore it is impossible not to dance to Billie Jean without attempting to do the moonwalk (see average student disco clientele of pale Smiths/New Order/Sisters of Mercy fans circa ’83-4).

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    Tom on 23 Aug 2007 #

    “Despite the name, it would be very difficult to do the moonwalk on the moon, due to its low gravity.”

  20. 20
    Tom on 23 Aug 2007 #

    erm yes sorry that was Wikipedia speaking.

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    Erithian on 23 Aug 2007 #

    I did say I wanted to keep off the subject of MJ, at least until we get to 1981 (and that song wasn’t bad at all) – but I thought he was hugely overrated even when he was black! (sorry, poor taste gag)

    On GG’s music, yes I was partial to it back in the day, although it wasn’t stuff I went out and bought. As I recall he was the last act I saw at our student union circa 1984, when he was having his big-with-students phase. As is commonplace, this might be his signature tune (hence the nickname “The Leader” before he became known as something else entirely) but far from his best record.

    There is, if not a book, at least an essay, in the subject of what Glam stars were doing before they were famous, because a lot of them were no spring chickens. Glitter, aka Paul Raven, was plugging away before Merseybeat, wasn’t he? (as was Alvin Stardust with rather more success).

    Phil Spector – yes, like I said we don’t want m’learned friends on this blog. Wait for the verdict!! Thanks for the info Marcello – somehow taking someone with you when you’re mentally unstable yourself doesn’t attract the same condemnation.

  22. 22
    Tom on 23 Aug 2007 #

    Erithian if you look at the related articles you will see “Jonathan King’s Theory Of Pop Greatness” – obviously JK has cropped up in this comments thread for other reasons but that link has info on one of his old ideas which relates to the “Where were they then?” qn.

  23. 23
    Tom on 23 Aug 2007 #

    (Incidentally ‘good’ call by the related article goblins including “The Bad Touch”!!) (The RAs are automatically generated by some kind of secret WordPress algorithm)

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    Alan on 23 Aug 2007 #

    that secret algorithm in full: “gang”

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    Erithian on 23 Aug 2007 #

    Tom – yes, we’ve discussed JK’s sneering viewpoint before on these pages and given it short shrift. Thing is, a lot of future stars were paying their dues in the 60s and working their way to prominence which came later – doesn’t mean they weren’t any good. Members of Sweet in Wainwright’s Gentlemen, members of Queen in Smile, Chas and Dave in various bands, Jeff Lynne in the Idle Race, even young Neville Holder writing that song about a rocking chair in 1967 – the story should be told.

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    Tom on 23 Aug 2007 #


  27. 27
    mike on 23 Aug 2007 #

    In stark contrast to what MC accurately nails as the dehumanised proto-dub of “Rock & Roll Part 2”, the appeal (or otherwise) of “I’m The Leader Of The Gang (I Am)” is wholly centred around the personality of Mr. Glitter, and its only function is as a vehicle for that personality. If you bought into GG (as I most assuredly did at the time, aged 11), then you’d have bought into “Leader”.

    When GG morphed into an overtly self-parodying pantomime act/Queen Mum style “national treasure” (early 1980s – late 1990s), so did “Leader” morph from flashy pop thrill to corny old showtune. And since his disgrace, all its remaining stock value has been wiped clean.

    On the other hand, if MJ had been found guilty, then I reckon we’d still be enjoying “Billie Jean” with clear consciences – because its greatness transcends its creator, whereas “Leader” is shackled to it.

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    Waldo on 23 Aug 2007 #

    Despite the frivolity expressed by me in the last entry in anticipation of this artist in general and this record in particular, I have nothing whatsoever to say on this person’s carryings on with children in a far off land or indeed his trip to PC World. And for this, I do not expect a Simon Templar halo to appear over my righteous daily. I myself once bought a GG single (it wasn’t this one) and back in the day considered him to be self-effacing and fun. I must also admit to seeing him live about fifteen years ago, long before his fall from grace and the evening was not unenjoyable. I was going to quantify the “stones in glass houses” effect by mentioning Daltrey’s comment about Glitter but Erithian broke the tape ahead of me. “Delicious irony” is indeed a perfect discription of Roger’s remarks.

