A Brief Timeline of The History of Glam Rock – The Hippie Shake
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A Brief Timeline of The History of Glam Rock

by Ben Hession 20 Dec 2023
Words by Camilla Whitfield 

With the exciting release of our On Tour ’74 collection, we thought that it’d be fitting to do a whistle-stop tour of how Glam rock has evolved through the ages.
 When you think of contemporary seventies fashion, compelling and stylish mini series such as Daisy Jones & The Six, and global fascination, Maneskin, may spring to mind. With flamboyant clothing aplenty and a tendency to play with gender roles, glam Rock burst onto the scene in 1970 in all its outrageous glory. Many fans of the time warmly recount wearing tall platform shoes, flares, and a great quantity of glitter. It was self-glorifying and decadent, allowing people to forge new identities under this new brand of escapism. It distorted the previous distinct boundaries between reality and performance art. According to music critic Robert Palmer, they were “rebelling against the rebellion”. The music became a riff-heavy blend of pop and rock, where guitars were on the heavier side. Despite fading out following 1974, traces have remained throughout the following decades with current bands such as Generation and Picture Parlour, still flying the flag.


The Beginning

Glam Rock started with as much explosive energy as The Big Bang in the early 1970s. Fuelled by both a reaction and appreciation for the English psychedelic and art rock scenes of the late 1960s, it was also based on pop culture, 1950s rock and roll, and bubblegum pop. While The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin were around, it was Marc Bolan who was the true pioneer of the glam Rock movement. Originally named Mark Field, Bolan founded T.Rex in 1967 and built upon the work of Chuck Berry and Little Richard. After performing ‘Hot Love’ on the revered television series Top of the Pops, while sporting glitter tears, he fully set the wheels in motion for a legacy that would outlive him and last for over 50 years. Also known for sporting a feather boa, you can get the look with our Gimme Some Lovin Orange Faux Fur Scarf. 

1970 - 1974

 If Marc Bolan was the father of Glam, then David Bowie was the King. Owing part of his inspiration to Andy Warhol, he sported more of an androgynous look for his Ziggy Stardust era with an iconic rainbow-coloured suit, make-up, and red mullet hairstyle for Top of The Pops, during ‘Starman’. Putting his arm around his guitarist Mick Ronson was a controversial move at the time and sent shockwaves around the country. In an interview with the New York Daily News, David Bowie said: “glam really did plant seeds for a new identity. I think a lot of kids needed that.” Someone who others describe as America’s answer to David Bowie and would likely agree with this statement is Iggy Pop. He adorned himself in glitter and often went shirtless, as one of the most important accessories in a Glam Rocker's arsenal is surely a bulletproof layer of confidence. Often branded as a mix of Glam and shock-rock, Alice Cooper’s long hair and more feminine stage name were obvious nods to the genre-bending nature of the time.
 
 
Still fondly remembered with a flamboyantly dressed Freddie Mercury at the height of Glam in the 70s, Queen wore it all - from spandex and fur to feathers and sequins. It was theatrical and broke down any perceived barriers, continually challenging rock masculinity. Previously having adopted more of a Skinhead look, during the seventies Slade adopted jackets made of silk, sported an abundance of hair, and their costumes became increasingly colourful.

 Usually associated with bedazzled sunglasses and glittering outfits, Elton John certainly toyed with glam rock at the beginning of his career. If you fancy recreating his look, make sure to pick up a pair of our Born To Boogie Sequin Flares, and Planet Queen Black Sunglasses.
 Sweet were known for their eye-catching looks, from metallic jumpsuits and long locks to platform boots, their Top Of The Pops performances became legendary. Often in jumpsuit flares, metallic accents, animal print, and platform boots, Roxy Music owed a lot to designer Anthony Price, especially for their debut look. Within a similar vein, Lou Reed leaned into Glam Rock with black-painted fingernails, makeup, and bleached hair to complete the look.

Perhaps one of the more outlandish dressers, Wizzard’s Roy Wood wore multicolored hair adorned with face paint, red check trousers, and a blue and red waistcoat on Top of the Pops for ’See My Baby Jive’ in 1973.

