351. Gary Glitter – Always Yours (1974)

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)

Births:

Labour MP Jo Cox – 22 June

340. Gary Glitter – I Love You Love Me Love (1973)

70s glam rock star and secret monstrous paedophile Gary Glitter slowed things down on this second of three number 1s. Like his first, I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am!), I Love You Love Me Love was one of his most famous anthems.

Weirdly, this track was produced in mono. As Mike Leander died in 1996, we’ll never know if he knew of Glitter’s misdemeanours. Let’s hope not, and if he didn’t, be glad he died before having to have a large part of his production legacy tarnished. Of course Leander worked with other artists than Glitter, and most famously was called up by The Beatles to work on She’s Leaving Home when George Martin was unavailable, and a great job he did, too.

I’m procrastinating to avoid the awkwardness of reviewing another song by this bastard. Sad fact is, it didn’t upset me to hear it as much as his first number 1. Perhaps because it wasn’t so self-referential and you could imagine someone else covering it (yeah, right). It’s a swaying, drunken, stupid lurch of a love song, with a really catchy chorus.

Glitter and his girl (possibly literally in his case unfortunately) have stood by each other through thick and thin, and this is his boastful review of what they’ve had to contend with. As usual though, it’s actually all about Glitter, because despite everyone disliking his hair (wigs) and clothes (well, they were stupid), he was ‘strong enough for two’.

It works as a ‘lighters aloft’ style of song, with Glitter’s ‘gang’ projecting their love on their idol, who gives it right back at them. Especially anyone who looks under 16, no doubt. Ah well, only one more by this wretched human to cover.

Written by: Gary Glitter & Mike Leander

Producer: Mike Leander

Weeks at number 1: 4 (17 November-14 December)

Births:

Footballer Ryan Giggs – 29 November

Deaths:

Aircraft engine designer Sir Roy Fedden – 21 November
Scottish inventor Sir Robert Watson-Watt – 5 December
Crime fiction writer Anthony Gilbert (Lucy Beatrice Malleson) – 9 December
Novelist Henry Green – 13 December

Meanwhile…

26 November: The OPEC oil crisis in the Middle East caused Peter Walker, the Secretary for Trade and Industry, to warn that petrol rationing may have to be introduced in the near future. Britain’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia commented at the time that the oil price rise represented ‘perhaps the most rapid shift in economic power that the world has ever seen’. It’s a shift the UK has never recovered from.

5 December – The speed limit on motorways was reduced from 70mph to 50 mph until further notice.

9 December: The Sunningdale Agreement was signed in Sunningdale, Berkshire by Prime Minister Edward Heath, Irish premier Liam Cosgrave and representatives of the Ulster Unionist party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party and the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland. It was an attempt to establish power sharing in Northern Ireland and a cross-border Council of Ireland, but it collapsed in May 1974.

335. Gary Glitter – I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am!) (1973)

I’ve been dreading this ever since I started this blog. How to review the music of one of the, if not the first pop star to be effectively erased from modern times. Gary Glitter was one of the most popular glam rockers of the 70s, and through several comebacks in the 80s or 90s, was a national treasure (and yes, I thought he was great), until his ill-fated trip to PC World and the discovery of child pornography on his computer in 1997. He’s now rightly a figure of hate. At best, he’s ammunition for cheap jokes. His music is rarely heard anywhere, and made the headlines recently for its use in the Todd Haynes’ acclaimed Joker (2019). In the world of cancelled culture, musicians have mostly escaped unscathed. I’ve already reviewed number 1s by the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry. But Glitter is another matter.

Paul Francis Gadd was born 8 May 1944 in Banbury, Oxfordshire. His mother, a cleaner, raised him with the help of her mother. He never knew his father. Gadd was a troublesome child, and he was 10 when he and his brother were taken into local authority care. He would frequently run away and head for London, and he became determined he would one day be a star there.

In 1960, aged 15, Gadd released his first record with Decca Records under the name Paul Raven, Alone in the Night. It got him nowhere, but he did well performing in nightclubs in and around Soho. A year later, Raven signed with Parlophone and worked with future Beatles producer George Martin. A further two singles, Walk On Boy and Tower of Strength (a number 1 for Frankie Vaughan that year) also tanked.

Fast-forward to 1964 and Raven was struggling, serving as the warm-up man on ITV’s Ready Steady Go!. He was also wearing a wig, as he had gone bald at 18. Raven starred in TV adverts and auditioned for films, and around this time he first met producer Mike Leander. In early 1965 he joined The Mike Leander Show Band, and soon was helping as a deputy on some of Leander’s production sessions. When the band split, Raven helped form Boston International and toured the UK and Germany. Several singles were also released, sometimes under the name Paul Monday, including a cover of Here Comes the Sun.

Raven must have felt fame would never be his, until he watched on from the sidelines as glam rock began to rise thanks to T. Rex. He searched for a new name. Working backward through the alphabet, he tried to find an alliterative name… Vicky Vomit, Terry Tinsel and Stanley Sparkle were among those considered, before he settled on Gary Glitter.

