Posts Tagged ‘Roxy music’

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Back in 1972, “postmodernism” was a rarely used term, much less “retro” or “vintage” – words now almost fetishised in their description of everything from fashion to music, gaming to boutique coffee shops. Without describing themselves in such terms, however, Roxy Music embodied postmodernism a full decade before the thought of cycling through styles and genres entered the mainstream.

Released on 16th June 1972, the same day as Bowie’s breakthrough The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, Roxy Music was a true raid on pop music’s past… and present… and a signpost towards its genre-blind, boundary-breaking future.

Roxy Music’s opener, ‘Re-Make/Re-Model’, blares out of the speakers as a perfect declaration of intent: a manifesto for the group’s assault on the pop world, reconfiguring and recontextualising old tropes, while presenting them as something utterly unique – futuristic, even. “Eno was always pushing the boundaries,” Manzanera recalled. “I know it sounds ridiculous, but there was a point where we used to be DIed [direct injection] into, through his synths, a mixing desk, and he’d be out in the audience mixing.”

Not that music was Roxy Music’s sole concern. As a song title such as ‘Ladytron’ suggests, with its hint of glamour welded to futuristic possibilities, Bryan Ferry (vocals, keyboards), Brian Eno (vocals, synths, tape effects), Phil Manzanera (guitar), Andy Mackay (vocals, oboe, saxophone), Graham Simpson (bass) and Paul Thompson (drums) were juxtaposing disparate elements from all over the pop culture spectrum.

Roxy Music themselves weren’t the only ones entering history with ‘Virginia Plain’: “Make me a deal and make it straight/All signed and sealed, I’ll take it/To Robert E Lee I’ll show it,” Ferry sings at the start, directly name-checking his lawyer. As with ‘2HB’ – and almost everything Roxy Music did – the reference is doubled: “The Bob” took its title from Battle of Britain (1968) and included a passage simulating the sound of gunfire.

Discussing the music, Andy Mackay later said “we certainly didn’t invent eclecticism but we did say and prove that rock ‘n’ roll could accommodate – well, anything really”

Still astoundingly modern today, Roxy Music remains not only one of the finest debut albums in history, but rock music’s first true postmodern masterpiece. What follows is an attempt to trace the influences and pop culture references in an album that continues to go beyond all expectations – not only of what a rock group can do, but what a true work of art can accomplish. The band’s penchant for glamour was showcased both in the lyrics and in the 1950s-style album cover. The photographer Karl Stoecker shot the cover, featuring model Kari-Ann Muller, who later married Chris Jagger, brother of Mick Jagger

Phil Manzanera recalls “sitting down with Bryan at the first audition and talking about Humphrey Bogart and all the films we loved”. For later solo albums and Roxy Music appearances, Ferry would adopt the image of Bogart as Rick Blaine in Casablanca, suave in a white dinner jacket. On Roxy Music, Bogart is homaged in ‘2HB’, the lyrics directly quoting his Casablanca catchphrase: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

“The great thing is that we had friends who were great fashion designers, who were just beginning to make their mark,” guitarist Phil Manzanera recalled to this writer in 2009. Among them were painter Nick de Ville, who acted as the group’s art director; designer Anthony Price, who advised on clothing and make-up; and hairdresser Keith Wainwright. Each band member conferred with them individually, “never as a coherent, co-ordinated thing”, Manzanera recalled. The first time the band would see each other’s costumes was “literally just before going on the first gig of the new tour… and we’d go, ‘My god! Where did that come from?’”

That’s how you create a group that looks as though each member is performing in a different band – or on a different planet, as Brian Eno noted when he described some of the Roxy Music costumes as the sort of thing the president of the Galactic Parliament might have worn in a sci-fi movie. It was, as Manzanera recalls, a “wonderful coming together of random elements – but behind those random elements were people with a lot of learning”.

