Though best known for a rousing rock anthem that has become a trademark sound at American sporting events, Gary Glitter was far from a one-hit wonder. His recording career began in the early days of rock and roll, and morphed through a hippie phase, glam rock, bad Seventies rock, finally, Eighties revivalism. But it may be for the wildly successful “Rock and Roll (Part II),” released in 1972, by which Glitter will be remembered. “Instantly nostalgic, but like nothing else on earth, ‘Rock and Roll’ cut though everything that was around that English summer, through the T. Rex sparkle and David Bowie sashay, through Slade’s patent stomp and Sweet’s candied pop,” wrote Dave Thompson in Goldmine, “and though it didn’t quite make #1, it hung around the chart so long there’s not another song on earth that recaptures the moment like [this] one.”
“Gary Glitter” was one of several aliases Paul Gadd used during his long recording career. Born in 1944— or, by some accounts, 1940—Gadd grew up in Croydon, a South London suburb, and as a young teen became enamored with the music of early rock pioneers like Elvis Presley and Ray Charles. His first performances came at a local club’s open-mike night, and though still a teen was easily hired for singing engagements in nightclubs. Some were swanky, but others were reputed gangster haunts. In 1958 Gadd formed his first band, Paul Russell and the Rebels; the Russell was his stepfather’s name. With them he cut his first record, “Alone in the Night”; it was not a hit, but by this point he was earning enough money on the nightclub circuit to move out into his own apartment; he was just fifteen.
Gadd changed his name to Paul Raven around 1960 and started touring England; the gigs, though sometimes a flop, helped get him signed with EMI subsidiary Parlophone the following year. He recorded a few singles, was halfheartedly promoted as “Britain’s first R&B singer,” then dropped. Gadd then worked as a session musician and even did commercial work to get by. His fortunes changed around 1965 when he came to the attention of Mike Leander, a noted production genius of the era along the lines of Andrew Loog Oldham (who worked with the Rolling Stones) and George Martin (sometimes called “the fifth Beatle”). Leander hired Gadd for the Mike Leander Show Band, another abysmal failure. But out of the ashes of this nine-piece band emerged Boston International, Gadd’s next back-up act. With them Gadd (as Paul Raven) toured Europe during late Sixties, achieving some minor success.
For the Record…
Born Paul Gadd, May 8, 1944 (some sources ay 1940), in Banbury, Oxfordshire, England. Divorced; one son.
Glitter began his career as Paul Russell the late 1950s; performed and recorded singles as Paul Russell and the Rebels, Paul Raven, Rubber Bucket, and Gary Glitter.
Addresses: Record company —Rhino Records, 10635 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025.
In 1968 MCA named Leander head of its United Kingdom division, and he immediately signed Gadd. Another change of name marked the occasion: Gadd now became Paul Monday. He released a few more singles, which went nowhere, then with Leander hitched onto the hippie craze and renamed Gadd once more, to the implausible Rubber Bucket. This moniker’s closest brush with fame came with the 1969 single “We’re All Living in One Place.” There was a large group of hippie squatters camping out in a building next to MCA’s offices, and a sit-in protest occurred when police tried to evict them. Leander sent Gadd down to the scene with recordinggear. “By the end of the day, he had atape of a 3, 000 strong choir of voices, with Paul’s way up in the mix, shouting along to an arrangement of ‘Amazing Grace,’” wrote Thompson in Goldmine. The single, Thompson noted, “remains one of the most bizarre, but strangely captivating 45s of the era.” Sadly, it received almost no airplay, and sales were equally nonexistent.
Gadd covered George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” in a falsetto voice as Paul Monday—another flop— before the glitter-rock scene broke. Hippies, sit-ins, peace and love, folk songs and beads gave way to androgyny, outrageous makeup (especially on men), dance rock, silver lamé outfits and dangerously high platform shoes. Marc Bolan, with his band T. Rex, and David Bowie were among the most successful of this era, though Slade, Sweet, the New York Dolls, and eventually punk rock itself would emerge from glitter rock’s wake.
Adapting once more to suit the times, Gadd almost became Horace Hydrogen before settling on the slightly more earnest Gary Glitter. He and Leander reworked an old demo into what would become “Rock and Roll (Parts I and II).” A long studio session that was perhaps more of a party resulted in fifteen minutes of tape that was cut down into two songs. “Part I” was just the words “rock and roll,” repeated, while the more successful “Part II” was even more brief—a simple “hey” and no more. Both were built around stomping rhythm and blistering fuzzy guitars reminiscent of kazoos.
The song was released in the spring of 1972, and took a few weeks to get off the ground before word-of-mouth made it a hot record. It finally launched Gadd’s career in earnest, but years of living on the fringes of rock and roll had taken their toll. “Visually, he was disastrous,” wrote Thompson. “Aslightly middle-aged, slightly overweight, slightly daunting creation, a cross between the failed nightclub rock ‘n’ roller he had once been, and the space aged mutant he now wanted to be, Gary Glitter was born out of one more afternoon in the studio with Mike Leander.” The success of “Rock and Roll (Part II)” made Glitter rich. He began spending wildly on outrageous stage gear, including lamé jumpsuits and a reported fifty pairs of platform shoes—a look the press often took aim at. Some even claimed Glitter’s chest hair was a wig.