Glitter and Leander went into the studio and worked on a 15-minute jam session that was to finally catapult him into stardom. Splitting the jam into Rock and Roll, Parts 1 and 2 became Glitter’s first single release in 1972, reaching number two in the UK. With a stomping, deep beat, filthy guitar sound and echoey, double-tracked vocals to hide a poor singing voice, the trademark Glitter sound was there from the start. Rock and Roll, Part 1 paid tribute to the music of Glitter’s past, but Rock and Roll, Part 2 was most popular worldwide. It was instrumental, save for Glitter’s ‘Hey’. This was his only US hit and became used extensively in sport there, where it became known as ‘The Hey Song’. It was also the version in Joker, and in 1988, was reworked by Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond, aka, The KLF, aka in this instance The Timelords, as Doctorin’ the Tardis, where it shot to number 1 and gave Glitter his umpteenth comeback.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. With his flamboyant outfits, bouffant wigs and demented stare, Glitter became an instant glam icon, who loved to mythologise himself in a string of hit singles. After years of missing out, his simple, direct glam rock was a case of right place, right time. Debut album Glitter went top 10, and another track from it, I Didn’t Know I Loved You (Till I Saw You Rock and Roll) reached number four.

After the success of Rock and Roll, Parts 1 and 2, Glitter and Leander knew they would need a regular backing band for live shows. The Boston Showband became known as The Glittermen and soon after settled on The Glitter Band. The group consisted of John Rossall (trombone and musical director), Gerry Shephard (lead guitar and vocals), Pete Phipps (drums and keyboards), Tony Leonard (drums), John Springate (bass and vocals), and Harvey Ellison (saxophone).

In 1973, Glitter came ever closer to the top spot, with two singles from Touch Me, Do You Wanna Touch Me and Hello, Hello, I’m Back Again reaching number two. Rossall and Ellison took part in the sessions for Touch Me, but the rest of the instruments were once again Glitter and Leander. However, it seems more likely to have been purely Leander, as it was Glitter who claimed he helped, and who can believe a thing he says?).

I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am!) became the first of three number 1s for Glitter, and, until he was uncovered as a paedophile, one of his most enduring anthems and giving him the nickname ‘the Leader’.

So here I am listening to Gary Glitter songs in full for the first time in over 20 years. It’s a weird experience to say the least. When the Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland was shown last year, I wondered if I could ever listen to his music again, but I have done, from time to time. When it came to listening to Glitter, I did it in an empty house, with earphones, with a sense of shame and a feeling of being complicit in something terrible.

And yet I had a strange feeling of nostalgia listening to I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am!). I loved it as a boy, the slow ‘Come on! Come on!’ stomp building in speed and power, and I also liked Glitter, despite being scared by his manic staring. I like Leander’s production on Glitter’s hits and it’s a shame his work has also been wiped from public consciousness – I don’t know if it’s the associations Glitter’s discography now has, but there’s an uneasy, eerie feeling to these songs… I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s a unique, exciting sound.

However, any sentiment I might have felt about this number 1 vanished after I heard Glitter laugh after singing ‘I’m the man who put the bang in gang!’. It disgusted me, brought me to my senses and also made me think I’ve found the reasons Glitter is reviled so much and his work will never be reappraised. Most of the lyrics at best sound seedy, at worst, boastful of his behaviour, like barely hidden clues, as if daring us to find him out. He’s never shown the remotest bit of remorse for his crimes. There’s footage of him on YouTube, leering and winking and mock-shushing people for hinting at his love of schoolchildren on This Is Your Life. He was a fake in his public and private life. A fat, bald pervert, pretending to be a children’s hero. His music would have to be incredible to make you forget all this and enjoy it at all. It isn’t.

Written by: Garry Glitter & Mike Leander

Producer: Mike Leander

Weeks at number 1: 4 (28 July-24 August)

Births:

Terrorist Richard Reid – 12 August
Northern Irish radio presenter Stephen Nolan – 20 August

Deaths:

Race car driver Roger Williamson – 29 July
Actor James Beck – 6 August
Motorcycle designer Edward Turner – 15 August
Labour Party MP George Benson – 17 August
Prime Minister of Northern Ireland Basil Brooke, 1st Viscount Brookeborough – 18 August

Meanwhile…

30 July: 18 coalminers were killed in the Markham Colliery disaster near stately, Derbyshire when the brake mechanism on their cage failed.
Also that day, £20,000,000 was paid to victims of the Thalidomide scandal following a court case that had run for 11 years.

31 July: Militant protesters of Ian Paisley disrupted the first sitting of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

8 August: Stoke City and England goalkeeper Gordon Banks announced his retirement from football. He had lost sight in one eye in a car crash in October 1972.

20 August: Len Shipman, president of the Football League, called for the government to bring back the birch to deal with the rise of football hooligans.

21 August: The coroner in the inquest into Bloody Sunday accused the British army of ‘sheer unadulterated murder’ following the jury’s open verdict.