The Twisted Tale of Glam Rock

The Twisted Tale of Glam Rock

The Twisted Tale of Glam Rock

The Twisted Tale of Glam Rock


Covering four decades of music history, this engaging book explores a genre of pop music that has been overlooked, under-reported, and ineffectively characterized- but which nevertheless remains immensely popular.

• 10 images of prominent performers and groups from the history of glam

• A list of the top glam songs from each decade, chosen for their relationship to core glam concerns of identity, media, technology, theatricality, and gender issues


I am a deeply superficial person.

—Andy Warhol (1994)

Glam music has been around for over 30 years, and during that time it has lived a closeted life as rock and roll with lipstick or simply rock in costume. Glam was born out of the turbulent musical era of the early seventies, and it was called various things: theatre rock, glitter rock, shock rock, and gay rock. Most of these terms were derisive, but the form was durable and influential, and it inspired mtv and popular artists such as Madonna, the Cure, and My Chemical Romance. Its blend of theatricality, postmodernism, and identity politics make it a contemporary style that seems more at home with Madonna’s Confessions tour, rogue music labels selling groups through YouTube videos, Imax concert presentations, and American Idol–wannabe performers than at any time during its disturbing birth. It continues to captivate new fans through its mix of theatre, camp, and endless variety. For years it was ignored by the legitimate rock press and was routinely marginalized in the United States. However, after Dick Hebdige’s breakthrough Subculture, the Meaning of Style, in 1979, and Hebdige’s passing mention of glam as a prelude to the visual codes of punk rock, there has been a growing, fitful, and sometimes confused new interest in glam.

Scholarly and semi-scholarly descriptions of the music did not help it to be understood. Larry Starr and Christopher Waterman’s American Popular Music lauded David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust album but derided the music, saying, “the coherence of the album derives more from the imaginative and magnetic . . .

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