Sunday, August 14, 2005

David Bowie, Alice Cooper and the Rise Of Science Fiction Rock

The 60's were over. A tumultuous decade who's music reflected the times. A mix of Folk inspired protest rock, Motown and psychedelic acid metal had scorched a path though the American psyche. Along with nightly reports of racial violence, civil disobedience, riots and political corruption. And many great 60's artists didn't make it past the early 70's. The Beatles, Hendryx, The Doors, Janis Joplin and many others were either already finished or about to be.

For those who survived, the aftermath of the big cultural party of the 60's was the inevitable hangover. 1972 was bloated, lethargic and stuck in a musical holding pattern. The radio cranked out soothing, easily digestible schmaltz by the likes of The Carpenters, Bread and The Partridge Family as if trying to heal from consuming too much the night before. But while waiting for the pain and the headache to go away, something happened.

Pop music was invaded by visitors from other planets. The "reality" of the previous decade's music was being replaced by fantasy. Enough about protests, Viet Nam, political assassinations and unrest. Now it was time for some fun. Otherworldly themes of spacemen, killer queens, lazer beams and fleshly delights began getting airplay.

Formerly little known acts David Bowie, Alice Cooper and Elton John dawned mascara and eyeliner to usher in an era of dress up, androgyny and camp. Dubbed "Glitter" or "Glam", this was the first time science fiction inspired a popular musical movement. Queen, The New York Dolls, KISS and Roxy Music were willing accomplices.

Part of the irreverent fun was the blurring of established conventions. Was that platform shoe, dress wearing, freakish singer a man or a woman? Have aliens really landed? Are they taking over?

"You got your mother in a whirl
She's not sure if you're a boy or a girl..."

-Rebel Rebel by David Bowie (1974)

So inspiring was this movement that for a period even The Stones, Todd Rundgren and Bob Dylan began wearing heavy makeup on stage. If Woodstock represented the youth rock movement of the 60's, The Rocky Horror Picture Show represented the Glitter movement of the 70's. For a malaise filled time desperately in need of escape from the real world, this was the perfect solution.

Though it didn't last long, the 70's Glitter era directly inspired the New Wave 80's. Duran Duran, Human League, The Cure and Siouxsie and The Banshees all learned their makeup AND music tips from those daring young lads from the 70's. And the tradition continues.

-DJ Craig

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