Roxy Music 1972 Press Shot Web Optimised 1000

With their thrillingly strange 1972 debut, Roxy Music announced themselves as a band that were unlike anyone else. The singer looks back at how they created a new kind of music – out of Stax, oboes and Marilyn Monroe.

ore than 45 years ago, a new group released their first album. They didn’t wear denim, nor had they, apparently, paid their dues. Indeed, their heavily stylised presentation – a model posed archly on the cover in a 1950s pastiche, the musicians inside clad in leopardskin and leather with styled quiffs – could not have been more opposed to the rock modes of the day. “Is this a recording session or a cocktail party?” inquired Ferry’s friend Simon Puxley in the liner notes. Before you even got to the music, the record cover was a gauntlet thrown down – an explosion of glamour in a wasteland of faded blue cotton.

“The clothes we were wearing at that time would have put off quite a large chunk of people,” reflects Bryan Ferry. “What I liked about the American bands, the Stax label and Motown, they were into presentation and show business, mohair suits, quite slick. And the cover art, I thought of all the American pop culture icons, Marilyn Monroe: selling cigarettes or beer with a glamorous image. But it was a bit off-kilter as well; there was something a bit strange about it, futuristic as well as retro. All that, instead of a picture of the band, in a dreary street, looking rather sullen. Which was the norm.”

The music inside lived up to the cover’s challenge: a collage of pop-culture nostalgia, hard-rock guitar, piano-driven melodies, stylised high vocals, strange musical structures and experimental sound pictures. Roxy Music’s eponymous album sounded like nothing else in 1971 and 1972 – and like nothing else the group would ever attempt again. Recorded in the first full flush of inspiration, songs such as Ladytron, The Bob (Medley), and Sea Breezes exist outside of their time: a radical synthesis that mapped the future at the same time as it plundered the past.

“We were definitely trying to show our versatility,” says Ferry now. “I had lots of musical influences, plus what the band brought to the table.” Lead guitarist Phil Manzanera, he says, “had this Latin heritage, being born in South America”. Saxophone and oboe player Andy Mackay was classically trained. “[Brian] Eno with his deep interest in experimental music. They were specialists in their field. Paul Thompson brought a lot, with his very powerful, earthy drumming, which was one of the features of the Velvet Underground.”

Ferry is talking in his west-London studio. We walk past repeated Warhol Marilyns and sit under a large print of Jerry Hall on the north coast of Anglesey, the cover for Roxy Music’s fifth album, Siren. Wearing a blue jacket, V-neck pullover and tie, Ferry is measured, at once diffident and supremely assured. At 72, he looks great. “The only bit I don’t like is analysing it,” he says of his work. “I do sometimes envy the people who don’t ever have to describe what they’re doing.”

Despite its age and apparent familiarity, Roxy Music’s debut remains thrillingly strange. A new reissue, eight years in the making, traces the development of this revolutionary record that seemingly arrived out of nowhere in June 1972. Combined with the group’s first, 1971 demos, three 1972 John Peel sessions and album outtakes, the songs that would populate Roxy Music come into focus as the bold, honed culmination of lifelong fixations.

Growing up in Washington, County Durham during the monochrome 1950s, Ferry found a lifeline and an inspiration: “I loved American music,” he says. ““From the age of about 10, every week you’d discover somebody new. I was very much into jazz. You know how English people are; there’s a certain amount of musical snobbery. I mean, I loved Little Richard and Fats Domino, but when I heard Charlie Parker for the first time, this was something I really loved, and nobody else who I knew knew anything about him. It’s good to have your private obsessions.”

As a paperboy delivering newspapers and weekly music magazines, Ferry read about more music than he could actually hear. “There wasn’t a great deal of jazz on radio. Radio Luxembourg was very important for emerging pop and soul. The BBC had one or two programmes. When the skiffle thing happened, that was when you started hearing Leadbelly and Big Bill Broonzy. That intensity of feeling; that’s what I got, hearing Leadbelly with a 12-string guitar, that yearning in his voice, it struck such a magical chord in me.”

He had similar revelations from hearing Lotte Lenya singing the songs of her husband Kurt Weill and the German soprano Elizabeth Schwarzkopf singing Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs, He loved the beat poets, TS Eliot and American show tunes. “I liked Fred Astaire, Cole Porter, and I’d hear those songs played by Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Billie Holiday. There was a music store in Newcastle where you could go into a booth and listen to stuff. I lived in there.”

