by Dave Thompson
Depending upon which side of the Atlantic you were raised on, the term “glam rock” means different things to different people.To Brits of a certain age and disposition, it refers to one of the most effervescent starbursts of 45 rpm fun in rock and pop history,a period generally placed between 1971-1976, and encompassing everyone from Roxy Music and Cockney Rebel to Lieutenant Pigeon and 10cc.Neither of whom were glammy in the slightest, but we’ll get to that later.
In America, the pickings are slimmer.Bowie’s eventual superstardom really kicked in only after he’d dumped the glam trappings. UK serial hitmakers T Rex, the Sweet and Gary Glitter are effectively regarded as one-hit-wonders. Detroit's own Suzi Quatro is best remembered for her role in Happy Days and the country’s own attempts at zapping the spangled zeitgeist were either hapless non-starters (at least in commercial terms) or were swiftly rebranded as hard rockers.
Even Slade, who could barely break wind without scoring another UK chart topper, are best-known here for Quiet Riot’s cover versions; Glitter scored a second hit, but he needed Joan Jett to record it; Arrows scored their first, and ditto.Glam, in America, is a lot of things, but most of them had eighties hair and metal guitars.
Junkshop Glam, on the other hand… well, we all know what that is.And, if we don’t, there’s a three CD box set just come out that will answer all our questions.It’s called All the Young Droogs - 60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks (RPM/Cherry Red) and, after that, the secondary subtitle of Rock'n'Glam and a Flavour of Bubblegum from the Seventies is more or less redundant.
Briefly, however, Junkshop Glam encompasses any record released, primarily in the UK, but also across Europe and elsewhere, that adhered to at least an approximation of the blueprint laid down by the movement’s British cheerleaders, but which never received the attention it deserved. Or, more accurately, which sank like a stone, to live out the remainder of its natural life, indeed, in those boxes of singles that most junk store owners once begged passing customers to take away for free.
You probably wish you had, now.Not so long ago, a copy of Hello’s “Teenage Revolution” single, scheduled for release in 1975 but abandoned at the promo stage, sold on e-bay for a couple of hundred bucks.Last year, a Barry Blood 45 went for a couple of hundred pounds at a private auction.The British Record Collector magazine values a test pressing of Giggles’ unreleased “Wiggle” single at £300, and Streak’s “Gonna Have a Good Time” at a little less than half that.
It's a rapacious market. Reissues of albums by Americans Brett Smiley, Jobriath and Milk n Cookies might never have happened without Junkshop Glam to alert folk to their potential. Likewise New Zealander Alastair Riddell.
Just a few months back, another glory-laden classic of the genre, Alan Lee Shaw’s “She Moans” was reissuedby the German label Last Year’s Youth, to take some of the edge off the original's current £75 valuation.Arguably, the explosion of interest in Junkshop Glam represents the most exciting, if unexpected, development in British record collecting in years, and if its legends have yet to scale the financial heights that, say, Freakbeat and Northern Soul now call their own, it’s probably only a matter of time.After all, it’s early days, still.
As both a term and a genre, “Junkshop Glam” is relatively recent coinage, dating from around the beginning of the century.Prior to that, it was just rubbish.Phil King, the former Lush/Jesus & Mary Chain/etc bassist who both pioneered the genre’s collectibility and compiled the Droogs box set, recalls his own introduction to the topic.
“[Former Buzzcocks bassist] Tony Barber invited me round to his place and blew my mind open with a succession of brilliant singles that he’d bought at car boot sales and record shops run by grumpy Teddy Boys who told him ‘I’ve got some of that ‘70s rubbish that you like out the back’ - Iron Virgin, Spiv, The Jook, Hector, The Rats.
“The names were as brilliantly succinct and in your face as the music they made - and more often than not they made just the one, normally a promo pressed up in small quantities - for DJ’s and the music press - in the hope that someone would ‘bite’. In the UK at the time, it would be a period of industrial unrest - three day weeks, miner strikes, power cuts which, coupled with the oil crisis in the Middle East, meant that even promo copies of the singles would be in short supply. Hence their collectability now.”
It was Barber who came up with the term, “Junkshop Glam,” but it was never intended seriously.King continues, “it was started as a joke, an antithesis to the world of stuffy record fair record collecting. These was not the records that would proudly be on the walls to be sold - they would barely be in the beer crates beneath the trestle tables. Most of them wouldn’t even make it out of their lockups. It just wasn’t worth the hassle.”
Record store owners today bemoan what they call “Indie Landfill,” referring to the slew of unsaleable singles that flooded out in the late 80s and 90s, usually by bands with names like Daphne's Reactionary Lickspittles and the like.
“This was the glam version. Record Collector in the mid to late ‘90s would have a monthly look back at releases in the early ‘70s. These records would be posted up at £1-2 each.”King recalls one store, Beano’s in Croydon, which effectively operated two shops.One was stocked with “records priced up using the Record Collector price guide. Next door was their shop full of the rest. A lucky dip of four for a £1 for Junkshop Glam collectors like Tony and I.”