    “Leader of The Gang” must have been adopted as the signiture tune by every street urchin on my high-rise estate in Stockwell, which was never a subtle environment (mind you, at least in 1973 you could climb aboard a tube without getting sent to the promised land in a hail of police bullets – certainly not rubber, this time). I’m sure that the song’s mantra was similiarly taken up in more affluent and pleasant quarters. There were thus lots and lots of “Leaders” but nobody was led. And there’s the rub. This record was entirely childish and although I was a child myself, I make no apology for claiming to be a thoughful child, who considered Glitter’s vainglorious boasting quite absurd and nowhere near as credible as Dave Barker’s “magnificent” self-embellishments from two years earlier. No, mate. Indeed I do NOT want to be in your gang. And you’re not joining my gang either. So that’s fifteen-all.

  29. 29
    Erithian on 23 Aug 2007 #

    Just to clarify that Daltrey’s comment about Glitter was made some time before Townshend’s own IT-related difficulty…

  30. 30
    Waldo on 23 Aug 2007 #

    That is correct.

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    Billy Smart on 23 Aug 2007 #

    Ah, here’s another one that I really like. I think that this is a record that is designed to polarize opinion in a way unlike most of the others up to this point. The lopsided twin drumming rhythm and call-and-response structure requires the listener to enter into the spirit of the thing – if you don’t want to, or feel disinclined to, then you’re liable to find it quite irritating (I find lesser Glitter discs tiresome, and I can’t imagine being pleased to hear this when I was unhappy – unlike some other equally silly songs).

    As for the question of what it was like to listen to GG before we knew what we do now… well, it really was all there already in the work, wasn’t it? Not only the famous ‘bang in the gang’ line here, but also I always found the promise that “I can take you over the hill/ Ooh! What a thrill!’ rather indelibly seedy. (And IIRC doesn’t the singer ask “Did you miss me/ when you were at school?” in It’s Good to be Back?) I find this song to be menacing, but in a ludicrous, wobbling, sort of way.

    For an piece that articulates all of the good things about Glitter’s performances, there’s a good 1980 NME profile by Paul Morley reprinted in ‘Ask’. Now that nobody – understandably! – has much of a good word to say for him, it’s instructive to revisit a time when they were prepared to.

    Incidentally, do you suppose that the first series of Not the Nine O’Clock News and The Thick of it now won’t be broadcast again, either?

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    Al Ewing on 24 Aug 2007 #

    I know at least one person who can’t bring himself to watch ‘The Thick Of It’ on account of the terrible knowledge.

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    Pete Baran on 24 Aug 2007 #

    What about the Muppet Show.

    I some ways I think Help! is the bigger loss. The Thick Of It will clearly continue.

    Was Gary Glitter bald at this point (clearly he worked with wigs but I remember the shock of seeing him completely bald, and it also allowing me to distance creepy Gary from pantomime Gary).

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    Marcello Carlin on 24 Aug 2007 #

    You never actually saw Langham in the Muppet Show though (ditto People Like Us).

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    Rosie on 24 Aug 2007 #

    Chris Langham is a very talented actor (was a very talented actor as it’s unlikely that he’ll work again) and as far as I’m concerned, his deeply-flawed character doesn’t detract from his existing oevre. I must admit that People Like Us made me wince and reach for the Radio 3 button but all the same there’s lots of his work that I can remember with great pleasure.

    I find it harder to make a case for Gary Glitter because I never actually liked his work but what applies to Chris Langham applies to him too. It’s all very well going back over the lyrics and finding stuff that could be construed as indicating what was really going on, but I suspect that anything could be found if you tried hard enough. Child abusers (for that’s what they are) are notorious for self-justification and going to great lengths to cover up their crimes, so why should Gary Glitter run this particular flag up the flagpole? “Look at me, I’m a child abuser if only you knew it?”

    If Gary had gone on to shoot somebody, not that anybody who ever made the charts would ev er do that would they???) then the “bang of the gang” line could be cited as a premonition.

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    Pete Baran on 24 Aug 2007 #

    Not true Marcello. Langham was the special guest star on one episode (519) as a last minute replacement for Richard Pyror!

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    Marcello Carlin on 24 Aug 2007 #


    I believe Langham was found guilty of downloading child porn and that the active child abuse charges against him were thrown out.

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    Waldo on 24 Aug 2007 #

    Yes, Marcello. Quite right. Langham was indeed acquitted of the child abuse charges, which makes, I suggest, comparisons between him and Mr Gadd disingenuous.

    I can only repeat my point, which Rosie reiterates, that interpreting lyrics in retrospect of subsequent behaviour is entirely meaningless, which is why I would hope that we should get all the kiddy-fiddling rererences to Glitter out of our system with “Leader of the Gang” rather than continuing on when his other chart toppers appear on our radar.

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    Lena on 24 Aug 2007 #

    I remember that Muppets episode – it was funny! I read his wikipedia bio and oh dear, oh dear…

    I don’t have much to say on this song or on Glitter in general, save that I first ‘heard’ him via Joan Jett.

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    Marcello Carlin on 24 Aug 2007 #

    I can only repeat my point, which Rosie reiterates, that interpreting lyrics in retrospect of subsequent behaviour is entirely meaningless

    Curiously I can still listen to wifebeater Phil Spector making Ronnie sing “I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine” because the record and performance are so great that you forget about the backstory, or at least consign it temporarily to the back of your mind. Were Glitter’s records of equal aesthetic quality then there would be a similar quandary. However they are not, so there isn’t. As far as listening to a known convicted child abuser sniggering about being the man who put the ‘bang’ in gang, I find I have better things to do with my ears in 2007, just as I did in 1973, when I found him a tiresome novelty, as previously noted.

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    Waldo on 24 Aug 2007 #

    Surely none of us would listen to Gary now for pleasure?

    Was Spector actually ever convicted for smashing Ronnie up? I have no idea.

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    Marcello Carlin on 24 Aug 2007 #

    Ronnie was too scared and/or imprisoned to report him. See her Be My Baby autobiography for full and gruesome details.

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    Waldo on 24 Aug 2007 #

    Yes, so this means that Spector has been found guilty of nothing in this regard and I suggest to comment further to the contrary in an open forum would not be wise. In the same way, we must refrain from making suggestions against Michael Jackson, as we I think all appreciate, since this man was brought to trial and acquitted. These are basic legal realities, which cannot be gainsayed.

    Further to Spector’s more recent difficulties, has his trial been adjourned or it it simply coasting just now?

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    Izzy on 24 Aug 2007 #

    Gary Glitter hasn’t entirely disappeared from popular culture. A mate of mine spotted ‘Leader of the Gang’ on the song list of a karaoke bar in Blackpool and decided to give it a bash. He wasn’t thinking of how provocative it might be, he just really loves this song and (for him at least) Glitter’s convictions haven’t infected the music.

    You can imagine how badly it went down. I remember one hatchet-faced middle-aged woman in particular, having to be hauled down off the bar as she went to attack the singer. It was quite a punk rock moment, actually.

  45. 45
    intothefireuk on 24 Aug 2007 #

    It should not be overlooked that Glitter’s early sound was quite unique and innovative. While Gazza gradually moved away from this sound over the next few singles – the Glitter Band used it quite successfully for their run of chart singles. In fact Angel Face is a particular favourite of mine and it doesn’t carry quite the same guilt. There was also of course The Human League’s own synthesised cover of Glitter’s rock n roll in 1980 and somewhat less successfully dance troupe Shock’s electronic version of Angel Face round about the same time.

    Oh and one more thing we have Gary Glitter to thank for is of course some rhyming slang which hopefully I don’t need to elaborate on.

  46. 46
    Waldo on 24 Aug 2007 #

    Ah! Threatened violence at a Karaoke night… I remember in the very early days of this phenomenon (Karaoke, not violence) when I found myself alas in a pub in Hemel Hampstead, probably one of the most boring towns in Britain. This impression was confirmed when the songs offered to the middle-everything clientele that night included “Gentle on My Mind”, “Born Free”, “Oklahoma” and the Alisons’ “Are You Sure?”, which is a supposed to be a duet but was put on offer by one single guy with such a high-pitched voice, he made Alan Ball sound like Paul Robeson. It was this last one, which pushed some young bloke standing close to me over the edge:

    “What the f*** was that, you squeaky c*** ?!” he rasped as the singer walked past him.

    “Are you sure,” squeaked the singer.

