Even before torrents and Mediafire and legitimate, non-Russian online retailers sent the likes of Doc Corbin Dart, Black Randy and William Onyeabor to the front of my thoughtspace, I had a keen interest in canon. Whether editorial or personal, it didn’t matter, and neither did the un-creative presence of ordinal numbers, sussing out the relative weights of aura that put The Idiot over Heart Food. And, honestly, I wasn’t really bothered by all the reoccurrences, the candidates any mildly-dedicated rock fan could free-associate. Because at its worst, the album/singles list is just a shopping checklist, a place where personal reflection and taste go to die, a place to nod at the selection of Double Nickels on the Dime and Nevermind and Giant Steps and the token Aretha Franklin, Dr. Dre, and Slayer picks. But at its best, the list is an impressionistic snatch at a century’s gemstones, a breathless survey of the enchanting. We love lists, because we love plotting the history. If you want an infusion of bloghits, post the top 100 albums of the post-Elvis/post-Sex Pistols/post-Nirvana era. I hear it’s magic.
But whose history are we plotting? Nearly every magazine list - and a fair number of personal ones that I’ve come across - favors the “innovators,” the Great People of history who put something on a platter that hadn’t been heard before (or were, of course, fortunate to have invaded the public’s consciousness first). Once you’ve acclimated yourself to the consensus movers and shakers, it’s not a particularly fun approach. It’s certainly hindered the appreciation of first-class compositional and/or performance talents like Sam & Dave, Game Theory, and Subhumans UK. And Gary Glitter.
For Americans, as well as non-Americans under a particular age, the name Gary Glitter bears images of a pandering, chubby performer sweating under BBC stagelights, that Hey! song that stadiums used to play before they discovered hip-hop, and (perhaps most of all) a sexual predator and convicted possessor of child porn. None of these images or concepts are inaccurate, but they are incomplete. At his artistic peak (and for sharp flashes during the decline), he was a diabolically compelling presence, a persona of untrammeled confidence and boundless craving for affection. Largely under the guidance of producer/arranger Mike Leander, the erstwhile Paul Gadd released a couple dozen tracks confounding in their demand for attention of the teen kind. Goonish, stomping, melodically horizontal, magnetic rock ‘n’ roll tracks. One might have thought that Mr. Gadd grew up with the conviction that a robust fan club is the highest ideal for a singer, and crafted his persona accordingly.
To be a fan of Gary Glitter in 2011 is to recognize that not every genre reduction and retool is considered equal, that the weight of sins can (but will not always, as history suggests) trump our reception of a single, that sometimes there’s nothing more important than a wicked backbeat and a reminder that performance is already a desperately selfish act.
My name is Brad, and my personal canon may not interest you at the moment. I haven’t undertaken a project like this in probably ever, so I’m begging your indulgence as we make this fun. I can be judged on a daily basis at The Singles Jukebox.