It was Record Collector that first announced Junkshop Glam to the world, across a nine page spread in January 2002.A Top Twenty rarities discography accompanied the piece, topped at £12by the Tartan Horde’s odes to the Bay City Rollers (“only because of the Nick Lowe connection,” King astutely points out), and bottoming out at the £3 mark. Last time around, Tartan Horde didn't even make the Top 50.
That article set things rolling.It also flushed other secretive figures out of the woodwork; fellow folk who had devoted years to picking up the records that time (and more or less everything else) had forgotten.Soundtrack collecting maestro (and eponymous label head) Jonny Trunk was among them, declaring “this is what the passion of record collecting is all about and these collectors don’t just follow trends or buy what everyone else has before. These people have created their own small, intimate scene. They’ve discovered single no one else even knew existed…and all this for a series of singles valued at next to nothing. How cool is that?”
Other writers and publications got on board.Websites were produced and, over the next few years, the first Junkshop Glam compilations emerged - Velvet Tinmine, compiled by King and Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley (another vocal adherent), the splendidly titled Glitter From The Litter Bin, Glitterbest (focussing on the glam roots of so many late seventies punk acts), Boobs and Bubblepop, a collection devoted to the manifold works of one of Junkshop Glam’s most prolific producers, Jonathan King, and his UK label.
What a difference a decade had made.Less than ten years earlier, the fledgling Biff! label released The Great Glam Rock Explosion, a scintillating (full disclosure - I wrote the liners and helped compile the album) look back that dipped more than a couple of toes into these same waters. A blend of the genre’s genuine big hitters (Glitter, Wizzard, Quatro etc) with, indeed, some JunkshopGlam flotsam (the Teezers, ex-Glitter Bandsman John Rossall and Hello's Jeff Allen), it peaked with Arnold Corns, an early David Bowie alias, performing a similarly early version of “Moonage Daydream.”
That, alone, should have brought the collectors running - it was the performance's first appearance on vinyl since its original 1971 release, and its last until it was included among the bonus tracks on Rykodisc’s reissue of The Man Who Sold the World.Forget Junkshop Glam, this was Junkshop Gold. But nobody cared. They didn't even notice.The Great Glam Rock Explosion imploded as silently as any of its lesser-known contents, and maybe that’s appropriate. Nobody cared then, nobody cared now.
The nineties - and beyond - on the other hand, saw Junkshop Glam rise to become a veritable Behemoth in record collecting land.
King: “I started collecting seriously in the mid ‘90s. My big break (after meeting Tony Barber of course) was putting a ‘Wants Ad’ in the back of Record Collector in the late ‘90s and one person who contacted me had worked as a sales person at Bell and had a huge collection of unwanted, mostly promo, ‘70s singles.He would make up handwritten lists and would supply me with a cassette with an excerpt of each song up to the first chorus. These singles would be priced for just a few pounds each.
“Another person who contacted me had bought a whole collection of ‘70s singles (cleared out from the BBC record library, I seem to remember) that were wall to wall in one of his rooms of his country home and filed alphabetically by the label name and also consecutively by the catalogue number. I drove up to the Midlands one Saturday and spent the whole day pulling out records and playing them – and then bought a stack at the end of the day, including one brilliant stomper which I had never heard before - ‘Rave N’ Rock’ by Daddy Maxfield, which sounded like a glammier Iggy & the Stooges.”
All the Young Droogs marks the pinnacle, so far, of King’s Junkshop Glam compiling, three CDs that simultaneously round up more or less everything you need to hear from the era, at the same time as eschewing much of what you might have heard before.
Ongoing for a few years earlier this decade,Pink Boots and Lipstick was an eighteen (at least) volume collection of Junkshop Glam, each edition stuffed to one, or even two CDs worth of cuts.Wholly unofficial, and often taking its contents from the original vinyl, it’s a glorious, but sprawling compendium, whose own understanding of the genre’s parameters can be questioned as often as they are reinforced.
There’s nothing wrong with that; like the similarly themed Electric Asylum (five volumes of what the compilers call “British Acid Freakrock”) and Killed by Glam (three volumes) series, and the sundry other glam comps that have appeared across the years, glam is in the eye of the beholder.
If a track fits the timespan, there’s an argument to include it simply because very few records are made in a cultural vacuum, particularly if you’re chasing a hit single.You could not move in early-mid seventies Britain without being assailed by glam on TV or radio, boutique or bedroom.Whether you knew it or not, your music would be influenced accordingly.Or, as Phil King puts it, “To paraphrase what Phil Smee said recently in an interview about the genre ‘Freakbeat’, which he created, he doesn’t recognize some of the records being put forward (or sold) as Freakbeat at all. But I guess that is how it goes – it mutates and replicates, like the alien spores in Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers, into something familiar, but at the same time, unfamiliar.”
All the Young Droogs does not deviate too far from what the majority of serious collectors would regard as the motherlode, but that is not to say its sixty strong contents are all meaty fists punching in the air to a never-ending chorus of “Hey.”
