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Glam rockers Supernaut & their epic 70s jams about lollipops, ‘Space Angels’ & bisexuality
10:03 am


glam rock

Austrailian glam band, Supernaut.
I don’t know about you but I personally think the title of this post has something for pretty much everyone, though my statement might not make a lot of sense right now if you’re not acquainted with Aussie glam band, Supernaut. Who should not be confused with alt-rock Serbian band Supernaut, though the Aussie’s did swipe their name from the epic 1972 jam of the same name by Black Sabbath so there’s that. Anyway, don’t worry. Everything will make sense shortly because I’m here to help you get to know Supernaut a lot better.

Initially calling themselves Moby Dick, the earliest version of Supernaut was the idea of three English transplants—brothers Joe and Chris Burnham and vocalist Gary Twinn. Popular in the bar scene, they would eventually become Supernaut after joining forces with bass player Philip Foxman. In 1976 Ian “Molly” Meldrum, Australian musical impresario and the host of the massively popular television music show Countdown became aware of the band and the story of how that happened is quite surreal and plays out much like a scene in a movie where an aspiring musician gets that fabled “big break.”

Vocalist Gary Twinn recalls that Meldrum had arrived in Perth with his pal Paul McCartney, you know from the fucking Beatles, and the duo spent the evening hitting up some of the local clubs. The glittery glam rock stars were aligned in Supernaut’s favor that night as Macca and Meldrum happened to wander into a pub where Supernaut was playing a live set. After the gig, McCartney allegedly told Meldrum that Supernaut was the “best band he had seen in Australia.” Acting on the endorsement Meldrum would give the band two big breaks by helping them get signed to Polydor in 1976 and again later that year when he invited the band to appear on Countdown. It was Meldrum’s support helped Supernaught ride the wave of criticism they received after the release of their very first single “I Like it Both Ways”—a song that celebrated the joys of bisexuality. Here are some of the lyrics that helped influence the decision of pretty much every commercial radio station in Australia to outright ban the song from their playlists:

Johnny’s with a Julie he tells her she’s his girl says “I’ll love you always”
She got to love to find within his schizophrenic mind because he likes it both ways
One day it’s a rose another day a thorn he just can’t make the choice
Like when he seems so hard to find he can’t make up his mind between a high or low pitched voice
I like it both ways
I like it both ways
I like it both ways
I like it both ways


A shot of vocalist Gary Twin from the video for ‘I Like it Both Ways.’

While getting zero traction from commercial radio would have normally been a bit of a death blow to a band just getting their start, with the help of Meldrum and other television appearances, the controversial single would end up charting in the top five. Later that same year Supernaut released their self-titled album which went gold. Whatever your own personal definition of having “it” is, Supernaut had that and more including the right clothes, rock god hair, and legitimate musical chops. Again, with Meldrum at the wheel of the glam rock spaceship that was Supernaut, he would fund, direct and produce the video for “I Like it Both Ways.” The video, while fantastic, was partially the product of a technical error after a camera was mistakenly pointed right at a television monitor causing images to replicate in a feedback ripple effect while the band performed in front of a green screen. The trippy accident went over well with the band and the crew and the video itself received wide praise for its accidental innovation. And if 1976 hadn’t been good enough to Supernaut, they would also receive the “King of Pop Award” for Best Australian TV Performance.

After the jump, glam rock bliss awaits you! 

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘The Ballroom Blitz’: The teenage rampage that inspired Sweet’s greatest hit

Well now, I suppose you could call it art out of chaos. That in a sequinned nutshell is the story behind Sweet‘s “The Ballrooom Blitz.” For glam rock’s catchiest trashiest most lovable song was inspired by a riot that saw the band bottled off the stage at the Grand Hall, Palace Theater, Kilmarnock, Scotland, in 1973. Boys spat and hurled abuse while girls screamed their loudest to drown out the music. Hardly the kind of welcome one would expect for a pop group best known for their million selling singles “Little Willy,” “Wig-Wam Bam” and of course their number one smash “Block Buster.”

Why this literal teenage rampage (the title of another Sweet hit) ever occurred and what caused such unwarranted and let’s be frank unnecessary violence against such four lovable glam rockers has been the focus of much speculation over the years.

