Various Artists – Can The GlamVarious Artists: Can The Glam – album review

7Ts

4CD | DL

Released 18th March 2022

4CD boxset with 80 tracks of glam rock thump, from big hits with Mud, Suzi Quatro and T Rex to out and out obscurities recorded by the likes of Bearded Lady, Stumpy and Go Go Thunder. Ian Canty bacofoils his entire wardrobe…

Though wildly popular with the record buying public of the UK, glam was much derided at the time by music journalists and “serious” rock fans. But its combination of multi-coloured ’70s flash, androgynous apparel and boot-stomping, souped-up rock & roll basics somehow has had the last laugh. It has been a highly influential element in later musical developments – punk, for example, probably couldn’t have happened without it. The sound has been embraced by many pop musicians in the 21st century, and also in this new millennium loads of unsuccessful 1970s glam singles have been unearthed to the joy of many enthusiasts.

There have been plenty of reissues of archive material over the years, both in collections of the big hit singles of the era and various “junk shop glam” comps. Can The Glam sits somewhere in the middle. Though you won’t find David Bowie or Roxy Music on this set, or even Sweet, Marc Bolan and T Rex are present with one of their biggies Metal Guru, Slade show up with a barnstorming We’re Really Going To Raise The Roof and of course, being called Can The Glam, means that excellent Suzi Quatro tune is here. But also as well as all manner of genuine adherents to the space-age, stack-heeled sound, there are studio cash-in projects and artists from other genres glamming up for a piece of the action.

In some ways the inclusion of smashes from better known artists, great as they are, represent something of a missed opportunity to include yet more seldom-heard nuggets. I have to concede though, that they do add context and depth to the set – after all, glam was a big noise on the UK pop charts for a good while and to totally ignore its successes, while concentrating solely on great sounding flops, would be flying the face of the facts

The cheap and cheesy style of sleeve design actually works in Can The Glam’s favour and there is some interesting information to be gleaned from each track’s pen picture. The set works along a timeline from 1969 onward and goes from the proto-glam scream-enhanced sound of Take Me For What I Am by The Shepperton Flames, which had the much comped late garage punk sound of Goodbye on its flipside, to the boom period of the early 1970s, to it later stages and then the diaspora in the early 1980s.

After the Shepperton Flames, disc one takes in comedy band The Barron Knights, who actually cut a serious and fairly convincing stomper in You’re All I Need, and Bitch from New Zealand sounding more akin to sparky hard rock on the smart Good Time Coming. Geordie, with future AC/DC man Brian Johnson at the helm, graft a glam beat on another  pure rocker All Because Of You, and studio aggregation Pheon Bear, featuring the legendary Jimmy Edwards, rev-up a blues rhythm on their tough War Against War.

1960s hit band Vanity Fare valiantly attempted to escape the cabaret circuit by adding synths and horns to Take It Shake It Break My Heart. They didn’t succeed with this Giorgio Moroder/Pete Bellotte number, but it was a decent try. With those writers it was almost inevitable it would share something with Chicory Tip, who show up not much later on with their BBC-banned but brilliant Cigarettes, Women And Wine and Daddy Maxfield’s ultra-basic brutality of Rave ‘N’ Rock is great fun too. The sleeve note mentions that after this the main pair involved moved on to the next bandwagon, recording It’s Gonna Be A Punk Rock Christmas as The Ravers.

We then venture to mainland Europe for the lighter style of Keep On Dancing by Italian outfit Cardinal Point and Denmark’s Walkers provide us with Fire, the cool synth swipes of which helped them hit the very top of their homeland’s charts. A high energy Let’s Go by Rock Rebellion, another band that only existed in the producers’ minds, is a minor gem of the type and going back to the Euro theme, long running Dutch group BZN tested the glam waters on the guitar-heavy boogie of Sweet Silver Anny.

The easy charm of Barry Blue’s Do You Wanna Dance is followed by Crunch, a bunch of Eddie Seago-produced contenders who for a while looked like they might breakthrough into the charts. A rough and rocky Let’s Do It Again was their shot at the big time – it didn’t make it but that is no reflection on its upbeat quality. A first disc loaded down with the good stuff ends with TV stars The Arrows and Bam Bam Battering Ram from 1974, where a glam rhythm is overlaid with a ’50s harmony-pop feel.

Slade’s mighty piano-led album track We’re Really Gonna Raise The Roof deftly kicks disc two into gear and is followed by the very rum but magnetic Father John by Lemming. The thudding blues/glam of Are You Ready by Paul Ryder And The Time Machine is decent, and they were linked with The Rubettes through Paul Prewer, with also voices lead on Ritz’s exciting and fast Why Love a few tracks on. The band called The Damned on this disc had nothing to do with Rat/Brian/Vanian/Sensible, but the distorted buzz of Morning Bird impresses and Renegade, with strong links to Coventry freakbeat titans The Sorrows, come up with a hard and heavy My Revolution.