    Of course, the Karaoke star was answering the question literally but this not how his interceptor interpreted it, the expression “Are you sure?” nowadays broadly meaning “I beg your pardon?” or “What did you say?” and thus representing a challenge. This, I’m afraid, was more than enough for the reasoned critic, who then aimed a punch at the singer, which began almost as far back as the bar, where he had clearly spent most of the day. The singer evaded this attack easily and the young thug fell on his face. As someone moved in to clear up the mess, I asked the Karaoke man if I could do “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting”. He saw straight through me and told me to piss off, which indeed I did.

    Happy Days!

  47. 47
    Snif on 25 Aug 2007 #

    >>In the same way, we must refrain from making suggestions against Michael Jackson, as we I think all appreciate, since this man was brought to trial and acquitted. These are basic legal realities, which cannot be gainsayed.

    Good thing Liberace doesn’t have any Number Ones coming up.

  48. 48
    emmersonladypalma on 25 Aug 2007 #

    The UK libel laws have yet to pick up random blog posters, and I fear they will not in this case either.

    There are a couple more GG’s to come, I think, which makes this a prelude I think.

    Hello, Popular!

  49. 49
    DV on 25 Aug 2007 #

    Surely none of us would listen to Gary now for pleasure?

    why not? good music is good music. This of course assumes you liked his music in the first place.

  50. 50

    yes i am not sure i would terribly want to discuss music w.someone who’d hated GG’s music before, then had their eyes opened to its excellence by the courtcase and aftermath

  51. 51
    Mark G on 28 Aug 2007 #

    .. and if you think the “gang” line’s bad, check out “Happy Birthday” from his “touch me” album, where he’s in bed w/ a 15 r old, awaiting the stroke of midnight and her 16th birthday.

  52. 52
    Marcello Carlin on 28 Aug 2007 #

    See also: “She’s Too Young” by John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers from the album Bare Wires as played by Dale on POTP ’68 a few weeks ago; fell into his “well it was a big selling album” category.

  53. 53
    DV on 28 Aug 2007 #

    Who is this Dale fellow?

    Does anyone remember when Gary Glitter joined The Timelords on Top Of The Pops? That was great.

  54. 54
    Marcello Carlin on 28 Aug 2007 #

    *SPOILER ALERT: we may be remembering that at some unspecified stage in the future*

    This is Dale…

    Good profile, that.

  55. 55
    Billy Smart on 28 Aug 2007 #

    Oh, nobody’s mentioned it yet – at number 2 for two weeks during the Glitter reign at the top, Yesterday Once More by The Carpenters. Now that really is a work of deathless genius.

  56. 56
    Lena on 28 Aug 2007 #

    And the US #1 was “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” by Jim Croce.

  57. 57
    Waldo on 29 Aug 2007 #

    Jim Croce was brilliant if virtually unknown this side of the pond. “Time in a Bottle”, a massive number one in the US, gets me every time.

  58. 58
    Marcello Carlin on 29 Aug 2007 #

    Poor old Jim Croce. His songs were played all the time on the radio over here (Luxembourg in particular had a thing about him but then I think they had an ongoing airplay ratio deal with Phonogram) and continue to be played on Radio 2, but none of them charted in the UK.

  59. 59
    Waldo on 29 Aug 2007 #

    Did anyone hear Dale’s show over the BH? He did a retro-sixties show and interviewed Andy Fairweather-Low and Mike D’Arbo amongst others. The funniest part was when he spoke about Sandy Shaw. He said that whilst he remained “a fan”, he remembered interviewing her in the seventies and “for some reason she didn’t appear to like me”. He certainly can get a bit scratchy at times, that lad…

  60. 60
    Marcello Carlin on 29 Aug 2007 #

    Didn’t hear that, nor Sunday’s POTP which, from the evidence of the playlist, did its best to make 1981 sound like the most boring year ever when I know for a fact that it wasn’t. Including “(Si Si) Je Suis Un Rock Star” by Bill Wyman, and I’m not sure how he continues to get a free pass where GG doesn’t.

  61. 61
    Waldo on 29 Aug 2007 #

    Dale’s BH show was followed by “Johnnie Walker meets the Dan”, featuring Johnnie chatting to Becker and Fagan. To my regret I was unable to listen to it as I was called away to dry clean the cat or something. I really hope Radio 2 have the forsight to repeat it.

  62. 62
    Marcello Carlin on 29 Aug 2007 #

    I’m sure it must be available on their exciting Listen Again online option.

    Next week in this enthralling new series about seventies one hit wonders: “Johnnie Walker Meets Our Kid.”