One suggestion was the band’s androgynous nay effeminate appearance in figure-hugging clothes, eye-shadow, glitter, long hair and lipstick—in particular the gorgeous bass player Steve Priest—was all too much for the sexually binary lads and lassies o’ Killie.

Bass player Priest thinks so and has said as much in his autobiography Are You Ready Steve? But this does raise the question as to why an audience of teenage Sweet-haters would pay their hard-earned pocket money to go and see a bunch of overtly camp rockers they hated?

Money was tight. After all this was 1973 when the country was beset by cash shortages, food shortages, strike action, power cuts and three-day work weeks. People couldn’t afford to waste their readies on some pseudo queer bashing.

Moreover, homosexuality was out and proud, Rocky Horror was on the stage, Bowie was the androgynous Ziggy Stardust, teen magazines were giving boys make-up tips, and the #1 youth program was the BBC’s music show Top of the Pops—on which Sweet appeared to have a weekly residency.

Another possible reason for such fury was the virulent rumor Sweet didn’t play their instruments and were just a “manufactured” band like The Monkees. This story gained credence as the famous song-writing duo of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who wrote and produced Sweet’s hit singles were well-known to prefer using session musicians to actual members of a given group. It was just easier and faster to leave it to the pros.

The sliver of truth in this well-known rumor was the fact Sweet only sang on their first three Chinn-Chapman singles “Funny, Funny”, “Co-Co” and “Poppa Joe”. It wasn’t until the fourth “Little Willy” that Chinn and Chapman realized Sweet were in fact way better musicians than any hired hand and so allowed the band to do what they did best—play their own instruments.
Give us a wink…
Chinn and Chapman may have blessed Sweet with their Midas hit-making skills but it came at a price. This unfortunately meant the band was dismissed by London’s snobbish music press as sugar-coated pop for the saccharine generation. A harsh and unfair assessment. But this may also have added to the audience’s ire.

In an effort to redefine themselves with the public Sweet also tended to avoid playing their best known teenybopper hits when on tour. Instead they liked to perform their own compositions—the lesser known album tracks—and a set of standard rock covers. A band veering from the songbook of hits (no matter how great the material) was asking for trouble. As Freddie Mercury once said after Queen made their comeback at Live Aid, “always give the audience what they want.”

But it was the album tracks that gave Sweet and glam rock itself its distinct sound. The credit for this must go to Andy Scott’s guitar playing (his six-string prowess was often favorably compared to the talents of Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck), Steve Priest’s powerful bass and harmonizing vocals, and Mick Tucker’s inspirational drums (just listen to the way he references Sandy Nelson’s “Let There Be Drums” in “The Ballroom Blitz”). Add in Brian Connolly’s vocals and it is apparent Sweet were a band with talents greater than the sum of their bubble gum hits might indicate.
More plus a short documentary on 24-hours in the life of Sweet, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Meet ‘Iron Virgin’: The Scottish glam rock band that time forgot
09:42 am


glam rock
Iron Virgin

Iron Virgin, a Scottish glam band formed in 1972
Iron Virgin, a Scottish glam rock band formed in 1972.
Back in 1973, riding high on his work with Thin Lizzy, Decca records sent out producer Nick Tauber off in search of a hot act to help them promote their other label called Deram Records (which put out David Bowie’s first self-titled album a year after it was established in 1967). Tauber ended up in Scotland and happened to catch a gig from Edinburgh-area band, Iron Virgin. Tauber signed the band to Deram and got them into the studio to record.

