Category: glam rock

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Freddie Mercury photographed by George Wilkes, August 1973.

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Gloria Jones and Marc Bolan photographed by Norman Seeff, 1974.

Queen arriving at Heathrow airport, back from their tour of Australia in 1974.

On this day in music history: November 8, 1972 – “Transformer”, the second album by Lou Reed is released. Produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson, it is recorded at Trident Studios In London in August 1972. Following the end of The Velvet Underground in 1970, Lou Reed moves back to his family’s home, working as a typist at his father’s accounting firm. He then returns to music, releasing his solo debut album in April of 1972. Around the same time, Reed is introduced to a fellow label mate, by execs at RCA Records. A huge fan of Reed’s work with The Velvet Underground, Bowie had paid tribute to him on “Hunky Dory”, and often performing VU’s “White Light/White Heat” and “I’m Waiting For The Man” live. Reed accepts the offer, working with Bowie, guitarist Mick Ronson and recording engineer Ken Scott. The songs Lou Reed records for “Transformer” consist of both newer material, and ones written earlier. Reed’s inspiration comes from any number of sources, from cabaret music and the poetry of T.S. Eliot, to former VU producer and patron Andy Warhol, relationships and his own polarizing sexuality. Among the centerpieces of the album include “Perfect Day”, “Satellite Of Love”, and rocking opening track “Vicious”. The album’s biggest hit is “Walk On The Wild Side” (#14 Pop). It’s title inspired in part by Nelson Algren’s novel “A Walk On The Wild Side”, and Hank Thompson’s song “The Wild Side Of Life”. Reed name checks numerous members of Warhol’s Factory including Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis, Joe Dallesandro and Joe Campbell. The track features Herbie Flowers (electric and upright double basses), Ritchie Dharma (drums), Ronnie Ross (baritone saxophone) and Thunderthighs (Dari Lalou, Karen Friedman, Casey Synge) (backing vocals). The jazzy laid back feel of “Wild Side” masks its subversive lyrics, which make numerous references to drugs, transgenderism, prostitution and oral sex, all seeming to have slipped by radio programmers ears. The iconic cover photo for “Transformer” is taken by photographer Mick Rock. The final image is the result of the photo being accidentally overexposed in the darkroom. The back cover (taken by Karl Stoecker) grabs just as much attention, with scantily clad woman dressed in black, being observed by a man with an erection showing through his tight jeans. The man in the photo is played by Lou Reed’s friend Ernie Thormahlen, with the highly noticeable bulge actually being a banana shoved down his pants. The album becomes the most successful of Reed’s career, and is regarded as a landmark of the 70’s glam rock movement. Reissued on CD numerous times over the years, it is most recently remastered and reissued in 2009. The vinyl edition is reissued numerous times also, most recently by RCA Heritage in 2017. “Transformer” peaks at number twenty nine on the Billboard Top 200.

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David Bowie with his wife Angie and their son Zowie (Duncan Jones) at the Amstel Hotel in Amsterdam,

February 1974.

On this day in music history: November 4, 1970 – “The Man Who Sold The World”, the third album by David Bowie is released. Produced by Tony Visconti, it is recorded at Trident Studios and Advision Studios in London from April 18 – May 22, 1970. Following his breakthrough success in the UK with the single and album “Space Oddity” in the Fall of 1969, David Bowie returns to the studio in the Spring of 1970 to record the follow up. The album features musicians that form the nucleus of the Spiders From Mars Band which include guitarist Mick Ronson and drummer Mick Woodmansey, and also marks the birth of the glam rock movement. The title track becomes one of Bowie’s best known and loved songs. Bowie also performs the song on his Saturday Night Live appearance in December of 1979, with Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias.  It is influential on numerous musicians including The Cure, Siouxsie And The Banshees, Gary Numan, Nine Inch Nails, and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, the latter of whom records a cover version on their “MTV Unplugged in New York” album in 1993. The albums original cover photo featuring Bowie wearing a dress is not issued in the US, and is replaced with a cartoon drawing. “Man” is re-released by RCA Records in the US in 1972, with a black and white photo of David Bowie during his Ziggy Stardust period on the front and back covers, and inner sleeve. Reissued on CD and vinyl numerous times since the 80’s, the album is remastered and reissued again in 2015 on CD and as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2015, featuring the original UK cover artwork. “The Man Who Sold The World” peaks at number twenty six on the UK album chart, and number one hundred five on the Billboard Top 200.

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David Bowie and his wife Angie Bowie photographed by Terry O’Neill, circa 1973.

On this day in music history: July 21, 1972 – “The Slider”, the seventh album by T. Rex is released. Produced by Tony Visconti, it is recorded at Rosenberg Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark, Château d’Hérouville, Paris, France, and Elektra Studios in Los Angeles, CA from March – April 1972. Issued as the follow up to bands glam rock classic “Electric Warrior”, Marc Bolan and the band begin recording at the Château d’Hérouville outside of Paris on the recommendation of his friend Elton John, while on tax exile from the UK. The basic tracks are completed in only five days, before moving on to other studios in Denmark and the US to complete the overdubs and mixing. The album spins off the hit singles “Metal Guru” and Telegram Sam". The albums iconic cover photo is taken by producer Tony Visconti (though on the original album cover they are erroneously credited to Ringo Starr who at the time is directing a concert film featuring Bolan and T. Rex titled “Born To Boogie”). It is remastered and reissued on CD in 1997, with three additional bonus tracks added. Out of print on vinyl for decades, it is reissued as a 180 gram LP by Fat Possum Records in 2010. Tom commemorate the albums fortieth anniversary, “The Slider” is reissued as a two CD + DVD and LP deluxe edition in 2012. The first disc includes the original thirteen track album, with disc two containing fourteen bonus tracks, including the three extra tracks from the previous reissue, demos, live tracks and a radio interview with Marc Bolan recorded around the time of the albums original release. The DVD features television and concert footage, a rare TV spot and behind the scenes film footage shot during the recording sessions. The set also comes with a forty-eight page hardbound book, a poster, sew-on patch, and other memorabilia, copy of the vinyl LP, and three 7" singles for “Metal Guru”, “Telegram Sam” and “Chariot Choogle”. “The Slider” peaks at number four on the UK album chart, and number seventeen on the Billboard Top 200.

