SHOCK AND AWE – GLAM ROCK AND ITS LEGACY by Simon Reynolds (Faber & Faber,2016)
“Got your mother in a whirl ‘cos she’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl” – David Bowie (Rebel Rebel)
“Even the greatest stars live their lives in the looking glass” – Kraftwork (Hall Of Mirrors)
“There’s something in the air of which we will all be aware yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah” – Sweet (Teenage Rampage)
“Whatever happened to the heroes?”- The Stranglers (No More Heroes)
It’s fair to say Glam Rock has never really been taken all that seriously. Being casually dismissed as a joke genre is partly what drove Simon Reynolds to write this impressively weighty tome.
In so doing, he proves that this musical phenomenon deserves to be more than just an amusing footnote in the story of popular music. The author doesn’t claim that all the music tagged as Glam (or Glitter is you’re American) is of a universally high standard yet, even at its most crass and commercial, Reynolds endorses the viewpoint of Noel Coward who once wryly observed : “It’s extraordinary how potent cheap music is”. Continue reading
Cover image of Retromania - my favourite book of 2011.
This was the year when Tory minister Michael Gove pronounced that, from the age of 11 up, we should read at least 50 books a year. I only managed to read about 40 this year – does that make me a dumbass?
These are the best books I read this year, needless to say, not all were published in 2011 and I wrote blog posts about them all:
Best fiction :
A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Point Omega by Don DeLillo
One Day by David Nicholls
Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell
The Hunger Games (parts one + two) by Suzanne Collins Continue reading
33 Revolutions Per Minute – A History of Protest Songs by Dorian Lynskey (Faber and Faber, 2010)
This is an ambitious, well researched and highly informative historical study of a strand of popular music that seems to be largely on the wane.
Nowadays, there are fewer and fewer artists willing to align themselves to political causes or identify themselves as protest singers.
There are notable exceptions like Billy Bragg or Steve Earle but there aren’t too many under 30 who take rebellion beyond the predictable statements of teenage angst or broad criticisms towards some vaguely defined authority.
Even on her magnificent anti-war album Let England Shake, PJ Harvey is careful to present her sentiments in emotional rather than political terms. Intelligent artists like Polly J are all too aware of the risk of being seen to be lecturing listeners; as Lynskey correctly observes “the biggest problem with protest songs is that they engender smugness”. Continue reading
I missed this song when it came out and am grateful to Simon Reynolds for bigging it up in Retromania. He describes it as “everywhere/everywhen pop [in which] utterly disparate sources cohere to gorgeously rhapsodic effect”.
Definitely a tune to cheer you up after a shitty day.
A shame there’s no official video, so you have to make do with a static image of the Contra album cover.
Related pingback link:
Retromania : the Future Is Not What It Was (mraybould.wordpress.com)