This 20-track anthology gathers rare glam-rock singles from the early 1970s.
Liner Note Author: Philip King.
Photographer: Philip King.
Disregard the word "discotheque" in the title of RPM's glorious Boobs: The Junkshop Glam Discotheque, the sixth installment in their wonderful Lip Smackin' 70s series. Although each of the 20 tracks here has a relentless, pounding beat, this isn't disco, this is glitter -- or, more precisely, what record collectors call junkshop glam, the forgotten glam and glitter singles from the '70s that are coveted precisely because these trashy tunes weren't intended to be remembered 30 years after their initial release. Screemer, just one of 20 unknowns on this collection, were strangely prescient when they declared on their shameless "Ballroom Blitz" ripoff "Interplanetery Twist" that "the people of the 21st century ain't never seen a rock & roller," and listening to Boobs, it's hard not to think that there's some truth there. Certainly, rock & roll in the 21st century no longer means the trashy, sleazy fun that is Boobs (the title, by the way, is an homage to a glam club of the same name from the mid-'70s) -- with an exception or two, it's well-intentioned and somber, even morose, either stagnant in its sincerity or designed for posterity and overly reverential of the past. Glitter and glam had no good intentions at all. The music was cheaply made and quickly released, blatantly aping the sounds of such stars as T. Rex, David Bowie, the Sweet, Slade, and the Bay City Rollers. It wasn't about anything but the moment, and when it did reference the past, say in how Iron Cross covered "Little Bit o' Soul" or Shelby tarted up Duane Eddy's "(Dance with The) Guitar Man," there was no respect there. So why does it still sound so intoxicatingly good after all these years? Because there's a kinetic energy to these fizzy productions -- the bands sound as if they truly believed that they could be stars, while the producers and labels behind them truly believed that they could score a quick buck by duping these young lads to wear fringes and platform shoes, and to cake their faces in makeup. These singles were written, recorded, released, and forgotten so quickly, they're freeze-dried time capsules, so the music sounds startlingly fresh, even if it's unquestionably tied to its time.
While there's a track or two that's nothing more than good-time fun, there are plenty of gems here, first among them the Rats' giddy T. Rex homage "Turtle Dove," which kicks off the party in grand style. It's quickly followed by Hector's Sweet-styled teenaged rampage "Wired Up," and from that point on it's clear that Boobs never will let the momentum sag: it's a party record and the closest it comes to a ballad is when Chunky reworks Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" as a spangled space rock anthem called "Albatross." Along the way are such highlights as Jimmy Jukebox's David Bowie rip "Motor Boat," complete with fey vocalizations and a reference to "Garbo's daughter"; "Jungle" by Erasmus Chorum, the only black glam band in recorded history; the irresistible stomp of Hot Rod's "Love Is Alright (Hey)," which recalls Gary Glitter in its chorus and steals from Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World" in the verse; the trippy, electric sitar-fueled "Natural Gas" by Paul Ryan (a terrific send-up of Marc Bolan at his spaciest); and Catapult's horn- and wah-wah-driven party anthem "Let Your Hair Hang Down." Reasonable critics could claim it's all trash, which it proudly is, but they're not only spoilsports, they're ignoring the fact that these songs were made at the precise moment trash was made with both skill and spirit, walking the fine line between disposable garbage and oddly resilient, eternally infectious junk. The junk of the 21st century is too cold and calculating, too slick and passionless, to be anywhere near this much fun. Put it this way: today, there wouldn't be a club called "Boobs" -- it'd be something crude and direct like, say, "Tits" -- but it was the right name for a glitter club and it's the right name for this disc. It's sexy, silly, and fun, which is exactly what this brilliant compilation is. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine