Thankfully, this is the last time I’ll have to write about Gary Glitter as I’ve reached the last of his three number 1s. After his previous, I Love You Love Me Love, Glitter began 1974 with the sentimental ballad Remember Me This Way. It was his first move away from the template he and Leander had set with Rock and Roll, Parts 1 and 2, towards a more ‘classic’ rock’n’roll sound, and it stalled at number three.
Always Yours is more upbeat, but also features an overtly retro sound, akin to a low-budget Wizzard (I assume by this point The Glitter Band were playing on Glitter’s recordings). The only reason any respectable person could have for listening to Glitter’s songs these days is that those early Leander productions were pretty unique. This isn’t, and it’s sorely lacking that distinctive Leander guitar drone. It’s another sign that glam was leaning too heavily on the past. Sure, it was always an important element, but Bowie, Wizzard and T. Rex had more going for them. Out of all Glitter’s bestselling songs, this is one I had never heard, or perhaps I had but it made as much of an impression on me then as now – very little. At least the lyrics aren’t too seedy.
If you were in any doubt as to where the talent was in the Glitter and Leander partnership, consider that after Always Yours, ‘The Leader’ had only three more top 10 hits in the 70s – Oh Yes! You’re Beautiful (number two) in 1974 and Love Like You and Me (number 10) and Doing Alright with the Boys (number six) in 1975. All three were co-written and produced by Leander. Glitter worked with Mark Munro instead on his third album G. G. (1975), and sales dwindled.
Glitter announced his retirement in 1976 to spend more time with his new partner, though his financial problems probably played a large part in the decision too. Less than two years later he made the first of approximately 217 comebacks, back with Leander. But A Little Boogie Woogie in the Back of My Mind (later covered by Shakin’ Stevens) only reached number 31 upon his return. He declared himself bankrupt in 1977, and would do so again in the 90s.
From the early-80s, Glitter settled into his role as a niche performer reminding everyone of the glam years, and would reappear every so often, usually around Christmas. It was in 1984 that he enjoyed his first top 10 hit in nine years when Another Rock and Roll Christmas reached number seven. He recorded a new version of his first number 1, I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am!) with female metal band Girlschool in 1986. He probably liked their name and would have been disappointed to find out they were grown women.
Then in 1988 Glitter found himself back on Top of the Pops courtesy of arch pranksters Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty. The duo were taking a break from their Justified Ancients of Mu Mu project to create a house version of the Doctor Who theme. Realising the ‘Glitter beat’ worked better, they instead made a mash-up of the theme with Rock and Roll, Part 2 and The Sweet’s Block Buster !. As The Timelords, they had their first number 1 with Doctorin’ the Tardis, and later released Gary in the Tardis, in which Glitter sang lines from his hits here and there. It’s quite a performance. He also (sort of) went to number 1 the following December thanks to Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers using Another Rock and Roll Christmas on Let’s Party.
By the 90s Glitter was firmly established as a national treasure. He opened a restaurant called Gary’s Glitter Bar “Leader of the Snack”. He also launched his own record label, and continued to release new and old material that would always be bought by his die-hard fans. In 1995 he started making money out of Oasis’s use of Hello, Hello, I’m Back Again on the opening track of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, Hello. A year later he nearly cost Roger Daltrey an eye while swinging a mic around during rehearsals for the revival tour of Quadrophenia.
And then he was found out. On 18 November 1999, Glitter took his computer to a PC World in Bristol for repair. He asked the technician not to look at his files. The technician did, and found indecent images and videos of children. When Glitter went to collect the computer the following day he was arrested and his houses raided, where further sordid material was found. ‘The Leader’ found himself cancelled pretty swiftly, with his scene in the forthcoming Spice Girls film Spice World severely cut. In March 1998 he was charged with over 50 offences including downloading indecent images, child sex and indecency. In November 1999 Glitter was cleared of sexual assault but he pleaded guilty to 54 charges of making indecent photographs of children under 16 and was sentenced to four months in jail and placed on the sex offender register. Nobody wanted to be in that gang apart from, incredibly, his hardcore followers, seemingly in a state of denial.
Afterwards, Glitter fled to Spain, then Cuba, then Cambodia after the press uncovered his wherabouts. In late 2002 he was detained over allegations against young boys and was deported. In 2005 he was living in Vietnam and further allegations followed, resulting in his arrest in November. He managed to avoid execution by firing squad when the child rape charge was dropped a month later, but in March 2006 he was sentenced to three years in prison. Glitter claimed UK tabloids had set him up. He suffered a heart attack while behind bars and was released in 2008. 19 countries refused to allow him in, and he agreed to return to the UK, where he was placed on the Sex Offenders Register for life.
ITV’s Exposure documentary on Jimmy Savile in October 2012, threw Glitter in the spotlight once more, when it was alleged he raped an underage girl in Savile’s dressing room. So it wasn’t a huge shock when he became the first person to be arrested as part of Operation Yewtree. Glitter went to prison once again, in February 2015, convicted for 16 years for attempted rape, four counts of indecent assault and one of having sex with a girl under 13. Glitter will be 87 when he’s released if he serves the full term. That’s if he makes it that far, as he’s suffered heart problems for years.
Glitter was one of the first modern examples of cancel culture. As I’ve said several times in this blog, he’s a rare example of a musician whose misdemeanours have been considered impossible to separate from the artist. His appearances on Top of the Pops repeats on BBC Four have been removed, along with those of his partner in crime, Savile, who inadvertently sent him to prison for probably the last time. The controversy of the use of Rock and Roll Part 2 in Joker (2019) brought him back in the public eye, and despite the fact it’s been proven he won’t make any money from royalties, I get the feeling he’ll have got off on making the news again.
His erasure is deserved, as research for this blog has proved he did nothing to make his music worth listening to again. The talent all lay with Leander, and his production skills in those early years remains different and interesting. Glitter was an opportunist, from lucking his way into working with a great producer at the right time, to his terrible crimes.
Written by: Gary Glitter & Mike Leander
Producer: Mike Leander
Weeks at number 1: 1 (22-28 June)
Labour MP Jo Cox – 22 June