  63. 63
    Erithian on 29 Aug 2007 #

    Marcello, if you’re going to dismiss Steely Dan as 70s one-hit wonders, I’d better loan you the tin helmet I had to wear after saying I liked Sandi Thom ;)

  64. 64
    Waldo on 29 Aug 2007 #

    Yes, of course. Listen Again online.

    Coming up in the same series: “Johnnie Walker meets Waldo”. That’s de los Rios, kids!

  65. 65
    Marcello Carlin on 29 Aug 2007 #

    OK then, strictly speaking they were two hit wonders…

    Waldo de los Rios will be an interesting interviewee since he killed himself thirty-odd years ago.

  66. 66
    Waldo on 29 Aug 2007 #

    Dagnabbit, you’re not wrong there. Mind you, it’s amazing what Johnnie can do with an upturned glass and a pack of Lexicon…

  67. 67
    Brian on 31 Aug 2007 #

    Marcello – Can’t believe that you could not appreciate Steely Dan for more than 2 hits ( I’m assuming that you are referring to “ Ricky Don’t Loose The Number “ & “ Reeling in The Years “ )

    All of the LP’s they released in the 70’s are classic and represent the high water mark for musicianship and production of that era.

  68. 68
    Marcello Carlin on 31 Aug 2007 #

    Who’s saying anything about how good they were? All I said was that, in UK Top 40 singles chart terms, they were two-hit wonders (“Do It Again” and “Haitian Divorce”).

    The thing I find incredible about Gary Glitter is that the sax player on at least some of his hits (after John Rostill quit) was improv/Canterbury Rock god/future Bley & Rundgren accomplice Gary Windo!

  69. 69
    Mark G on 31 Aug 2007 #

    But wasn’t it that the Glitter Band (as was) were his touring group, and they didn’t appear on any of his hit singles? (Apparently, the version of “Suspicious Minds” on the BEF album was the first time they’d recorded together)

  70. 70
    Marcello Carlin on 31 Aug 2007 #

    Ah but that had Brian Jones on “glitter saxophone” rather than Mr Rostill. It’s possible that most of the actual records were made by Leander and Glitter alone with selected session players (and actually Windo’s rasp is very fitting in this context).

  71. 71
    Mark Grout on 1 Sep 2007 #

    Ah that’ll be the Brian Jones that everyone thought was the saxman on the Beatles’ “You know my name” as opposed to the Rolling Stones guy who actually did do that solo as confirmed by Macca. (i.e. ex of the umm, Undertakers?)

  72. 72
    Matthew H on 3 Sep 2007 #

    This blog must do wonders for Dale Winton’s listening figures – keeps making me kick myself for forgetting to tune in, at least.

    I’m just slightly too young for Glitter… erm, I was born during the Glitter heyday, so missed the here-and-now appeal of the records. Like a lot of glam, they just seemed like novelties when they finally slipped onto my radar. Maybe that was the point.

    First I knew about Steely Dan was that Clubhouse proto-mashup with ‘Billie Jean’ in 1983. Sure they were delighted with that.

  73. 73
    Marcello Carlin on 3 Sep 2007 #

    That is if they ever heard (of) it, of course.

    Then again they gave the personal go-ahead for Super Furry Animals to sample them on “The Man Don’t Give A Fuck” so perhaps that was an act of recompense after they’d heard the Clubhouse one.

  74. 74
    Brian on 5 Sep 2007 #

    Can the art of a paedophile be celebrated?


  75. 75
    Marcello Carlin on 6 Sep 2007 #

    As I said above – Larkin’s Law should generally apply, but it is not always possible to divorce B from A if the two are so thoroughly linked. No “supposed” about PL’s racism (or incipient pederasty) either; it’s all there in his Selected Letters. But I can read and be moved by “MCMLIX” and The Whitsun Weddings without having to think of the proclivities of the poet who wrote them; their art is sufficiently strong for the artist not to matter that much (now there’s Baudrillard Avenue for you!).

  76. 76
    Geir H on 23 Dec 2007 #

    One funny footnote here is that Cheap Trick’s debut single was called “‘Ello Kiddies” and obviously very influenced by Gary Glitter musically. Did they know something that the rest of the world didn’t by then…..???

