Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Glam - Another Pretty Face

When researching my book about glam, one of the great pleasures was discovering music I'd never heard before. And best of all was hearing Another Pretty Face. (Not to be confused with the later Another Pretty Face, who were British and featured a pre-Waterboys Mike Scott ).

I wrote about the original APF on my previous blog and shall repost below my original comments. Here they are with 'The Great American Candy Bar Debate' from 1973:

And here are my comments from 2013:

When I was going through some old music papers a few years back, I came across a couple of one-sentence mentions in 1974 editions of the Melody Maker to an American band called Another Pretty Face. The reports simply mentioned that they covered songs by T. Rex and Roxy Music and noted that 'The lead singer imitates David Bowie depresingly well.' As far as I'm aware, this was their sole coverage in the British music press.

And then I found their album 21st Century Rock. As a neglected work of glam genius, it's in a class of its own. Recorded in 1973, it wasn't even released until 2004. Which might make you worry that it's going to be a ragged collection of demos and lo-fi live recordings. It's nothing of the sort - it's a fully fledged, lavishly produced, perfectly sequenced nine-track masterpiece.

To start with, those Bowie comparisons are perhaps inevitable. Particularly if you're going to open proceedings with a seven-minute epic titled 'Planet Earth' that uses science fiction imagery to explore sexuality. But the singer and main writer Terry Roth (known throughout as T. Roth, maybe in tribute to Bolan's band) is no copyist. 

Nor does he sit on the fence. One of the stand-out songs is 'Little Boys', which spells out its agenda in unmistakeable fashion:
People always say I only do this for the money
or I do it for the mass adoration.
Then there are the ones who assume I'm crazy
or I'm doing it for gay liberation.
No, not me, I don't want these joys -
I only do it for the little boys.
This is accompanied, it should be said, by a wonderfully trashy bit of rock with early-1960s backing vocals of the 'bop-sho-wop' variety, in a way that the New York Dolls would recognize, had they not been so addicted to garage guitars and had they enjoyed the services of a more sympathetic producer. (The man responsible here is Ed Stasium, shortly to work with the likes of the Ramones and Talking Heads.)

Elsewhere the music veers between the swaggering horn-riffing Stones-rock of 'Stuck On You' to the Cockney Rebel posing of 'Girl Crazy'. Without deviating too far from the basic blueprint of classic rock, driven by the melodic guitar of Rob Nevitte, each song retains its own identity, assisted by guest musicians, so that there's always some variation on the keyboard textures.

I'm not sure about the Roxy Music connection mentioned in that Melody Maker reference, but the bonus tracks here (also produced by Stasium) include a cover of T. Rex's 'Get It On' (under its American title 'Bang a Gong'), which is fun if a little too faithful. The only other cover is 'Da Doo Ron Ron' with the gender of the subject unchanged.

This is as good as American rock got in the 1970s, dominated by Roth's arrogantly confident vocal performance. Perhaps, though, he was the problem. At a time when even Bowie was seen as too gay for mainstream America, Roth was never going to achieve the stardom he deserved. So, better late than never, this is the best glam album you never heard. And in case you don't take my word for it, the sleeve notes feature tributes by David Fricke and Lenny Kaye, who ought to know - 'cute and deadly,' says the latter.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. I was there...Saw them in clubs during the mid 70s all around the NY area. They dominated the scene. Often saw them more than once a week.
    Terry's Zen for Primates was also a fine act with a wealth of original material.