A lively Gang Man by Shakane takes us into the second half of this disc, with Gumbo’s marvellous piece of punk predicting attitude We Don’t Care following soon after. The Casuals were more an orthodox band than true stack-heeled boot boys, but they managed to adapt of the changing environment well on the melodic thump of The Witch. Two further Jimmy Edwards projects, the proto-new wave of sound of Washington Flyers’ The Comets Are Coming and a poppy Make Me A Superman by Stumpy, follow next. Disc two of Can The Glam finishes with The Glitter Band’s steady grind of Shout It Out and Wolverhampton five piece Light Fantastic, fronted by comic Ian “Sludge” Lees, give us a crunchy Take Me Shake Me.

The wonderfully named Nicky Moonshine, actually Paul Curtis, begins the third portion of Can The Glam with the slide guitar-driven pop tune Baby Blue, and The Netherlands again yields glam gold, this time in the form of Catapult and the queasy thunder of their Teeny Bopper Band single. I can just about remember Shabam’s On The Planet Of The Apes getting a lot of play on the radio back in 1974, and Go Go Thunder, actually an alias for pop/rock act Rescue Co No. 1, give us an explosive The Race.

Bilbo Baggins were Scotland’s most likely glammers – it never did come off in the end unfortunately, but their cover of Golden Earring’s Back Home is riffy and rock solid. Motorbike Girl by Shelby, a trio not a solo artist, is a good example of how glam melded easily with dirty street rock & roll, and Barry Ryan’s Do That is entrancingly oddball, with eerie synths and gritty guitar fuzz. This record was issued by the same Dawn label that also attempted to re-launch the roller skating craze with Fynnius Fogg’s manic Roller Skatin’ Baby.

Run, Run, Run, Run, Run by Tim Dandy has a comically high vocal, otherwise it might just about qualify as proto-punk, and Pheonix, who it is suggested in the sleeve note may have had strong links to The Glitter Band, are represented here by the fast moving Thrill Me With Your Love. We draw to a close on this section of the set with the big beat of Fogg’s Dancin’ To The Music, Let’s Go by teen heartthrobs The Bay City Rollers, and finally Glasgow band Shorty, who were “big in Japan”, with the 1950s-influenced rocker It’s Getting Sweeter All The Time.

Kenny were a band powered by the Martin/Coulter songwriting team and they start disc four of Can The Glam with the guitar fuzz of their third hit single Baby I Love You, OK. Moving on, Paper Lace had been had been around in one form or another since 1967. They won ITV’s Opportunity Knocks TV talent show for five straight weeks, but really hit the big time with Billy Don’t Be A Hero, which topped the charts in the UK during 1974. They were on the downward slope by the time of their contribution here So What If I Am in 1975, which sees weird electro squiggles paired with a firm percussive stomp, but also with a sneer to the vocal that wouldn’t have been out of place a year later in year zero.

The rocket-powered Andy Bown theme to the Supersonic TV show comes next and Dancer’s decidedly rum Hate Generator is a fine bit of doomy man machine madness. Johnny Warman’s band Bearded Lady folded out after a gig at The Marquee with The Jam in support. A year or so before they cut Rock Star, a powder keg of street level vigour much more proto-punk than anything else. By this stage glam was pretty much yesterday’s news and punk clouds were gathering on the horizon. Even so, people persisted with elements of the sound. For instance, A Raincoat’s modus operandi on It Came In The Night wasn’t a million miles away from Chicory Tip’s, and Mabel’s Hey I Love You from 1976 has glitterbeat drums propelling it.

Having come across Malcolm McLaren when he tried to flog an amp to him, Slik’s Midge Ure must have known the way that the wind was blowing. Even so, their The Kid’s A Punk retains more than a sliver of their big hit Forever And Ever, and Bobby Dazzler’s Easy Lovin’ Lady must have sounds totally antiquated when it was released in the same month as Anarchy In The UK. The Crunch by The Rah Band may well have been glam’s last stand on the UK charts and after it this fourth disc does peter out. I have to admit that this section of the set is the weakest of the four and there are more than a few numbers that only have faint links to the overall concept, particularly at the tail end.

Despite having some misgivings about the latter stages of disc four, Can The Glam is never anything less than fun and there are many real joys to discover among the more obscure recesses of the set. I’m far from being a crate-digging authority on glam, but having heard a few compilations of rarer material there was still plenty that was new to me here. For anyone who knows glam rock through purely through the big bands and artists of the era and wants to hear more, Can The Glam represents a very good next step to take in those platform boots. It has been put together with a sharp eye for detail and an ear for a rollicking good stomper of a tune, so dig in without fear.

~

All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here

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