Interview: Gary Glitter


Born Paul Gadd but changing his stage name to Paul Rowen, GARY GLITTER's early career was one of virtual anonymity. Putting out a string of unsuccessful solo pop singles for Decca and Parlophone in the early Sixties only led to a daytime job in 1965 as programme assistant for Ready Steady Go. By 1967 he was back with an MCA deal but the following years proved redundant.

It wasn't until '71 and a deal with Bell that things took off. Jumping on the 'Glitter Glam' bandwagon, Gary created a cartoon-like specimen that embodied just about every element of the period. Hit after hit followed, and he became a sensation.

Most of the rest we know about, the retirements, the comebacks, the booze, the debts. If there was a problem or a disaster about, Gary seemed to be somewhere in the thick of it. He looked ready to be invalided off onto the cabaret circuit, but he's never let things get that bad. Always a fighter and an optimist, he's back with a new album called Leader II, which is released on his own label called Attitude Records. He's pulled out the stops for this one; it’s hard, aggressive, and a lot more Rock N' Roll than I expected. He likes it too, claiming it's the best thing he's done since the early Seventies. I ask him why?
"This is a collection of three years work. I'd been through a lot of problems before and maybe I've put across something stronger than in the past. I spent a lot of time trying to get a major deal, and, despite selling 35 million records worldwide, I couldn't. I couldn't understand the lack of interest. I knew this was good stuff so I decided to put my money where my mouth is and form my own company. I knew the only way to make it happen was to do it myself. All the money I raised from the 'Gangshow' tours went straight into the company, so a lot rides on the success of the album. I don't have the money or the push of a major but at least I'm in control. Getting airplay is proving difficult but it's just another bridge to cross I guess."
Maybe it's a bit too aggressive for the 'nicey nice' approach of daytime radio?
"Yeah, you're right. I now have to deal with narrow minds but I’m not gonna change to suit someone else's tastes. I'm a Rocker and I won't compromise. Leader Of The Gang was aggressive and I've always had an aggressive approach to music. This record might have gone further but that's because I'm into guitar type bands. I know the record's got an edge, but it's also got a funny edge. I’d say it was aggression with humour."
Gary in his heyday

Isn’t that what you’ve always done?
"I guess I have, but Thrash Metal acts do too. It's all about entertainment and doing things tongue in cheek."
I liked the use of sax. It was a different approach to the instrument. It was always constant, something like a rhythm guitar. 

Gary seems genuinely pleased that I'd taken the time to listen to the record. He feels that most people in the Press pay no attention to his material but prefer to write about his antics.
"Yeah, it is a weird mix. I've always used a mono guitar sound, which basically means the guitars are tuned to one note. This creates a kind of drone, and when we add the sax they gel into a strange, growling sound. I love that sound. I think it gives the music a haunting, moody feel."
Produced by his son Paul Gadd junior. I wonder how that came about.
"He'd produced THE WONDERSTUFF and a lot of other Indie bands before, and I really like what he’d done. When I finished writing the songs with Mark Pearson, my co-writer, we thought Paul would be a good choice for the job. I rang and asked him and he said he'd only do it if he liked the material. I was impressed with that. He wasn't doing it because he felt he had to. He was being professional about it."
Did he bully you much?
"He did, but that's why it worked. Often before producers have been a bit too respectful, saying 'Mr. Glitter could you possibly,' but Paul would just say if it was bad or not. He really made me work hard. There were no barriers between us. We argued a lot and had our fights but it was typical close family relationship stuff. Afterwards we went on holiday together, so there's proof that it worked. We're very much alike. We've the same interests."
Such as?
"Well, we both love bombing around on our motorbikes, and we both love sailing. I spend a couple of months a year out on a boat, just floating around in the water."

Looking back down the years, did your early success surprise you?
"Certainly. You never really believe you're going to be that big. Also Rock N’ Roll Part II was originally going to be an instrumental, and I was thinking about going out as a guitarist when we decided to try the vocals and it just seemed to work."
So GARY GLITTER could have started out as a guitar man?
"That could have happened for the first single, but, as I said before, people do take notice of my guitar sound. Only the other night BRIAN MAY was asking how I got that sound, and I've had that happen with JEFF BECK, ERIC CLAPTON, and JIMMY PAGE. Jimmy in fact is a regular at my shows."
Talking of which, are you looking forward to the Gangshow tour?
"Oh yeah, I really love gigging. It's the live communication I like. Sometimes by the end of the tour my voice is gone but nothing stops me going on stage. I really hate bands that cheat and use backing tapes. That to me is really disgusting. How can acts ever produce something magical when they do that? I want an audience to see me for good or for bad because at least then they know they’re getting the real deal."
How do you envisage the near future?
"Well, a lot hinges on the album, because I want to be known as an act that's producing the goods in the Nineties. I don't want to live on past glories. I know the Seventies is known as my time for singles and I want the Nineties to be my time for albums. I've taken control of my life and my music, and now all I want is a bit of good luck."

Mike Harris
Riff Raff
January 1992
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  1. Good stuff!! Leader II is probably my favorite Glitter record, after the '89 live album. I had no idea May, Clapton, Page and Beck were fans of his music!

  2. l always loved GaryGlitter and the The Glitter Band .A sound that has never been replicated and never will . Innovators. They deserve to be recognised for there musical acheivements worldwide. PS...l still love Gary Glitter and The Glitter band. x

  3. I absolutely love and adore my beloved Idol Gary <3 Glitter!!!!