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Posts Tagged ‘glam rock’

There was once a crazy looking and sounding decade known as the 1970s. During the first part of those ten years, there was the Glam rock phenomenon. Glam rock, sometimes known as Glitter rock was massive in the U.K. For starters, you had David Bowie, at the height of his Ziggy Stardust period. There was T. Rex, with Marc Bolan. Another influential band was Roxy Music. Around the same time were rocks outfits such as Queen, Mott The Hoople, and early Elton John.

In the U.S., you had acts like shock rocker Alice Cooper, The NY Dolls, Suzi Quatro, KISS, Lou Reed (briefly after breaking with The Velvet Underground), and maybe Iggy and The Stooges, or just Iggy himself. Jobriath was an American music artist that was extremely hyped, but his overt gay sexuality was too much during that time. It’s only within the past ten years that Jobriath is being discussed. This is not to be confused with Glam Metal, which dominated mainstream rock during the ’80’s.

After that, you had your “Bubblegum” pop crew, with acts like Gary Glitter, Wizzard, Alvin Stardust, and a few others. We won’t discuss Gary Glitter cause like, that would be awkward.

Then we had Sweet.

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Originally called The Sweetshop, the intital lineup formed in 1968. Bassist and vocalist Steve Priest was one of the founding members, along with Brian Connelly and Mick Tucker. It wasn’t until around 1970 when The Sweet met up with songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. Chinn and Chapman for short. After a few attempts, The Sweet struck gold on the British charts with Bubblegum type hits like ‘Little Willy‘, ‘Block Buster‘, and ‘Wig-Bam-Wam‘. In 1973, the song ‘The Ballroom Blitz‘ became an international hit, charting in Canada, Europe, Australia, and the U.S.

The Sweet also had a then-considered outrageous look, which boosted their image. The Sweet’s makeup and wardrobe fit in perfectly with the Glam rock craze of the early ’70s.

The end of 1973, and from 1974 onward, the word ‘the’ was dropped from the band name. They were officially known as simply Sweet.

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The year of 1974 was also the year Sweet were tired of the Chinn and Chapman formula. Wanting to go in a more harder rock direction, this was reflected in the next two albums, Sweet Fanny Adams and Desolation Boulevard. The U.S. release of Desolation Boulevard differs from the U.K. version. For example, the U.S. pressing includes the international ditty, ‘Ballroom Blitz.’ Interjecting a personal opinion, Desolation Boulevard is one of my favorite albums.

 

Their biggest hit was ‘Fox On The Run‘, released in 1975. Following Desolation Boulevard was the albums Give Us a Wink, and the live album Strung up. Strung Up, was released only in Europe. After proving the band was self sufficient in both songwriting and production, Sweet officially broke away from the Chinn-Chapman partnership.

Nothing lasts forever as the saying goes. Things slowly went from sweet to sour. They had one last international hit with the epic ‘Love Like Oxygen.’ Again, ‘Love Like Oxygen‘ and the album ‘Level Headed‘ showed another change in direction. A more mellower sound emerged. ‘Level Headed‘ would be the last good album Sweet would release.

After 1978, Sweet would fall from grace. Vocalist Brian Connelly left the band. The rest of Sweet carried on, until the 1980 breakup. Since 1984, there’s been various version of Sweet, all led by different members, going in different directions. Brian Connelly died in 1997. Mick Tucker passed away in 2002. With Steve Priest’s death on June 4, 2020, Andy Scott is the last Sweet member alive.

Taking a break from the pandemic and the current U.S. civil unrest, I drew a quick illustration of Sweet. It’s a bit rushed, but it captures Sweet during their Glam Bubblegum era. Done in pen, ink, watercolor, and shimmer watercolor. The shimmer watercolor adds to the Glam rock image.

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Sweet. Quick illustration by Michele Witchipoo, June 2020. Pen, ink, watercolor, shimmer watercolor.

 

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Two weeks ago I had plans to do this Bowie sketch. Then came news of his new album going to number one in the UK. (http://www.nme.com/news/david-bowie/69250) So perhaps after being subjected to auto tune pop music crap, there might be hope for the human race. Perhaps not. We’ll see.

I really haven’t sat down and listened to the new Bowie release. Don’t matter. I will always be a fan of his seminar work such as Ziggy Stardust, his Heroes era, and right up to Scary Monsters. While I’m not that much of a Bowie fanatic, no one can deny his influence.

Here’s a quick watercolor piece done this morning. Basic glitter watercolor. It’s not my best, but it’s not my worse either. This painting looks a lot better in person. The scan didn’t do it justice. Now I’ll quietly curse myself for not being a teen or a young adult during the Glam Rock era. Meanwhile the song “Panic In Detroit” runs through my head.

David Bowie from his Aladdin Sane era. Glitter watercolor. Painting done by Michele Witchipoo March 2013.

David Bowie from his Aladdin Sane era. Glitter watercolor. Painting done by Michele Witchipoo March 2013.

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Mercury in retrograde’s about to hit this month, starting from July 14th and ends Aug. 8th,2012. For those who believe in astrology, it works a bit like this;  it’s both a time of reflection, and ‘Murphy’s Law’ in full effect. In other words, communication lines get crossed, so what can go wrong will.

Sometimes, right before merc in retrograde hits, you just might get a preview. Plans interrupted arguments and fights relating to misunderstandings, sometimes outright catastrophe. Yet it’s not all negative. As I’ve said before, during this time it could be used to reflect. Don’t be surprised that out of the blue, you’ll come into contact with someone from the past who you haven’t spoken to in years. Also, some of those unsolved conflicts that have knocked on your door have a chance to be resolved.

Enough of this mini-lesson. What this crash course about mercury in retrograde leads to is a chance to you show some of my relics. Not only does it bring back my personal teenage memories, they’re also pop culture artifacts. These buttons exhibits a part of NYC that is now long gone.

