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Published in: November-December 2006 issue.


Performing Glam RockPerforming Glam Rock: Gender and Theatricality in Popular Music
by Philip Auslander
University of Michigan Press
259 pages, $24.95


THE NARRATIVE VOICEOVER for Velvet Goldmine (1998), Todd Haynes’ film exploration of the 1970’s glam rock phenomenon, opens with the accurate words, “Histories, like ancient ruins, are the fictions of empires.” In his formidable new study, Performing Glam Rock: Gender and Theatricality in Popular Music, Philip Auslander mines the complexly layered history of the “glitter era,” with his focus trained largely on the movement’s heightened sexual overtones. Although the actual lifespan of glam rock was brief, limited mostly to a handful of British musicians during a few years in the early 70’s, its habit of breaking traditional rules for artists’ physical appearances and vocal stylings, as well as its dramatic blurring of gender lines and performative boundaries, still have a lingering influence on today’s pop, rock, cabaret, and other genres of musical performance. Without glam rock, there may have been no heavy-metal bands in the 80’s, no risk-takers like Marilyn Manson in the 90’s, and probably no Madonna.

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