  77. 77
    Mark G on 24 Dec 2007 #


  78. 78
    Lena on 24 Dec 2007 #

    I thought it was called “ELO Kiddies”? Clearly next year I must get that album…

    The other day I saw some footage of him on TV from about this time – taken from TOTP or some such thing, I don’t know…and I know if I’d seen it as a little girl I would have been frightened…

  79. 79
    Geir H on 24 Dec 2007 #

    I think there are two elements that make it harder for Glitter than for any other of those people, really:

    – Michael Jackson’s music is obviously classic, while even before his downfall, you would never see any Gary Glitter albums in those lists of “Best albums of all time”. There might have been a “Rock’n’Roll Part 2” showing up in some singles or tracks lists, but that’s all. He was also largely hated by critics in his time, and was even quoted back then saying that his music wasn’t any good, but that it was a nice way to make money (and get laid… Well, he didn’t say that, but go figure…..)
    – Had he been caught with those images on his harddisk, and that it, it may have been different. Glitter, however, has spent the later part of his life travelling around the world to have sex with underage prostitutes. This puts him in a league of his own, really…

  80. 80
    Tony Tinsel on 22 Aug 2008 #

    Who says Gary Glitter wasn’t scary?…I was there man! Back in the ’70’s, when there were power cuts and your grandmother would tell the family tales about The Blitz while you sat huddled around a candle at night. Seeing Gary Glitter on Top Of the Pops back then used to make me hide behind the sofa just like seeing Daleks or Cybermen.

    His image wasn’t much different to those Dr. Who monsters. What with the shiny catsuits, tower boots, shoulder pads, grotesque Japanese kabuki performer make-up, and a hairdo like an electrocuted mulllet.

    I remember peering round the from behind the settee and seeing him shot from below by the camera, his face contorted into a pyschopathic mask of evil as he looked down into the lens with demented eyes.

    Don’t tell me that’s not scary son!

  81. 81
    Mark G on 22 Aug 2008 #

    Funnily enough, Geir’s last sentence has it spot on.

    There was some newspaper article that asked: Are Paedophiles mad or bad? We can’t have it both ways!

    And I thought, why not? Mad, for wanting, bad for actually going out and doing.

  82. 82
    DJ Punctum on 22 Aug 2008 #

    I think this may be the article you had in mind.

    Excellent piece with which I agree completely and thoroughly but sadly in the current wave of medieval hysteria its message is unlikely to be heard or heeded.

  83. 83
    Jonathan Bogart on 22 Sep 2008 #

    I’d just like to point out that at least from this American’s vantage point, Michael Jackson is no longer quite as classic as he once was over here (if indeed he ever was, but that gets into the basic rockism of the vast majority of Americans and can probably be ignored).

    (And as an aside, any legal complications of saying that I believe Jackson, Spector, et. al. to be guilty of the crimes of which they have been accused don’t exist for me. O.J. Simpson did it, too.)

    As DC notes, one in a hundred Americans would be able to identify Gary Glitter as the “author” of the omnipresent R&RP2; possibly one in a thousand would have heard of his bad behavior (I hadn’t until this blog); one in a million would care. This is not to say that Americans are freer from pedophile hysteria than Britons — if he were a household name Queen’s “We Will Rock You” would get even more use than it already does.

  84. 84
    DJ Punctum on 22 Sep 2008 #

    And I believe that people are innocent of crimes until or unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This, you understand, not being Iraq.

  85. 85
    Jonathan Bogart on 27 Sep 2008 #

    Your faith in the American legal system is a noble sentiment which does you credit.

  86. 86
    DJ Punctum on 27 Sep 2008 #

    Even if R Kelly in his press conference last week skirted around all the relevant questions with such sprightly aplomb that he should consider enrolling for three day eventing at the 2012 Olympics, he has still been found…well, it’s hard to say but from what I can gather it’s the American equivalent of that venerable old Scottish legal third way, “not proven.”

  87. 87
    Waldo on 10 Nov 2009 #


    Did any of the Populista catch that astonishing but quite mad little fantasy served up by C4 the other night, “The Execution of Gary Glitter”? It was presented as a news documentary set at a time when Parliament had restored the death penalty, not just for murder but also for child abuse. To stretch credibility further, kiddie fiddling overseas was also included in the new Criminal Justice Act and thus Paul Gadd was nicked, convicted and hanged. There were “interviews” with the female Home Secretary, as well as the prison chaplain and also the hangman. I guess this was a supreme black comedy.