Undaunted by barbs and with quite healthy record sales backing him up, Glitter recorded several other singles with Leander that also did well. These included “I Didn’t Know I Loved You (Till I Saw You Rock and Roll),” released later in 1972, and the following year’s “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah).” Meanwhile, the British music press discovered that Bowie and the other glam-rockers once recorded syrupy pop tunes that were either never released—or, as in Glitter’s case, went largely unnoticed—and began introducing fans to these gems. To avoid this situation, at the height his fame Glitter engineered a publicitystunt in which a ship was chartered and all the old Paul Russell, Paul Raven, Paul Monday, and Rubber Bucket vinyl was dumped in a coffin and tossed overboard. Yet in an outcome symbolic of Glitter’s success itself, the coffin refused to sink and instead floated away down the Thames River.
In March of 1973 Glitter played his first concert in London. It would be one of the first rock shows ever at the venerable Palladium. That summer he finally had a #1 hit in the British charts with “I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am),” followed by another #1, “I Love You Love Me Love.” He also toured the U.S., and though “Rock and Roll” had reached #7 in United States, Glitter’s tour received little attention Stateside. The record was, however, making inroads with a new generation. Rocker Joey Ramone of the Ramones told Goldmine’. Thompson that he bought the record as a teenager and got chased out of the Queens record shop for it. Furthering his newfound fame, Glitter even made a movie during this period. It was designed to be a documentary, but evolved into a feature film entitled Remember Me This Way, “in which an ever-so ludicrous plot allowed our hero to indulge in his wildest rock star fantasies,” wrote Thompson in Goldmine. “The Kung Fu sequence alone is worth the price of admission.”
Glitter released a live album of the same name from that tour. He also had another #1 song in June 1974 with “Always Yours,” and released three more singles in 1975 before announcing his retirement. He put on a farewell concert in early 1976 that was televised in Great Britain, and it would be a swansong of sorts—though he later admitted it was, once again, planned as a publicity stunt. His profligate spending had begun to catch up with him, and Inland Revenue-the British version of the Internal Revenue Service—began questioning his finances, and Glitter has admitted to spending excessively not just on sparkly suits and platform shoes, but on drugs and alcohol as well. Televised farewell concert or not, Glitter had never stopped recording, but found much less success with his efforts. The year 1980 was perhaps his lowest point, marked by bankruptcy and a suicide attempt.
The good reception of his 1981 autobiography, The Leader, (it was a U.K. bestseller) helped turn things around. Gadd decided that resting on his past laurels was indeed acceptable, and revived his career in an annual oldies tour known as the Gangshow, with Gary glitter as the headliner. From the early Eighties onward it toured smaller venues during the Christmas weeks, but by 1996 it was selling out Wembley Arena.
Glitter made minor appearances on the scene during the Eighties apart from the Gangshows. He appeared on a English television show called How to Be Coo. alongside Roger Daltrey of The Who, and had a hit with 1984’s “Dance Me Up.” In 1987 Glitter even re-recorded four new versions of his most famous hit with renowned producer Trevor Horn, but it was the Seventies-era revivalism in the Nineties that renewed interest in Glitter. The Justified Ancients of Murecorded a version of “Rock and Roll” under the name Doctoring the Tardis in which the brief lyrics were changed to “Dr. Who,” in homage to the cult British sci-fi television series of the same name. Glitter was cast as the Godfather in a tour of The Who’s Quadrophenia, and performed at the World Cup concert in 1994 in Chicago. “He stole the show,” according to Thompson.
Glitter continues to record, most recently a 1996 cover of the classic-rock dirge “House of the Rising Sun.” His Rhino LP Rock and Rol. has become a standard at sports stadiums through out North America—“Rockand Roll,” much like Queen’s “We are the Champions,” is a crowd favorite and seems to incite a near frenzy. It is likely to survive another two decades. Even Trevor Horn’s versions, according to Thompson, were nothing new—“though they add little to the majesty of the original recording, even technology could not destroy the sublime purity of that hammerhead beat.”
“Rock and Roll (Parts I and II),” Bell, 1972.
“I Didn’t Know You Loved Me/Hard on Me,” Bell, 1972.
“Do You Wanna Touch Me/I Would If I Could, Bell, 1973.
“Hello Hello I’m Back Again/lOU,” Bell, 1973
“”Leader of the Gang/Just Fancy That,” Bell, 1973.
“I Love You Love Me Love/Hands Up It’s a Stick Up,” Bell, 1973.
“Remember Me This Way/It’s Not a Lot,” Bell, 1974.
“Always Yours/I’m Right,” Bell, 1974.
“Love Like You and Me/I’ll Carry Your Picture Everywhere,” Bell, 1975.
“Papa Oom Mow Mow/She Cat,” Bell, 1975.
“It Takes All Night (Parts I and II),” Arista, 1977.
“Superhero/Sleeping Beauty,” GTO, 1979.
“When I’m On I’m On/Wild Horses,” Eagle, 1981.
“Be My Baby/Is This What Dreams Are Made Of,” Bell, 1982.
“Dance Me Up/Too Young to Dance,” Arista, 1984.
“Love Comes/Boys Will Be Boys,” Arista, 1985.
“Rock and Roll (Parts III and IV),” Priority, 1987.
“Rock and Roll (Parts III, V, and VI),” Priority, 1987.
“House of the Rising Sun/Rock and Roll (Part II),” Attitude, 1996.
Glitter, Bell, 1972.
Frontiers of Style, Trax, 1988.
Rock and Roll, Rhino, 1991.
Goldmine, July 4, 1997, pp. 20-30.
New Statesman & Society, December 16, 1988, p. 44.
People, June 17, 1996, p. 122.