Glam rock is usually viewed as an inconsequential rock sub-genre. It is often forgotten in the abundance of genres that originated in the 1970s, and it is often neglected completely as a major genre at all in America. Critics slammed the new genre, calling it hype-driven and plastic. One argument held that glam rock was typically seen as insignificant because it did not have a long life, nor did it capture the attention of the world. Glam rock was popular in the UK, but even there, it was short-lived and only popular amongst teens who missed out on the pop culture and hippie ideology of the late 1960s. Glam rock, then, may seem a genre that is worth forgetting, except that glam rock laid the foundations of the modern popular music industry. Between 1970 and 1977, glam rock commercially remodeled the traditional approach to popular music following the hippie movement of the late 1960s, it did this by focusing on stimulating stage performances, theatricality, fashion, revolutionary management techniques, and endorsing fringe social issues such as: alienation, introspective reflection, and sexual exploration—artists such as David Bowie and Marc Bolan, were the figureheads of glam rock that paved the way for the future of the commercial music industry.
Before examining the impact of glam rock, one must look at the historical beginnings of rock and roll as a whole and how glam rock arrived in popular culture. Music in America after the Civil War consisted of a few genres: orchestral, hymnals, gospels, and ethnic folk were the most common. By 1900, country music had achieved national status. In 1912 blues music gained national attention when W.C. Handy released the song “Memphis Blues”, which unleashed a new approach to music. Off-shoots of the blues, jazz and ragtime, quickly became popular and set a trend around the world. Blues music in the meantime, was gaining popularity and appeared more frequent, evolving as it progressed.
By 1954 Elvis had come on the music scene with a radical new approach to popular music. His contribution bridged a race gap that brought underground blues music to the world. He sang African American blues music and performed it to white audiences. His popularity was incomparable, it reached every continent, and expanded the influence and ideas of what popular music could be. Renamed from rockabilly, the rock and roll genre was born and Elvis was “The King”.
Along with this new wave of rock and roll was an artist by the name of Little Richard. He was an exuberant figure who commanded the stage. He drew attention to himself by wearing flashy outfits, mascara, and eyeliner. His overall performance was considered obscene by most Americans—a man presenting himself with feminine appearances was taboo in the 1950s. It was a social stigma that Americans did not shake until the 1980s when hair metal became popular. Little Richard’s song “Tutti Frutti”, set the bar for other musicians, and broadened the scope and the future of...