Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Nardcore and the Slimey Valley

The classic Dr. Know logo and album art by Jaime Hernandez.

The punk rock music scene in Los Angeles grew out of a very tiny clique of Hollywood insiders known as “The One Hundred”.  Most of these people were intimately associated with the scene as either musicians, club owners, underground journalists, and so forth.  But starting in the late 70’s punk started flaring up in other places as well, most notably South Bay with the emergence of Black Flag, Redd Kross, the Descendents, etc.;  Orange County with the eruption of the suburban hardcore scene (Middle Class, the Adolescents, Social Distortion, China White, Circle One, T.S.O.L., etc.); and Venice Beach and the Dogtown scene (Suicidal Tendencies, Beowulf, No Mercy, etc.). 

By the early 80’s two other critical scenes had sprouted up in Southern California that would also burn brightly in punk circles:  Nardcore and the Slimey Valley scene.  Nardcore was centered on the community of Oxnard (which is located about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles), hence the name (though not all bands hailed from Oxnard), and quickly established itself as a northern counterpart to the Orange County suburban hardcore scene.  The bands played loud, fast, short songs that celebrated the intense, physical, blue collar nature of Oxnard and its surrounding area.  The nardcore lifestyle centered on surfing, skating, beer, and releasing aggression through intense and violet punk shows.  Many see the early nardcore scene as being one of the major evolutionary strands for the development of skate punk.  

In fact, one of the earliest nardcore bands was Aggression, whose members actually skated for the Sims team in the late 70’s.  In 1981 they formed their first incarnation of this band and in 1982 they’d hooked up with the Better Youth Organization, which formed in Hollywood around this time to promote a more positive image of youth and in particular punk culture in the wake of intense crackdowns by the LAPD and negative stories by Los Angeles journalists.  In addition to promoting punk shows at LA/Hollywood venues, BYO formed a record company to put out punk records and in 1982 they released Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In, a now legendary compilation of Southern California punk and hardcore.  Aggression had three songs on this compilation, “Intense Energy”, “Rat Race”, and “Dear John Letter”.  These songs were collected with 13 others onto their 1983 album (also on BYO Records) entitled Don’t Be Mistaken, which, astoundingly enough, is available on iTunes.  “Intense Energy” is, well, intense, sounding like the Adolescents but with a thundering, almost metal-like edge to the guitars that presages the work of future skate punk bands like Doggy Style and Crumbsuckers.  Another song the epitomizes the nardcore ethic is “Locals Only”, which was the rallying cry in many beach communities in Southern California in the early 1980’s as surfing exploded and breaks became hyper-crowded.  In Oxnard it was not unusual for visiting surfers to have their tires slashed, their leashes cut, or to be stabbed themselves.  “Dear John Letter” and “Rat Race” have a more traditional 70's English punk sound—they remind me of “Bored Teenagers” or “One Chord Wonders” by the Adverts.  “No Mercy” is a short (41 second) blast of speedy hardcore whose staccato, shouted vocals are similar to those of “Communist Eyes” or “We Must Bleed” by the Germs.

By 1983 another record label had sprouted up that began documenting the nardcore scene.  This was Mystic Records, founded by Doug Moody.  Two classic nardcore compilations were released by Mystic in 1984, Nardcore and Mystic Super Seven Sampler #1.  Aggression had two songs on the Nardcore compilation, “The Smell”, which is slower and more melodic than their other blasts of sound, and “Calling For You”, which is fast like “No Mercy” but longer, clocking in at almost four minutes. 

Another band that got some of its first exposure through these compilations was Ill Repute, who went on to be a standard bearer in the nardcore scene.  Repute has three songs on the Nardcore compilation, “President”, “Sleepwalking”, and “Its Not Gonna Happen To Me”.  “President” is classic skatecore, with a lightning rhythm and strong backing vocals.  Sleepwalking is a trifle slower but has the classic hardcore feel of bands like Jody Foster’s Army.  “Its Not Gonna Happen To Me” has a very catchy guitar line that sounds like early English punk but then lurches into a rumbling bass-driven sound. 

