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SPIN Record Guide: Essential Glam Rock

By: Alex PappademasThe sun was setting on the British Empire. The rush of thefree-love 1960s had ground to a decadent slog. What was a youngrocker to do? Throw on some platform boots and a whole lot oflipstick and turn it up to 11. The pumping pomp of ’70s glamhelped invent punk and ’80s pop metal, all in one fellswoosh.

The sun was setting on the British Empire. The rush of the free-love 1960s had ground to a decadent slog. What was a young rocker to do? Throw on some platform boots and a whole lot of lipstick and turn it up to 11. The pumping pomp of ’70s glam helped invent punk and ’80s pop metal, all in one fell swoosh.

DAVID BOWIE ALADDIN SANE 30TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (EMI, 2003) Ziggy Stardust (1972) is David Bowie’s first true glam record, but ’73’s Aladdin Sane rocks harder and weirder. While guitarist Mick Ronson spins the blues into plutonium, Bowie lounges in a fog of Gitanes smoke, crooningcampy odes to all the poseurs, junkies, and transgendered extraterrestrials he’s loved before.

MARC BOLAN & T. REX 20TH CENTURY BOY: THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION (HIP-O, 2002) Like David Bowie, T. Rex’s Marc Bolan started as a flaky British folkie and morphed into a visionary rock’n’roll space cadet. Unlike David Bowie, he was Marc fuggin’ Bolan, and his burning-mercury guitar leads (and impressive collection of top hats and feather boas) made him glam rock’s uncontested Wizard King. Most of T. Rex’s early-’70s albums are worth it, but this 23-track retrospective offers the most Bolan for your dollar.

NEW YORK DOLLS ROCK ‘N ROLL (POLYGRAM, 1994) Tarted up like thugged-out reform-school girls and hollering about personality crises and makin’ it with Frankenstein, the Dolls were the missing link between Brit glitter and ’70s New York City punk. Cherry-picked from the band’s self-titled 1973 debut and 1974’s Too Much Too Soon, Rock ‘N Roll is a fast, loose, thrilling subway ride of a record, all hair and hooks and heart.

ROXY MUSIC ROXY MUSIC (REPRISE, 1972) Roxy Music boasted not one but two in-house geniuses: machine-loving Brian Eno and love-machine frontman Bryan Ferry. On this lush, twisted, unashamedly pretentious record, Eno weaves majestic synth lines into “Virginia Plain” and puts an art-rock edge on Ferry’s overwrought romanticism. If you’re trying to seduce an android, keep this one close at hand.

LOU REED TRANSFORMER (RCA, 1972) Two years out of the Velvet Underground, Reed hooked up with David Bowie and (maybe more crucially) Mick Ronson, who dipped his ornery ass in glitter. The album that resulted may be Reed’s best–an ironic, empathetic dispatch from the murky fringes of the sexual revolution. “Perfect Day” is famous thanks to Trainspotting; “Walk on the Wild Side” is just famous. But Ronson showcases “Vicious” and “I’m So Free” are the record’s hidden gems.

SLADE SLADEST (REPRISE, 1973) Working-class superheroes (reppin’ Wolverhampton, England) fond of wind-tunnel guitar and choruses even the most lager-headed yob could chant, Slade stripped glam of its mystical self-importance. The stadium-stomp anthems collected here run the gamut from dumb to dumberer; the thunderous “Cum On Feel the Noize” could make a soccer hooligan out of a soccer mom.

MOTT THE HOOPLE GREATEST HITS (COLUMBIA/ LEGACY, 2003) Mott the Hoople were essentially a defunct British blues-metal band before the elegiac glam anthem “All the Young Dudes,” bequeathed to them by David Bowie, jump-started their career.Greatest Hits compiles all their best work (including the rollicking “All the Way From Memphis”), along with a few well-chosen album cuts.

SWEET DESOLATION BOULEVARD (CAPITOL, 1975) Toughest, greatest record ever by this bubble-gummy outfit, previously best known for teasingly lascivious pop-schlock tunes like “Little Willy.” Sweet were sort of a glam-rock boy band, but when they started writing their own songs (and requesting harder-rockin’ material from their Svengali-ish producers, Chapman and Chinn), they hit a vein of pure flash-powder genius.

KISS KISS (CASABLANCA, 1974) A fondness for makeup and platforms wasn’t the only thing these consummate showmen shared with Britain’s glam-rockers. On their flashy, trashy debut, Kiss boogie like T. Rex for people who preferred their rock icons sexually unambiguous, a New York Dolls whose shtick could play in Peoria. Bassist and frontman Gene Simmons eventually went on to enjoy a successful career in advertising.

VARIOUS ARTISTS VELVET GOLDMINE: MUSIC FROM THE ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE (POLYGRAM, 1998) David Bowie declined to license his music to Todd Haynes’ film, a kinda-sorta Bowie biopic, but the soundtrack is still a high-quality glam sampler. Mixes well-chosen vintage tracks (Brian Eno’s incredible “Needle in the Camel’s Eye”) with ace covers performed by contemporary artists (Pulp, Placebo) and fictional bands like Venus in Furs, an ersatz Roxy Music with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke as Bryan Ferry.