Three years have now passed since I wrote the History of Glam. So has my prediction come true? Did the 21st century witness the glam revival?
With the charts stuffed to the gunnels with pop idols and flop idols, banal boy bands, ghastly girl groups and sundry other manufactured muppets, what chance was there for music with balls - let alone make-up and a perm? Hell, even the rock was manufactured, with guitar poppets Busted one of the biggest success stories of 2003. Nu-metal (eugh!) continued to flourish, with the likes of nu-old school stalwarts Linkin Park and nu brats on the block Good Charlotte, Blink 182 and Sum 41 making regular assaults on the Top 40 with their tedious punk by numbers tunes.
And yet style wise, the 1980s had never been more popular. Single strap tops, stiletto shoes in garish shades of green, yellow and fuchsia pink, tacky plastic jewellery and even, God help us, leggings were everywhere. '80s has-beens desperately cobbled together stadium tours and released yet more 'best ofs', whilst up and coming acts like the Sugababes shamelessly plundered the electrobeat back catalogue for a sassy new sound. What was the Christmas Number One this year? A Tears for Fears cover, for crying out loud!
It was only a matter of time before glam rock made a comeback, and whaddaya know... it has.
First up we had the Strokes who, though not entirely my bag, certainly set a good precedent. Four callow New Yorkers with Rod Stewart haircuts and sulky attitudes, they played sloppy, New York Dolls style punk rock in perfectly crafted three minute slices and the whole world went crazy for them. Their debut album, Is This It?, sold by the bucketload and was hailed as, like, the best album in the world ever - and it was only 37 minutes long! And of course in their wake came a veritable plethora of like-minded 'The' bands, all surfing precariously on the wave of the Strokes' success: the Libertines, the Vines, the Rapture etc etc - same feathered haircuts, same scowling attitude, and almost as much hype.
The Strokes may not have been glam in the posturing, poodle-haired Poison sense of the word, but they expressed '70s glam sensibilities, and as such opened the way for the band who would truly put the cock back into rock: the Darkness.
Hailing from the decidedly unrock'n'roll town of Lowestoft, the Darkness, by dint of hard work and almost supernatural self-belief, became the biggest band of 2003 in the UK. Having stormed the festival circuit (even if their Glastonbury slot was at 10 o'clock in the morning), their debut album, Permission To Land, went straight to number one and has just gone platinum four times. Radio 1 and the NME utterly adored them and they appeared on every TV music show on the box. They've received a staggering four nominations for the Brit Awards this year - in fact a new category, Best Rock Act, has been invented specially in order to furnish them with yet another gong for the mantelpiece.
And this for a band with a dentally challenged frontman who prances around the stage clad in shiny spandex jumpsuits split to the waist whilst singing in a falsetto voice only dogs can hear, a rather more sober guitarist who has to be surgically removed from his trademark Thin Lizzy T-shirt and a bassist who looks like a 1970s porn star come to fix your fridge. And they're the biggest band in Britain? Suddenly Fat Michelle winning Pop Idol doesn't seem so bizarre…
Ah, but have you seen them live? Because therein lies the secret of the Darkness' success: like AC/DC, Queen, Skid Row and all the other great bands they've been compared to, they're absolutely fabulous on stage. Their promoters could quite safely issue tickets with money back guarantees, because I would challenge anyone to see them live and not come away a convert. And if you don't believe me, check out my review of their set at Guilfest, which is when I saw them first. Fantastic.
Many have called their approach 'ironic' but that's just because they don't want to admit to the fact that they actually like a cock rock band. Oh sure, the band's lyrics are decidedly tongue-in-cheek (guess what the ballad 'Holding My Own' turns out to be about?) and their all out assault on the Christmas Number One slot was an unashamedly cynical exercise in media manipulation, but when it comes to making music, they are utterly sincere.
The band themselves fear they could be on the verge of an enormous backlash, but believe they are strong enough to ride it out, and I certainly hope they do. Writing a second album to follow a critically acclaimed debut is notoriously difficult (how long did it take GN'R to follow Appetite? Although some would argue that Appetite has never been followed, but that's another story…). I just hope the Darkness have the balls to repeat the success of Permission To Land without simply repeating the songs.
In the meantime, I and rock fans across the nation owe them a huge debt of gratitude, because thanks to the Darkness, rock is now firmly back on the agenda. Rock pubs and clubs are opening up all over the country and half my wardrobe is suddenly quite trendy. Last month I bought a Motörhead T-shirt in über trendy boutique Cult - what's that all about...?Live 2003 | Live 2004 | Live 2006 | The Darkness official website
Well, that was me in 2003: the glass of Jack is always half full, ey? To be fair, for a while it did look as if glam could make a serious comeback. With exciting new bands bounding onto the local circuits, the continued popularity of more established acts (okay, 'old codgers') and, of course, the rebirth of Hanoi Rocks and the critically acclaimed comeback of the remains of the fabulous New York Dolls, it seemed that rock was back where it should be: if not on top, then at least growling and gurning, posing and preening in the wings (and even on Celebrity Big Brother, but the less said about that the better...).
In fact, the mid-noughties saw what I once optimistically described as:
'A veritable glam resurrection... revival... nay, even rebellion, with old glam hands like Faster Pussycat, Vain and GN'R dusting down their cowboy boots and squeezing into the PVC breeks once more. Meanwhile, exciting young whippersnappers like Brit brats Kid Ego, Peep Show and Towers of London and Scando glammies like The Ark and Hardcore Superstar are preparing to elbow the old dudes off the stage with their brash new brand of 21st century cock rock cool. Yes siree, say 'sleazy' and smile because glam is back. It's young, it's beautiful, it's sexy and it's here. And this time, it's not allowed to smoke on stage. Rock'n'roll...'
Okay, who was I trying to kid? Let's be honest, glam may have garnered a modest new wave of teenybop fanz (and yes, I wish my hair had looked that good at their age too - no purple panscrub fringes for the all new baby glam generation!) but it's never going to elbow aside the likes of Leona Lewis and Beyonce, now is it? As for the Darkness - splitters!
Yes, we can rage against the X-Factor machine all we like (while still becoming shamefully caught up in the drama) but, Saturnalia miracles aside, the days of rock bands breaking into the top ten are long gone.
Already, sadly, while big guns like Crüe and Bon Jovi continue to haul their lucrative asses around the world, Rolling Stones stylee, the local scene seems to have fallen into abeyance somewhat (I blame the lack of drummers - someone should set up a grant scheme for them). But we of the old school will not falter. We will carry the glam flame onwardsand upwards into whatever the 2010s are going to be called and, like a zippo in the wind, we will not let it blow out. After all, if Alice and David Johansen can still rock, there's really no excuse for the rest of us...