Back when I was growing up during the 80s, many teenagers flocked to the NYC area of Greenwich Village. West side, east side, 8th Street, Broadway, it really didn’t matter. It’s still the case now, but the popular shopping sites are significantly different. Back in the 80s, the trendier retail places gave away free buttons with every purchase.  Hell, sometimes you didn’t even need to buy anything. Just go to the counter, stick your hand in the small hard plastic transparent box, and grab a handful of these badges. Afterwards, you would display your coolness by pinning these items onto your over-sized vintage overcoat, or on your army schoolbag. You would arrange these pins right along with your pop and post new wave band buttons. This was exactly what I did back in my freshman year of high school. This didn’t last long, as I progressed the next year into a full-fledged Siouxsie clone. My badges went from store promotion to the bands like The Cure, Specimen, etc.

Before I bore you with details, here’s a photo.

1980 promotional buttons from NYC retail stores, Greenwich Village area. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.

The stores listed before are no longer around. I’ll give you a brief breakdown about some of these places.

Flip was a clothing store located on west. 8th street. They specialized in selling new wave, punk, goth and glam rock threads. In fact, one of my first ever punk tees was purchased right here at this location.

Postermat was more of a novelty place. They sold all types of buttons, posters, tees, gag items. A bit like that Spencer’s chain store you see in the local mall nowadays. The buttons and pins were sold in the front of the store. They were stored behind glass counters as if they were precious goods. Two tiny black round controls when pressed, slowly spunk around the shelves inside. An army and navy store has taken its place.

Canal Jeans Co. survived for years, but eventually they shut their doors as well. This business was so successful at one point, they had two locations. The location on Canal Street is now one of the cheapest art supply stores known as Pearl Paint. The bigger store, located in the Soho area of Broadway sold both new, vintage, upscale and bargain merchandise. They shut down, very briefly re-opened for a hot minute on Broadway and Astor, and then closed for good in the early 2000s.

Canal Jeans Co. buttons had their iconic checkerboard background, in a variety of colors. Check the photo below:

Promotional buttons from Canal Jeans Co. Photo by Michele WItchipoo.

Zoot was a vintage clothing store. Zoot wasn’t around that long, but it’s competition, Andy’s Chee-Pees, hung around for a while. Zoot was located on Broadway, Andy’s on West 8th street.

Unique hawked its wares all throughout the ‘80s, going out of business in the early ‘90s. Also known as Unique Boutique, the large space had a variety of different departments. You had graffiti artists spray painting on clothing, vintage duds, and when it was extremely fashionable, a huge selection of bright neon attire.

As for some other shops that’s been around for a while. Enz have opened and closed, and opened again. They’ve moved around to different locations so Enz doesn’t count. Ditto for Andy’s Chee-Pees. Even Patricia Fields moved from its prototype home on 8th street to the now trendy Bowery area. Probably the only store left from that era is Trash and Vaudeville. Still at the same location since the 1970s, and still going strong today.

Keep in mind, I didn’t even touch upon all the numerous record stores open around this time. I’ll touch upon that in another post.

Other types of businesses got into the badge marketing act. Check out this photo here. There’s MTV when they were known as a video music channel.  WLIR was a Long Island based radio station that specialized (at the time) in New Wave, a tiny bit of Post-Punk, and imported UK Pop music. Then there’s the original Hard Rock Cafe. The first location in NYC was on West 57th, before they moved to the current location at Times Square. All three are still around today.

MTV, WLIR FM, and Hard Rock Cafe. 1980s promotional buttons. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.

It’s a different time now. There’s the revitalized Brooklyn to contend with now. Trends have changed. Yet the ‘80s memories still stand.

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To be Glam. Last night I came across some photos on the internet. Soon afterwards I did this pencil sketch.

Back in the mid to late ’80s, the whole ’80’s ‘Hair Metal’ scene was huge. Bands like Poison, Motley Crue and such ruled. They were the fantasies of American teenage rebellion. Although I was never into the whole ’80s hair metal thing. In fact, I hated it. I preferred the ’80s Goth subculture, which I suppose would be considered ‘old school’ among today’s gloomy youngsters.

In the 1980’s, Goth subculture wasn’t as mainstream as it is today. To get a better idea of that era, nothing captures the underground Goth following like the NYC magazine Propaganda. I remember Propaganda not so much for the reviews, but for the conceptualized photography.

Now what ’80s Goth and Glam did have in common was androgyny. Personally to me, the classic Glam Rock wasn’t really the ’80s L.A. glam rock era, but more like from the 1970’s. Early Bowie when he was Ziggy Stardust, T-Rex, The Sweet, etc. I still love Sweet. In fact, their album ‘Desolation Boulevard’ is still one of my all time favorites.

Although hair glam metal was never my thing, there were a few exceptions. Take Hanoi Rocks for instance. I remember meeting Hanoi member Mike Monroe in NYC back when I was a teenager. He was a pure rock star through and through. Even in broad daylight, he would walk down St. Mark’s street in full glam gear. It wasn’t uncommon to see him somewhere in the Greenwich Village area. Last time I saw him, it might’ve been during 1986 or ’87. He was in some deli on Broadway, near NYU. (FYI, when I met Mike Monroe, he was a nice guy.)

Today I’m not so hateful towards hair metal. Now bands like Motley Crue is sort of like nostalgia to me. Although I still much prefer the ’70’s glam stuff. Does it really matter anyway? ‘Cause you realize that everything intertwines and connects anyway. It’s just depends on personal opinions and tastes.

Having said all of that, I still prefer Sweet over Cinderella.

Glam guitarist, pencil sketch by Michele Witchipoo. Created June 2012.

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