Long Live Glam!

Anyone entranced by the film will want this album as a curio.

I love glam because it was the hardest that pop ever rocked; the fiercest

catchy choruses, nonsense sing-alongs, cosmopolitan travelogues, urbane

chic, fruity vocals/themes, etc., ever crunched. It looked at the landscape

of early-'70s Britain and saw a football field on one end and a discotheque

at the

other and all sorts of Platonic ideals in between: What if the 1910 Fruitgum

Company weren't a bunch of studio hacks but an ambitious rock 'n' roll band

instead? What if Anthony Newley's Broadway melodies had Burundi beats (or

any rhythm at all)? What if Yes read Vogue instead of Kahlil Gibran

and Norman Vincent Peale? Glam rockers made mincemeat (mincing all the while)

of female musical distinctions (culturally aligned with pop) and male ones

(ditto for

rock). For anyone fed up with definitions or patterns of behavior petrified in

stone, this was a liberating music indeed, as it extended out from

genre/gender

blend into matters of gesture, dress, image, identity, power, etc.

The soundtrack to "Velvet Goldmine," Todd Haynes' gorgeous glam meta-

biopic, does a lot of blending and blurring as well. Since a certain

billionaire was too parsimonious with his seminal glam-rock catalog, Haynes

had to turn to modern-day rockers for some amazing simulations. Shudder To

Think's Bowie parodies/homages know the Ziggy Stardust tropes so well that

you can't help but laugh at how perfectly they surround the past. "Ballad of

Maxwell Demon" is an incredible "All The Young Dudes" rip.

Then there are the covers, particularly the Roxy Music ones. If, like me, you

got more out of the first six Roxy Music albums proper than you ever did out

of Dark Side of the Moon, then you'll be pleased as punch to learn that

Radiohead's Thom Yorke has a fruitful future in Karaoke. His Bryan Ferry

impersonations on such early Roxy classics as "2HB" and "Ladytron" are

absolutely jaw-dropping, so uncanny that I guarantee you could fool a Ferry

freak for a few moments at least. And Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (who plays the

film's Bowiesque lead character, Brian Slade) does good by Brian Eno's

"Baby's on Fire."

At first, all this play turned me off. Who would actually listen to an album

of eerily precise covers and imagined hits more than once, I wondered. It

seemed the only thing they had going for them was the fact that at least they

weren't the tepid approximations of punk that lessened the impact of "Sid and

Nancy." But after seeing the film and how beautifully Haynes deliberately

confused history and fiction (how much we accept, for example, Rhys-Meyers

singing the Eno song and having Shudder To Think sing the Bowiesque

song for him because it's all strung together so seamlessly, just like the

way we accept the image of a Barbie doll "singing" "Rainy Days and Mondays" in

Haynes' earlier "Superstar"), the songs retained a rather delightful,

prankish charm when I heard them again on the CD, a quality perfectly in

keeping with

the glam aesthetic.

Of course, it helps, in the case of the covers, that the originals are so

brilliant themselves, and, just for comparison's sake, four are included here:

Eno's "Needle in the Camel's Eye," Lou Reed's "Satellite of Love," T. Rex's

"Diamond Meadows" and, best of all, Roxy's impossibly great "Virginia Plain."

My vote for the greatest millisecond in rock 'n' roll history is that

moment 2:09, in which you can hear the pick on human fly Phil Manzanera's

strings right before he enters that mind-melting guitar blam and prog synth

duet with Eno, lending his entry a city-leveling power. And this is to ignore

oboe, keyboard and engine-revving sound effects; lyrics that jet-set south

of the border and through "The Last Picture Show" at the drive-in and make

such

moderne observations as "You're so sheer, you're so chic, teenage rebel of

the week"; and an opening line ("Make me a deal and make it straight")

delivered with the utmost queeniness.

A few of the covers falter. Ewan McGregor's Iggy is simply no match for the

original Lizard Queen on the Stooges' "T.V. Eye." The Igster's self-

destructive self is too "there" in his songs and they remain uncoverable (just

ask EMF). And there's no excuse for how abortively Teenage Fanclub and

Elastica's Donna Matthews ignore the wall of noise in the New York Dolls'

"Personality Crisis." But overall, anyone entranced by the film

will want this soundtrack as a curio.