Various Artists – All The Young Droogs
Released 25th January 2019
Subtitled “60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks”, this boxset takes in Junk Shop Glam, Rock & Roll Bubblegum and Proto-Punk from around the globe and features such scene luminaries as Iggy And The Stooges, Mott The Hoople and the Spiders Of Mars by cheek and jowl with lesser known, glitter-strewn outfits Ning, Frenzy and Sleaze (featuring a young TV Smith prior to forming the Adverts) among many others…..LTW’s Ian Canty feels the full foppish assault of these stack-heeled boot boys and girls…..
In the sleeve-note to this collection it mentions John Lennon stating that Glam was “Rock & Roll with lipstick on”. Pretty near the mark, but it was also a number of other things, including a dry run for Punk and a near-revival of Bubblegum. Glam’s gender confusion whipped up a media storm not unlike the Pistols with their appearance on the Today show a few years later in 1976. Without the nationwide reaction to Punk and the accompanying DIY ethos, it is possible Punk could have been seen as just a more political and slightly more outrageous version of Glam. All The Young Droogs highlights this, but really seeks to entertain by introducing some starry-eyed and platform-booted also-rans who just didn’t get the breaks, along with more successful acts who got the press but struggled for hits.
There was a ready made market for these bands that could have helped make them. The Skinhead rough kids, whose enthusiasm had waned for Reggae as the 70s wore on, were looking for something else to focus their tough-nut attentions on. Slade offered them easy access into the new, with their grafting some of Glam accoutrements onto the Skin garb of boots and braces and their rabblerousing Rock & Roll hitting the spot. Also there was a new set of young fans who had missed the 60s and wanted something of their own, something ultra-modern looking and sounding.
More than anything else they wanted something that had been tacitly promised them, by the spectre of the 60s, in films, on TV, something that was in short supply on the faceless estates and dowdy terrace housing where they lived or the grotty back street cafes, drab concert halls and old men’s pubs and clubs that they tried to eke out a nightlife in. Glamour. It was a perfect storm of attitude, dazzling colour and space-age technology, allied to a framework which looked back towards the dynamic flash of early Rock & Roll scene and Bubblegum’s basic but infuriatingly catchy simplicity. From there, garnished sometimes by primitive synths, Glam looked forward into a Sci-Fi future.
David Bowie and Marc Bolan, two ex-Mods written off as one hit wonders in the swinging decade, had been biding their time and launched a hostile takeover of the UK charts – you were either with them or you belonged in the past, that was clear. Glam resonated with these kids because it talked the same language as them, despite the otherworldly appearance and alien posturing; Cum On Feel The Noize, Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting, Ballroom Blitz, simple, savage and hugely infectious snapshots from the streets that these teens knew so well. Though looked on now as more of a UK phenomenon, Glam was popular in many other countries, with the US (where the form arguably emanated from), Australia, Sweden and even Iceland having their representatives present on this compilation.
The bright and multi-coloured future was here, but there was only a finite number that could break through into the Hit Parade. Bowie, T.Rex, Slade and the Sweet ruled, with most other Glam Rock hits being one-offs. One also has to mentioned Gary Glitter, now rightfully paying for his appalling crimes, but it would be foolish ignore Glitterbeat. Mainly the brainchild of producer Mike Leander, its drum-heavy rhythms were for a time the pre-eminent sound (as is demonstrated ably on disc 2 here). Many other bands and artists jostled to make the charts without much success, despite their good points and this is mainly the focus of All The Young Droogs.
Of the bigger acts, Mott (who provided the title for this set, give or take the Clockwork Orange referencing “Droogs”) and Iggy even had the assistance of David Bowie in their corner. His magic touch worked on Ian Hunter’s mob just as they were poised to split up, but it would be a few more years until he really managed to pull off the trick with Mr Pop. Both are represented here and Iggy And The Stooges’ I’ve Got A Right for me was his best single and a definite forerunner to Punk. Unfortunately it only slipped out on Siamese Records in 1977 five years after it was recorded, but it is still easily one of the most exciting records ever in my estimation….that guitar break!
The three discs that make up All The Young Droogs are given the separate titles, which reflect their contents. Rock Off! is the moniker given to disc 1 which veers more towards Heavy/Hard Rock territory, with disc 2’s Tubthumpers And Hellraisers being Glitterbeat/Sweet styled Glam and finally Elegance And Decadence finishes the set with a pronounced Bowie tinge (and includes both the Spiders From Mars and Woody Woodmansey’s U-Boat). Beginning with Rocks Off!, it is really difficult not to want to mention every track on this disc (and this pretty much applies to the whole set) – this is a consistently satisfying, exciting and surprising selection. The sound of carefree teen rebellion and is both eminently catchy and cool.
It really is superb stuff, from the dirty and heavy opener Hey Sweety by Ray Owen’s Moon right through to closing track Steve Wright’s Hard Road, an Easybeat gone solo with help from AC/DC. In between these two, would-be revolutionaries Third World War were possibly the least Glam band imaginable, looking more like a pair of dockers, but what their Working Class Man lacks in sparkle it more than makes up for in pure politico grit. The Brats were Rick Rivets’ band, he was a founder of the New York Dolls who helped kick off the whole Glam caper in the first place and their Be A Man carries a similar swagger.