Ill Repute has three additional albums on iTunes, all more contemporary releases:  1994’s Big Rusty Balls, 1999’s Bleed, and 2000’s What Happened Then.  These albums are decent and keep the nardcore faith but to me don’t have quite the appeal their early work has.  I do, however, like the fast, silly “Oxnard”, with its shout-out to nardcore off What Happened Then; it reminds me a little of Black Flag’s “TV Party” with its shared chorus.

Stalag 13, another early nardcore band, has 2 songs on the Nardcore compilation, “Statistic” and “Do It Right”.  “Statistic” is short and fast but the guitar has an amazing, roaring edge to it that also characterizes several of their other songs and makes them one of my favorite nardcore bands.  “Do It Right” is slow, and almost jazzy in a Minutemen kind of way, definitely a departure from the standard nardcore sound.  Their 1984 album In Control (released on Alta Vista record label Dr. Strange) was reissued in 2006 and is on iTunes and is a classic slice of early 80’s hard/nardcore.  Many of their songs evince a straightedge vibe, with titles like “Clean Up Your Act”, “The Choice Is Yours”, and “In Control”.  “Clean Up Your Act” is one of my favorite tracks, its grinding guitar intro reminding me of “I Just Want Some Skank” by the Circle Jerks, but it then explodes into a speed of light blast before settling back into a lurching, sing-song verse, alternating between these disparate tempos throughout.  “No Excuse” starts with a rumbling bass like Black Flag’s “Slip It In” and again the guitars kick in with a refreshing roar.  This song more than anything reminds me musically of Damaged era Black Flag in its intensity.   Its this guitar bite that distinguishes Stalag 13 from lesser nardcore lights and makes them a standout act.

But perhaps the best known nardcore band was Dr. Know.  This band became legendary for two main reasons:  (1) the fact that their singer for a brief time was Brandon Cruz, a former child actor who achieved fame in the 1970’s family drama The Courtship of Eddie’s Father co-starring Bill Bixby (as the aforementioned Eddie’s father), and (2) the high quality of their album art, particularly the now-classic drawing of a punky blonde goth chick holding an inverted cross, which was done by famed graphic artist Jaime Hernandez (he of Love and Rockets fame; his brother Ismael played bass in Dr. Know).  “Circle of Fear”, off the Nardcore compilation, captures the classic early Dr. Know sound; a complex, churning wall of guitars anchored by rifleshot drumming.  The compilation Best of Dr. Know on iTunes contains some other good tracks, including “God Told Me”, “The Intruder” (which is also found on Mystic Sampler #1), and “Watch It Burn”.  But as much as I like these songs-, its hard not to agree with the reviewer on iTunes who says that without the Brandon Cruz connection its not clear if Dr. Know would have been remembered today.  Its ironic since I feel that the vocals (by Cruz or any of his replacements since he left in 1983) are probably the weakest part of Dr. Know; musically they play a tight (if not particularly memorable) form of hardcore but the vocals seem a trifle strident and weak.  But to anyone who lived in Southern California in the early 80’s, the Dr. Know logo, with the crossed R and spider in the o of “Know” was almost as ubiquitous and iconic as the Black Flag logo.  Visually they were definitely the most impactful of the nardcore bands.

Another legendary nardcore band with an acting/celebrity connection was R.K.L., which stood for “Rich Kids on LSD” (the band members hailed from the affluent Santa Barbara suburb of Montecito):  Actor Josh Brolin claimed in a New York Times interview in 2010 to have been a member, though he may just have been a very devoted follower of the band who occasionally joined them onstage for their intense and sloppy shows.  Three of their songs are on the Nardcore compilation, “U.S. Steal”, “Lies”, and “No Respect”.  These songs are decent, if fairly generic, hardcore.  “No Respect” is the better of the three.  The song “Evil In You” off the Mystic Sampler #1 compilation has shouted, incoherent vocals like Darby’s on the Germs classic “Manimal”.  The song I prefer by them is “Think Positive” off their Best of R.K.L. compilation which is on iTunes.  The shouted vocals remind me of Junkie XL and the song has a lurching rhythm that occasionally speeds into rapid blasts of noise.  They also do a somewhat lethargic cover of “Chinese Rocks” by Johnny Thunders.