While in the sixth form at Washington Grammar, Ferry joined a group called the Banshees, who played R&B in the local clubs – including the famous Club A Go Go that had provided the launch pad for the Animals. In autumn 1964, he entered the fine art department of Newcastle University, where he was inspired by the British pop-artist Richard Hamilton and Warhol associate Mark Lancaster. After completing his degree, Ferry moved to London, where he supported himself by teaching art and ceramics at a Hammersmith school.

Roxy Music began in the late 1960s, after this move to the capital. Having sung R&B and soul with groups such as the Gas Board and the City Blues, he began to pursue the idea of striking out on his own. “In my college band, I had been imitating whichever song I was singing. We used to do quite obscure covers – Bobby Bland, BB King – but by the time I was writing my own songs, I didn’t want to sound too American. At the time, most English bands tried to sound American. Except for people like King Crimson. They had an English voice, which was quite interesting.”

He was convinced that he could start his own band. “First of all, [it was] just me and Graham [Simpson], the bass player. He had been in my college band. He was a very cool guy, into the beat poets, had a huge jazz collection, all those Blue Note records. He was one of the most interesting people in the band, actually. Sardonic sense of humour. Then Mackay, next, then Eno.”

Each new addition brought an element that enabled the new group’s individuality. “The oboe was Andy Mackay’s first instrument, his main thing, although he developed into a great sax player. I met Andy because he had a synthesiser. So Andy brought a) the synthesiser and b) the oboe. Eno, of course, manipulated the synth in the band as soon as he joined, really. Those textures: the oboe is very precise, and the synth sounds were washes, colours, textures, mood enhancers, and so on. So, yes, it was a key part of the sound.”

Together with first guitarist Roger Bunn and drummer Dexter Lloyd, Roxy Music recorded their first demos in May 1971, early versions of The Bob (Medley), Grey Lagoons, 2HB, Chance Meeting and Ladytron. “They were all done in Eno’s flat in Camberwell, which is where we ended up doing a lot of rehearsals. There was a derelict house off Portobello Road where we went as well. That’s when it started. I thought of nothing else, I was quite driven to make it all happen. I would carry the tape around to record labels on my days off from teaching.”

A key early supporter was Richard Williams, who featured the group in Melody Maker during August 1971 before they had any whiff of record company interest. Williams had written glowing and informed reviews of, among other things, the recently reissued first three Velvet Underground albums, which piqued Ferry’s attention. “I always seemed to agree with his taste. So I thought, if anyone is going to like my music, it’s going to be this guy, so I sent him the tape. And he phoned me the same day to say how much he liked it.”

Slowly Roxy Music came into their time. With their Velvet Underground influence, they were tapping into similar sources to David Bowie. But the connections went deeper, into the Warholian fusion of pop and art – an approach prompted by Ferry’s friendship with Lancaster, who had worked in the Factory as a screen-printer in the mid-60s. “He was a really influential guy for me. He was the link between us and Richard Hamilton. All of those people were very influential, working with pop imagery.”

Bryan Ferry in 1973

It was Roxy Music’s explicit intention to dissolve the boundaries between high and low. As Michael Bracewell writes in Re-make/Re-model, his account of the group’s founding years, “they chose to inhabit the point where fine art and the avant garde met the vivacity of pop and fashion as an almost elemental force in modern society”.

Produced by King Crimson lyricist Pete Sinfield, Roxy Music came together over two weeks in March 1972. The range of material is extraordinary: almost every song contains sudden twists and turns, like the galloping Joe Meek-style descent that comes out of nowhere in Ladytron. The opener, Re-Make/Re-Model, begins in party noises and breaks into brief, emblematic solos from each instrument. In Sea Breezes, synthesiser washes introduce a heartfelt torch song, which then segues into a strangulated guitar part: next up is the cocktail doo-wop of the tart album closer Bitters End.

