Glam – A history

So today I thought I’d briefly talk about the glam movement, which started out with glam rock but really can be applied to anything at all. It’s a really cool concept too, and something that I think a lot of people don’t quite get. Most of the time glam is associated with glam rock or glam metal, and you see it and think of big hair, fashionable androgyny, tight clothes, lots of shiny surfaces, etc. And really, on the surface that is what you see, but it’s not what it’s about.

To start with, let’s look at the word “glam”. We don’t tend to think about it, but it’s obviously short for glamor. So when it started back in the day with glam-rock, people were using the word to describe a type of rock music that was glamorous due to the nature of the way it was presented. If we look at Wikipedia (what other references do people use these days? Encyclopedia Britannica? I think not!) the first musician to adopt this style was Marc Bolan, a British rocker. He had a two piece band called TYRANNOSAURUS REX holy shit that is awesome.

RRAAAGGGHHHHH!!!

Anyway this started the whole glam rock era made famous by musicians like Bowie, Gary Glitter, Elton John, Queen, Kiss and so on and so forth.

From this glam-rock influence, other genres adopted the glam style and made it their own. For example Gary Numan, a synthpop band, still styled himself in a very glam way despite his music not being rock at all. In recent years we still have glam styled bands like Marilyn Manson, which fall more into the genre of glam metal, although his Mechanical Animals era style was a direct reference to Bowie and Ziggy Stardust. He even took the androgyny thing so far that rumors still go around that he had a sex change and breast implants.

I wonder why?

Another band that comes to mind is Rammstein, the german industrialists. From simulated sex acts between the members of the band, to dragon masks that shoot fire, they are known for their industrial take on glamor that is decided darker, but still embraces the concept of making a traditional genre more glamorous.

in their own twisted way

All this leads me to my main point about glam, which so far hasn’t been touched on. We all recognize it, and probably think it’s quite cool, but we don’t really know how or why. And until recently, I was as much in the dark as you, dear reader. Then I happened to come across a quote by one of the members of Daft Punk which really illuminated the concept for me. When asked on whether the duo expressed themselves differently within their robotic suits, Bangalter (one of the two members) stated “No, we don’t need to. It’s not about having inhibitions. It’s more like an advanced version of glam, where it’s definitely not you.”

To me this is a revelation. What he’s saying is that glam is what it says it is, it’s a glamorized version of whatever it is you are adapting, including yourself, IE it’s not really you. It’s like a cool version of you, or the version of you you’ve always wanted to be, it can almost be like creating a character and assuming the persona of that character to act out your desires etc. I guess the difference that it made to me was that it means that glam is less about the outrageous outfits and hair, and more about the creating of an alternate personality or image to act out in some way. In that way you could apply the concept of glam to almost anything, and having understood what it is, utilise perhaps in a way that others havn’t. For example I would feel confident in saying that comedian Noel Fielding is a glam comedian, both in terms of his personal style, but also in the way his personality as perceived by the general public is almost larger than life.

larger than life

All the artists I’ve mentioned above are perfect examples of this, say Manson (real name Brian Hugh Warner) for instance. He is a real person, and has a certain personality. But through his on-stage persona of Marilyn Manson, he can act out a different personality, a wilder, cooler, larger than life personality that people can focus their appreciation of the music on, and perhaps project themselves onto a bit. A good way to put it perhaps is that he tries to personify the music in a way he couldn’t otherwise, by becoming more than a musician, a literal interpretation of the music perhaps. I hope this is making sense.

Another example is Bowie, and in fact he really did assume different personae. He started with Ziggy Stardust and then moved onto the Thin White Duke, both variations of his personality he wanted to explore or highlight. The same goes for Kiss, Rammstein, and countless others, and in fact in some small way I would say that almost all musicians in some way employ the principle of glam to play up their image. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that glam is the definitively glamorous image of a person or group.

And here endeth the lesson.

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1 Response to “Glam – A history”


  1. 1 superiorbacteria 28/04/2010 at 9:35 am

    haha i like how you ended it.
    it did make sense.
    i think you miss school, this is like the shit we did at school which is probally why i don’t do blogs like this cause i finished last year and the nightmare of school is still slowly coming to an end.
    but its goooood its gooooood.
    nice work luigi
    hahahaha


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