Right down the road from Oxnard, another scene was forming at around the same time, in the LA bedroom community of Simi Valley, rechristened “Slimey Valley” by Mystic Records in their compilations It Came From Slimey Valley.  There were several bands that were from this scene, including Reign of Terror, Crankshaft, False Confession and Slaughterhouse 5, and songs by these bands were collected into the Slimey Valley compilations (one of which is available on iTunes).  My favorites are “Violent Children” by Reign of Terror, with its chugging metallic guitar line (which reminds me of “In My Hour of Darkness” by Megadeth) and “Prophecy” by False Confession.

The Slimey Valley scene had two bands that stood the tallest:  Scared Straight and the Flower LeperdsScared Straight was formed in 1983 by future MLB pitcher Scott Radinsky and friends.  They had two songs on the Nardcore compilation, “Skate To Live”, a classic slice of skate hardcore and a nardcore/Slimey anthem for the skater crowd, and “Peer Pressure”, which has a slow, noodling sound that reminds me of “Rat’s Eyes” by Black Flag off Flag’s Slip It In album.  In addition, 10 of their songs are compiled with the Slimey Valley compilation as a split album of sorts.  I like this band but I don’t LOVE them; they’re good and some of their songs are a little catchy but nothing is especially memorable here, though “Fight Back” is another good anthemic hardcore song. 

The Flower Leperds were the other standout Slimey Valley band, and one again whose logo adorned many a Southern California punk’s leather jacket in the mid- to late-80’s.  They have three songs available on iTunes from their classic period (along with a 1996 album from a later incarnation of the band).  “Preacher’s Confession” on the Mystic Sampler #1 and Slimey Valley compilations is a good anti-religion screed with strong vocals and solid music, and their cover of “Commando” by the Ramones is competent if somewhat forgettable off the Triple X Records 1991 Ramones cover album Gabba Gabba Hey (check out Keith Morris’ band Buglamp’s cover of “Sha-La-La (Howling’ At the Moon)”, Bulimia Banquet’s version of “Endless Vacation”, “Beat on the Brat” by Pygmy Love Circus or L7’s cover of “Suzy is a Headbanger” instead).  “Only Twelve Years Old” is not on iTunes but is on YouTube and is bludgeoning 80’s hardcore with an interesting guitar line.  The Leperds’ best song is the unbelievable “Death of Two Lovers” off the Slimey Valley compilation; this is fantastic fast-as-lightning melodic hardcore which again showcases singer Mark Olson’s hoarse, almost soulful vocals.  This is hands down the best song to ever come out of the Slimey Valley scene. 

Monday, June 13, 2011


Tim by the Replacements--one of the greatest albums ever recorded.

As I’ve alluded to in previous posts, for me personally the years 1984-1986 represented a massive transition in my musical tastes.  These years straddle my graduation from high school (in June 1985) and starting college.  To me its interesting to look at some of the albums I bought in 1984 and early 1985 and compare them to what I bought in 1985 and early 1986.  In 1984 I was still pretty heavily immersed in the sound of English new wave.  My favorite music was synth band new wave dance music and poppy mod/ska.  In addition to getting into Depeche Mode big time (see below), I also bought albums/12 inch singles by Bronski Beat (“Why” and “Smalltown Boy” were HUGE in the teen dance clubs that year), OMD (ditto with “Locomotion” and “Tesla Girls”), and the Psychedelic Furs (ditto again for “Heartbeat” but I also liked “The Ghost In You” and “Heaven”).  1984 was the year the English Beat broke up and Dave Wakeling and Rankin’ Roger formed General Public and released All the Rage. 

I also made occasional forays into English post-punk; for example, in 1984 I bought The Top by the Cure (I liked the song “Caterpillar”), Ocean Rain by Echo and the Bunnymen (I loved, and still do, “Silver”, “Crystal Days”, the psychedelic drug haze of “Thorn of Crowns”, and “Seven Seas”, but curiously was not particularly fond of what most people consider the best track on this album, “The Killing Moon”), Icicle Works’ eponymous debut album and Hatful of Hollow by the Smiths. 