“A lot of the first album is first or second take,” Ferry remembers. “Thinking about the songs, some of them are collage-like, with different sounds and moods within them – they will change abruptly into something else. For instance, Sea Breezes is a slow song, and suddenly moves into this angular, quite opposite mood. I found that interesting, and this band was perfect for that; they were game for anything. We were constantly fiddling around, changing things. I was still trying to find my voice. I [now] think sometimes I’m singing too high, or I should have had another go at that.”

It would have been easy to write Roxy Music off as pastiche – as a few die-hard hippies did at the time – but the feeling is authentic: the love, loss and regret in songs such as If There is Something, Sea Breezes and The Bob (Medley). It’s an album of chance encounters and wistful, evasive memories. “On one hand, you try to shape the emotion, but you’ve got to feel it,” says Ferry, “you don’t analyse as you’re doing it.”

Released in the same week as Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, Roxy Music entered the UK album charts in late July 1972. Within a month, the group’s first single, Virginia Plain, which wasn’t on the album, was on its way to the Top 10 (it reached No 4). Referencing an art college painting by Ferry, it distilled Roxy’s art-pop manifesto, “what’s real and what’s make-believe”. “It is much more confident,” Ferry says. “We’d made an album and we knew how to do it – sort of. Everyone was featured. It had oboe, the synth, the drums are powerful, and the lyrics were much more assured. I was still finding my feet as a songwriter.”

Roxy Music had no sense that the album would reach a mainstream audience. “We thought art students; people like us; limited interest; underground. Coming overground was … interesting.” When did he realised Roxy Music were really taking off? “I suppose when I heard Virginia Plain on midday radio. When the record came out, we were still playing tiny places – driving up to Scarborough or somewhere to play in a club. Hearing Virginia Plain on daytime radio, that felt like … something. Or seeing this album filling the record store window in King’s Road, which is where we went to the manager’s HQ. That was quite moving for me. Walking past, at night, and they’d just filled the window, I couldn’t believe it. It was so great, seeing the image repeated.”

Like a Warhol, you mean? “Exactly, yeah.”

Roxy Music: 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition is out now on Universal (£130). A 2-CD version is also available (£20)

Image may contain: 6 people, people on stage and people standing

Roxy Music were recognisably human, but were just… better, somehow. Art spivs in an enchanted mirror. You could still, in a pinch, imagine them hanging around at the same fairgrounds as us, but they’d have been painting the Waltzers onto a triptych instead of physically spinning them.”

The newly remastered 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition of Roxy Music’s debut album is out tomorrow. But for now here is a Peel Session from the same year the album was released .

The complete session recorded by Roxy Music on 4th January 1972 for John Peel on the Friday Night Is Boogie Night show on BBC Radio 1 and broadcast on the 21st of that month.

Tracklist:

1. Remake Remodel (0:07)
2. B.O.B. Medley (5:05)
3. Would You Believe? (10:54)
4. If There Is Something (14:43)

Demos • Outtakes • Peel Sessions • Steven Wilson 5.1 mix • Expensive

500-only of the super deluxe with Bryan Ferry SIGNED print

After years of hints, rumours and speculation, Universal Music have announced today that Roxy Music‘s eponymous 1972 debut album will be reissued as 3CD+DVD super deluxe edition in February 2018.
This four-disc anniversary set consists of the original album on CD 1 (which interestingly uses the 1999 Bob Ludwig remaster), a further disc of demos and outtakes, a CD devoted to BBC radio sessions (including the January ’72 Peel Sessions that featured the unsigned Roxy Music with David O’List on guitar) and a DVD that includes a brand new Steven Wilson 5.1 surround sound mix, along with rare video footage of TV appearances and live performance.

All the discs are presented in a large-format 12″ x 12″ 136-page hardcover bookwhich features some fantastic notes by author and journalist Richard Williams, who first wrote about Roxy Music in Melody Maker back in 1971! The book also delivers an incredible array of rare photos, including many outtakes from the famous Karl Stoecker cover shot of model Kari-Ann Muller (each disc in the set uses a variant from the session). The band’s penchant for glamour was showcased both in the lyrics and in the 1950s-style album cover. The photographer Karl Stoecker shot the cover, featuring model Kari-Ann Muller, who later married Chris Jagger, brother of Mick Jagger (a stylised portrait of Kari-Ann Muller also graces the cover of Mott the Hoople’s 1974 album The Hoople). The album was dedicated to Susie, a drummer who auditioned for Roxy Music in the early days

The second disc in this set is an incredible insight into this era, with four demos recorded (on Brian Eno’s Ferrograph reel-to-reel tape recorder at his flat in Camberwell) just over a year before the album came out. At this point in time, the band had played no gigs at all and included Roger Bunn on guitar and Dexter Lloyd on drums.

Band member Andy Mackay said “The drumming and guitar playing were quite noodley, quiet and fiddly. And interestingly, by the time we got Paul [Thompson] and Phil [Manzanera] in, the Roxy sound was much stronger – it had that rock ‘n’ roll element, which I always thought was absolutely crucial to our continued success… that tipped us across from being just an art-school experimental band, to a proper pop group.”

Outtakes from the actual album sessions (which lasted just over two weeks) are also included. Every track is represented in some form or another and there’s the odd snippet of studio chatter and laughter to really take you back to Command Studios in Piccadilly, in London where the album was recorded, in March/April 1972. Non-album single Virginia Plain also features on this disc (the song was included on the album when issued in America and on some later pressings).

Two Peel Sessions (from January ’72 and May ’72) feature on CD 3 along with five tracks (including the then new single Virginia Plain) for a BBC In Concert broadcast in August of the same year.

Finally the DVD features Steven Wilson’s ‘new’ 5.1 mix (it was actually created back in 2012) in DTS 96/24 and Dolby AC3 Sound. For some reason, there isn’t a hi-res stereo version on the DVD (something that was promised for 2012’s Complete Studio Recordings box set, but eventually not delivered (without explanation). Steven Wilson has noted this omission too.  Commenting on Facebook today, about this reissue, he says “Back in 2012 I also remixed the album and several out-takes in stereo, and 2 years ago 2 of these mixes were released on a record store day 10 inch single, including an extended version of Ladytron. However, please note that none of these stereo mixes are included in this new deluxe set, so hang on to that 10 inch if you have it!”

This DVD also has video content, including the band performing Ladytron on The Old Grey Whistle Test, their first Top Of The Pops appearance doing Virginia Plain(according to Phil Manzanera, Brian Eno was “really pissed off that all you could see was his gloved hand”) and rare footage of Roxy Music at the Bataclan Club in Paris in November 1972, apparently “the only surviving visual document of this line up live on stage”.

There is also a two-CD deluxe edition of Roxy Music, but the record companies know what they are doing and they haven’t included any of the demos or the outtakes on this edition. Disc 2 is the BBC Sessions disc (disc three on the super deluxe edition). The packaging does look very nice though – you can see a photo of the hardcover casebound book package above, which comes with a 24-page booklet. The album is also being reissued on 180g vinyl LP.

We must address the issue of pricing. Amazon in the UK currently have a pre-order price of £172, which is insane. This price will inevitably come down to at least the £130 mark before the release date (Amazon France currently have a price equivalent of around £137). That is still very, very high of course and you wonder if the executives at Universal have been chatting with Scott Rodger and Paul McCartney about price points. Worth it? Only you can decide, but the content is excellent and presentation looks very good.

Roxy Music were,
  • Bryan Ferry – vocals, piano, Hohner Pianet, Mellotron
  • Brian Eno – VCS3 synthesizer, tape effects, backing vocals
  • Andy Mackay – oboe, saxophone, backing vocals
  • Phil Manzanera – electric guitar
  • Paul Thompson – drums
  • Graham Simpson – bass guitar (except on “Virginia Plain”)
  • Rik Kenton – bass guitar (on “Virginia Plain”)

Roxy Music is reissued on 2 February 2018, Original Release date: 16th June 1972

Roxy Music-Roxy Music.jpg

Looks can be deceiving. And with Roxy Music, that was the entire point.

Bred mostly in the working-class backgrounds from the industrial outskirts of mid-century London, the core personnel who founded Roxy Music did so as much out of artistic vocation as they did self-image reformation.

