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Glam rock

Glam rock (less commonly glitter rock), a style of rock music popularized in the 1970s, was mostly a British phenomenon and confined to larger cities in the U.S., such as New York and Los Angeles. It was distinguished by the costumes and stage acts of the performers rather than any particular aspect of their music. The emphasis was on superficiality and an unabashed embracing of decadence, fame, and sexuality, a statement of sorts against such acts as Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Yes and Genesis, whose music was often referred to by critics as art rock.

Glam performers often dressed androgynously in make up and glittery, outrageous costumes, not dissimilar to costumes that Liberace or Elvis Presley wore when performing in cabaret. The most famous example is David Bowie during his Ziggy Stardust phase. Sexual ambiguity became a game; Bowie told the press he was bisexual simply for the publicity while the late Jobriath is thought really to have been rock's first openly gay star. One of the most famous examples of a bisexual glam rocker is Freddie Mercury of Queen.

Although credit for starting the trend in Britain is often given to David Bowie, it was probably Roxy Music, headed by Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno, that led the wave. However, Roxy Music avoided the excesses of many of their imitators. Ferry wanted to give his young audience an excuse to dress up for concerts, or as he said "It would be like a night at the opera for them." Some also credit Marc Bolan of T. Rex as the progenitor of glam rock.

In America, glam rock was most prominently represented by the proto-punk New York Dolls, whose sleazy Rolling Stones-influenced rawk was matched by the wildly feminine look of the band. A sensation in New York City, the group was never able to find a wider audience, although their subsequent influence was great. Earlier, in 1968-69, Alice Cooper had arguably sketched the first hints of glam rock when they used a transvestite look and an overtly sexual attitude as part of their outrageousness.

Glam rock was a major influence upon the late 1970s UK punk rock movement, particularly the Sex Pistols.

Glam rock also was reflected in the movies Brian DePalma's Phantom of the Paradise, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, David Bowie's "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust", Alice Cooper's "Good to See You Again", Slade's "Flame", Todd Haynes' Velvet Goldmine, and John Cameron Mitchell's glam rock musical, Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Today, the glam rock legacy is carried out by a sparse few worldwide, such as androgynous poet Raziel Lafleur, and his devotees.


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