You only have to listen to Def Leppard’s “Rocket” to know how much frontman Joe Elliott loves glam rock. The lyrics pay homage to David Bowie, Lou Reed, T. Rex, Queen and Sweet in about six minutes. So when Rolling stone asked Elliott for a contribution to our ongoing “My List” series, he picked his five favorite glam songs – some of which are surprising and others that longtime fans should expect, as Def Leppard covered them live.
The group will hit the road this summer on a massive world tour with the Journey co-headliners, an event they also marked by making their entire catalog available to streaming services for the first time. Before the tour, Elliott called Rolling stone to talk about his glam-rock choices.
Mott the Hoople
“All the young guys”
It is the anthem of our generation. I first heard it when I was 12. It was the defining moment for a group of scruffy teenagers in Sheffield and across the UK – perhaps more in the UK than in America. I was a fan of the band since their beginnings when they were doing hard rock, and I totally agreed with Ian Hunter’s character, his voice; everything about him spoke to me. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that he was not what you might call a “classical singer”, but the way he delivers the song is much more important; Bob Dylan showed it to everyone years ago. So when “All the Young Dudes” became a hit, I got to go to the playground and do my “I told you so” dance all over the place. It was just a good feeling.
Every time I hear the song on the radio now, the hairs on my arm always stand on end. Not so much when I play it on my iPod or iPad or whatever, because it’s just me, but when I hear it on the radio and I know a thousand other people are hearing it, I say: ” Yeah. There’s more than me there, ‘I love this song.’ “
It also doesn’t matter that the song married two fantastic performers, as Hunter sang it and Bowie wrote it. It was a big time for Bowie in 1972, and he was a champion of glam rock. He brought Iggy Pop to the fore and Mott the Hoople and Lou Reed, as well as his own work. The Beatles had split up, the Stones had gone to do what they were doing and the kids were like, “This is my music. ”That said, I didn’t like the recording of Bowie’s“ All the Young Dudes. ”I had gotten a bootleg of his Aladdin Sané version circa 1983, but hated the version he made on David live. The one he did in 2003 on the Reality Tour is superb.
I understood correctly when they changed their name from Tyrannosaurus to T. Rex. They had already released four albums, but they were like, “It’s a little too hippie, acoustic, bongo.” So they got the band bigger, changed the name, and started doing poppy songs. They had a huge summer hit in 1970 with “Ride a White Swan” and then it blew us all away with things like “Hot Love” and what was called in America “Bang a Gong”, but in Britain it was “Put it on. He got me hook, line and sinker, and if I had to pick a favorite T. Rex song, it’s” Metal Guru. “
It was the perfect pop song. It wasn’t necessarily the best song he had ever written, but as a standalone three minutes you would want to hear when playing football or sneaking out of someone’s bedroom window or look The top of the pops, it was absolutely beautiful. It’s total nonsense, like all great rock songs are. This takes you on a little three minute journey and when the song ends you want to put the needle back in the front and play it back. I’ve played it probably 200 times in the four days it was released. It was just so good.
The first gig I saw was T. Rex in 1971. What I remember the most is that my mother dropped me off on the steps of Sheffield Town Hall and the gig already had begin. For some reason I had arrived late, or they started early, and walked through the auditorium’s swinging doors and he was already on stage playing, banging his guitar with a tambourine and s’ kneeling. I had never been to a concert so I had no idea the volume and to my 11 year old ears it was just ridiculous. I was more mesmerized by the crowds and the hero worship. It was just screaming like you saw it on the Beatles news. It was phenomenal.
Nine years later Def Leppard is playing in the same room in 1980 and I was standing where Bolan was and looked at where the 11 year old was and I swear it didn’t look that big. Once I was part of it, he wasn’t as tall or he was different. But I remember when I was a kid, thinking he was hundreds of yards away from me, then I realized, “It’s not very far at all.” It was quite weird.
It’s pretty hard to choose a Bowie song because there are so many of them. I’m going with “Starman” because it was his first real hit, and we don’t count “Space Oddity” because it was an accident. “Starman” was the real David Bowie – the mullet-white Bowie, strange alien creature that he was – with this incredible group of Hull. They were from Yorkshire like us, and God bless him for that.
It was the moment that marked me more than the song. I love the song, but the most important thing was when he played it on The top of the pops. It wasn’t his first TV appearance, but it was on this show where he connected with so many people from Boy George to Morrissey and Marc Almond to me. When it aired and we English kids had probably just got color TV, then we were seeing the Stones and stuff in gray and all of a sudden we were looking at a guy wearing green and yellow. and red and blue and he has orange hair and two of the band members were blond and wore gold lamé suits. It was as if something came from another planet. They were literally aliens. It was crucial.
When he put his hands around Mick Ronson’s shoulders, the parents were biblical about it. A man putting an arm around another man was like, “Oh, my God,” and we were kids like, “So what?” It’s that generation of WWII parents who say, ‘It’s disgusting,’ and that’s the same reason they all thought Alice Cooper was really scary, but we thought he was really. cool. It was brilliant.
“See my baby Jive”
I’m a huge fan of Roy Wood and how he was in the Move before ELO and then how Roy went missing and started doing Wizzard while Jeff Lynne stayed with ELO. It was fascinating when I was a kid to see it all fall apart just a few years after all those Move songs like “Blackberry Way”, “Fire Brigade” and “Tonight”. Roy formed a crazy band for Wizzard and they had a bunch of hits, but they had two hit singles. One was called “Ball Park Incident” and the other was the phenomenal “See My Baby Jive”. It’s kind of like a Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” thing. I think he quadrupled the battery. It’s just crazy.
John Lennon once said, “Glam rock is just rock & roll with lipstick,” and that’s what Wizzard was; they looked more like circus clowns. They wore the most ridiculous outfits. I think of the tuba players or one of the bassoons disguised as a gorilla. They loved The top of the pops and it was such a visual show, so they were trying to be more outrageous than the last time and more outrageous than the group that would follow them. That’s what glam rock really was: it’s just people trying to unite because there were new color TVs, platform shoes and mirrored hats that would do it no matter what. what a day for a 12 year old. When you listen to the song, you can see where things like Rocky Horror Picture Show correlated with mood.
“I am the leader of the gang (I am!)”
This is going to be very controversial as no one is talking about Gary Glitter anymore, since he is a pedophile, but there is no doubt that in 1973 he and Michael Leander, who previously worked with the Beatles, did a fantastic song. It’s just an absolutely great pop anthem to sing and laugh about. It was just undeniable.
It starts with a motorbike, then Glitter and the band throw that “come on, come on” song and it speeds up, then stops and he says, “do you want to be in my gang, my gang? And it’s just begging for what’s next, which is to say the whole Glitter band is saying “Oh yeah”. It’s just really well-constructed stuff.
You will no longer hear him on the radio in UK because he is banished to a bloody hell for all his crimes with underage girls. But probably no more than Jerry Lee Lewis who always gets played. And Chuck Berry did all of these tours before he died, and no one seems to remember putting cameras in his restaurant’s bathroom and filming people. So people choose their outcasts, I guess. But if you’re talking about music and nothing but music here, the songs you had when you were a 12 year old were fantastic. And this song in particular was the best I have ever heard.