The otherworldly personae, the cobbled genre-mutations, the elegantly forged retro-futurism—the look and sound of Roxy Music are the visual and aural reflections of an inflated sense of grandeur cycling between fantastical and romantic. And while it was the unorthodox of art-school training that the band—especially vocalist Bryan Ferry, saxophonist-oboist Andy Mackay and noise architect Brian Eno wore on their sleeve, no environment could inspire such appetites for extravagance as the bleakness of rural England.

Brian Ferry, was the son of a County Durham coal miner, sought escape in the far-off glamour of Old Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley standards while Eno, brought up in Essex, was transfixed with the sonic control of tape manipulation; Mackay’s activities were decidedly avant-garde, partaking in experimental sound performances and the radical Fluxus art movement. Guitarist Phil Manzanera, a virtuoso with particular hankerings for complex prog-rock and psychedelia, was the sole well-heeled Roxy youth, while drummer Paul Thompson the only whose blue-collar origins remained resolutely well-preserved in taste.

It’s not uncommon to hear 1972’s Roxy Music framed as the natural result of Ferry’s elaborate aesthetic vision compounded by Eno’s technical wizardry. Other less prominent, but equally wastebin-bound, interpretations attribute the LP’s glow to either Eno or Ferry alone. Each of these theories, however, offer indefensibly lacking accounts of the gorgeous, alien glamour captured on Roxy Music’s self-titled debut. There’s hardly a more compact tutorial on the world of Roxy than the album’s track-one, side-one. The band’s penchant for glamour was showcased both in the lyrics and in the 1950s-style album cover. The photographer Karl Stoecker shot the cover, featuring model Kari-Ann Muller, who later married Mick’s brother Chris Jagger (a stylised portrait of Kari-Ann Muller also graces the cover of Mott The Hooples album “The Hoople” . The album was dedicated to Susie, a drummer who auditioned for Roxy Music in the early days

EG Management financed the recording of the tracks for their first album, “Roxy Music” , recorded in March–April 1972 and produced by King Crimson lyricist Pete Sinfield Both the album and its famous cover artwork were apparently completed before the group signed with Island Records. A&R staffer Tim Clark records that although he argued strongly that Island should contract them, company boss Chris Blackwell at first seemed unimpressed and Clark assumed he was not interested. A few days later however, Clark and Enthoven were standing in the hallway of the Island offices examining cover images for the album when Blackwell walked past, glanced at the artwork and said “Looks great! Have we got them signed yet?” The band signed with Island Records a few days later. The LP was released in June to good reviews and became a major success,

The introduction to Roxy Music“Re-Make/Re-Model,” stirs gently before it rumbles. Entering with a musique concrète sound collage abruptly supplanted by a lone Ferry suggestively moving between a pair of two-note piano chords, the song then erupts with the band firing a volley of competing fragments that swell into a formidable art-rock clash. “I tried but I could not find a way,” Ferry bellows through Manzanera’s maniacal noodling and Thompson’s percussive thunder; Mackay’s tenor sax trades blows with Ferry’s vocal intervals as Eno paints a squealing sonic backdrop. Building toward the song’s close, the band repeats a series of breaks, granting a brief solo moment to each member—exploiting the prog-rock bravado of the era to assert their avant-garde idiosyncracies.

“Virginia Plain,” the band’s first single was, consequently, also their first big hit, reaching no. 4 on the U.K. charts. A daring choice for a single, the song spurns the mandatory inclusion of a chorus, coasting instead on a continuous verse, offering only seldom breaks in the dominant melodic motif.

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“Looking back, all I did was look away,” Ferry continues on “Re-Make/Re-Model.” But in terms of Roxy Music’s essence, nothing could be further from the truth. Ferry’s longing admiration for the stilted glitz of Golden Age cinema is transparent all throughout the album, even amid the futuristic imagery and cacophonous experimental penchants.

The track “2HB” is the most glaring example. Discreetly abbreviated from “To Humphrey Bogart,” the song is an unabashed tribute to Humphrey Bogart and his role in the celluloid classic Casablanca in particular. Lyrically, “2HB” incorporates dialogue from the film while the sax melody provided by Mackay is lifted from “As Time Goes By,” a central musical piece in the film.