Iron Virgin was making a pretty good name for themselves before Tauber found them by playing Slade and Bowie covers, as well as their own original music all around Scotland. They dressed like their idols - decked out in sky-high platform boots and makeup. The band’s vocalist, Stuart Harper (now a high-end tie designer, pictured with the nifty “NO ENTRY” chastity belt codpiece above), made most of their stage clothes which consisted of embellished leotards, tights, and jumpsuits. Because it isn’t really “glam rock” unless your genitals are being strangled to death by something shiny and tight. 1973 was shaping up to be a pretty great year for Iron Virgin, who had only been around for about a year before Tauber “discovered” them.
Iron Virgin
Iron Virgin posing for their lives in their homemade “American Football” uniforms, as well as glammed-up Scottish tartan duds made by their vocalist Stuart Harper, early 1973/1974.
Iron Virgin single for
The single for the super-catchy Iron Virgin track, ‘Rebels Rule.’
According to an interview from 2014 with Iron Virgin guitarist Gordon Nicol, when they went into the studio with Tauber, they were “told” that they would be recording a cover of “Jet” originally recorded in 1973 by Paul McCartney and Wings for the album, Band on the Run. In addition to “Jet,” Iron Virgin also recorded a version of Rick Derringer’s “Teenage Love Affair” (from Derringer’s 1973 album, All American Boy), and a cover of the 1972 song “Shake that Fat” by Jo Jo Gunne (a band comprised of former members of Spirit), as well as three original songs, “Ain’t No Clown,” “Midnight Hitcher,” and the fist-pumping, T. Rex-y anthem, “Rebel Rules.”

Although the band enjoyed some success with their cover of “Jet” (which Deram released as a single in February of 1974), it was eclipsed by McCartney’s version that was released as a single that very same month - effectively delivering a death-blow to the up-and-coming band who would disband without ever recording again. Speaking of recordings, any physical copies of Iron Virgin vinyl are extremely rare and when they turn up, are pricey and highly-sought-after by collectors. In 2007, Rave Up Records reissued all six Iron Virgin singles on 12” vinyl, which swiftly sold out. The track “Rebel Rules” can be found on the great 2003 compilation of obscure glam released between the years 1973 and 1975, Velvet Tinmine. I’ve posted audio of all the Iron Virgin recordings I could dig up, which I coincidentally think you will really dig, below.

The name Iron Virgin is now taken by “the ultimate Iron Maiden tribute band.”

Iron Virgin, ‘Rebels Rule’
More Iron Virgin after the jump…

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The Prettiest Star: Obscure 70s glam rocker Brett Smiley has died
04:27 pm


glam rock
Brett Smiley

With the bad news about the death of David Bowie, and the subsequent tsunami of Internet posts about his life and work, the passing of another 70s glam rocker—albeit a much more obscure one—Brett Smiley has gone nearly unreported. Smiley died on January 8th at his home in Brooklyn after a longtime battle with both HIV and hepatitis, at the age of 60.

Brett Smiley is not someone who was necessarily “forgotten” or who was a “has-been” per se, as he was never really known by the public at large in the first place. He occupies the place that’s under Jobriath in the hierarchy of little-known androgynous Bowie-wannabe pretty boys of the glam rock era. He was a cult figure, sure, but it’s a cult consisting of a very few members (I consider myself one of them).

I suspect Brett Smiley won’t get an obituary in the New York Times, so below is a post from the Dangerous Minds archive to mark his passing. And here is a fascinating personal essay about his later years, and recent death, that was just posted by someone who knew him. There are several in-depth interviews with him that you can find online should you want more.

File this under “If You Like Jobriath”:

One day I found myself looking for obscure glam rock compilations on Amazon and the “customers who bought this” recommendation led me to an album called Breathlessly Brett, an LP originally recorded in 1974—but not released until 2003—by a then-teenaged performer named Brett Smiley. It seldom left my CD player for the next month. I got really obsessed by this album.

I’d never heard of Brett Smiley before that, but when I did a search on him, an interesting story emerged. A child star who went to junior high school with Michael Jackson (they shared a woodworking class), Smiley once played the title role in the Broadway musical Oliver!. He was just a sixteen-year-old when he was discovered by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, then keen to take his career down a Phil Spector-type producer/Svengali path and feeling competitive with Jobriath’s manager, Jerry Brandt.

Smiley was given a $200,000 advance and recorded an album produced by Oldham with Steve Marriott from the Small Faces and Humble Pie on guitar. An amazingly raucous single “Va Va Va Voom” was released and heavily hyped with Smiley’s blonde pretty-boy face appearing in ads all over London, and in an extremely over the top performance and interview on the popular Russell Harty Plus TV program.

Disc magazine proclaimed Brett to be “The Most Beautiful Boy In The World.”

“It wasn’t a slipper he slipped to Cinderella…” Brett Smiley as the Prince in the 3-D erotic musical version of ‘Cinderella.’