Starting from a shortlist of around 200 tracks, King opted for a thematic approach.“I did my best to make each CD on the boxset a separate substrata of the genre. CD 1 – ‘Rock Off!’ (more brutish ‘Hard Rock’) CD 2 ‘Tubthumpers & Hellraisers’ (Uptempo stompers) and CD 3 ‘Elegance & Decadence (More effete Bowie/Roxy-ish baroque glam) – so that each CD would work as a stand alone album. As much as one likes a genre, a boxset of sixty songs can get a little wearying on the ear, I find, so this is why I decided to do this.”
It’s an approach that works phenomenally well, and one that also allowed King to make some terrific personal discoveries. “Method’s ‘Hold Tight’ was a single on a popular label, UK, [that] I hadn’t heard (or heard about) till recently. Killer song too. If I had a copy myself, it would be a brilliant one to DJ.
“The biggest eye opener (and grower for me musically) was James Arthur Edwards ‘Pastiche Blue’. His career spanned ‘60s beat, glam – and punk – and ‘Pastiche Blue’ was a fin de siècle/end of an era/quaaludes and red wine (or maybe just mild and bitter and a roll-up?) paean to a genre that had long since sailed. A very difficult single to find too – not even listed on Discogs – and avid JSG collector Tim Orchard very kindly let us use his copy to master from for the box.”
King also found a vivid wellspring of inspiration within the specialist output of the US-based labels Hozac, Sing Sing and Just Add Water. “They’ve been reissuing some great stuff from the time, so I cherrypicked a few things that were pretty much unreleased previously (or in a very small private pressing of 50) for the boxset – Baby Grande, Helter Skelter – and one (Brett Smiley – from a Del Shannon produced session) that is coming out on an album this year on What’s Your Rupture.”
That is also how he discovered Sleaze, a north Devon band fronted by the singer-songwriter who would go onto become TV Smith of the Adverts (one of the prime punk bands of 1977), and who is now deep into a magnificent solo career.
Recorded in 1975, Sleaze's debut album was itself one of those records that appeared as a minuscule private pressing, then vanished into legend before being granted at least a slightly wider release in 2012.
“Showbiz Kids,” which King includes on disc three, is not the all-time drop-dead gorgeous best song on the album (that honor goes to “Hollywood”). But it slips into Droogs with uncommon passion, nestled in alongside the Doctors of Madness (with whose Richard Strange, Smith would later launch a short-but-glorious songwriting partnership… small world!); the aforementioned Alastair Riddell and James Arthur Edwards; and Metro, whose 1976 debut single “Criminal World” may have appeared at the very tail-end of glam, but would go onto glory regardless, after David Bowie covered it for his Let’s Dance album.Metro's lurking, lascivious, slowburn original is far superior, by the way.
Clearly, then, not everything here is strictly Junkshop.Mott the Hoople’s “Whizz Kid” was taken from a UK Top 10 LP; Hello’s “Games Up” was the follow-up to a Top 10 single; Be Bop Deluxe seem beloved by everyone; Iggy and the Stooges… well, they’re Iggy and the Stooges, aren’t they?And both the Spiders from Mars and Woody Woodmansey’s U-Boat spun off from (him again) David Bowie’s breakthrough glam years, even if their own records did die painful deaths.
Nor does King believe Droogs is the last word on the subject, or even his last word. “There were a few tracks that fell between the cracks – mostly stuck in licensing limbo – that we would loved to have had. Only one artist got back to us with a resounding ‘No!’; and one other that said we could use their track, but then the trail went cold. The only label that we would have loved to have license from, but were unable to (and they had some great glam releases) was Magnet. One day.”
There are other tracks that probably would have been in contention, had they not already been anthologized out of the wazoo - Grudge’s “I’m Gonna Smash Your Face In,” Edwina Biglet and the Miglets’ “Thing,” Bubbles’ “This is Where the Hurdie Gurdie Heebie Geebie Greenie Meenie Man Came In.” (Or maybe they're just among my favorites. Who knows?) And others still that fall so far out of the time period that they probably weren’t even considered (and were never even released to begin with) - La Rox's "Photograph" (1981) and Sexagisma’s “Glitter Devils” (1986).
All of that’s irrelevant, however.As it stands, and in terms of Junkshop Glam anthologies, it’s going to be difficult for anybody, King included, to ever improve upon All the Young Droogs.
In fact, delete “junkshop” from the equation and glam itself has scarcely had a compilation that can match this one for thrills, spills, surprises and delights.
Glo Macari, Stud Leather, Biggles, Tank and Paul St John… “Big Boobs Boogie” and “Bye Bye Bad Days,” “I Live in Style in Maida Vale,” “White Stockings”… not one of them drifted even remotely close to the Toppermost of the Poppermost in its day.
But the passage of time has created a level playing field upon which they can all cavort with equal abandon.And glam rock glitters as garishly as ever.