Shock And Awe: Glam Rock And Its Legacy

Simon Reynolds

This substantial book - almost 700 pages - was a very welcome surprise birthday present from my good friend and all-round Bowie nut Brian. It's nothing if not thorough in its coverage of the subject, covering the bands themselves and reaching out into all sorts of related areas to examine the wider impact glam rock had on the music that followed.

So, who was "glam"? The inside cover lists the artists covered. It's a short list - and of the twenty-six names, a quarter aren't glam at all, but formative influences, broadly concurrent acts or later ones. There's about half a dozen bands that could really be considered "glam" - and of these, David Bowie, whose name runs through the book as if it was a stick of rock, is arguably not glam anyway, and certainly not after about 1973.

There's plenty of material about the core glam bands - primarily the ChinniChap acts - and lots about the Bowie adoptees Mott The Hoople, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. But despite the length of the book, I'm left with the impression that, actually, there wasn't much of an impact at all. Glam rock was a short-lived phenomenon in a small environment. In much the same way that punk was primarily a well-publicised but very localised movement, glam created a lot of media fuss for all the usual reasons - outrage, novelty - but surprisingly little output or lasting effect.

It's an interesting, if somewhat rambling, read, and I enjoyed it, but am left with the feeling that there's a shorter, more relevant book struggling to get out.

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