Like all teenagers, I was also heavily influenced by regular pop:  I liked, and bought on cassette, Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA, Purple Rain by Prince, Madonna’s Like a Virgin, Reckless by Bryan Adams (I still love “Run To You” and “Summer of ‘69”) and Berlin’s Love Life in 1984, and in 1985 I continued this by buying Centerfield by John Fogerty and No Jacket Required by Phil Collins (I loved “Long Long Way To Go” and “I Don’t Wanna Know” but hated “Sussudio” and “Don’t Lose My Number”).

1984 was also the year I discovered Depeche Mode:  it was the year when I was really into the new wave dance clubs up in LA and first heard the industrial clang of “People Are People”; in spring of 1984 I bought the singles compilation of the same name, which introduced me to other Mode classics such as “Everything Counts” (still one of my favorite songs by them), “Told You So”, “Get the Balance Right”, and “Leave In Silence”.   In late 1984 Depeche Mode released their album Some Great Reward, which was my absolute favorite album that year.  For some reason their mix of pop, yearning love songs, and industrial clamor just really appealed to me.  My favorite song was “It Doesn’t Matter”, which combined all three of these elements as Dave Gahan croons a sweet testimonial to the evanescence of love while the music clangs and twitters prettily behind him. 

In 1985 Depeche Mode released a second compilation, Catching Up With Depeche Mode, and even though I already had most of the songs on it, I (and everyone I knew at my high school) bought it anyway because it contained their most recent single, “Shake the Disease”, which, similar to “It Doesn’t Matter”, is a delicate love ballad layered with chiming industrial backing.  I eventually bought the 12 inch extended remix of this on cassette at an import record store (I think it was Zed’s in Long Beach). 

In 1986 Depeche Mode released their followup to Some Great Reward, Black Celebration, on which they continued to meld baldly confessional romantic lyrics to industrial beats.  The title song ,  “Fly On the Windscreen”, and “Stripped” are perhaps Mode’s apotheosis of industrial sounds—they came close to their heroes Test Dept. and Einsturzende Neubauten here.  The intro to “Black Celebration” is the most beautiful melding of industrial synth play they’d done since “People Are People”.  But much of the album is in the mode of the simple ballad “Somebody” off Reward:  “Sometimes”, “Here Is the House”, “World Full of Nothing”.  The album ends with “But Not Tonight”, which I considered then (and still do now) to be one of their finest, most hopeful songs, a perfect optimistic counterpart to the depression and gloominess of “Black Celebration” and “Fly On the Windscreen”.   

But Black Celebration was my final Depeche Mode album; while I’ve respected their longevity and their forays into more conventional rock with albums like Violator and Music For the Masses, by the summer of 1986 I was going in my own musical direction.  As I mentioned in a previous post, sometime around 1983-1984 I watched the movie “The Decline of Western Civilization” on videocassette and soon after bought the soundtrack on cassette.  This was the first music I bought that can truly be considered punk (aside from my early purchases of the second and third Blondie albums, which many people don’t consider true punk anyway).  Initially I bought it for the belligerent antics of the group Fear, who made the biggest impression on me and my friends from the movie with their confrontational stage style.  But more and more I started listening to the other songs on the album, particularly the tracks by the Circle Jerks, Black Flag, and the by-then defunct Germs. 

My second-ever true punk musical purchase was 1984’s Change Today? by the seminal punk band T.S.O.L.  T.S.O.L. were from Long Beach and you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing “T.S.O.L.” spraypainted on walls or adorning black leather jackets.  In those days punk bands sprouted up around local beach communities and developed an almost gang-like devotion from their local adherents; bands like China White and the Blades, both from Huntington Beach, had similarly devoted fans.   At around this time I also purchased Sleep In Safety by the horror punk band 45 Grave. 

