Oh Yes We Can Love: The History of Glam Rock is a five-disc, ninety-one track boxset, which will be released on October 28th in the U.K. and on November 5th in the U.S. As the title suggests, the boxset is intended to bring together the entire history of Glam Rock in one handy collection. I’m a big Glam Rock fan, so I expected to love this set and was a bit shocked that I didn’t at least like it more than I do. While I admire the concept of tracing the roots of Glam Rock as well as exploring its subgenre spawn, I wonder what exactly the criteria was for most of the songs included here. Glam Rock can describe a sound or a visual style (preferably both) and the majority of the bands on this compilation don’t really fall into either category.
The first disc especially stretches the definition to questionable boundaries. Who would ever call Chuck Berry a Glam Rocker? He was as pure rock ‘n’ roll as it gets. I’d think there’d be a better case for including Elvis than Berry.
Even the acts that most definitely do belong here – Adam & the Ants, Dead or Alive and most notably David Bowie – aren’t represented by their most iconic, Glam Rocky songs. Bowie’s “London Bye Ta-Ta” is not the song that brings his glittery Ziggy Stardust persona to mind. More puzzling is several Bowie covers are presented rather than the Bowie originals – such as Mott the Hoople’s cover of “All The Young Dudes,” Lulu’s take on “The Man Who Sold The World” and Bauhaus’ cover of “Ziggy Stardust.” Elton John’s original “Benny & the Jets” is included rather than a cover, but I hate that song so it does me little good. The one track they clearly got right was “Looking for a Kiss” by The New York Dolls.
I’m guessing licensing rights have a lot to with all of my complaints, a truly definitive cross-decade Glam Rock boxset would have to be culled from many major labels and that’s not even considering its subgenres. Or perhaps it’s an age difference between myself and the set’s compilers, though it’s difficult to discern whether I’m too young to understand their choices or they are. Some of the songs seem to have been selected simply for including the word “glam” or “glamorous,” even if they belong to an entirely different genre. Others are an obvious attempt to pay homage to the multitude of styles influenced by Glam Rock, but that just results in several glaring omissions…
The inclusion of Little Richard is understandable and welcome. He is, at least in my opinion, the grandfather of Glam Rock. But if Little Richard is here, where is Prince? If Adam Ant and Ultravox, why not other noteworthy New Romantic and New Wave bands like Culture Club, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode and INXS? Brit Poppers like Pulp and Seude made the cut, so why not Placebo – who, after all, covered T Rex in Velvet Goldmine?
Granted, Blondie and ELO did have origins in the Glam Rock scene and Blondie has straddled many a genre in its long career, but both bands are far better known for their bland disco hits. The bawdier, much more glammy sounds and styles of Grace Jones and George Clinton would have been more appropriate. And between such disco-esque inclusions and the apparent attempt to capture Glam Rock subgenres, why not Art Rockers like Lene Lovich or Cyndi Lauper?
Then there are the occasional detours into Goth, Industrial and Shock Rock (Morrissey, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, Marilyn Manson) without even a hint of makeup maven Siouxsie Sioux & the Banshees, original Shock Rocker Alice Cooper or anything from The Rocky Horror Picture Show (the pinnacle of Glam Goth and actually referenced in the liner notes essay) or Hedwig & the Angry Inch (Punk’s answer to Rocky Horror). Perhaps musicals don’t count? And why bother with Briel, but not his exquisite punk cabaret progeny The Dresden Dolls?
Nazareth slips in and Kiss is understandably included, but not Queen, Aerosmith, Meatloaf or any of the late 80s/early 90s hair bands (the true heirs of Glam Rock) like Motley Crue, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Poison, Ratt or Warrant.
Goldfrapp and The Darkness are appropriate modern picks (though again I’d have chosen different songs by both bands), but absent is the most Glam Rockiest album of the past decade, The Rise & Fall Of…Butch Walker.
And despite some very loose ties between Glam Rock and the early Punk Rock scene, I’m pretty sure pure punk rockers Patti Smith and The Ramones would be insulted to be called Glam Rockers. Of course, I’m glad to hear those favorite bands on any album. But if the point was to include androgynous bands (as the liner notes confirm), that just leaves empty spaces where The Eurythmics, The Cure and Garbage should be.
All that being said, there are quite a few gems, both Glam and not, to be found here. The highlights are:
Little Richard: Ooh My Soul
Jacques Briel: Amsterdam
The Velvet Underground: I’m Waiting for My Man
Curved Air: Back Street Luv
T Rex: Hot Love
Lou Reed: Walk on the Wild Side
Dana Gillespie: Andy Warhol
Suzi Quatro: Can the Can
New York Dolls: Looking for a Kiss
Sweet: Ballroom Blitz
Sparks: This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both of Us
Hello: Tell Him
Bryan Ferry: The ‘In’ Crowd
The Glitter Band: Angel Face
Arrows: I Love Rock & Roll
The Runaways: Cherry Bomb
Sisters of Mercy: Emma
Morrissey: Glamorous Glue
Suede: Metal Mickey
The Fall: Glam Rocket
Pulp: We are the Boys
The Darkness: Growing on Me
Goldfrapp: Strict Machine
So there are plenty of diamonds in the rough and I’m sure many will love this boxset without being so nitpicky as I. I just think either a smaller, more specifically Glam Rock collection or an even larger, more extensively experimental multi-genre one would be more interesting.