Global Glam and Popular Music: Style and Spectacle from the 1970s to the 2000s. Edited by Ian Chapman and Henry Johnson. London: Routledge, 2016. 300pp. ISBN 978-1-138-82176-7 (Review)

Article


Branch, A. 2018. Global Glam and Popular Music: Style and Spectacle from the 1970s to the 2000s. Edited by Ian Chapman and Henry Johnson. London: Routledge, 2016. 300pp. ISBN 978-1-138-82176-7 (Review). Popular Music. 37 (2), pp. 299-302.
AuthorsBranch, A.
Abstract

The cultural theorist Jon Stratton is a key inspiration in this account of the original British Glam Rock phenomenon and a sample of its global scions since the 1970s. Subsequent to Stratton's (1986) call for further critical work on this popular music formation, Stuart Hall (1992), in an unconnected piece, speculated on what the future of Cultural Studies, Stratton's disciplinary home, might look like. Hall's concern, analogous in some ways to Pierre Bourdieu's in the context of the contemporaneous French intellectual field, was predicated on a suspicion of what he read, particularly in terms of the North American interpretation of Cultural Studies, as a troubling shift towards theoreticism, the uncoupling of theory from practice in the pursuit of the institutionalisation of (sub)fields of scholarly enquiry, to adopt Bourdieu's spatial metaphor. Hall's plea was to embrace the ‘danger’ of the paradoxes arising from securing status (publish! career!), thus risking institutionally determined compromise, and maintaining a marginality that afforded greater autonomy – especially in terms of political agency beyond the academy – but necessarily meant forgoing a meaningful resource base, essential for agitating for social change.
Popular Music Studies, in one of its intellectual trajectories a disciplinary subfield of Cultural Studies, is now well established and the authors of the 19 essays that form this collection can be forgiven the temptation to see in writing about Glam a way of securing its place within the legitimated subfield, with its attendant experts and gatekeepers, ripe for future revisiting. It also affords the opportunity to retreat into scholasticism, an unreflexive writing-for-writing's-sake disposition in which one doesn't move beyond reproducing one's own habitus, or second-nature worldview.
The challenge the editors presumably set themselves at the moment of the book's genesis, then, was what usefully might be said about Glam and its subsequent mutations, 45 years after its original British discursive formation. Further, at least I would argue, how might such insights honour Hall's insistence that what makes popular culture, and by extension popular music, worth critiquing is the exposing of complex power relations played out in concrete settings: recognising the distinction between ‘understanding the politics of intellectual work and substituting intellectual work for politics’ (p. 286), as he put it.?
In Chapman and Johnson's introductory remarks, the case is indeed made for Glam's importance: the vitality of its historical variants, understood in context, meant something profound to those performing and consuming it (p. 2; my emphasis). The editors approach this challenge by framing Glam historically and geographically, with the book divided into three parts: ‘Britain from the Early 1970s’; ‘Europe and North America’; and ‘Global Perspectives’.

KeywordsGlam Rock; Popular Music Studies; Subcultures
JournalPopular Music
Journal citation37 (2), pp. 299-302
ISSN0261-1430
1474-0095
Year2018
PublisherCambridge University Press
Accepted author manuscript
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1017/S0261143018000107
Web address (URL)https://doi.org/10.1017/S0261143018000107
Publication dates
Online13 Apr 2018
Print01 May 2018
Publication process dates
Deposited20 Apr 2018
Accepted09 Jan 2018
Accepted09 Jan 2018
Copyright informationThis article has been published in a revised form in Popular Music: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0261143018000107. This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. © Cambridge University Press
LicenseAll rights reserved
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