    Basically we saw the Gadd character (brilliantly played by Hilton McRae) slowly deteriorate into a grizzing wreck begging for his life only to have this denied him by the mumsie-looking Home Sec at final appeal. I’m not at all sure what the point of it all was but it was curiously compelling viewing and I would urge any of our contributors, particularly fellow old lags and lassies, to try and grab it.

  88. 88
    Conrad on 10 Nov 2009 #

    Waldo I didn’t see it, but it’s concept disgusts me. It doesn’t surprise me alas.

  89. 89
    thefatgit on 10 Nov 2009 #

    I didn’t see it either, but if it’s aim was to spark off a new debate about the death penalty, then perhaps they could have chosen a less sensationalist approach.

  90. 90
    lonepilgrim on 7 Nov 2011 #

    Gary is the subject of the OneweekOneBand Tumblr this week, starting here:

  91. 91
    Lena on 17 Jul 2013 #

    Mungo Jerry go French…sort of: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/think-about-it-then-forget-it-mungo.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  92. 92
    Lena on 30 Jul 2013 #

    Detroit Tomboy Saves Rock: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/grrl-power-suzi-quatro-48-crash.html Thanks for reading, everybody!

  93. 93
    karen on 7 Oct 2013 #

    I always thought that Gary Glitter was creepy, seedy, not a good person to be around if you were a teenage girl. There were others, too. I felt very uncomfortable around his music. Nor did I like Jimmy Saville – same reasons.

  94. 94
    Brooksie on 9 Oct 2013 #

    You could say that about half the Glam acts of the time; they were usually slightly older men who’d been in the industry longer than their new found fame indicated, and they were dressed in ridiculous tin foil and tinsel outfits surrounded by 12 year-old girls. In retrospect – very creepy. At the time – totally normal. “I felt very uncomfortable around his music.” That’s the most bizarre thing I’ve ever heard.

  95. 95
    Mark G on 9 Oct 2013 #

    Hindsight is a wunnerbar t’ing.. How many of those acts seemed a bit, um, yeah, at the time, but subsequently (at the time of posting) have not been implicated in any kind of shenans? Even to the point of if someone had named the name and other people say “yeah, i always had my doubts about Him..” only to get the rejoinder “nonono I’m saying he *hasn’t* been arrested” and so forth?

  96. 96

    Hmmm. This is what I wrote last year re JSavile and hindsight. Shorter me: I no more buy “everybody knew” than I buy “all doubt exists only in hindsight”. Bcz (for example) I can remember my grandad putting his foot down about my sister going to a tot’s disco c.1970, on “these older young men are all creepy” grounds. My mum put her foot down harder — it was a famous family row. In this instance mum was right — no harm came, and it wasn’t grandad’s call — but of course predators could exploit exactly this (generational) dissonance, and did.

  97. 97
    Mark G on 9 Oct 2013 #

    VShortMe: I think a lot of people knew, but the trade-off was all the charitable stuff he did. I don’t necessarily think he did all that purely for the availability of xxxx, but I do think that he had the “all the good things here I have done, I am entitled to xxxx” message ends.

  98. 98
    Rory on 1 Mar 2015 #

    Alexis Petridis on the Gary Glitter fans who still follow the leader.

  99. 99
    Adam on 22 Mar 2015 #

    For further analysis: Dero in Pazz & Jop 2013: “Why Are People Finally Paying Attention to R. Kelly’s Many Crimes?” http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2014/01/r_kelly_sex_tape_underage_crimes.php

  100. 100
    lonepilgrim on 5 Oct 2019 #

    There was a feature on GG in one of the Sunday papers around the time of his success and even then he came across as a leering slob. Watching him perform this on TOTP he looks like a Benny Hill pastiche of glam. As a nerdy teenager I didn’t like gangs and certainly didn’t want to be in his.

  101. 101
    weej on 5 Oct 2019 #

    Apparently Rock & Roll Pt 2 plays a prominent role in the new Joker film

  102. 102
    Andrew Farrell on 7 Oct 2019 #

    … and as a result, the front page of today’s Sun.

  103. 103
    Gareth Parker on 9 May 2021 #

    I would go with a 5/10 here. It all feels a bit forced and not too convincing to me.

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