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Our Crack Tongue & Groove

Is it OK to buy Gary Glitter records yet?

God bless BBC 4! They’re continuing with their screenings of Top of the Pops episodes that were originally broadcast in 1977 and each week I eagerly tune in for half an hour of unmissable action: There’s Noel Edmunds! (It’s still a “no deal” from me); special camera effects liable to lead to epileptic fits! And those sensual bump and grinders, Legs & Co! (There’s one special dancer that I particularly look out for: beautiful Babs - although I forget her name, etc).

And then there are the bands which range from the brilliant (The Jackson Five, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Archie Bell & The Drells) to the truly frightening (there’s a good case to be made for Joe Sarney’s “Naughty Naughty Naughty” - featuring the migraine inducing vocals of wife-beating glove-puppet, Mr. Punch – as being the worst piece of recorded sound in aural history).

And then there is Gary Glitter. He came from the BacoFoil brickie wing of the glam rock movement; a lumpen pantomime dame in contrast to Bolan’s shimmering elfin boogie and Bowie’s sex-alien otherworldliness. Or so I imagined. A recent Top of the Pops repeat showed him performing “It Takes All Night Long” and I was enthralled. The song is built around a sparse, sensual guitar refrain, with a heartbeat drum pattern, and resembles something that Jarvis Cocker might sink languidly in to.

I want to buy it, and indeed, would have no hesitation in whipping round to iTunes with my 79p in hand if Jarvis Cocker HAD of sung it. Trouble is (and I’m sure you’re one step ahead of me here), Jarvis Cocker is not a convicted paedophile.

Glitter is completely persona non grata these days; the polar opposite of a National Treasure (a National Bastard?). Channel 4 even made a TV programme in 2009 entitled ‘The Execution of Gary Glitter’ and I’m sure half of its audience tuned in hoping that this was a live broadcast, complete with Big Brother style baying mob, rather than a mockumentary.

So I’m forced to ask myself the question: Is it ok to separate Glitter’s art from his heinous crimes, and I have to conclude that yes it is.

If I start rejecting someone’s work based on my distaste for them as a person then I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the art of Degas (possible anti-semite), the poetry of Larkin (possible Thatcherite), or the films of Riefenstahl (possible Nazi).

I’ve even delved further into Glitter’s 70’s output and can’t help but fall in love with tracks such as ‘Rock and Roll (Parts 1 and 2)’ which use twin drummers to intoxicating effect. Just don’t expect me to wander around town in a t-shirt featuring Glitter’s face and the words “I wanna be in his gang!” any time soon. RM