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Friday, February 6, 2009
Glitter By The Sea
One of the great turning points in my life was when I spent the summer of 1974 going to University High School (Westwood, California) by day and going to Rodney's English Disco at night. I was surrounding by trashy teenage kids morning, noon and night. It was teenage heaven! The big sound at the time wasn't that mopey punk rock shit, it was glitter (retroactively labeled “glam”) rock. Short, compact pop numbers with heavy metal guitar and drum mixes and blindingly metallic clothes and make-up with androgynous lyrics, glitter rock was exciting in ways punk could never be. While punk was fatalistic (“No future”, “I want a riot of my own”) glitter was about being young and feeling the wonder in everything, no matter how mundane.
The rush of glitter rock was like having my central nervous system hot-wired by Peter Pan. Of all the concert halls to showcase my glitter rock heroes my fondest memories were from the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, a medium sized Art Deco building that once hosted the Academy Awards. I remember wearing my green crushed velvet elephant flares and fire-engine red platform shoes. There was T. Rex with Marc Bolan wearing a cape and a big silver streak down his black cork-screw curls playing "Chariot Choogle" and "Buick Mackane" girl I'm just a Jeepster for your love. He'd strut up and down the stage playing his Gibson Flying V guitar, all 4'10'' of him, and finished his "concert" pulling out a bullwhip and beating his guitar with it! After the show I'd stand out in front of the Civic and the glam Dollybirds would run up to me with glitter on their cheeks. "Hey, do you need a ride home, tee hee?" I'd reply with my terrified young man face, "No thanks". "Nice platforms, giggle".
Then there was Queen starring Freddie Mercury resplendent in crisp white gown and long flowing black hair, shaking his shoulders like a chorus girl and wailing, "Hey Big Spender" from "Sweet Charity". He seemed very gentle on stage, very genteel - "Do you wish to hear another tune?" and sang "Keep Yourself Alive". What made all the SM Civic shows so special was that they seemed like huge parties of varying androgyny, a true precursor to the gay influence that would ultimately lay down the foundation to Hollywood punk rock. And nobody got hurt, imagine that. Not with Freddie Mercury delicately singing the heart-breaking "Nevermore" in his immaculate soprano.
Lou Reed had chopped off all his hair and dyed it platinum blonde and wore thick sunglasses, lizard heroin chic to kill. When he sang "heroin" he simulated shooting up. He was doing heavy metal covers of old Velvet underground songs. It was cold! The morning after I saw him floating around the newsstand on Las Palmas Avenue, the big gay street in Hollywood (pre-WeHo) wearing the exact same clothes he performed in the night before. I carefully approached him. "Hey, Lou, uh, great show last night - thanks for the great music", I quietly said. "oh, hey, uh, gee thanks", he quietly replied, still looking at the magazines at the stand without looking at me.
The Kinks were glam at the time, playing their big drag queen anthem "Lola" while one of The Cockettes was jigging on stage to them. The Cockettes were the ugliest drag queens I've ever seen, combining hippie chic with feminine make-up. They were gash-tly! I didn't care, though - I had my silver satin flares on and my thunderbolt platform shoes on.
I also saw Sparks, Peter Frampton's Camel (before he became a trailer park pin-up), but The Sweet were something else! I've never seen so many beautiful girls at a rock show, ever.
The Sweet had rugged old man faces but the prettiest hair, almost like wigs, but real, coiffed the way only the British can. First song, "Ballroom Blitz", then "Blockbuster", and then of course the amazing "Hellraiser". What a show. "Desolation Boulevard" had just come out with all those great songs like "Sweet F.A." and "No You Don't". Before they played you could hear David Bowie crooning "Young girl they call them the Diamond Dogs" and it was all about us, we were the Diamond Dogs and somehow it was more important, more fun, more shiny and more wondrous than anything that would come after that. I never felt so young and never did again.