Ah, the 1980s. Stock Aitken and Waterman. Dynasty, The Colbys and Falcon Crest. Skin-tight, snow-washed jeans so tight they need zips at the ankles to get them on. Puff-ball dresses and ra-ra skirts, fingerless gloves and towelling socks. Yeah, yeah. We've all read those e-mails that circulate endlessly: you know you're a child of the 80s when...
But there's one '80s phenomenon that remains mysteriously absent from these electronic epistles. Something as typical of the decade of day-glo nail-varnish as shoulder pads and Fergie bows ever will be.
Picture the scene: it's 7 o'clock on a Thursday evening, you've finished your maths homework and you're just settling down on your beanbag chair with a nice can of Cherry Coke to watch Top of the Pops. And in between Madonna and some dodgy acid house track, you see them. Five or six long-haired men, clad in denim and leather and cowboy boots, crammed onto a tiny stage, miming drunkenly to their latest hit single.
But where did it spring from, this proliferation of poodle perms and posing pouches? Well, the (bleached) roots of glam lie buried deep in the heart of the history of metal. Allow me to excavate...
In 1969, four fresh-faced lads from Detroit formed the band which was to transform the face of rock music forever. A preacher's son called Vincent Furnier changed his name so that he sounded like a blonde '60s folk singer and, lo, a legend was born. Okay, so their early material was pretty terrible - not for nothing were they labelled 'the worst band in L.A.', the band that people paid to walk out on. But fast-forward to 1973, and already the band has produced four of the best rock albums ever. But it wasn't their music that created shockwaves across America so much as their outlandish appearances and outrageous on-stage theatrics. Blood spattered, dolls were beheaded, shop dummies were dismembered, a chicken plunged to a gory death... They were loud, sexy, rebellious and drunken. Worst of all: they wore make-up.
You know who it is yet?
As the lead singer himself is so fond of saying, the Alice Cooper band (doh!) 'drove a stake through the heart of the love generation.' But they did more than this...
They invented glam rock.
Meanwhile, across the water, a certain young David Jones had a similar idea, the idea of slapping on the war-paint and inventing a flamboyant stage persona whose outlandish spandex outfits, hedonistic antix and perfect rock'n'roll music would entertain, amaze and shock. (And, spookily enuff, prior to finding success under pseudonymns, both Alice and David Bowie were in bands called the Nazz. Wooooh.)
In the 1970s, glam rock was dominated by the likes of T-Rex, er, Wizard and Birmingham's most famous export after Cadbury's, the lovely Slade. Over in America, Kiss and Aerosmith led the field, closely followed by the decadent gutter sleaze of the New York Dolls and the high-kickin', guitar-lickin' antics of 'Diamond' David Lee Roth and Van Halen.
Then in the '80s, things began to change. The first true '80s glam band were the infamous Mötley Crüe who exploded onto the L.A. scene like a drugged up, dressed up cannon ball from hell, and proceeded to blag their way to fame and fortune via drug addiction, manslaughter and near-death experiences. More parent-friendly were the lovely Poison, whose cheesy choons and fluffy hair won them universal adoration from a loyal army of girlie fanz (cough.) And then of course there was Guns N' Roses (perhaps labelling them as glam is a tad cruel, but then again, look at Axl's hair in the 'Welcome to the Jungle' video...) And what about Hanoi Rocks, Finland's most famous export after that vodka with the reindeer on it that tastes like lighter fluid? Skid Row? L.A. Guns? Enuff'Z'Nuff? Vain? Faster Pussycat? Cinderella? Pretty Boy Floyd? Warrant? Tigertailz? The Quireboys? The Dogs D'Amour? The Kill City Dragons... The list goes on. So many bands, such a big hole in the ozone layer.
But then, disaster struck. And it smelt like teen spirit.
In 1991, an L.A. Band called Tuff, protegées of Poison's Bret Michaels, released a single called 'All New Generation', about the New Breed of glam bands. Tuff, like the All New Generation, never really happened. Bands such as Poison do at least possess the dubious honour of being has-beens. Tuff never even 'were'. Pitted against the likes of Faith No More, Nirvana and Mudhoney, they didn't stand a prayer. Glam metal died on its spandex-clad arse.
And it has yet to arise from its leopard-lined coffin, remaining a sadly under-rated, nay even derided phenomenon throughout the caring, sharing, luvved-up, mad-for-it, Ibiza-crazy 90s. Even bands such as Suede and the Manic Street Preachers, who started life at the turn of the decade with such eye-linered, feather-boaed, glittering promise, have degenerated into MOR adult indie. You only have to flick through the Rough Guide to Rock to realise in what a dim light glam metal is viewed. Most of the bands listed above are not deemed worth of a mention. Napalm Death (yes, you heard me: Napalm Death!!!) get a whole page to themselves; Mötley Crüe don't even merit a sentence. It's a cruel, unfair world and no mistake.
Now, however, ten years on, as the wheel of history turns and we begin to forget quite how horrible boiler suits and shoulder pads really were, the decade taste forgot is beginning to make a tentative comeback. But while denim skirts, aviator shades and button-heeled sling-backs are cautiously creeping back onto high street clothes rails, all us glamsters get is Bon Jovi. Not old, but older, as a track on their latest album claims. Of course, Alice is still going strong, and will continue to do so long after the rest of us have exchanged our PVC trousers for plastic pants of a different kind, but that's what happens when you sell your soul to Satan on The Muppet Show.
Still, who knows what the 21st Century holds in store? As the whirligig of time moves on, maybe glam will make a comeback yet. After all, Alice, Poison, Crüe and Mike Monroe have all got new albums out. AND they're selling pink glittery studded collars in Miss Selfridge, so there must be some hope...
As Aerosmith would say:
So, three years on, were my predictions correct? Did glam make up a comeback? Read about the glam revival here...