When it comes to British glam-rock from the 1970s, Tuk Smith is something of an evangelist. “Because the genre means so much to me, putting together this list was stressful,” laughs the vocalist/guitarist, whose band Biters hail from Atlanta, Georgia. “I’m a fan of so many smaller, little known bands that I really wanted to dig a little bit deeper than the usual household names – Bowie, T Rex and [The Sweet]’s Ballroom Blitz. There’s a whole other world out there.
“I listen to this stuff all the time so I don’t consider it obscure in any way – then again I’m a weirdo,” he laughs. “But these are all great songs, man. I’m not feeding you any bullshit.”
Biters headline London’s Camden Underworld tonight – Monday December 18. Tickets are on sale now.
Slade - Mama Weer All Crazee Now
Much as I love them I’m not going to include T Rex, Bowie, Queen or Brian Eno because… well, it’s too obvious, but I’ve gotta have Slade. They’re the ultimate glam-rock band from Britain, and so influential. It’s hard to pick just one song of theirs but Mama Weer All Crazee Now is so sleazy and it has the giant vocal stacks that I love. Slade used primitive tools, but they built masterpieces. Some of their ballads – Everyday or Far Far Away – could rival anything written by the Beatles or ELO.
Silverhead - Hello New York
I was a little late to the game with Silverhead. I had assumed they were a lot more blues-based but out on tour a friend played me their stuff and I lay there on the floor, going nuts. This is one of Silverhead’s most popular songs. It’s from the second album, 16 And Savaged. Michael Des Barres sounds like he’s been possessed by demons; a mix of Mick Jagger and Alice Cooper. Those records have a really dangerous energy.
Streak - Bang Bang Bullet
Remember the band Arrows, who recorded the original version of I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll [made famous by Joan Jett]? Well, they had a band before the Arrows that was a whole lot sleazier. They sounded a bit like the New York Dolls or the Hollywood Brats, just a little bit more reckless. They had great fucking haircuts, too.
Iron Virgin - Rebels Rule
They were Scottish – from Edinburgh, I think – and they covered Paul McCartney’s Jet [also in 1974], but it wasn’t a hit for them. The song I really like is Rebels Rule. It has a double drumbeat. It was produced by the same guy that did Thin Lizzy’s earliest albums [Nick Tauber]. They wore [American] football outfits onstage [topped off by chastity belts! – Ed]. They never made it back then, but this is fucking killer, man. It’s a gem that slipped through the cracks.
The Rats - Turtle Dove
Not to be confused with the band from Yorkshire called The Rats that featured [Bowie sidemen] Mick Ronson and Woody Woodmansey, this version of The Rats featured a guy called Davie Kubinec. They made an album called First Long Player Record that’s pretty hard to find as an original, though it was reissued a few years back. It sounds like a mix of T Rex and Sweet.
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Angel - Good Time Fanny
This British band – not the more famous one on Casablanca Records – was managed by Andy Scott and Mick Tucker of The Sweet, who also produced them. I’m not entirely sure but I believe Chinn & Chapman [songwriters of Sweet’s bubblegum hits] were involved with them, too. Good Time Fanny sounds identical to Sweet – it could have been a hit of theirs. They looked like Sweet, too. It was a bit like the grunge movement, where all of the identikit bands started appearing. I want that single really bad, but cannot find it anywhere.
Sweet - Teenage Rampage
Let’s go for a famous one. Sweet are one of my all-time favourite bands. Mötley Crüe would never have existed but for Sweet, but they don’t get anywhere near enough credit. They were always overshadowed by Queen, especially when they broke away from being a teenybopper band and the music became a lot harder. But if you’re looking for a 1970s teenage rebellion song, this is pretty much the ultimate example. The groove is incredible.
Hector - Bye Bye Bad Days
Another little-known song. I’m pretty sure that Hector were from Scotland. This shit is the baddest shit I’ve ever heard. I’m always searching for new music. As a songwriter I try to cut a lot of fat from my diet, but I like to keep things nutritional. This song should have been a Number One during the 1970s, it’s like the Bay City Rollers, Slade, Kiss and Sweet put together. The vocal track is amazing, and they dressed weird as fuck. They had the whole Dennis The Menace thing. I wish there were more bands like Hector in rock ‘n’ roll nowadays.
The Plod - Neo City
This one is really hard to find. The Plod formed in Essex in 1972 and the song I’m picking is Neo City. It came out three years later, at the tail end of glam-rock. This song has a crazy vibe, it’s bad as fuck. It had a punk-style energy but it was pre-punk. If you’re a fan of old-school rock‘n’roll you’ll love it.
Hello - New York Groove
Some will know this as a solo hit for Ace Frehley of Kiss, but the original was recorded three years earlier by Hello, who were on Bell Records, the same label as The Glitter Band and the Bay City Rollers. More people should know that this was not an Ace Frehley song; Hello had a lot of great material. The Clash were influenced by Hello, I can hear Mick Jones in that band whenever I play them.