Iceland’s Change (nothing to do with the Disco outfit of the same name) throw a genuine curveball of manic Glam with a Ska feel on Lazy London Lady and the Business did a pretty faithful cover of Hustler’s Pub Rockney Get Outa My ‘Ouse in the 80s. Boys Will Be Boys by Aussie band Taste seems on the cusp of Punk in terms of time of recording and attitude and mysterious Coventry band Ning (who refused to be photographed or give any information on their pasts) give us a stomping and soaring winner in the form of their weird Machine. Supernaut’s magnificently camp I Like It Both Ways was somehow a hit with Australian Sharpies, a Skinhead variant popular down under at the time and Glo Macari breaks up the Glam boys’ club with the big beat sneer of her Lookin’ For Love.
So moving onto disc 2 many of the tracks use the Glam Rock audio trademarks of foot stamping and handclapping to underpin things, but while that is always there in the background these are far from carbon copies of the Glitter Band’s work. U.K. Jones’ amazing set closer Let Me Tell Ya proves a case in point, producer Mike Berry harnessing that stomping beat years before Glam was thought of in 1969. Berry was also behind the One Hit Wonders whose flipside of Goodbye (a great piece of Garage Punk originally set down by Berry with the Shepperton Flames also in 1969) Hey Hey Jump Now allied a great 60s feel to the modern sound.
Bilbo Baggins nearly made it with Saturday Night, the Scottish band’s sleeve pose for this stunner apparently influencing modern-day Glam band Giuda. I reckon they probably got something in terms of sound from this one and Hello’s Games Up too. One band who did chart were Frenzy, but a placing at number 65 was not really the proper reward for Poser, a cool groover of a record.
Mott turn up on here with Whizz Kids showing that DB had been right all along, cutting some of their best material like this one after Bowie had stepped into help. The Church went onto become a fine Psychedelic band, but their roots in Baby Grande should not be ignored, even though Church leader Steve Kilbey might wish they were (he says in the sleeve note that “No-one liked us and we didn’t even like ourselves”). Despite this their mighty Zephyr is like a dream mix-up of the Dolls, Lou Reed and early Vibrators, a real gem. Holland’s Lemming chuck a bit of Dennis Wheatley mumbo jumbo in Lucifera, but their sheer mad abandon and shrieks and screams make it great fun to listen to.
Finally we reach disc 3 which has a bevy of would-be Ziggys, singers learning their craft among the sparkles and bands looking ahead to the near future in spaced-out ways. John Howard was a fine singer-songwriter in the making with a striking image that Suede surely must have been aware of when they made The Drowners video, his Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner matches sharp-eyed verses with synth jabs and a thrilling chorus. It was just a start for John and I urge you to check out all his stuff, he’s still producing great material today.
The 1972 film Cabaret had a big effect on Glam image-wise and the true star of the film was Joel Grey. His character and the decadence evoked in the aforementioned flick left its mark on a few here. Steve Elgin’s Don’t Leave Your Love Lying Around (Dear) and John Henry’s I Won’t Dance certainly harked back to pre-Rock & Roll, theatre revue music, which was yet another side to Glam. Metro are among a few others here who actually seem more Proto-New Wave than Glam itself, mixing in a little bit of Roxy’s style on Criminal World which was later recorded by David Bowie on Let’s Dance. On this 1976 recording they appear to be forerunners to how Japan and Ultravox! sounded just a little later on.
You can never have enough Jesse Hector in my book and with Helter Skelter I Live In Style In Maida Vale is a lot lighter than the Hammersmith Gorillas’ later take, but it is still a superior Mod anthem that crossed over effortlessly to Glam’s decadent style. The Doctors Of Madness were of course brilliant as is their Waiting and a young TV Smith fronts the hard rockin’ Showbiz Kid by Sleaze. I would very much like to hear the entire LP they recorded.
Greg Robbins seems to have disappeared after his fine Virginia Creeper, a shame as he really gives Sparks a run for their money on it. Again there’s so much to enjoy on this section of the boxset, Bebop Deluxe’s Night Creatures is another edgy wonder and although Roy Allison’s recording career seemed to begin and end with White Stockings, it features the memorable couplet “You taught me how to do it, but then I tried then I blew it”. Lou Reed re-invented for the star jumper wearing glitter teens of early 70s UK.
This is simply a superb collection of Glam away from the big hits, wonderfully compiled and annotated by the expert minds of Phil King and Mark Stratford. The accompanying booklet has an excellent scene-setting essay from Tony Barber with archive photos and pen pictures of each band and artist. Everything is extremely listenable, immediate but strange, even quite often bat-shit crazy – like some of the best Pop. Nearly all of this music was was meant to be throwaway, but has somehow endured and is now rightly given a second life. The odd questionable lyric aside (especially Harpo’s My Teenage Queen), if this is Junk Shop Glam, get me down to the junk shop. Far too good for a fate as landfill, All The Young Droogs expertly takes us back to that forgotten generation, too young for the 60s, but determined cast off the old in a flurry of colour, mob choruses, foot-stomps and handclaps. As a result they made some stunning music and had a rattling good time into the bargain. You can too by getting down to the mighty sounds here. If a better compilation comes out in 2019, I would be surprised.
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here