So as 1984 segued into 1985, my musical tastes were shifting form cutesy danceable new wave more and more to harder, more authentic punk.  But two albums in particular marked my permanent entrance into the world of post-hardcore American punk and independent music:  Zen Arcade by Husker Du and Tim by the Replacements.  I’ve already discussed Zen Arcade in a prior post, and how it blew me away with its sprawling ambition and incredible diversity.  Tim did the same exact thing for me; I still believe this is one of the greatest albums of the 80’s and of all time.    I was absolutely astounded by how good this album was.  What was even more astonishing is that it knocked my socks off even though at that time I had almost no appreciation for rootsy hard rock, which was what formed the basis of this album.  Like the Rolling Stones, the Replacements were well versed in musical Americana, and Tim showcases their explorations of everything from blues to folk to country.  There’s really not a single bad song on this album, but the highlights to me are “Hold My Life”, “Kiss Me On the Bus”, “Dose of Thunder”, “Bastards of Young”, “Left of the Dial”, and “Little Mascara”.  This was music to get drunk to, to get in a bar fight to, but also to cry in your suds to.  The emotional range was just astounding.  I can still remember the cassette of Tim taking up almost permanent residence in my mom’s Ford Capri when I borrowed it. 

It was around this time that I was also exposed to another seminal SST band, the Minutemen.  I saw the video for “King of the Hill” from their 1985 EP Project: Mersh and was shocked by the jazziness and funkiness of their sound.  I also loved their 40 second blast through Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” off their massive and highly touted Double Nickels on the Dime double album.

As mentioned in my post on SST bands, 1985 also brought me exposure to two other SST bands reaching their creative peak at this time:  in fall 1985 I saw the Meat Puppets in concert supporting their album Up On The Sun (their breakthrough album, Meat Puppets II, had been released in 1984).  While I never became a huge, rabid fan (probably because I’ve never been a huge fan of country music, and at this point the MPs’ music was very countrified, particularly live), I always respected them and their eclectic desert mix of punk, country, and psychedelia.  Instead it was Black Flag’s Slip It In that really cemented my love of American post-hardcore punk.  The looping, twisting, feedback-drenched solos Flag guitarist Greg Ginn unleashed (in combination with the roaring power chords) on the title track and “Black Coffee” blew away the last vestiges of my interest in English new wave and put me forever on the punk path. 

Several other releases I purchased in 1985 and early 1986 were along these same lines.  In 1985 Plan 9 released the Misfits retrospective Legacy of Brutality; this is still my favorite Misfits album and another album I consider the best of all time.  Also in 1985 the Jesus and Mary Chain released their amazing debut Psychocandy.  Its hard to convey how influential this album was at the time, but now looking back I see it as a real landmark.  Their mixture of sweet love song lyrics over feedback-drenched atonal music was really nothing the Velvet Underground hadn’t been doing in the 60’s, but in 1984-1985 the influence of the Velvets was arguably at its nadir.  Indeed, it was only with the release of the post-Velvets compilation VU that the Velvets returned to the musical map.  For people like me, it was primarily through the influence of bands like the Jesus and Mary Chain that I got into the Velvet Underground at all.  Just as important, J&MC also set the stage for a staggering array of followers, everything from the tortured wah sprawl of Dinosaur Jr., the art damage of bands like Sonic Youth and Big Black and Scratch Acid, to the 90’s indie shoegazing pop of bands like My Bloody Valentine and Blur. 

Another hugely influential 1985 release by an English band was Love by the Cult.  The fusion of post-punk musical mannerisms, intense, Doors and Stooges influenced psychedelia, and hard/arena rock was an absolute revelation.  I can remember “She Sells Sanctuary” being one of the hottest singles in the summer of ’85.  But so many songs on this album are outstanding, including “Nirvana”, “Big Neon Glitter”, “Love”, “Hollow Man”, and my all-time favorite Cult song, “Rain”.  In a year or two the Cult would move more forcefully in the metal/hard rock direction and release their under-rated followup, Electric, and the less well regarded Sonic Temple (wherein their metallic tendencies coalesced into stereotype). 

And 1986 saw the release of the Cramps masterpiece, A Date With Elvis.  This was another album that was HUGELY popular with me and my friends; its mix of punk and rockabilly and the raunchy, sex-drenched lyrics were incredible.  Side one of that cassette—“”How Far Can Too Far Go?”, “The Hot Pearl Snatch”, “People Ain’t No Good”, “What’s Inside a Girl?” and “Can Your Pussy Do the Dog”?—is still my favorite stretch of Cramps songs of all time.  Ivy’s guitar never sounded better than on “Hot Pearl Snatch”, and “What’s Inside A Girl?” might be the best x-rated rockabilly song ever recorded.

