Consumer culture sucks the content out of every subculture it touches. All except Glam, which returns every ten years or so altered by time but with its central message of theatricalized otherness unchanged. Glam pop and fashion were in all the magazines both for teenyboppers and young mums. It was commercial, not very musically challenging, and seemed to have arrived already fully absorbed. But British glam (glam of the '70s as opposed to American glam of the '80s, otherwise known as "hair metal") was highly critical of the counterculture.
Hippy culture was 'real' as opposed to 'straight culture' which was 'fake'. America's support of democracy in North Vietnam disguised a terrible agenda. The hippies proposed an alternative world; one were real freedom could be cultivated.
However, women suffered a great deal of abuse in the name of free love. The '60s generation have compained that they were brought up to adhere to a distinct moral code in a way that made them more compliant when they were pressured in their twemties by their male peers, and the media, to behave in the opposite way. It led to patterns that both opposed and reinforced the worst aspects of macho culture. A combination of drugs and sex was used to bind the women in the Family to Charles Manson in a way that made more possible the extreme acts of violence that he demanded of them. "The order of the father" presided over the permissive society unchecked. Counterculture's supposed sexual license primarily benefited men while its unspoken homophobia condoned the "straight" culture it proported to condemn. Glam was not a feminist art form, but it did align itself with the emerging Gay Liberation and Women's Liberation movements where the hippies did not. It feminized rock, and its female stars (though few) such as Suzie Quatro and Dana Gilespie had more agency and could cross-dress too.
Glam broke ranks with hippy in three ways. Number one; it embraced the fake. Glam was not interested in authenticity prefering retro styles. The glam image could draw from a variety of sources in a single song or outfit: '40s pants could go with a '50s jacket and a Frans Hals hairdo. It was not important to be original. Secondly in the aggressive mixing of gender signifiers, and not only by men. Glam re-imagined sexual identity in a fluid, camp way, through play. It was not just because gay culture was the new frontline for threatening the dominant culture: cross-dressing was also a disguise. A way of avoiding capture. Young people were starting to realise that in the eyes of the culture of capitol they were the new prey.
Glam borrowed much of its style and theatricality from Gay. In New York, Jackie Curtis's Living Theater was like a drag cross between Tennesee Williams and Antonin Artaud. Collaborator Wayne County's (later Jayne County's) glam band Queen Elizabeth had a notorious film made of them in 1972 called Wayne County at the Trucks. It was paid for by Bowie's management company Mainman and is said to have provided him with the template for the Diamond Dogs stage show. Unfortunately they have never released it and is said to have been destroyed. Lastly, glam treated performance as theater. Glam artists such as Marc Bolan and David Bowie staged personae who treated the performance and their onstage identity, as an act. Psychedelic rock performances were meant to represent the real experiences of the musicians.
The counter culture became the perfect patsy for the rage of the dominant culture. Nixon's silent majority was as rigid as the Yippies that supported nominee George McGovern at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1972, were extreme. It amounted to the same thing. The 'real' versus 'fake' polarity was easily inverted by Nixon and allowed him to exploit the public fear of liberalism so that he could escalate the war in Vietnam. Everything had already changed as a result of the killing of student protesters at Kent State by Ohio state troopers in 1968. Disappearing into fantasy was a safer alternative to protest. American youth rebellion, was better off staged in bedrooms and clubs. Out of sight of the eye of Saron.
Foucault employs the image of '. It is not for nothing that both Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins are given 'invisibility cloaks'. Contemporary America is more aware than any other nation of the constant gaze of the desiring eye of capital. But there are ways to avoid surveillance and the consequent appropriation that subculture fears. Glam looked for a crawl space in the eye of the hurricane. Hippy, like Punk, took a reactionary position in relation to the dominant culture. The message of freedom or defiance, in an appropriated form, could be used to sell sneakers, to sell anything. Glam's love of inauthenticity made it more difficult to appropriate. Its ability to hawk old wares that had already been absorbed and to couch even its most disreputable aspects (the gender confusion) in commercial terms made its adoption almost pointless. Glam hid its subversion in plain sight. In 2009 glam pop star Lady GaGa can sing quite candidly about kinky sex because she has adopted an MTV-friendly pop persona.
Glam commodifies itself deliberately; enough so that it can exploit its visual content. Its main organs of dissemination were fashion magazines and television. What is left is the surplus which belongs fully to the individual. Glam's central message of self-creation does not just apply to a queer identity. It makes the whole notion of an autonomous performative persona possible from within a consumer cultural environment. - Millree Hughes
Mr. Hughes was born in North Wales in 1960, son of an Anglican priest. He began making art on the computer in 1998 in NYC.