The band’s appreciation for motion-picture memorabilia is felt where it isn’t outrightly declared. “Chance Meeting” plays like a despairing solo scene following act one of a Depression-era musical, before Eno’s sonic trickery intensifies the lament and drags it into the realm of feverish nightmare. The gang-vocal harmonizing and whimsical ratchet-and-clapper percussion on “Bitters End,” which closes out the record, vaguely evoke a pre-war barbershop setting. The medley “The Bob” inspires a variety-show mood, with each section separated into differing segments, structured in the manner of an orchestral suite.

Roxy Music outlasted the fleeting mania of ’70s glam rock by revising it to fit their image, rather than vice versa. And accordingly, their debut album is a triumph not just for how it shines amid the fad, but also in how it could just as easily be argued with that it belongs nowhere near such a thing.

1 T-Rex, Hot Love February 1971

Marc Bolan’s third huge hit in a row, No 1 for four weeks. His Top of the Pops performance showed him going truly imperial, with flying-V guitar, pink trousers, silver jacket and, prompted by his friend and colleague Chelita Secunda, glitter on his cheekbones.

2 David Bowie, Queen Bitch December 1971

“There should be some real unabashed prostitution in this business,” Bowie told Cream magazine in late 1971. He did his best to make it happen with this Velvet Underground tribute, saturated in homosexuality and Manhattan sleaze. Mick Ronson’s guitar slices through everything.

3 Alice Cooper, School’s Out April 1972

From Detroit by way of LA, these hard rockers had been wearing makeup and frocks since 1969, so were well-suited to the glam imperative. School’s Out was a definitive entrant in the teenage rampage stakes and scored hard with the kids, hitting No 1 for three weeks in the summer holidays.

4 Roxy Music, Virginia Plain August 1972

With Bryan Ferry’s ultra-stylised performance and Eno’s other wordly synth shrieks, this one definitely arrived from Planet Mars in the late summer of 1972. Chock-full of pop art and pop culture references, Virginia Plain was nothing less than a manifesto for a new age: “So me and you, just we two, got to search for something new.”

5 Mott The Hoople, All the Young Dudes July 1972

Bowie may have provided the raw material, but Mott gave the definitive performance of this generation-defining song, with its sneering reference to the Beatles and the Stones. The musicians curled and uncurled around Ian Hunter’s snarling voice: “Oh is there concrete all around/ Or is it in my head.”

6 Lou Reed, Vicious November 1972

Another Bowie production, and another career revival. Vicious begins Reed’s second solo album in exactly the way that you would wish, with the poet laureate of Manhattan spitting out the Warhol inspired lyrics – “Vicious: you hit me with a flower” – while Mick Ronson, cutting through everything, embodies the song’s threat.

7 David Bowie, The Jean Genie November 1972

Bowie reached back to his 60s R&B days with this one, based on the old I’m a Man riff but updated with Ronson’s buzzing guitar, burlesque rhythms, gay double entendres – his by-now patented patch. The band did a fantastic Top of the Pops performance, recently rediscovered.

8 Slade, Cum On Feel the Noize February 1973

This was their fourth No 1 in 18 months, which gave guitarist Dave Hill an excuse – as if he needed it – to wear ever more outrageous outfits on Top of the Pops. An anthemic chorus and a lyric that’s a direct invitation “to get wild, wild, wild”.

9 Roxy Music, Editions of You March 1973

“For Your Pleasure” – with model and singer Amanda Lear on the cover – is one of the period’s few coherent albums, and this 120mph rocker is one of its hidden pleasures: a camp-saturated male bonding song, featuring ooohs, sirens, and the immortal line, “boys will be boys will be boyoyoys”.

10 Bonnie St Claire, Clap Your Hands and Stamp Your Feet May 1973

With its stomping tunes and rock’n’roll roots, glam was huge on the continent – blending, as it would, into Europop – and this is a great entrant from Holland, featuring Beach-Boys’ style backing vocals, terrace handclaps, and of course the ever-present Chuck Berry riffs.

11 T-Rex, 20th Century Boy May 1973

It could have been any of the four top-two hits that T-Rex had in 1972 – particularly Metal Guru – but this was the toughest of them all: a furious rocker with a heroic riff that showed, plain for all to see, just how well Bolan understood the nature of pop fame – 20th century toy, I wanna be your boy.

12 Iggy and the Stooges, Search and Destroy June 1973

Iggy wore silver, the Stooges were produced by David Bowie, the record sounded glam – all treble tones and slicing guitar – but Search and Destroy, like its parent album Raw Power, went much further and deeper than hardly anyone wished in 1973. Three years later, it would find its time.

13 New York Dolls, Trash July 1973

Simultaneously ludicrous and tough, sloppy and hard, vicious and tender – just listen to those soaring, girl-group harmonies – Trash was, along with Jet Boy, the Dolls‘ big pop move. It being 1973, of course, there could only have been one question: “Uh, how do you call your lover boy?” In the US, they didn’t answer.

14 The Sweet, The Ballroom Blitz September 1973

The Sweet were on a roll after Blockbuster and this may well be the archetypal glam song: teenage hysteria – check; camp interjections and beyond over the top TV costumes – check; a stomping beat, tough guitar riffs and a fey vocal – check. Unstoppable and still thrilling: the contrived becomes real.

15 Mud, Dyna-Mite October 1973

Written by the Sweet svengalis, Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, “Dyna-Mite” stays firmly within the ballroom – glam’s central location – during this relentless stomper. Mud yocked it up on Top of the Pops with ludicrous flares and a spot of aceing – the biker’s dance, shoulder to shoulder – and the future Sex Pistols were listening.

16 Suzi Quatro, Devil Gate Drive January 1974

Quatro had gold-plated garage credentials – her first band, the Pleasure Seekers, had recorded What a Way to Die in 1966 – and this, her fourth hit (No 1 for two weeks), mixes rock’n’roll with a hint of the Burundi beat, while continuing the explosive club/ballroom theme of the time with a hint of autobiography.

17 Sparks, This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us April 1974

Sparks were the late great glam flash: tricky, artificial, super-hooky and high-concept, with a hard rocking band and definitive high gloss sleeves. They took a song with the lyric “you hear the thunder of stampeding rhinos, elephants and tacky tigers” all the way to No 2, and made it seem natural.

18 David Bowie, Rebel Rebel US version May 1974

Bowie’s goodbye to the youth movement he had helped to form – “You’ve got your mother in a whirl, because she’s not sure whether you’re a boy or a girl” – and his last top 10 hit for 18 months. This US mix has dreamy backwards harmonies, extra percussion and phased guitar.

19 Iron, Virgin Rebels Rule June 1974

Almost all the great glam records were hits, but this is one of the best that wasn’t: an abrasive slice of Sweetarama from a Scottish band, who toughened up the teenage-rampage meme while wearing Clockwork Orange-inspired costumes. The singer had a padlock on his crotch with the legend: “No Entry.”

20 Sweet, The Sixteens July 1974

A four-minute mini-opera on the theme of failed youth revolution, and a summer top-10 hit, this shows the renamed group – having lost the definite article – rising to the song’s complex structure with a totally convincing performance. The Sixteens is a classic of teen disillusionment, at the point of glam’s supersession.

A Melody Maker ad placed for the band Roxy Music

Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry placed  this ad in a 1971 issue of Melody Maker for “The Perfect Guitarist” wasn’t picky. Prospective musicians were only asked to be “original, creative, adaptable, melodic, fast, slow, elegant, witty, scary, stable, tricky.” And just in case “The Perfect Guitarist” read a little vague to you, Ferry’s advert also stated. “QUALITY MUSICIANS ONLY.” Around 20 guitar players answered the call, including Phil Manzanera, who didn’t make the cut — former The Nice axe-man David O’List got the job. Phil Manzanera accepted a roadie job with Roxy Music instead. But David O’List soon quit after a confrontation with drummer Paul Thompson, and the enterprising Manzanera had learned all Roxy Music’s art-glam material on the down low. Guess who got the gig next?