By early 1986 I too was moving in a more metallic direction musically myself.  It started when I got into English hardcore by buying Midnight Madness and Beyond by G.B.H. and Totally Exploited by the Exploited.  This was arguably as extreme as I got on the hardcore punk end of things in the day.  But these bands, like many 80’s punk-influenced bands, were now starting to incorporate more metallic aspects into their sound, and indeed the whole genre of crossover/thrash was emerging at around this time.  It was because of my love of these albums that I bought the first heavy metal album of my life:  Ride the Lightning by Metallica.  I’d read a couple of articles on Metallica, who were starting to achieve a major buzz as a support act on Ozzy Ozbourne’s 1986 tour.  In the article both the writer and the band discussed the influence of bands like the Misfits, Black Flag, G.B.H., Discharge and the Exploited on Metallica’s sound.  Deeply curious, I went and bought a Metallica album, but unfortunately for me I chose their heavily Iron Maiden-influenced second album, Ride the Lightning.  To me I could hear absolutely nothing punk about their music, it was pure heavy metal to me, and I basically put it away for a year or so, when I could better appreciate it.  I DID end up appreciating it a lot but I often wonder what might have happened if I’d started with their MUCH rawer and more punk influenced first album, Kill ‘Em All, which I didn’t end up buying until 1988 or so. 

In recent years the 80’s have undergone a renaissance of sorts.  For awhile there was a general feeling that the vapidity and greed of the Reagan years was reflected in music that was slick, over-produced and banal.  This is undoubtedly true for pretty much all 80’s hair metal, which represents a low spot in the history of rock.  And even a couple years ago NPR had a show about music where the guests debated whether the 80’s were the worst musical decade of all time, where many admittedly terrible musical crimes were presented as evidence, including “We Built This City” by Starship, “Broken Wings” by Mister Mr., and so forth.  Yes, these truly were awful songs by awful bands, but I would argue that every decade has its high points and its low points.  And to me, the mid-80’s saw a true plateau of musical high points.  Husker Du’s Zen Arcade, Tim by the Replacements, Black Flag’s Slip It In, Double Nickels on the Dime by the Minutemen, Up on the Sun by the Meat Puppets, Psychocandy by the Jesus and Mary Chain, Reckoning by R.E.M., Love by the Cult, and a Date with Elvis by the Cramps (as well as Project: Mersh by the Minutemen, In My Head by Black Flag, Flip Your Wig by Husker Du, Meat Puppets II by the Meat Puppets) all represent to me the pinnacle of 80’s music and reflect my own conversion from cutesy new wave dance and novelty songs to a more sonically nutritious diet.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Glam Nuggets

Geordie, circa 1973.  Future AC/DC member Brian Johnson is on the far left.

I recently read David Thompson’s fascinatingly comprehensive history of U.K. glam rock entitled “Children of the Revolution:  The Glam Rock Story1970-1975”.  This is a guy after my own heart—he’s clearly a passionate fan (he also has written many/most of the reviews of various glam albums on All Music Guide) with a connoisseur’s appreciation for the finest musical and sartorial aspects of the genre, but he’s also an almost obsessively detailed oriented documentarian who has spared no fact in this book.  Instead of being written in a narrative form, his book is essentially a chronology—he documents the essential glam rock singles and albums released month by month in the period 1970-1975 as well as TV appearances, concerts and tours, and other key events in the history of glam rock.  The level of detail is staggering—Thompson not only knows the band members, their prior musical histories, and so forth, he faithfully records the producers, songwriters, and labels.   An interesting fact I was not aware of is how glam rock in the U.K. was very much an impresario-driven genre:  many of the big players were not in fact the bands themselves but the songsmiths, producers, and studio heads who were often responsible for crafting not only the look but the sound of a stable of bands.  I was totally unaware that bands like the Sweet and Mud and even Suzi Quatro rarely wrote their own material but instead were fed a steady stream of songs that became hit singles by behind-the-scenes songwriters like Mike Chapman and Nicky Chin, who’s Chinnichap songwriting factory cranked out a huge number of eventual glam hits for these and other artists.  Chapman would go on to further fame as a record producer in the U.S., producing such memorable albums as Blondie’s Parallel Lines, the Knack’s Get the Knack, and “Love Is a Battlefield” by Pat Benetar. 