The insanely catchy single “Va Va Va Voom”
Hard to see how a tune that fucking catchy failed to storm the charts, but the single bombed and the album was shelved. Although Smiley auditioned to replace David Cassidy in The Partridge Family and made film appearances (like 1977’s erotic Cinderella and American Gigolo), he must’ve fallen into some sort of “velvet goldmine” because he wasn’t really heard from again until 2003 when RPM Records acquired the master tapes of his forgotten album. The sad truth was that Brett Smiley wallowed in serious skid-row drug addiction for years. His legend proved mysterious and intriguing for glam rock fans and Johnny Thunders’ biographer Nina Antonina wrote a book, The Prettiest Star: Whatever Happened to Brett Smiley? about how Smiley’s super brief pop supernova moment—just the idea of him—so strongly influenced her teenage years.

The Russell Harty Plus clip below features a young Brett Smiley performing his Ziggy-influenced “Space Ace” (the “Va Va Va Voom” B-side) and it’s pretty incredible if you like this sort of thing. It’s followed by an embarrassing interview.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘All That Glitters’: Vintage doc on legendary British glam rockers, The Sweet
10:21 am


glam rock

In 1973, Sweet were the subject of a documentary All That Glitters for BBC Schools series Scene. Being intended for “educational purposes,” the program had to pose a relevant topic for debate among its teenage audience—in this case, “Is the music business really that glamorous?” Over a period of two to three days, Scene followed the band members Brian Connolly (vocals), Steve Priest (bass/coals), Andy Scott (guitar) and Mick Tucker (drums) as they rehearsed for a Top of the Pops appearance (which led to an outcry over Priest’s Nazi outfit) and their (now hailed as “legendary”) Christmas show at London’s Rainbow Theater.

It had certainly been a good year for the band—probably their best: three hit singles (“Blockbuster,” “Hellraiser,” “Ballroom Blitz”) adding to their chart-topping back catalog and tipping their record sales to 14 million sold; sell-out gigs the length and breadth of the UK; and plans to record their first proper studio album—for which they would write most of the material and play all of the instruments. Yes, it had been a long hard graft, and it wasn’t always glamorous, but it seemed as if things could and should only get better.

But fame is fickle and pop careers are measured by the durability of three-minute songs. Sweet’s pop hits had been penned by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who had originally cast the band as sub-Archies bubblegum pop supplying them with such jolly toe-tappers as “Co-Co,” “Little Willy” and “Wig Wam Bam.” However, Sweet were always rockers and had a desire to write and play their own songs. As if signalling their gradual move away from Chinn and Chapman, the band dropped the definite article from their name—changing from The Sweet to Sweet.
Sweet’s audience were still mainly teenyboppers who liked their playground pop and the pretty boy make-up, though there were always some (including music journalist Paul Morley) who preferred the band’s self-penned hard-rocking B-sides. When Sweet started concentrating on their own kind of heavy glam music with the albums Sweet Fanny Adams (1974) and Desolation Boulevard (1975), they lost a chunk of their fan base who were now swooning over the Bay City Rollers while a younger generation were about to replace glam with punk.

Yet the music Sweet produced influenced artists such as Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Joan Jett and Poison.

Though half the band is sadly now dead (Connolly died in 1997, Tucker in 2002) the world is divided between Andy Scott’s Sweet, which covers Europe and Australia, and Steve Priest’s Sweet, which takes in the US, Canada and South America.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Wild, weird glam rock Tropicália from Brazil: Secos e Molhados

Secos e Molhados (“Dry & Wet”) was an glam-rock/Tropicália band formed in Brazil in 1971 during the most repressive phase of the military dictatorship. The band was short-lived, recording just two albums, but launched the career of feminine-sounding vocalist, Ney Matogrosso.

Matogrosso’s distinctive voice is “sopranino” meaning that he can hit notes higher than F6. Now 72, he’s still a star in Brazil, but has dropped the wild costumes and make-up, concentrating more on the purely vocal aspects of his talents, and re-interpreting classic Portuguese pop songs.

João Ricardo, who founded the group, and Gerson Conrad were the other two members. Secos e Molhados recorded in a wide variety of styles. Their innovative make-up and costuming caused a sensation, if not exactly scandal, in early 70s Brazil and they sold millions of records.

Below, Secos e Molhados performing “Flores Astrais”

More Secos e Molhados after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment