I ended my last post by claiming that there was no way that this next #1 would be on Spotify, and that I would have to search the deepest recesses of the dark web to find it. Except. It’s there. On Spotify. So…
Ok. You have to type it in in full – the algorithm won’t suggest it to you – but it’s all there. Turns out that ‘hateful’ artists such as this one are ‘buried’ rather than ‘banned’. Which, I think, is the sensible approach to take. Gary Glitter won’t pop up unexpectedly in your party playlist – can you imagine! – but people with blogs in which they write posts on every UK number single can crack on happily.
I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am!), by Gary Glitter (his 1st of three #1s)
4 weeks, from 22nd July – 19th August 1973
I haven’t heard this song in years… I was in my early teens when the truth about Glitter came out. (For anyone who doesn’t know, he was found to have a lot of child pornography on his laptop, has since gone on to be convicted three times for rape and abuse, and has proven himself to be a pretty unrepentant paedophile.) But I can just about remember him being a celebrity… I have a particular memory of seeing him on Saturday morning kids TV, of all places, and of a schoolfriend’s parents being huge fans. (True story: his name was Gary, and he did not like it when you suggested which disgraced pop star he may or may not have been named after…)
Come on come on, Come on come on, Come on come on come on… Clap clap clap, stomp stomp stomp! It’s all coming back to me… This song was huge. And dammit… I am enjoying this song. I feel grubby saying it, but hey. When it comes to Gary Glitter and his three UK chart-toppers, I’m going to (try to) practise a clean separation of man and music. He is a terrible human being; this is a stupidly catchy pop hit. It starts with a motorbike revving, for goodness sake, meaning that in half a year we’ve had songs intro with air-raid sirens, anti-aircraft guns, and Harleys… What a time to be alive!
It is cheesy, though – towards the Mud and Showaddywaddy end of glam rather than the David Bowie and T. Rex. It’s dumb, it’s repetitive, trashy and disposable. It’s a series of chants rather than a thoughtfully put together song. He’s the leader, and he’ll make you sell your soul to rock ‘n’ roll… It’s glam reduced to its basics; but God if it isn’t an ear-worm. Is there any other genre with such different levels of taste and respectability?
D’you wanna be in my gang, my gang, my gang… Oh yeah? I said I wanted to listen to this objectively, judging the music alone, but it is kinda hard when Glitter gives us lyrics like: I’m the man who put the bang in gang…! Jeez. You do start to wonder if he was hiding in plain sight all along. If glam rock, that most glorious of genres, was besmirched by a pervert who used the image – the mascara and, well, the glitter – to have his wicked way. Just ignore those thoughts and focus on the stomping beat – the so called ‘glitter-stomp’ – and the churning synthey riff that keeps the whole thing chugging along.
Like many glam stars, Glitter predated the movement by quite a distance, releasing several singles in the sixties – his earliest way back in 1960. He went through various name changes: Paul Raven, Paul Monday – his real name’s Paul Gadd – before settling on Gary Glitter. He even worked with George Martin! All of which meant he was almost thirty by the time he hit it big with ‘Rock n Roll Part II’ (the song that caused controversy last year when it was used in a scene in ‘Joker’.)
‘I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am!)’ was the culmination of this long-awaited ascent to pop stardom for Glitter, though he had already had #2 hits with ‘Hello, Hello, I’m Back Again!’ and ‘Do You Wanna Touch Me’ (a song it is impossible to listen to and not squirm, knowing what we know now…) He’ll go on to have two more chart-toppers in the next year. As uncomfortable as it is to discuss him nowadays; he was a big, big star, and a huge figure in seventies pop music.