Marc Bolan vs. Gary Glitter
In the 1970's the UK pop charts were topped by competing glam rock acts like T.Rex, Gary Glitter, Slade, The Sweet, Mud and Alvin Stardust, which provided the greatest excitement in the UK music scene since the rise of The Beatles and Rolling Stones ten years earlier. Of these six main glam rock acts, Marc Bolan's T.Rex which grew from a two man acoustic hippie act of the late 60's into a full blown electric band with onstage pyrotechnic explosions and guitar floggings with a long whip and Gary Glitter who donned an Elvis like appearance and managed some unique new updates on 50's and 60's song stylings, became the two main competitors and chart rivals with each other for UK pop chart dominance. And Bolan made it clear that he did not like Gary Glitter before in interviews where the competition was genuine and not based on mutual admiration
Before the days of the new wave and punk scene in the UK, British music buyers were looking for some new excitement from the mainstream of British rock acts like the solo Beatles albums, Jethro Tull, The Rolling Stones or blues acts like Ten Years After or Eric Clapton. But for the most part, the UK glam rock scene made little impact on the American market where the mainstream American and British rock acts continued as the main bread and butter sales for the record industry and concert scene.
Marc Bolan and Gary Glitter both made such an impact on UK record buyers because they were flashy performers and knew how to electrify an audience, although the same sort of excitement never seemed to really translate well enough for the U.S. record buying public here. T.Rex, Gary Glitter and others were largely only a curiosity to American buyers. Marc Bolan's song stylings first heavily rooted in acoustic mythology poetry and then later in throwaway disposable lyrics that worked almost like a reverse Bob Dylan where Bolan slung around words for the way that they sounded rather than what they really meant in a slew of pop singles like TELEGRAM SAM, CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION, THE GROOVER or 20th CENTURY BOY never really excited most Americans except for his rock anthem standard, GET IT ON. And Gary Glitter's biggest American hit continues to be his instrumental piece, ROCK AND ROLL PART 2, often played at sporting events although I DIDN"T KNOW I LOVED YOU UNTIL I SAW YOU ROCK AND ROLL is pure electric excitement and spine chilling good glam rock. For some reason, both T.rex and Gary Glitter had a primitive and primal sound that seemed to go right to your soul compared to other rockers, and fans just loved it.
American rocker and early punker, Joan Jett was heavily influenced by Gary Glitter and recorded his DO YOU WANNA TOUCH, and I'M THE LEADER OF THE GANG, which became a couple decent hits for her. If anything Joan Jett became the American version of Gary Glitter where her interpretations of his material could translate well enough for American listeners than the UK originals. And perhaps many of the big hair and big show performers of the 80's heavy metal rock scene were influenced by Marc Bolan's rock performance stage shows much more than his actual songs. The American music scene may have had some persona influences by both Bolan and Glitter, while their actual recordings did poorly stateside.
But the recent release from prison of Gary Glitter in Vietnam is living proof how life really went sour for both Gary Glitter and Marc Bolan in the end. Well into the 70's Bolan's records were less of a hit even in his native UK and some albums that lacked the magical appeal of the earlier classics like ELECTRIC WARRIOR and THE SLIDER began to disillusion some UK record buyers who began to look for the next big thing and some new artists to provide the next big thrill. The early punk scene with The Sex Pistols, The Stranglers, The Damned and others was beginning to lure away listeners from the glam rock acts.
Marc Bolan managed a pretty good late career revival gig hosting a TV Show, THE MARC SHOW, and into 1977 a new record, DANDY IN THE UNDERWORLD, which was one of his most enjoyable efforts in years for listeners and Bolan also offered up a new single, CELEBRATE SUMMER not on any album yet released. But then a fatal car crash in September 1977 ended the life and comeback career of Marc Bolan at the age of 29, just short of his 30th birthday. But even in death, Bolan has managed a a strong cult following of loyal fans over the years, where like Jimi Hendrix, far more albums have been released since their deaths than when both were actually alive. Bolan fans have been more than willing to pay some decent cash for five and six disc box sets issued on Easy Action Records for Bolan rarities within just this last year which is pretty good for an artist that died 21 years ago this September. And Hendrix continues to be just as durable, who only released just three Jimi Hendrix Experience albums before his death. In fact, Bolan is often compared to Hendrix because of his guitar stylings and stage electricity persona as being as close to a British Jimi Hendrix as you might come.
Gary Glitter's career really crashed and hit the skids in other ways, as two arrests related to sex abuse, provided a real ugly stink over any comeback hopes for his career, and no record company really wanted to handle Glitter after this, although Glitter claims that he intends to record a new album. But the record company that recorded his last album shelved the project after his last arrest and imprisonment. The once powerful act that was a real force on the UK pop charts is now more than damaged goods and far less appealing at the ripe old age of 64. For almost everyone, it's just not cool any more.
In the end, it was the sexual excesses of both Marc Bolan and Gary Glitter that became their ultimate downfalls. Marc Bolan was obsessed with cars and even owned a Rolls Royce, but never learned to drive himself, and while having an affair with a backup singer from his band was killed in a small British car with no seatbelts or locking seats of head injuries when his lover driver lost control and hit a tree. Gary Glitter just could not avoid landing in prison twice for crimes related to small girls, first in the UK and then in Vietnam where he sought out illegal sex in the Orient.
All that glitters has now turned to rust.