 1975 - 1979

 The comedic stylings of Steel Panther with the exaggerated nuances of Glam-rock might come to mind, however, the genre became increasingly serious and foreboding as time went on, at least according to Bowie. The film Tommy with Elton John as the ‘Pinball Wizard’ has remained a cultural stronghold due to its core message of self-acceptance. Released in 1975, it was centered around the “cocky pinball champion of the world in four-and-a-half-foot high boots”.
By this time, however, the counterculture of punk and metal was rising. Kiss combined the basis of Glam Rock with a heavy dash of metal and styled themselves with heavy black and white makeup. Despite punk sweeping the nation, there was an undeniable element of Glam present in Adam Ant’s vocals in Adam and the Ants’ Dirk Wears White Sox(1979). Rolling Stone described Ant as "the campiest figurehead of the New Romantic moment". Interestingly, people also perceived links between the public’s fascination with him and the Glam Rock of Marc Bolan and David Bowie. Billy Idol’s Generation X was also riding the punk wave, but their track ‘Promises Promises’, released in 1978 had more of a Glam-rock charge. Idol was often seen in leather, chains, and a small addition of makeup to enhance his eyes and cheekbones.

 We started to see the emergence of more women in rock too. Frontwoman of Blondie, Debbie Harry’s iconic look was a platinum shag with disco Glam makeup but was also known to be an androgynous character. This is best witnessed in an outfit worn in 1977 of combat trousers, an aviator jacket, and a buttoned-up shirt. Kitted out in metallic jumpsuits and platform boots, The Runaways also incorporated a nod to the Glam of the past. Always dressed to dazzle, Stevie Nicks is the embodiment of bohemian glam Rock - a penchant for lace gloves, luxe velvet, and a shag cut are only a few reasons why her style remains at the top of many people’s Pinterest boards today.


1980s

Taking a genre-bending turn in the 1980’s, we saw the rise of hair-metal which built on the exuberant premise of glam Rock. Popular bands such as Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi, Hanoi Rocks, Mötley Crüe, Twisted Sister, and Poison were all glam-inspired. Described as being “deliberately sexually ambiguous”, Boy George mixed multiple genres and was truly vibrant in his dressing. Similarly, Prince had a brand of hypersexual fluidity, which hadn’t been seen before glam. Many more female artists such as Madonna and Kate Bush, became more prevalent after glam and by their own admission, took influence from it.  

 1990s 

Rising on the cusp of the late 80’s and early 90’s Skid Row, carried on the hair metal genre. Although the emergence of grunge and Britpop did signal the end of this era, it is largely thought that hair metal was reaching self-extinction anyway. Influenced by The Smiths and David Bowie, Suede paved the way for the Britpop movement. Their track ‘Metal Mickey’ certainly had a glam feel. Their remastered track music video featured androgynous dressing with ruffles, silk blouses, and a lick of makeup. At their commercial height in the ’90s, Pulp’s sound was described as a mix of David Bowie and Roxy Music but their fashion style was more of a nod to Suede and Sweet - frontman Jarvis Cocker loved the 70’s frilly shirt style, we’re sure he’d approve of our Let The Good Times Roll Cream Floral Ruffle Blouse.

2000s - Present

The compilation CD released in 1999, aptly titled, glam rock (At It’s Very Best), may signify the apparent demise of glam rock at the time. However, a modern revival was brewing behind the scenes and we can still feel that legacy today. With long hair, flares, and metallic elements, The Darkness is one of the best recent glam rock bands, encapsulated with their hit ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’. Mixing burlesque, drag queens, and glam rock, the Scissor Sisters also cited Bowie and 1970s Kiss as influences, and their outfits were certainly spectacular. Lady Gaga has often stated how Bowie inspired her and her theatricality is second to none.
Emerging bands are continually putting their stamp on glam rock. With a nod to androgynous dressing with layered jackets, check trousers, and flares, Picture Parlour’s style is as glam and fearless as their music. Described as a blend of ‘androgynous, glitter punk rock and roll’, Starbenders are partial to an overtly glam style. Italian rock band Maneskin has also grabbed the torch for rock with a vigorously glam attitude, most clearly shown through their carefully styled outfits that transcend all gender expectations with flair. Commanding almost a cult-like fanbase, Palaye Royale offers an inherently glam element to anything that they do, whether it be through their makeup or theatrical stage performances. Often spotted wearing leather flares, crop tops, lace, and platform boots, Liverpool’s punk-rock band Generation is a lesson on how to channel your inner glam rock for the 21st Century. Other bands such as Walt Disco, The Last Dinner Party, and Jemma Freeman and The Cosmic Something, are also making impressive waves in the genre.

What began as makeup and over-the-top dressing, paved the way for new musical styles that allowed others to explore their identity and sexuality in a way that was comfortable for them. It offered a much-needed celebration of individuality, and while it may not have opened many avenues for women until the rise of the punk era, the initial challenging of the patriarchy made room for further change. Beyond glam’s dazzlingly flashy surface lies real heart - true glam is epitomised by strength and confidence.
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