The other thing about Thompson’s book is how many super obscure glam artists he brought to my attention that I’d never have discovered if left to my own devices.  Many of the singles by these artists were collected into glam compilations that were released in the U.K. and which were like a 70’s English glam companion to the excellent Nuggets series of 60’s garage band compilations.   Unfortunately few of these appear to be currently commercially available (particularly in digital format) but a handful of songs have been uploaded to YouTube.  One such example is “She Moans” by Alan Lee Shaw, which starts, and is punctuated throughout, with a funky wah guitar that sounds like it was lifted straight from the “Shaft” soundtrack.  Shaw’s vocals remind me of Alvin Stardust’s on this song, and its driving, rollicking guitar and piano line evoke Bowie or the Dolls.  Shaw is an interesting character:  he went on to work with Twink of the Pink Fairies in the short-lived late 70’s punk band the Rings and also worked on albums by the Damned, the Lords of the New Church, and Rat Scabies.

Spunky Spider grew out of previous north London bands Peyton Bond and Steam Machine.  “She Won’t Come” starts with a whooshing blast of sound, followed by a honking, bluesy guitar riff, that reminds me of nothing so much as “Journey To the Center of Your Mind” by the Amboy Dukes but then settles into a chugging, stomping glam groove.  The vocals are really rough, sounding almost more punk than glam, and evoking such protopunk antecedents as the Groundhogs or Edgar Broughton Band.  “Perchance” sounds less like glam and more like late 60’s heavy blues like the Yardbirds or even the Flamin Groovies in their first, pre-powerpop mode. 

The Winkies straddled the line between glam rock and pub rock.  Vocalist Philip Rambow’s vocals on “Trust In Dick” (what was it about glam rock that let bands get away with such racy song titles?) sound like a cross between Steve Winwood and Graham Parker, while the music surges catchily along.  I could totally see Graham Parker or even Elvis Costello covering this song.  “Long Song Comin’” has a bluesy, faintly countrified early 70’s Stones-y feel that also borders on the blues licks of Johnny Thunders with the Dolls.  “Baby’s On Fire” has a snottier, more nasal vocal and a winking glam androgyny to the lyrics and music alike; this song was covered in the movie “Velvet Goldmine” by none other than Jonathon Rhys Meyers in his Ziggy Stardust persona.  The Winkies went on to achieve some fame as Brian Eno’s backing band for his first solo album, Here Come the Warm Jets, which contains “Baby’s On Fire” as well as the other classics “Needles in the Camel’s Eye” and “Paw Paw Blowtorch”.

One song I love is “Standing In the Road” by Blackfoot Sue.  This song has an incredibly catchy piano-driven backing with a propulsive, danceable beat and sweet Beatle-esque vocals; the entire package reminds me of some of the best songs of Badfinger, most notably “Come and Get It”.   I can imagine this being played at Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco in 1973 and getting all the preteens onto the dance floor.  Another, less successful single by them, “Sing, Don’t Speak”, has the big pounding drums that characterized hits like Gary Glitter’s “Do You Wanna Touch Me?” and a singalong, nonsense chorus that evokes the best of Mud or the Sweet.  “Glittery Obituary” has a similar feel but its alliterative, snarky vocals also evoke “Ballroom Blitz” by the Sweet.  “Get It All To Me” starts with a very funk/disco inspired intro but then settles into another stomping, catchy glam groove not dissimilar to Slade only without Noddy’s leather-lunged vocals. “The Spring of ‘69” combines the orchestral grandiosity of Queen with the heavy prog feel of bands like Jethro Tull; this is less overtly glam but still worth a listen on YouTube if only because it underscores their incredible range.  Not sure why these guys weren’t as big as some of the better known glam bands.

Bearded Lady were another almost-was.  Legend has it that they were almost signed by famed producer Mickie Most three different times but held out for more money.  They eventually settled into a residency at London’s Marquee Club and released one single, the bizarre but catchy “Rock Star”, with its strange, almost Yiddish chorus, which sounds like something out of “Fiddler On the Roof”. They remind me of a band that came slightly later, Doctors of Madness.

Iron Virgin achieved their first taste of fame with their cover of “Jet” by Paul McCartney and Wings, which I always thought sounded very  glammy.  The second release, “Rebels Rule”  has the stomp of the Glitter Band but the vocals sound like a 60’s throwback.  Still, it’s a fun, catchy teen rebellion anthem in the vein of the Sweet’s “Teenage Rampage” or “Hellraiser”. 

“Beautiful Child” by Spiv also has the classic Sweet sound:  stomping beats, siren-like guitar, catchy chorus.  Can’t find much more info on this band; the term “spiv” in English jargon refers to a criminal who deals with black market or stolen goods, similar to a “fence” in American slang.  Cool name.

Speaking of cool names, the Damned was the name not only of the much better known punk band but of a glam band as well (seems like too negative of a name for a glam band to me).  “Morning Bird” has a buzzsaw guitar, catchy rhythm, and vocals that sound exactly like Paul McCartney’s on Beatles hits like “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You”.

“Make Me A Superman” by Stumpy is a catchy slice of infectious glam pop in the same vein as “I Only Want To Be With You” by the Bay City Rollers.  Another Rollers inspired band was Portsmouth’s Hector.  “Ain’t Got No Time” has that catchy, slick Rollers feel but also draws from the sound of early 70’s U.S. bubblegum like that of Ohio Express and 1910 Fruitgum Company.  “Bye Bye Bad Days” sounds more like an amalgam of the edginess of the Sweet and the sweetness of the Bay City Rollers, with a touch of the Glitter Band stomp thrown in for good measure.

Newcastle’s Geordie (“geordie” is English slang for someone from the northeast of England, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne in particular) were clearly based on the Slade formula:  take music with a big stomping, catchy beat, and add one leather-lunged lead singer, and create bombastic glam ravers with a touch of blues.  Geordie achieved a small measure of fame in their day but were eventually better known for supplying their lead singer Brian Johnson to AC/DC after the tragic demise of Bon Scott.  “She’s a Lady” has a rollicking rock backbeat and toned-down vocals; it sounds like a slightly glammier, poppier version of some of the music Johnson made early on with AC/DC, like on Back In Black.  This is more catchy hard rock than true glam.  Much closer to the original glam formula noted above is “All Because of You”, which sounds like it was a single written for Slade.  Johnson’s vocals sound much more like what they were like with AC/DC while the music has the classic glam stomp but also hews to a blues ethic as well.  “Electric Lady” has the proto-heavy metal feel of 70’s American bands like Legs Diamond and Starz.

Finally, Cuddly Toys straddle the musical divide both sonically and chronologically between glam and punk.  Formed in 1977 from the punk band the Raped, they created music that drew heavily on both the futuristic glitter rock of Ziggy Stardust era David Bowie as well as the then-emerging postpunk goth sound of Bauhaus (with whom they played several shows; it should also be noted that Bauhaus themselves were heavily influenced by glitter Bowie and themselves covered “Ziggy Stardust”).  The epitome of this Bowie-meets-Bauhaus sound is their first single, “Madman”.  Several other singles by them are uploaded on YouTube but none of them are as memorably derivative as this to me.  The video for “Madman” has to be seen to be believed;  it took a lot of guts to get up on stage dressed in full-on Spiders from Mars get-ups in the year 1979.  Nobody else would cultivate this level of Ziggy obsessiveness until the early 90’s LA glitter band the Ultras adopted this look and sound. 

Like everything, glam rock eventually ran its course.  But in England glam rock was both musically and culturally a segueway into punk rock.  Both genres went against the popular grain of the times and reveled in songs that were short and simple.  Flamboyant glam icons like Bowie, Bolan, and Bryan Ferry were critical referential touchstones for many first wave punk artists.  Its just too bad glam never made it big in the U.S.