335. ‘I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am!)’, by Gary Glitter

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.


15 thoughts on “335. ‘I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am!)’, by Gary Glitter

  1. I prefer to split the old paedophile away from the music of 1973, at which point his main crime was his massive ego, and I give credit to the Glitter music to his co-writer and producer Mike Leander (ie the real musical brain behind the tracks) – look him up, he worked with tons of legends in the 60’s and arranged She’s Leaving Home for The Beatles while George martin was unavailable….

    That said this wasn’t in the same league as Rock & Roll & I Didn;t Know I Loved You, but it did capture the essence of Glitter in a concert setting where his ego could take over amongst the wall of sound (in the 80’s he was a huge Xmas live draw as no-one could out-party him).

    • I can just about remember him as he was before it all came out… And was still a pretty popular figure well into the 90s. I had friends who went with their families to see him in concert

    • I did think about introing the next post by mentioning the irony of Glitter being replaced by a fifteen year old singing ‘Young Love’… Then thought it might be slightly tasteless… Glad it wasn’t just me!

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  6. This is easily one of the best glam rock songs. I’ll be honest, I’m in my early 20s, and until this year, I had never heard of Gary Glitter or his songs – or his crimes – except for “Rock and Roll Pt 2” which was featured in Joker. Gary’s a horrible person, but the dude is a pretty captivating performer, even though he’s not a great singer. Mike Leander deserves a lot of the credit for Gary’s records since the production is what sets Gary apart from the other glam rockers. It’s so unique sounding – the Glitter sound is so identifiable. Testament to Leander and the Glitter band.

    This song is such so goddamn catchy and anthemic. It’s just filled to the brim with hooks. A well-deserved No. 1.

    I wish I could cover it in my band. It’s a perfect song for a live show, whether it be in a stadium or a small bar. But it just feels so weird playing his songs knowing his crimes. I swear if it wasn’t for Gary’s horrific crimes this song would be seen as one of the best hits from the 70s, at least in the UK. Damnit Gary.

    • I do have to admit that I enjoyed when Glitter’s songs came up, and should also admit that I’ve since added some to my regular playlists (though it’s helpful that Joan Jett released several decent – and less controversial – cover versions of his big hits in the 80s)

      And you’re right: until his offences came to light in the late 1990s, he remained one of the biggest entertainers in the UK, still capable of sell-out tours. He had a big charts comeback in the mid-80s, featured on two late-80s number one singles (by the Timelords, and Jive Bunny), and was sampled by Oasis for the opening track of ‘What’s the Story Morning Glory’ – the biggest British album of the 90s.

  7. Rating: 5/5

    It’s hard to listen to Gary Glitter’s music without thinking of his crimes. What an awful human being. But, his hits are undeniable. I first heard Gary Glitter – like a lot of non-Brits – due to the 2019 Joker film. The controversy surrounding the film – as well as the song being used – intrigued me to listen to his hits. Before his first No.1 , he had No. 2 hits with “Rock and Roll Pt 2” (5/5), “I Didn’t Know I Loved You (Till I Saw You Rock and Roll” (3.5/5), “Hello Hello I’m Back Again” (5/5), “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah!)” (4.5/5). It was inevitable with the momentum he had generated from those massive hits that he would get to No. 1.

    While this song is basically just a series of chants strung together into a cohesive stadium rock anthem, come on come on, it works. Mike Leander’s production is truly brilliant in how unique it sounds. So while I don’t want to be in his gang, I do want to listen to this song for a long, long time.

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