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On this day in music history: July 3, 1973 – David Bowie announces that he is retiring his musical alter ego “Ziggy Stardust”. The previous year, Bowie takes on the persona of the enigmatic and androgynous “rock star alien”, for the landmark album “The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars”. It is during the UK tour for the follow up album “Aladdin Sane”, that Bowie tells his manager Tony DeFries and guitarist Mick Ronson that has taken “Ziggy” as far as he can. The last show of the UK dates takes place at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, which are filmed for a documentary by filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker (“Don’t Look Back”, “Monterey Pop”). Turning in an electrifying performance that evening, it is near the end of the show that the singer announces. “Of all the shows on this tour, this particular show will remain with us the longest, because not only is it the last show of the tour, but it’s the last show that we’ll ever do.” With that statement, Bowie and his band launch into the final song “Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide”, also the final track on the “Ziggy Stardust” album. At the time, fans misunderstand Bowie’s statement, believing that he is retiring from music altogether, and not just doing away with his “Ziggy” persona. Many years are spent piecing together all of the film footage shot for the documentary, due largely to technical and lighting issues. Bowie’s own lack of interest in participating in the post-production, hinders progress of the completing the project. A shortened version of the concert that also features an appearance by guitarist Jeff Beck, airs on the ABC series “In Concert” on October 25, 1974. At Beck’s request, his performance is removed from the longer cut of the concert footage. The final cut of the film makes its long awaited debut on August 31, 1979 at the Edinburgh Film Festival in Scotland. Well received upon its public screening, David Bowie changes his mind about the film, and sets about to improve the soundtrack portion of it. Collaborating with producer Tony Visconti, they remix the audio portion to give the documentary a true stereo soundtrack for both an album and theatrical re-release. With Bowie in the middle of a huge comeback with the album “Let’s Dance”, the film “Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars: The Motion Picture” is released through 20th Century Fox on December 23, 1983. Bowie’s former label RCA Records issues an accompanying double LP soundtrack album of the same name. It is released on home video by MGM/UA Columbia in 1984, with reissues in 1998 and 2003. Long out of print on vinyl and CD, the soundtrack album is remastered and reissued in 2015, as part of David Bowie’s “Five Years: 1969 – 1973” box set, and as a stand alone release in 2016.

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On this day in music history: July 2, 1971 – “Get It On” by T.Rex is released. Written by Marc Bolan, it is the ninth UK and fourth US single release for the glam rock band from London, UK fronted by musician Marc Bolan. One of the pivotal figures and icons of the glam rock movement of the 70’s, like his friend and some time rival David Bowie, Marc Bolan finds himself going through numerous musical transformations before achieving stardom. Born Mark Feld in Stoke Newington in the North East London borough of Hackney in 1947, Marc becomes infatuated by the first wave of rock & roll while still a school boy. By the 60’s, he moves toward making his dreams of becoming a rock star come true. However, there are numerous set backs and stumbling blocks along the way. Changing his name to Marc Bolan, he forms the band Tyrannosaurus Rex in 1967, at first creating a hybrid of psychedelic folk rock, before evolving into their trademark glam rock sound. In 1970, after shortening their name to T.Rex, Bolan finally makes his major breakthrough with the single “Ride A White Swan” which hits #1 on the UK singles chart in January of 1971. While writing songs for T.Rex’s second album, Bolan takes inspiration from another one of his early rock & roll heroes, Chuck Berry. The initial idea for what becomes “Get It On”, comes when Bolan initially intends to record of cover of Berry’s song “Little Queenie”. Eventually, he changes his mind and writes a new song with that same feel, finishing off “Get It On” quickly. Paying further tribute to Berry, Bolan quotes the lyric “meanwhile, I’m still thinking” (from “Little Queenie”) at the end of “Get It On”. The track is recorded at Wally Heider Studios in Hollywood, CA and Trident Studios in London with producer Tony Visconti (David Bowie), and features T.Rex members Steve Currie (bass) and Bill Legend (drums) and Mickey Finn (congas). Also on the song are Blue Weaver (Bee Gees) (piano), King Crimson saxophonist Ian McDonald and former Turtles members Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman (aka “Flo & Eddie”) on backing vocals. The single is an immediate smash in the UK and rockets to the top on July 24, 1971, spending four weeks at the top. In the US, the record does not have such a fast trajectory. Re-titled “Bang A Gong (Get It On)”, it languishes for five long months before finally charting. Entering the Hot 100 at #87 on January 1, 1972, it peaks at #10 on March 4, 1972. Along with the album “Electric Warrior”, “Get It On” turns Marc Bolan into a glam rock icon, and becomes one of the definitive songs of the movement. The song has a long life after its run on the charts. In 1985, The Power Station cover “Get It On”, with their version peaking at #9 on the Hot 100 in August of 1985, one position higher than T.Rex’s original.

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